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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Vinge

10 March 2017

Acting for Gazprom and Total in high-stakes energy cases

Pending cases as counsel 17
Value of pending counsel work US$65 billion+
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 8 (of which 5 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 5

Since its inception over 30 years ago, Sweden’s Vinge has maintained a dispute resolution practice, even though the firm was at that time focused mainly on M&A. A decade ago it transformed into a full-service law firm with its own international arbitration team. Late partner Robert Romlöv in Gothenburg helped build up the group and was an early adviser on ICSID arbitration and counsel to Dutch investor CME in a landmark treaty case against the Czech Republic.

The practice was further shaped by Hans Bagner, one of Sweden’s better known names in the field (he’s since moved to a smaller practice). The arbitration group poached a rival’s core practice in 2009, adding a number of new faces to the group, including the then chair of the board of the SCC Arbitration Institute, Johan Gernandt.

Today, Gernandt and James Hope continue to anchor the work, with Hope serving as head of the team in Stockholm (as well as a member of the board of the SCC Arbitration Institute).

Often acting as lead counsel in international cases, the team regularly finds itself arguing against major foreign practitioners, including QCs, in foreign seats. While home to established names in the arbitration world, it is keen to note that in the Swedish market, the “old guard” is beginning to step down and a new generation of young and savvy lawyers are coming to the fore.

Network

The arbitration group works from Stockholm, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Malmö. It also maintains a presence in Brussels. 

Who uses it?

Vinge frequently pairs up with international counsel for big-ticket energy work. Together with DLA Piper, it’s acting for Russia’s Gazprom in a set of SCC cases against Ukraine’s Naftogaz under long-term gas supply and transit agreements, reportedly worth around US$50 billion.

It’s also defending Total subsidiary Elf Neftegaz in a US$22 billion dispute with two Russian regional governments and a Russian company (co-counselling alongside Linklaters and Mannheimer Swartling).

Russia is a rich source of work for the firm. It’s advised Rosneft, Acron, shipyard Baltiysky Zavod, energy companies Rosgazifikatsiya and Tyumenneftegaz as well as the Russian shareholders in the TNK-BP joint venture. It has also acted for Spanish investment funds that held a minority stake in Yukos for Swedish court proceedings against the Russian state.

Other key clients include Norwegian consumer goods group Orkla, Greek energy company DEPA, Scandinavian energy group Ellevio and Sweden’s Tele2 and H&M.

Track record

One of the firm’s most illustrious moments was the CME v Czech Republic case from 2003. Vinge was part of the legal team acting for the Dutch investor in local court proceedings to defend a major award under the Netherlands-Czechoslovakia BIT. The investor won one of the largest sums seen at ICSID.

More recently, Vinge helped London-listed JKX Oil & Gas win interim relief in an SCC emergency arbitration procedure against Ukraine in 2015 – one of the first times the mechanism has been used against a state. The emergency award, requiring the state to suspend a hike in gas production royalties pending an Energy Charter Treaty arbitration, was later enforced in the Ukrainian courts.  

In the Swedish courts, it managed to set aside a US$173 million award against its client Tyumenneftegaz, demonstrating that the arbitrators had exceeded their mandate. 

In 2015, the firm scored a high-profile win for Russian energy company Tyumenneftegaz in July when Sweden’s appeal court set aside a US$173 million award against it. The award, which had been issued in favour of US’s First National Petroleum Corporation, was set aside on the grounds that the tribunal had exceeded its mandate.

It successfully defended Swedish Export Credit Corporation against claims of more than US$400 million brought by a large Swedish bank; and helped the same client settle an US$80 million dispute with a unit of Lehman Brothers a few weeks before hearings.

Other favourable settlements were for a Swedish energy company in a US$250 million SCC case against an English company; and a US$100 million ICC case seated in Rio de Janiero concerning a power plant contract.

Recent events

In 2016, the firm promoted Silvia Dahlberg and Michele Fara to the partnership in Gothenburg.

Vinge’s work for Total in its US$22 billion case mentioned above spilled into the courts, with Sweden’s Supreme Court issuing a landmark ruling in April 2016 that it has the authority to review the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

Client comment

Helen Engebrigsten, in-house counsel to Orkla, says she was very satisfied with Vinge’s handling of a trademark dispute with Nestlé. The team was “very skilled” and “well-prepared, with great cooperation among the team members, clients and witnesses”, she says.

One client tells GAR, “Vinge prepared written submissions which have been of the absolute highest standard and quality,” and praises the team of Jonas Eklund and Fredrik Lundblom for their “very efficient direct examinations and cross-examinations.” The client also notes that Vinge’s fees were significantly lower than counsel’s fees for the opponent.