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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Allen & Overy

08 March 2017

Lost another practice co-head but the good results continue

People in Who’s Who Legal 10
Pending cases as counsel 250
Value of pending counsel work US$41.5 billion
Treaty cases 17
Current arbitrator appointments 31 (of which 15 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 14

Allen & Overy became known in international arbitration thanks to former partner and arbitrator David St John Sutton. By the time he joined the bar in 2001, there were others ready to take over, including current partners Judith Gill and Matthew Gearing (both QCs).

Allen & Overy’s team subsequently grew to be one of the biggest in the London market and one of the most admired, particularly as a finder of talent. It’s been an innovator too – bringing the first-ever Energy Charter Treaty claim and generally entering fast into the world of investment treaty disputes. Unlike some in the London market, A&O partners do their own advocacy in international arbitration.

In 2005, the practice started branching out to other cities using lateral hires: first in New York, then Hong Kong and Singapore, and more recently Paris and Frankfurt.

After many years with Gill at the helm, the baton passed to Stephen Jagusch then to Gearing in Hong Kong and Michael Young in Paris. In 2016, Young became the second practice head to leave for Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, following in Jagusch’s footsteps. Richard Smith in London now co-chairs the group alongside Gearing.

Gill is based in Singapore and Gearing in Hong Kong, underscoring the importance of Asia work to the firm. She is also the first woman president of the LCIA, while he was recently appointed chair of the HKIAC.

Since the days of St John Sutton, Gill and Gearing have edited Russell on Arbitration, one of the leading texts on English arbitration law (with their former boss as editor-in-chief). Other names to know include partners Jeffrey Sullivan in London, Frances van Eupen in Hong Kong, Marie Stoyanov in Paris, Daniel Busse in Frankfurt, Mark van Brakel in Sydney and counsel Andrew Pullen in Singapore.

Network

The firm operates in 31 countries. For arbitration, the key cities are London, Paris (where it poached a team from Herbert Smith), Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Sydney and Perth.

A&O also has toeholds at both ends of Africa, in Casablanca and Johannesburg.

Who uses it?

Allen & Overy is renowned for arbitrations concerning oil and gas and renewable energy, the Energy Charter Treaty (especially against EU member states), derivatives and other financial products (thanks to a longstanding connection with ISDA, the derivatives standards organisation).

Clients that have used it include European energy majors GDF Suez, Shell and BG, US energy company AES, China National Offshore Oil Corporation and Qatargas.

It’s also worked for telecoms groups Millicoms and Nokia, aerospace and defence company Airbus Samsung and Toshiba.

On the government side, the firm has been acting for Pakistan in five investment treaty arbitrations – two of which were dismissed in the state’s favour in 2016. The Netherlands, Peru, Slovenia, the UAE, Oman, Poland, Azerbaijan and Cuba are also clients. It is also one of China’s preferred law firms in investment treaty matters.

Track record

In 2012, the firm won a US$60 million award on behalf of Deutsche Bank against Sri Lanka, which established that a derivatives contract does qualify as an “investment” under an investment treaty and the ICSID Convention.

In another banking matter, it successfully defended a bank against charges of mis-selling brought by a high-net-worth individual who’d lost a lot on FX and equity derivative contracts. The result is believed to have saved the bank almost US$100 million – or half its annual profits from that division.

Meanwhile, telecoms operator Millicom is only still in Senegal thanks to a series of Allen & Overy wins during the skirmishing stage of an arbitration which led to contract negotiations.

A recent settlement was on behalf of British investors who had taken on the central American state of Belize in long drawn-out litigation and arbitration relating to the nationalisation of a telecom company.

Recent events

While Young’s departure must have brought an annoying sense of déjà vu following Jagusch’s exit, the firm has had some good results recently.

For example, it successfully defended Pakistan against two treaty claims brought by LNG investor Ali Allawi and his company Progas worth a combined US$574 million – winning the state £11 million in costs. It continues to defend Pakistan in three other treaty cases, including ICSID claims brought by Karkey Karadeniz and Tethyan Copper. 

In another investment treaty dispute, it helped Slovenia significantly reduce an ICSID claim to an award to €20 million, which the state later paid to Croatia’s national electricity company.

There have also been successes in the realm of commercial arbitration. Munich-based partner Joachim Feldges convinced an ICC tribunal to dismiss a US$436 million claim brought by Siemens against his client Ansaldo, an Italian engineering company, in a dispute over wind turbine technology. And the firm helped the Bank of Cyprus to defeat an ICC claim brought by French insurance company CNP Assurances over a frustrated deal to distribute the company’s insurance products.

ECT claims relating to reforms to the framework for renewable energy in Spain and Italy continue to be a staple of the firm’s practice. It now represents more than 25 different investors in seven separate claims against Spain. At least two of those cases are thought to have already cleared the jurisdictional stage.

Meanwhile, lawyers in the group continue to act for UK’s BG Group and India’s Reliance Industries in a dispute with India over oil and gas fields off the coast of Mumbai. While the firm fended off court challenges from the Indian government early in the dispute, the tribunal reportedly rejected the main demands of the companies in a partial final award.

High-profile new instructions include representing Gazprom subsidiary South Stream in a dispute with Saipem – reportedly one of the largest construction arbitrations of recent times.  And the firm has also been called on to defend Oman against a treaty claim by Samsung.

In a ranking of future leaders in arbitration by Who’s Who Legal, Allen & Overy was one of the top five most represented firms, with Kate Davies in London as one of the most highly regarded individuals. She was promoted to partner recently, along with Matthew Hodgson and Andrew Battison in London and Hong Kong, respectively. There were also two new counsel in Washington and Bratislava and hires in Frankfurt and Munich.

Client comment

A client in a gas price review praises the practice for its excellent drafting skills, good project management and timely delivery of work.