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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Bredin Prat

01 March 2017

Settled an ICSID claim for Jordan and now acting against Ukraine

People in Who’s Who Legal 2
Treaty cases 7
Current arbitrator appointments 19 (of which 12 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 4

This Paris firm was founded by Jean-Denis Bredin and Robert Badinter in 1966, with a focus on civil and criminal disputes. When Badinter left in 1981, partner Jean-François Prat gave it a new focus, turning it into one of Paris’s premier M&A boutiques. It ventured early into investment arbitration: Bredin defended Egypt in the landmark Southern Pacific Properties case in the 1980s – the first ICSID claim brought under a domestic investment statute.

Jean-Denis Bredin, now 87, remains in practice as counsel and arbitrator, but these days the firm’s core arbitration team is made up of partners Tim Portwood, Louis Christophe Delanoy, José María Pérez and Raëd Fathallah.

The team offers a blend of common and civil law experience – Portwood is one of the few senior Parisian lawyers to have begun at the English bar. Fathallah, who is Canadian-Lebanese, speaks fluent Arabic and has connections in the Middle East and the Gulf. Pérez is Ecuador’s alternate member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration.

Bredin Prat is also part of a “best friends” network with five other GAR 100 firms: BonelliErede in Italy, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in the Netherlands, Hengeler Mueller in Germany, Slaughter and May in the UK, and Uría Menéndez in Spain.

Who uses it?

The practice works for a combination of European blue-chips and foreign governments (often French-speaking). Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Croatia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are among the states that have used it. Private clients include Oleg Deripaska’s Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer, and Italian engineering group Tecnimont.

Track record

One of the firm’s most notable wins was for Algerian state oil company Sonatrach in a gas-pricing dispute with Spain’s Gas Natural at the ICC. The Spanish company was ordered to pay over US$2 billion in withheld funds, pending renegotiation of a pricing clause. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was on the other side.

At ICSID, Bredin Prat has had four wins on behalf of Egypt. The most recent of these, in 2014, saw it defeat a US$36 million treaty claim on the basis that the claimant, an Egyptian gas company, was not under foreign control.

It defended the Democratic Republic of the Congo in high-profile ICSID and ICC claims brought by Canadian mining company First Quantum, which were settled in 2012.

On the investor side, Bredin Prat won an €8 million award against Romania for a US businessman; and has helped a Turkish construction company’s US$300 million ICSID claim against Turkmenistan clear the jurisdictional stage (even though another panel had adopted a contrary reading of the same treaty) – a final award is pending.

The firm helped Rusal obtain a favourable ICC award in a dispute over the privatisation of a mining complex, frustrating the Guinean government’s attempt to bring the mine back under state control. Rusal has also used the firm in a successful LCIA claim against Nigeria and recently tapped it for a new ICSID case against Ukraine relating to the seizure of a stake in an aluminium plant.

Recent events

The firm scored another victory for Tecnimont in persuading the Paris Court of Appeal to uphold an award against Greek construction group J&P Avax. France’s Supreme Court has already reinstated the award twice after lower courts held that one of the arbitrators had a conflict of interests. 

It helped Jordan to settle an ICSID claim brought by French telecoms group Orange over the renewal of a 2G licence. The settlement allows Orange to continue operating in the country until 2029. Orange paid around US$220 million to end the dispute – more or less what Jordanian regulators had demanded before the ICSID claim was filed. (Jordanian firm Aljazy & Co also acted for the state.)

The firm helped a Cypriot client favourably settle a US$200 million ICC arbitration with a multinational conglomerate over a set of agency and distribution agreements. In another case, it won an award for an international consumer healthcare client in a dispute with an Austrian counterparty over baby products that was heard at the Franco-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Meanwhile Fathallah is increasingly in demand as an ICSID arbitrator. He’s now chairing cases against Mauritania and Spain and is part of an annulment committee reviewing an award against Venezuela.

Client comment

Uilliyam Spigelberger, in-house counsel at Rusal, says the firm is “very focused, business-like, and effective” and always “highly responsive” even under stressful conditions. He also highlights their cost-effective fee structures. Portwood, Fathallah and associate Shane Daly in particular are skilled at “getting to the heart of the matter”.

Christine Guerrier, in-house counsel at Thales, says the whole team is “business-oriented” and “practical”, and that Christophe Delanoy in particular “always finds the time to answer a call”. They also charge “far less than an Anglo-Saxon law firm”, she observes.