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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Linklaters

10 March 2017

Cemented its reputation with victories for DP World and Standard Chartered

People in Who’s Who Legal 3
Pending cases as counsel 64
Value of pending counsel work US$38.7 billion+
Treaty cases 5
Current arbitrator appointments 33 (of which 13 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 14

Linklaters catapulted into the GAR 30 in 2015, having never featured in previous editions of the GAR 100.

The firm traces its roots to the 1830s and, like other magic circle firms, began to expand internationally in the mid 1990s. Several of the firm’s offices began to take on arbitration matters as an offshoot of their corporate work (a real estate dispute for the Hong Kong government around 2004 was thought to be the biggest local arbitration of its day), and the London office in particular gathered steam thanks to partners Greg Reid and Christopher Style QC (who left for the bar in 2012).

For a long time, though, the firm’s management resisted calls to establish a dedicated international arbitration practice, choosing rather to keep the group within the litigation practice. As a result, Linklaters was slow to be seen as a serious player in international arbitration circles, despite being involved in some big-ticket cases over the years and fielding many partners with arbitration experience in offices all over the world.

But a lot has changed in the past few years, beginning with the hire of a seriously impressive duo in Paris from well-regarded Parisian boutique Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier in 2013. Matthieu De Boisséson and Pierre Duprey had built a reputation working on large construction cases, such as TML v Eurotunnel, and advised Danone in its famous SCC dispute with China’s Wahaha. The team brought with them some significant active cases, including an ongoing US$22 billion Russia-related matter involving Total subsidiary Elf Neftegaz.

At the same time, the Paris office recruited partner Roland Ziadé from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. He featured in GAR’s “45 under 45” survey of leading young practitioners in 2011 and has a large Middle Eastern component to his practice, having spent part of his time in Abu Dhabi.

The group’s momentum increased further with the hire of the well-known Matthew Weiniger QC from Herbert Smith Freehills, who now co-heads the practice with Pierre Duprey.

Network

The group’s centres of gravity are Paris and London, with other important offices in Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Hong Kong and New York. There are also boots on the ground in Luxembourg, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Stockholm, Warsaw and recently Singapore. The wider firm has 29 offices across Europe, the United States and Asia.

Who uses it?

A number of large multinationals have turned to the group over the years, including Anglo American, Areva, BAE, Bayer, BG Group, BP, Carlyle Group, Caterpillar, Deutsche Bank, Diageo, Disney, DP World, Electrabel, E.ON, Enel, Engie, Eni, Euromissile, France Télécom, Glencore, Lafarge Holcim, Renault, Royal Bank of Scotland, RWE and Total.

Linklaters is less frequently seen acting for states but one prominent government client is Germany in a pair of ad hoc arbitrations over a truck toll system worth a combined US$10 billion – thought to be the largest cases ever heard in the country.

Linklaters lawyers have acted for and against the Polish government in different investment treaty matters. Russia has used it for enforcement and attachment proceedings in the Luxembourg courts (the long-running Noga case). African state clients include Senegal and the Republic of the Congo. It is also known to act for several NATO agencies.  

Track record

In 2010, Linklaters helped Polish telecoms operator Telekomunikacja Polska (now Orange Polska) resolve a €2.5 billion shareholder dispute with the Vivendi group, which played out in UNCITRAL proceedings in The Hague; the settlement resulted in the largest M&A transaction in Poland in that year. It helped the same client to settle a dispute with Danish Polish Telecommunication Group over payment of a €396 million award concerning a fibre-optic cable system.

Anglo-Swiss commodities giant Glencore used the firm for a monumental LCIA case brought by Russia’s Sual Partners concerning supply contracts with Rusal worth US$48 billion, which settled on confidential terms in 2014. Another high-profile settlement was for Luxembourg satellite operator SES Astra in an ICC dispute with France’s Eutelsat over rights to an orbital position in outer space.

It also successfully advised Kuwait’s Independent Petroleum Group on the enforcement of a US$70 million ICC award against Eritrea.

The firm helped Poland to defeat a claim by a Dutch investor whose property was expropriated to build a public road. An UNCITRAL panel threw the case out in 2014.

Recent events

Matthieu de Boisséson and Françoise Lefèvre stepped down as co-heads of the international arbitration practice in November 2016, to be replaced by Pierre Duprey and the recently arrived Matthew Weiniger QC. Soon after, de Boisséson left the firm to focus on his practice as an independent arbitrator.

Justin Tang in Hong Kong and Niclas Widjeskog in Stockholm were promoted to the partnership. Christian Albanesi, a former managing counsel at the ICC Court who joined in 2014, was named head of Latin American arbitration.

As co-counsel with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Ziadé led a team that helped UAE state-owned port operator DP World defeat an LCIA claim brought by the government of Djibouti. In February 2017, a tribunal dismissed Djibouti’s allegations that DP World had paid bribes to procure the concession to operate Africa’s largest container terminal.

Together with his former firm Herbert Smith Freehills, Weiniger helped Standard Chartered Bank win a US$148 million ICSID award against Tanzanian state power company Tanesco in September 2016. The co-counsel team persuaded a tribunal that it had been misled by Tanesco earlier in the case and should therefore revisit a decision to only grant declaratory relief. It is thought to be the first time an ICSID tribunal has reconsidered one of its substantive decisions. Annulment proceedings are pending, as is a separate ICSID claim that the team is helping the bank to bring against Tanzania.

On the state side, the firm helped Senegal to settle an ICSID claim brought by French cement company VICAT without any compensation paid by the state.

More work came from eastern Europe. As co-counsel with GAR 100 firm Fietta, Linklaters is acting for a private equity fund in an investment treaty claim against Poland relating to the expropriation of a stake in a bank. It continues to act in a €90 million treaty case against Estonia.

It defeated a US$1 billion LCIA claim for alleged breach of warranties in the sale of a majority interest in an eastern European steel entity.

Weiniger helped another client, Ukrainian real estate developer Arricano, win an LCIA award in May 2016 requiring a counterparty to hand over a majority stake in a Kiev shopping centre. 

The firm helped a German client settle a US$1.3 billion dispute relating to construction of a steel plant in Brazil.

Client comment

Alexandre Job, in-house counsel at Total, praises the firm’s “extensive experience in high-profile cases and ability in developing a global dispute strategy.” Andrew Plump is “a powerful advocate, a strong oral litigator, and he never hesitates to be hands on”. Pierre Duprey is meanwhile “very clever at combining legal tactics with the clients’ interests, and always keeps a cool head”.