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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Astigarraga Davis

17 February 2016

The Miami boutique is bringing in work relating to the Petrobras scandal

People in Who’s Who Legal 1

 

Founded in Miami in 2000 by lawyers with a background in commercial litigation, Astigarraga Davis has capitalised on the growth in arbitration across Latin America. The firm has worked on numerous high-value arbitrations and litigations in the region, often with little or no Florida law component. Most of its 18-strong team speak English and Spanish. GAR’s sister publication, Latin Lawyer, notes the firm’s “excellent reputation” and says it is “more than able to hold its own among renowned global firms, with which it often finds itself in competition.”

The arbitration practice is led by Cuban-born José I Astigarraga, an active figure in the international arbitration community. Astigarraga has served as vice president of the LCIA and vice chair of the International Bar Association’s international arbitration committee. He is also member of the ICC commission on arbitration and ADR.

Astigarraga was recently appointed vice chair of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration and has worked closely with that body’s “Americas initiative”, which aims to promote arbitration in the region. He is a founder director of the Latin American Arbitration Association.

Other names to know are Edward Mullins, Cristina Cárdenas and Eduardo de la Peña, a Mexican practitioner who was promoted to partner in 2015.

The practice’s focus is on commercial arbitration, often under ICC or ICDR rules, and it is often brought in to assist on arbitration-related litigation, particularly US discovery proceedings.

Who uses it?

The firm is coy about trading on its clients’ names, but they are known to include some significant US manufacturers, as well as investors in the banking, construction, electricity, telecoms and agrochemical sectors – General Motors, GE Medical Systems and Citibank have all used it. Ukrainian oligarchs Igor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov have used the firm in US discovery actions. The firm was also instructed in disputes relating to the Ponzi scheme run by Allen Stanford, representing banks that were accused by investors of not properly investigating the Texas businessman.

Track record

The firm succeeded in enforcing a multimillion-dollar ICC award in favour of its client, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (acting as receiver of a US bank) against investment firm IIG Capital in the Florida courts in 2011. An appeal court affirmed the decision two years later.

The firm has also won some landmark victories in applications under section 1782 of the United States Code, which allows courts to order discovery in support of international proceedings. In 2012, an appeal court in Miami allowed the firm’s client, Conecel, to obtain documents in support of an arbitration in Ecuador against air freight carrier JASE.

Astigarraga Davis went on to obtain three similar orders in favour of US renewable energy provider Mesa Power in support of a NAFTA claim it is pursuing against Canada. The orders, against US companies NextEra and Pattern Energy and South Korea’s Samsung C&T, allowed Mesa to obtain documents and witness statements from executives concerning their dealings with Ontario’s electricity authority. A final award in the NAFTA case is expected soon.

In the mid-2000s, Florida-based Alon International turned to it for a bet-the-company dispute with Nike subsidiary Converse over a distribution and licensing agreement for the Mercosur region. As well as an ICDR arbitration in Boston, the matter generated parallel litigation in Brazil, Argentina and the United States. Ultimately, the arbitral tribunal awarded Alon US$52 million.

On another occasion, after a falling out between GE’s medical technology division and its Brazilian distributor, Astigarraga Davis handled an arbitration at the Inter-American Commercial Arbitration Commission and parallel litigation in the US and Brazil. It won the arbitration and also persuaded a New York court to enjoin the Brazilian proceedings. When the distributor refused to comply, Astigarraga Davis obtained a civil contempt judgment against the company and its president.

Recent events

In the past year the firm has been representing a European-owned utility provider in a US$50 million ICC case against a regulatory authority in an Andean state over tariffs; a Latin American mass urban transit planner in a claim against a state in the region; and a South American construction consortium in a US$400 million claim against a global energy company.

There has also been a rise in Brazil-related work arising from the Petrobras corruption scandal. But the firm notes that a healthy amount of work is coming from outside Latin America, with some eight disputes on its books relating to southern Europe.

Client comment

A US company was happy with the firm’s work on a number of cases, including one that involved criminal charges overseas. The company’s general counsel says the firm handled the matter with “incredible discretion” and helped the client to prevail on all counts. “We received very good value for our money,” he concludes.

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