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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Stephenson Harwood

02 March 2017

The UK firm has a growing Asia practice and participated in a high-profile enforcement case in Hong Kong

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 252
Value of pending counsel work US$9.3 billion
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 9 (of which 4 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 2

Stephenson Harwood’s stand-alone practice group dates back to 2008 and the arrival of solicitor-advocate Louis Flannery. In the role of global head of international arbitration, he has increased the commercial arbitration caseload considerably and also led the firm into investment treaty work.

As well as serving as an arbitrator, Flannery is the co-author of a commentary on the English Arbitration Act 1996 and one of the figures behind London’s International Arbitration Charity Ball, which has raised substantial sums for Save the Children.

Other names to note in London include Kamal Shah (who recently co-authored a practitioner’s guide to Africa), Shai Wade (the former co-head of international arbitration at Reed Smith) and John Fordham (who also heads the commercial litigation practice). All three also sit as arbitrators.

The firm’s Asia practice is also picking up steam. Phillip Rompotis leads the international arbitration group in Asia and is one of a handful of solicitor-advocates in Hong Kong. Stephenson Harwood also opened an office in Seoul in 2014 headed by shipping and arbitration partner Michael Kim.

Network

For arbitration, the key office is London, though the practice has boots on the ground in Paris, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul.

The firm also has offices in mainland China (Beijing, Ghuangzhou and Shanghai) and in Piraeus, Greece – as well as ties with firms in Athens, Bucharest, Jakarta and Kuwait City.

It works closely with the Africa Legal Network, a group of 10 law firms in Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Who uses it?

The arbitration practice handles work in the banking, aviation, insurance, energy, construction, defence and telecoms sectors. Many of the cases have a tie with Africa. State clients have included the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Venezuela’s national oil and gas company PDVSA and the governments of Egypt, India and Bolivia.

The former majority shareholders in Yukos Oil Company have instructed the firm to enforce their US$50 billion Energy Charter Treaty award against Russia in the English courts, taking on White & Case for Russia. The enforcement proceedings are being coordinated by Shearman & Sterling.

In Asia, Indonesia’s Lippo Group is a client. Since opening the Seoul office, the firm says it is also picking up work from major Korean conglomerates.

Konkola Copper Mines (a subsidiary of India’s Vedanta Resources) is using the firm for a US$400 million dispute with a Brazilian mining group over a project in Zambia. Stephenson Harwood took over the case from Debevoise & Plimpton.

Track record

The firm has scored many wins when it comes to arbitration-related litigation and enforcement proceedings, for which it is considered a “go-to” firm.

A few years ago, partner John Fordham helped PDVSA lift a US$12 billion freezing order put on its assets by ExxonMobil. He has done the same for Bolivia, lifting a US$50 million freezing order obtained by Dutch telecoms unit ETI.

The firm also helped Costa Rican company Dowans Holding secure US$30 million in security in the English courts against Tanzanian state power company Tanesco, in support of an arbitral award that the respondent was seeking to have set aside at the seat.

Recent events

In Hong Kong, a team led by Phillip Rompotis defended Lippo subsidiary First Media in proceedings brought by Malaysian broadcasting group Astro to enforce a US$130 million SIAC award. The Hong Kong Court of Appeal upheld the enforcement of the award in late 2016 even though the bulk of the award has been declared unenforceable by the Singapore courts.

In London, the firm has been representing NNPC in an appeal to the UK Supreme Court over whether it should be required to post security while it challenges the enforcement of a US$340 million award.

It’s also been acting for two PDVSA entities in an UNCITRAL dispute with Saudi Arabian oil services provider Petrosaudi over a drilling contract. The case has also spawned UK court proceedings: the English Court of Appeal ruled in January 2017 that Petrosaudi could draw on a US$130 million letter of credit from a Portuguese bank to settle unpaid invoices.

The firm also says it has been retained by Venezuela to act in English enforcement proceedings relating to an ICSID award.

Nicholas Demigneux in Paris and James Willn in Dubai were promoted to the partnership. Martin Downey left the firm to become head of the construction practice at Holman Fenwick Willan in Hong Kong. Counsel James Clanchy also left the firm one year after he joined.