• Search

GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Watson Farley & Williams

02 March 2017

Acting for solar power investors against Italy

Pending cases as counsel 38
Value of pending counsel work US$2.3 billion+
Treaty cases 1
Current arbitrator appointments 7 (of which 3 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 3

Founded in 1982 as a breakaway from Norton Rose, the firm initially focused its attention on shipping and offshore construction disputes.

In the early 2000s, a group led by two partners in London helped establish the firm’s name in international arbitration. They won a pitch to represent India in the state’s first investment treaty arbitration and later brought in Vivendi as a client for the Deutsche Telekom arbitration over control of a Polish telecoms firm. During the same era, the Singapore office began to develop a local name for expertise in the field.

All of the senior partners from that period have since been poached by other practices, but the arbitration group they built has endured in the hands of the able younger partners who worked for them on the early mega-cases.

The group – led by litigation and arbitration head Andrew Savage since 2007 – has expanded in recent years with lateral hires in London, Paris and Bangkok.

Network

The practice continues to have a strong presence in London and South East Asia (Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore), with the ability to call on colleagues in New York, Hamburg, Rome and Paris.

In 2011, the firm’s Singapore office formed a joint venture with local firm Asia Practice, allowing it to act on the supervisory court aspects of Singapore-seated arbitrations for the first time. The joint venture, WFW Asia Practice, is led by Marcus Gordon, who has headed the firm’s Singapore arbitration group since 2009, and Singapore-qualified Asia practice partner Mark Tan.

Who uses it?

The team has worked for India, Pakistan, Zambia, Greece and Bangladesh in the past few years, as well as various banks, energy businesses and metals companies – including Hydro Aluminium, one of the world’s largest aluminium companies. Vivendi and Trafigura are repeat clients, while offshore drilling contractor Aban Offshore, Ford and AIG have relied on the firm.

Watson Farley & Williams has been retained by the Bahamas to consult on its arbitration legislation.

US mobile satellite operator Globalstar used the firm (in an ICDR claim against France’s Thales Alenia Space), as did a Mauritian subsidiary of a UK-listed company in a US$100 million SIAC case over a broadcast licence agreement.

Track record

Watson Farley & Williams represented the winning side in one of the big cases of 2010 – the final round of Dallah v Pakistan – in which the UK Supreme Court refused to enforce an ICC award against the firm’s client, Pakistan. The case is thought to be only the third time the English courts have declined to enforce an award under the New York Convention. It earned the firm (along with its appointed barrister, Toby Landau QC of Essex Court Chambers) the “Court Win of the Year” award at the GAR Awards in 2011.

The firm also helped Hydro Aluminium secure an LCIA award in a row with Tajikistan and defended an Iranian offshore construction company against a US$100 million ICC claim by an Italian counterparty.

It scored a major victory for the operators of the largest petrochemical refinery in Thailand. The dispute resulted in 21 awards in favour of the operator against a Hong Kong company following several concurrent ad hoc arbitrations in London. The English Commercial Court upheld all the awards in 2015.

Recent events

The firm’s Italian office is currently representing Belenergia, a Luxembourg investor in solar power plants, in Energy Charter Treaty claims against Italy relating to reforms to the country’s renewable energy regime. 

The firm continues to be busy in Thailand, winning a case for a renewables consultant company in a dispute with a Dutch dairy products producer.  It helped a major Thai paper manufacturer prevail in the liability phase of a US$50 million HKIAC case against a Chinese state-owned machinery maker.

Lawyers in the Bangkok office also helped their clients prevail in consolidated proceedings at SIAC and the Thai Arbitration Institute involving claims against developers of resorts on Thailand’s second largest island, Koh Samui. The awards have now been enforced in Thailand.

It acted for a Thai tin-can manufacturer in a US$70 million UNCITRAL claim against a multinational food company over a manufacturing agreement, and for a Chinese supplier in a US$42 million ICC claim over a power plant. The firm also represented a Korean contractor in a dispute over a power plant in Ghana.

Partner Charles Buss returned to London after a secondment to Athens. Partner Robert Fidoe relocated from Bangkok to London. Dev Desai joined the firm from Pinsent Masons, and is a now partner in the London real estate team.

Joshua Sohn joined as a partner in New York from Mishcon de Reya, bringing a team with him. Al Yudes, one of the founding partners of the New York office retired. Hong Kong partner Richard Wilmot and Andrew Waters in London also left.

Client comment

Constantinos Emmanuel, managing partner of Theo V Sioufas Law Offices in Greece, says that the firm’s performance in a recent arbitration in New York was “exemplary”, adding that he was particularly impressed with partner John Kissane: “A person a client may rely upon.”

Beatriz León, legal counsel at Spanish industrial group MAESSA, praises the firm’s Hamburg team for their diligence and willingness to negotiate with the opposing party. “They have given us enormous support, broken down every step, and kept us informed about the evolution of the process,” she says.