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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Astigarraga Davis

01 March 2017

The Miami boutique is engaged in investment treaty work in the Americas

People in Who’s Who Legal 1

Founded in Miami in 2000 by lawyers with a background in commercial litigation, Astigarraga Davis has capitalised on the growth in arbitration across Latin America. The firm has worked on numerous high-value arbitrations and litigations in the region, often with little or no Florida law component. Most of its 18-strong team speak English and Spanish. GAR’s sister publication, Latin Lawyer, notes the firm’s “excellent reputation” and says it is “more than able to hold its own among renowned global firms, with which it often finds itself in competition.”

The arbitration practice is led by Cuban-born José I Astigarraga, an active figure in the international arbitration community. He has served as vice president of the LCIA and vice chair of the International Bar Association’s international arbitration committee, and is a member of the ICC commission on arbitration and ADR.

Astigarraga is also vice chair of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration and has worked closely with that body’s “Americas initiative”, which aims to promote arbitration in the region. He is a founder director of the Latin American Arbitration Association.

Other names to know are Edward Mullins, Cristina Cárdenas and Eduardo de la Peña, a Mexican practitioner who was promoted to partner in 2015.

The practice’s focus is on commercial arbitration, often under ICC or ICDR rules, and it is often brought in to assist on arbitration-related litigation, particularly US discovery proceedings.

Who uses it?

The firm is coy about trading on its clients’ names, but they are known to include some significant US manufacturers, as well as investors in the banking, construction, electricity, telecoms and agrochemical sectors. General Motors, GE Medical Systems and Citibank have all used it. Mesa Power, a renewable energy firm owned by US oil tycoon T Boone Pickens, has used the firm for NAFTA-related work.

Ukrainian oligarchs Igor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov have retained the firm in US discovery actions. The firm was also instructed in disputes relating to the Ponzi scheme run by Allen Stanford, representing banks that were accused by investors of not properly investigating the Texas businessman.

Track record

The firm succeeded in enforcing a multimillion-dollar ICC award in favour of its client, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (acting as receiver of a US bank) against investment firm IIG Capital in the Florida courts in 2011. An appeal court affirmed the decision two years later.

The firm has also won some landmark victories in applications under section 1782 of the United States Code, which allows courts to order discovery in support of international proceedings. In 2012, an appeal court in Miami allowed the firm’s client, Conecel, to obtain documents in support of an arbitration in Ecuador against air freight carrier JASE.

Astigarraga Davis went on to obtain three similar orders in favour of Mesa Power in support of a NAFTA claim against Canada. The orders, against US companies NextEra and Pattern Energy and South Korea’s Samsung C&T, allowed Mesa to obtain documents and witness statements from executives concerning their dealings with Ontario’s electricity authority.

On another occasion, after a falling-out between GE’s medical technology division and its Brazilian distributor, Astigarraga Davis handled an arbitration at the Inter-American Commercial Arbitration Commission and parallel litigation in the US and Brazil. It won the arbitration and also persuaded a New York court to enjoin the Brazilian proceedings. When the distributor refused to comply, Astigarraga Davis obtained a civil contempt judgment against the company and its president.

Recent events

In April 2016, a NAFTA tribunal threw out Mesa Power’s US$810 million claim against Canada, which related to alleged unfairness in the bidding process for energy contracts. Astigarraga Davis had co-counselled with Appleton & Associates in the arbitration and is now assisting with set-aside proceedings in the District of Columbia.

The two firms are also collaborating on a US$300 million investment treaty claim against a Central American government, brought on behalf of a group of US investors who claim their property was expropriated to build a new airport. That case is being heard under UNCITRAL rules.

A new instruction came from a Caribbean-based internet service provider in a US$200 million ICC case against a telecoms company. Meanwhile it helped a European utility settle a US$50 million ICC dispute with an Andean state regulator over tariffs. 

Client comment

A US company was happy with the firm’s work on a number of cases, including one that involved criminal charges overseas. The company’s general counsel says the firm handled the matter with “incredible discretion” and helped the client to prevail on all counts. “We received very good value for our money,” he concludes.