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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

K&L Gates

09 March 2017

Acting in a US$200 million dispute over a sub-Saharan LNG project

People in Who’s Who Legal 3
Pending cases as counsel 90
Value of pending counsel work US$20.5 billion+
Treaty cases 8
Current arbitrator appointments 27 (of which 9 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 7

K&L Gates is the product of a complicated sequence of mergers: East Coast firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart absorbed UK practice Nicholson Graham & Jones in 2005, then fused with Seattle-based firm Preston Gates & Ellis two years later, before going on to merge with three other firms in Texas, North Carolina and Chicago. In 2013, the firm merged again, with Australia’s Middletons – making it the largest US firm in the Asia-Pacific region.

The arbitration practice of the legacy firms focused on construction and insurance matters but the merged practice widened its scope with some high-profile lateral hires, including former Eversheds partner Louis Degos and Raja Bose in Singapore, who came on board after 10 years at Watson Farley & Williams to head the Asia practice.

K&L Gates’ practice expanded further with the acquisition of Hogan & Hartson’s Warsaw office ahead of the firm’s merger with Lovells (including a strong team of arbitration specialists led by Maciej Jamka), and the addition of a team from Clifford Chance in Tokyo. The Middletons merger also provided dispute resolution lawyers in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

With further new arrivals, the practice now comprises more than 100 lawyers.

Network

The arbitration practice has people in 22 offices – including London, Paris, Warsaw, Milan, Frankfurt, Dubai, Doha, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Perth and Taipei. There are boots on the ground in seven US cities including New York, Miami and Houston. The wider firm has 46 offices across five continents.

Who uses it?

Poland, Germany and the Netherlands have been government clients on investment treaty matters, while Spain and France have turned to it for arbitration-related court work concerning liability for a massive oil spill. The firm has also advised ICSID claimants including German airport operator Fraport against the Philippines.

In the commercial sphere, multinationals that have used the firm include Alcoa, Deere & Company, DuPont, Duke Energy, Fujifilm America, Goldman Sachs, Honeywell International, TeliaSonera, Siemens, Vodafone and World Wrestling Entertainment.

Other clients include Murphy Oil in an insurance coverage dispute arising out of damage by Hurricane Katrina; and the West Indies Cricket Board in a fast-track LCIA arbitration with Digicel relating to a Twenty20 cricket tournament.

Track record

There have been some good results for the firm’s client Poland at ICSID. In 2015, it won the dismissal of a US$185 million claim by US investors who accused Polish authorities of driving their vegetable oil business in bankruptcy – also obtaining nearly US$3 million towards the state’s costs. The year before, it saw off a US$35 million claim over the failed development of a blood plasma laboratory.

On the investor side, it helped US border security company Rapiscan settle a US$359 million ICC claim against Albania in 2015, over a concession to tackle the problem of smuggling and people trafficking. The settlement was embodied in Albanian legislation.

In 2009, K&L Gates helped Belgium’s Transcor Astra Group win US$640 million against the US arm of Brazil’s Petrobras in a dispute over put options – and went on to get the award enforced in a US court. Astra eventually agreed a US$820 million settlement with Petrobras in 2012.

In the same year, Jennifer Coughlin in the Anchorage office helped the US state of Alaska secure a US$245 million award against BP in compensation for delayed oil production as a result of two oil spills in the North Slope region.

In another case, it helped a US agricultural equipment manufacturer win US$320 million in an ICC case against an Asian distributor.

Recent events

Martin Gusy and Matthew Weldon joined as partners in New York from US firm Cozen O’Connor. Other partners who joined were Glenn Chang in Singapore from Nabarro; John Gilbert in London from Pinsent Masons; and Joanna Łagowska in Warsaw, who was formerly head of infrastructure and engineering disputes at Dentons. Ashish Chugh was promoted to partner in Singapore.

Partner James Duffy IV in New York moved to Baker & McKenzie, while Mike Stewart in London went to Wikborg Rein. Haig Oghigian, a Canadian former diplomat, left the firm to join Squire Patton Boggs as senior counsel and head of international arbitration in Tokyo.

A DR-CAFTA case brought against the Dominican Republic didn’t go the client’s way. A tribunal threw out the US$100 million claim by US-based Corona Materials after ruling that it fell foul of a three-year time bar.

The firm says it secured a favourable award for a major European natural resources company in an LCIA case over a long-term supply agreement. It also picked up new instructions including a US$200 million LCIA cace concerning a sub-Saharan LNG construction project; and an ICC case between a Dubai company and a national oil company.

Lawyers in the London office are writing a new reference book, Challenges in Arbitration, which will be published in 2017.

Client comment

Jeffery Chow, general legal manager at Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd, says that “because the team was properly led and focused, there was no time and effort wasted on getting one up on the other firm.” He says Raja Bose “fully understands our company philosophy and approach on legal issues and works well with our organisation.”