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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Lévy Kaufmann-Kohler

06 March 2017

Home to two leading investment arbitrators, this Geneva boutique is also prominent in sports disputes

People in Who’s Who Legal 4
Pending cases as counsel 19
Value of pending counsel work US$650 million
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 29 (of which 8 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 6

This boutique began in 2007 when the co-founders of Schellenberg Wittmer’s international arbitration practice in Geneva – Laurent Lévy and Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler – realised their success as arbitrators was starting to impede their junior colleagues’ work as counsel and vice versa.

As well as handling the busy caseloads of these two arbitrators, the firm undertakes some counsel work in commercial, investment and, increasingly, sports arbitration.

Kaufmann-Kohler and Lévy need little introduction, being two of the most famous and active international arbitrators on the circuit. A recent study published in GAR that applied analysis of the frequency with which investment arbitrators are appointed and cited also named Kaufmann-Kohler as the most influential arbitrator in the world.

Antonio Rigozzi heads the firm’s sports practice and is considered to be one of the leading specialists in Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) matters, where he has represented associations such as the United States Olympic Committee, UEFA and FIFA (most recently in proceedings against former UEFA vice president Michel Platini and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter). He has also represented football players, clubs and national federations, Olympic medallists and a three-time winner of the Tour de France.

The firm made its first addition to the partnership in 2011 by promoting Chilean-Italian Sabina Sacco. In 2015, it also recruited partner Sébastien Besson who spent 10 years with Python & Peter and recently joined the board of the Swiss Arbitration Association.

Who uses it?

Aside from its host of sporting clients, the firm’s commercial clients include two Swiss and several other European banks, a state-owned oil company, a European tobacco company and a special purpose vehicle representing Qatari interests.

Recent events

The firm’s sports counsel work attracted international attention through Rigozzi and Besson’s successful defence of FIFA against CAS claims filed by Platini and Blatter following corruption allegations. Platini failed to have his 90-day suspension from football-related activities, while Blatter was unable to overturn a decision banning him from all football-related activities for six years.

As arbitrator, Kaufmann-Kohler continues to hear some of the world’s highest-profile cases. She chaired the ICSID panel that dismissed Churchill Mining’s US$1 billion claim against Indonesia after finding that its mining licences had most likely been forged. She is still presiding over a US$5 billion ICSID claim brought against Guinea by a company linked to Israeli diamond tycoon Beny Steinmetz – despite the claimant’s attempt to have her disqualified.

In addition, she was part of a Uruguayan-seated ICC panel that ordered Argentine state petroleum operator YPF to pay more than US$500 million for curtailing gas exports to Brazil in the wake of Argentina’s 2004 energy crisis.

Meanwhile Lévy chaired the ICSID panel that handed down a US$1.38 billion award in favour of Canadian mining company Crystallex against Venezuela in April 2016. He’s also presiding in a billion-dollar claim by Caratube International against Kazakhstan over oil exploration rights.

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