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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Hogan Lovells

09 March 2017

Brought home wins for Petrobras and an investor in Hungary

People in Who’s Who Legal 8
Pending cases as counsel 127
Value of pending counsel work US$110.9 billion
Treaty cases 12
Current arbitrator appointments 51 (of which 36 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 18

The 2010 merger between Hogan & Hartson and Lovells brought together two big international arbitration practices with complementary geographical footprints. The merged group combined the strength of Lovells’ practice in Europe and Asia with Hogan & Hartson’s prominence in the Americas. Since then it has expanded, hiring a Latin America-focused team from Chadbourne & Parke in 2013 and tying up with a Mexican firm a year later. More recently it has been eyeing Africa-related work.

The combined practice was initially co-led by partners from the two legacy firms: Daniel González in Miami (from Hogan & Hartson) and Michael Davison in London (from Lovells). Davison stepped down from the role in 2013, and now serves as global head of litigation, arbitration and employment at the firm. His successor Simon Nesbitt (now QC) stepped down in 2014 ahead of his move to the bar, leaving González as sole practice head.

González has set up an international arbitration steering committee formed of partners from various regions who coordinate client relationship management, lawyer training, staffing of major disputes and marketing. Its members include Karl Pörnbacher in Munich, Kieron O’Callaghan in London, Laurent Gouiffès in Paris, Luis Enrique Graham in Mexico City and Tim Hill in Hong Kong.

Another name to know is Samaa Haridi in New York, who joined from Weil Gotshal & Manges in 2015 and has a focus on disputes emanating from the Middle East and North Africa.

Network

Key offices for the arbitration group include London, Paris, Miami, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Washington, DC. There are other members based in Amsterdam, Madrid, Moscow, Milan, Dubai, Düsseldorf, Houston and Caracas, while tie-ups with local firms have given it a presence in Jakarta, Johannesburg and Mexico City. The firm also has strategic alliances in India, Mongolia and Saudi Arabia.

Who uses it?

Hogan Lovells is popular with governments, particularly for investment arbitration. The firm has acted for Venezuela, Vietnam, Mexico, Mongolia and Slovakia on high-profile cases, and is on China’s list of preferred counsel for investment treaty advice.

It’s also acted for state entities such as Pemex of Mexico and Venezuela’s PDVSA in commercial matters, while private energy clients include AES, Royal Dutch Shell, the UAE’s Crescent Petroleum, Enel, Eni, ExxonMobil, Iberdrola and Norway’s Statoil.

Other clients of note include Russia’s Alfa Group, Alstom, French insurer AXA, BHP Billiton, BNP Paribas, Hard Rock, Honeywell International, HTC, IBM, Siemens, Suzuki, Vodafone, Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk and the estate of Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili.

Track record

One of the merged group’s most eye-catching victories came in 2015, when it helped Suzuki prevail in an ICC claim against Volkswagen over a troubled joint venture to market eco-friendly cars in Asia. The award required the German company to sell back its US$3.8 billion stake in Suzuki to the Japanese side. Hogan Lovells had replaced Debevoise & Plimpton on the case when it was already under way.

Another great result was helping an international oil consortium led by Italy’s Eni win US$573 million in a tax-related dispute with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The arbitration was seated in Nigeria and saw Hogan Lovells team up with local firm Aluko & Oyebode. Before the award could be issued, the team also had to overturn an injunction in the Nigerian courts.

Another energy company, Statoil, used Hogan Lovells for an ICC claim against Algerian state entity Sonatrach, obtaining a US$536 million award in 2013. The firm then helped defend the award in the English Commercial Court.

For Vietnam, the firm has secured a hat-trick of defence wins in treaty cases. In 2014, it helped the state to defeat a US$3.75 billion claim by a US investor over a proposed tourism resort, with the state awarded full costs. The same year, it won the dismissal of a US$47 million claim by a French investor in a dialysis clinic. Finally, in 2015 it knocked out a US$66 million claim after persuading a tribunal that the claimant, a French trader of merchandise, had made no investment in Vietnam (the Swiss courts upheld that ruling in the following year).

Another defence win came in 2015 for Venezuela when an ICSID tribunal threw out a US$150 million claim by a Barbadian investor in the fertiliser industry. The panel concluded that the claimant didn’t own the shares in question at the time they were expropriated.

In the pre-merger days, Lovells’ win-sheet included a victory for SAB Miller and its Tanzanian subsidiary in an ICC arbitration arising from the breakdown of a joint venture with Diageo – referred to as the “African beer wars”. In 2009, Lovells also helped to win a €29 million investment treaty award against Thailand on behalf of German construction company Walter Bau (whose administrators have since gone to some lengths to enforce the award).

Recent events

Jonathan Leach, head of the firm’s South East Asian international arbitration group, left the Singapore office to join Eversheds in London. Partner Paul Teo in Hong Kong also left for Baker & McKenzie.

There were new arrivals too. Kent Phillips, former head of international arbitration at Berwin Leighton Paisner, arrived as a partner in Singapore. Partner Chalid Heyder in Jakarta joined the group thanks to a tie-up with Malaysian firm Dewi Ngara Fachri & Partners. Construction disputes specialist Nabeel Kareem also joined from Dechert in Dubai.

Thomas Kendra in Paris and Nathan Searle in London were promoted to the partnership in early 2017. There were also promotions to counsel for Anna Mills and Ben Hornan in London, Juan Garcia in Miami, Andrew Mackenzie in Dubai, Jorge Valdés King and Luis Ernesto Peón Barriga in Mexico City.

As for results, the firm helped French corporate services provider Edenred win a €23 million ICSID award against Hungary over changes to legislation providing employees with fringe benefit vouchers.

It helped Petrobras defeat a US$200 million ICC claim by a Brazilian contractor over the construction of part of a floating oil production unit, winning costs. 

Acting for Liberia and its national port authority in the US courts, the firm prevented the enforcement of a US$44 million award in favour of Israeli contractor GSS.

It brought a New York enforcement action against Argentina’s national oil and gas operator YPF on behalf of a Brazilian unit of US energy company AES, hastening a settlement. YPF paid US$60 million to settle an ICC award worth more than three times that amount. 

It helped Mongolia to settle a dispute with Canada’s Khan Resources over a uranium mine. The state paid US$70 million to satisfy an Energy Charter Treaty award worth US$104 million, withdrawing set-aside proceedings.  

The UAE’s Crescent Petroleum used it to defend an award against the National Iranian Oil Company. The English courts declined to interfere with the UNCITRAL panel’s finding that the parties’ contract was not procured through corruption.

A new instruction came from a group of UK real estate investors bringing an ICSID claim against Mauritius – over changes to planning policy linked to the nomination of a new UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It continues to act for a unit of IBM in a US$4.5 billion ICC arbitration over a services agreement with Mexico’s Iusacell for the provision of IT-related services.

Client comment

Salvador Escalón, the Florida-based general counsel for telecoms group Millicom, used Hogan Lovells for two high-stakes cases in El Salvador. He says the firm’s lawyers “did an excellent job” and presented their case “in a clear and convincing manner”. Daniel González, Richard Lorenzo and Maria Eugenia Ramirez were key members of the team and succeeded in mastering “extremely technical” business details.

Another client told GAR: “Hogan Lovells produced some pleadings which blew the other side’s case away.” The client added: “They are on top of the details at all times with an experience that is extremely reassuring.”