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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Ferrere

07 March 2017

A long-running ICSID case against Ecuador saw a final award

People in Who’s Who Legal 2
Pending cases as counsel 17
Value of pending counsel work US$5 billion
Treaty cases 5
Current arbitrator appointments 4 (of which 1 is as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 2

Ferrere is the largest law firm in Uruguay and one of the top two firms in the country, according to GAR’s sister publication Latin Lawyer. It’s also the only South American firm to have pursued serious cross-border expansion without the backing of a foreign firm, setting up offices in Bolivia, Paraguay and most recently Ecuador.

The firm began to cooperate with US and UK firms on cross-border disputes in the late 1990s, and set up a dedicated dispute resolution department around that time, headed by construction partner Julio Iribarne. The collapse of some large private banks in Uruguay in 2002 meant the firm soon found itself co-counselling with arbitration teams at Allen & Overy, Shearman & Sterling and Arnold & Porter. It represented JP MorganChase, Credit Suisse and Commerzbank in a pair of ICC cases against the Uruguayan government worth more than US$1 billion – and its success in those cases helped the arbitration group grow.

The practice received a major boost in 2015 when it founded a new office in Quito staffed by a team from Ecuadorean firm Paz Horowitz. The team included Javier Robalino, a former King & Spalding lawyer who featured in GAR’s “45 under 45” ranking of younger practitioners in 2011.

Robalino now co-chairs the arbitration practice alongside Sandra González in Montevideo, who is overall head of the disputes department. Other names to know are Andrés Cerisola, Ferrere’s managing partner and a well-known arbitrator in the country; and Andrés Donoso, a former member of Ecuador’s hydrocarbons ministry.

Network

Besides its five offices in Uruguay, the firm is also based in Santa Cruz and La Paz (Bolivia), Quito and Manta (Ecuador) and Asunción (Paraguay).

Who uses it

Clients that have used the team include ConocoPhillips, Schlumberger, Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Austrian technology group Andritz, and India’s Jindal Steel & Power.

It has worked for private equity groups such as Elliott & Associates; Bluecrest Capital Management;.and Chile’s Linzor Capital (which has retained it for a US$100million ICSID claim against Uruguay, alongside Latham & Watkins). It’s also rumoured to have advised Argentina’s national oil and gas operator YPF in Uruguayan court proceeedings related to a US$1.6 billion ICC dispute over gas exports.

Track record

In 2015, the firm helped Austrian technology group Andritz secure a €40 million payment to settle a claim against the Finnish–Chilean owners of Uruguay’s largest pulp mill project, Montes del Plata. (It partnered with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr on the case.)

Another co-counsel pairing (this time with White & Case) saw the firm help Jindal Steel secure a U$22.5 million award against a Bolivian state mining company. The award was later set aside by a Bolivian court, but the parties have since entered settlement talks – also pausing another arbitration worth US$100 million relating to the same iron ore project.

Recent events

Javier Robalino in Quito saw a long-running ICSID case on behalf of ConocoPhillips subsidiary Burlington Resources come to an end in February 2017, when a tribunal awarded his client almost US$380 million in compensation for the expropriation of two oil blocks (Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and King & Spalding also acted for the claimant). The tribunal also awarded Ecuador US$40 million in a counterclaim for environmental damage to the Amazon rainforest (significantly less than the US$2 billion the state had sought).