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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Betto Seraglini

01 March 2017

Took on a new multibillion-dollar claim against Burkina Faso

Pending cases as counsel 13
Value of pending counsel work US$17 billion+
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 12 (of which 6 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 3

Betto Seraglini was formed in 2013 by Jean-Georges Betto, formerly of Hogan Lovells, and Christophe Seraglini from White & Case.

Both had an impressive track record at their former firms. In 2010, Betto helped French naval defence contractor DCNS settle a billion-euro arbitration with Spanish state-owned shipbuilder Navantia over the alleged theft of trade secrets concerning a new model of submarine. Two years later, he helped the same company knock out the bulk of a €45 million ICC claim brought by the Taiwanese government.

Seraglini was part of the White & Case team that helped a Lebanese businessman win a €550 million award against the Republic of the Congo in 2013 in a dispute over a 30-year old debt.

The new boutique also includes partners Thierry Tomasi, Gaëlle Le Quillec and Julien Fouret and seven associates. Fouret, who joined in 2015 from Castaldi Mourre & Partners, recently featured in Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration’s ‘Future Leaders’, a list of leading younger practitioners.

It is particularly well known for West Africa-related work.

Who uses it?

The firm represents French aircraft engineering company Safran Group in disputes relating to the civil aviation industry and has also acted for railway company Alstom Transport; French hospitality group Accor; UK energy company; Adeo Group; and the government of Gabon. DCNS has stayed loyal to Betto, to good effect.

It also represents Bernard Tapie, the controversial French businessman whose €403 million arbitral award against a French state entity over the sale of the Adidas sportswear group in the 1990s has become a national scandal. Tapie has been ordered to repay the award and the firm is now representing him in an appeal before France’s court of cassation.

Track record

The team led DCNS to victory in an ICC claim against a subsidiary of Italian defence contractor Finmeccanica over a cancelled torpedo venture. In 2014, a tribunal ordered the Italian company to pay €6 million to DCNS and dismissed a €78 million counterclaim.

It also helped DCNS prevail as respondent in a US$180 million claim brought over a failed joint venture in the Middle East. The claim was dismissed in its entirety, with costs awarded to their client.

Gabon turned to Betto Seraglini to defend a US$1 billion ICC claim brought by Chinese-owned Addax Petroleum over oilfield rights. The firm won an early round of that case in 2013, with the tribunal refusing to grant interim measures in Addax’s favour. The dispute settled a year later.

Recent events

Co-counselling with Shearman & Sterling, the firm represented private equity group Opportunity and its Brazilian founder Daniel Dantas in a US$15 billion ICC claim against Telecom Italia – among the biggest commercial arbitrations of recent times. The client’s claim was dismissed in its entirety in September 2016, while a much smaller counterclaim by Telecom Italia was also rejected. The dispute had involved allegations of industrial espionage, bribery and coercion.

Another big new instruction came from a company owned by Romanian-Australian mining magnate Frank Timiș in a US$4 billion ICC claim against Burkina Faso. The claim relates to the state’s suspension of operations at one of the world’s largest manganese mines.

Continuing work includes a €45 million claim against Togo for hotel operator Accor Group and an ICC claim against Niger and Benin on behalf AfricaRail. GAR has also linked the firm to a claim brought against Guinea on behalf of Russian aluminium company Rusal. Another pending matter is a €400 million case for a multinational gas client relating to operations in north Africa.  

It also won a €23 million award against a north African state enterprise for a railway construction client.

The firm helped a consortium including Tecnimont and Saipem defend an ICC award in a dispute with Engie that generated a landmark ruling by France’s supreme administrative court on its power to review arbitral awards arising from public works contracts.

Seraglini, meanwhile, was named to the executive board of the International Academy for Arbitration Law in Paris.

Client comment

In-house counsel for Saipem says the firm’s performance has been “excellent” on an ICC case in Paris, where it is instructed jointly with another firm. Julien Fouret is a “distinguished gentleman and a great lawyer. He is particularly focused on the relationship with the client and always available even for a quick advice.” The client also cites Fouret’s flexibility in rates proposals.

A client in Dubai says the firm is “very efficient and knows perfectly the rules and practices of arbitration. On top of that they do not impose their view but listen to the client and suggest after.” Thierry Tomas “works like a Swiss watch – detailed, serious and accurate.”