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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Gleiss Lutz

08 March 2017

The German firm is acting in a second investment dispute with Turkmenistan

People in Who’s Who Legal 2
Pending cases as counsel 13
Value of pending counsel work US$442 million
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 12 (of which 5 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 5

Gleiss Lutz started life as an antitrust boutique in Stuttgart in 1949. It opened in Brussels 13 years later and began an evolution into a full-service firm, adding international offices and, for a while, entering into an association (since dissolved) with Stibbe and Herbert Smith.

Experienced arbitrator Gerhard Wegen joined in 1983 and built the firm’s name in this area. In 1997 Stephan Wilske joined and an arbitration group was formed, currently headed by Wilske. The wider dispute resolution team is headed by Stefan Rützel in Frankfurt. Another name to know is Lars Markert in Stuttgart, who returned to the firm in 2015 after two years on secondment with Japan’s largest firm, Nishimura & Asahi.

The firm built its arbitration specialism on the back of its renowned competition law practice – which should bear fruit now that arbitration is tipped to be the new preferred forum for cartel damage claims.

Network

International arbitration capability is concentrated in Stuttgart, Frankfurt and now Munich, thanks to the move of partner Wolf von Bernuth from Stuttgart in 2013 to build the firm’s practice in the Bavarian city along with two other specialists. But the firm’s reach extends to Japan, Korea and Taiwan (where Wilske helps to organise an annual arbitration conference). The Stuttgart office includes common law as well as civil law expertise, with two US attorneys at law. In Düsseldorf, the firm has partner David Quinke.

Track record

The firm has the distinction of being the first German law firm to bring an investment treaty claim – on behalf of German investor Adem Dogan against Turkmenistan. Dogan won his case in 2014, when a tribunal concluded that Turkmenistan had expropriated his interest in the revenue of a poultry farm. The sum awarded was in the region of €9 million. An ad hoc committee upheld the award in 2016.

As well as investment arbitration, the firm has developed a specialty in arbitrations that involve insolvent parties or issues related to insolvency, drawing on the assistance of its corporate restructuring group. For example, it acted for a group of Korean energy companies against a German insolvency administrator in a case at Germany’s main arbitral institution, DIS – with the client only having to pay 25% of a purchase price adjustment sought by the opposing side.

It has negotiated favourable settlements for clients in the aircraft, banking, energy and automotive industries, and has also done well for clients in complex gas price arbitrations.

Recent events

Following on from its work for Adem Dogan, the firm was instructed for another investment treaty case against Turkmenistan. This time it’s acting for the insolvency administrator of a German construction company that won a €144 million tender to build grain mills and café-bakeries. A notice of dispute was filed in late 2016.

Markert is representing a Japanese pharmaceutical group in a US$25 million dispute over an exclusive distributorship agreement (he took the case on while on secondment with Nishimura & Asahi, which remains as co-counsel).

As arbitrator, Stefan Rützel was part of an UNCITRAL panel seated in Vienna that dismissed the bulk of a €650 million claim against Montenegro. The claim was brought by members of Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska’s En+ Group as part of a multi-front dispute over an aluminium smelting plant. Rützel replaced Montenegro’s original appointee – Jernej Sekolec – in the wake of a scandal over Sekolec’s conduct as arbitrator in an unrelated border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia.

Friederike Landauer left Gleiss Lutz to join DLA Piper as counsel in Munich.

Client comment

Jenny Dvorak, in-house counsel for Groz-Beckert KG, describes the team as “well organised, well prepared” and always available to discuss matters. She notes that the firm was able to stay objective during an arbitration that raised strong emotions in the opposing side.

An in-house source at POWRX, an exercise machine company which used Gleiss Lutz for a South Korean arbitration, reports that the team negotiated “a cost-efficient and pragmatic solution that allowed both parties to successfully keep on doing business”.

Another in-house lawyer from Korea says the team displayed “great expertise” in a DIS arbitration and are “trustworthy” and “passionate” advocates.