The arrival of Argentina’s former ICSID defence chief is a welcome boost to the investment treaty practice
|People in Who’s Who Legal||2|
|Pending cases as counsel||42|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$5.1 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments||36 (of which 15 are as sole or chair)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||10|
Uría Menéndez is Spain’s largest corporate firm. Its arbitration practice is led by Jesús Remón and Miguel Virgós in Madrid, who both sit as arbitrators. Remón is an honorary president of the Spanish Arbitration Club and Spanish alternate member of the ICC Court, while Virgós was one of 16 experts selected by the European Commission for its special group on the status of arbitration within the scope of the Brussels I Regulation.
In September 2016, the firm recruited Gabriel Bottini as a partner in Madrid, adding valuable investment arbitration expertise. He spent eight years at Argentina’s Treasury Attorney General’s Office, including as its first director of international disputes. In that role, he helped to defend the state against some 50 treaty cases.
The arbitration group includes four other partners in Madrid, two in Barcelona and six in Portugal. It also has a São Paulo office staffed by counsel Valeria Galíndez, who sits as arbitrator.
The firm’s network spans the Iberian peninsula thanks to a 2010 merger with a Portuguese firm. It has offices in several other European countries, including Belgium and Poland, as well as in China.
In Latin America, the firm has its own office in Brazil and access to a network of affiliates. It also has a stake in Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría, a tie-up between firms in Chile, Colombia and Peru that also features in the GAR 100.
Uría Menéndez is also a member of a “best friends” network of six European firms, who all appear in the GAR 100: Slaughter and May in the UK, Bonelli Erede in Italy, Bredin Prat in France, Hengeler Mueller in Germany, and De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in the Netherlands.
Who uses it?
Numerous banks and financial service providers, as well as energy companies. Clients include Banco Sabadell, Santander, Bankia, BBVA, Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo, CVC Capital Partners, Enel, Gas Natural, Ingeniería y Economía del Transporte, Iberdrola, Isolux Corsán, Repsol, Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional and Brazil’s TIM.
In 2014, the firm helped Spanish oil company Repsol settle its US$10 billion ICSID claim against Argentina over the expropriation of its stake in oil and gas operator YPF. The state agreed to pay US$5 billion in bonds. Uría paired with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Argentine firm Marval O’Farrell & Mairal as co-counsel to Repsol, and had been coordinating Repsol’s strategy in related court proceedings across Argentina, the United States and Spain.
Another recent case was for Spanish construction group Isolux Corsán in an ICC arbitration over the upgrade of an Argentine power plant. The result was a mixed bag – Isolux won just US$1 million of the US$110 million it had sought from Argentina’s Pampa Energía, but it succeeded in reducing a US$200 million counterclaim from Pampa to a final payout of around US$15 million.
The firm says it recently helped a Brazilian cement producer obtain a US$10 million award against a German company over the upgrade of a factory, fending off a US$500 million counterclaim.
It also reports winning an €18 million award for a Spanish company in a Geneva-seated ICC case against a French investment fund concerning an agreement for a joint venture to acquire and operate 20,000 car parking spaces.
In another ICC case, Uría Menéndez says it helped a Spanish engineering company prevail in a €50 million price adjustment dispute relating to the installation of turbines at a wind farm in Argentina.
José Miguel Alcolea, director of the business legal department at Iberdrola, calls the firm “excellent” and says that it comes “recommended in any circle”. In international disputes, Iberdrola always chooses a “trusted brand” with experience that can offer direct communication, he says, and Uría Menéndez is always excellent value.
A client, who asked not to be named, praised the firm’s ability to adapt to the client’s needs. José Miguel Fatas Monforte drew praise for his “high technical knowledge, strategic vision and his competence.”