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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

BonelliErede

17 February 2016

Acting in a billion-dollar dispute over the Panama Canal

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 15
Value of pending counsel work US$3.8 billion
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 7 (of which 0 are
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

This Italian firm is the product of a 1999 merger between three firms from Milan, Genoa and Brussels. Since then, it has grown from 90 to over 300 lawyers while retaining a reputation for strength in EU and international law. In arbitration terms, it is one of the few local players that can boast of ICSID experience.

The arbitration practice is led by of counsel Antonio Crivellaro, who also sits as an arbitrator. A former co-head of the practice, Luca Radicati di Brozolo, left the firm in 2013 to establish his own boutique, ArbLit. The ICC Court’s secretary general Andrea Carlevaris is also a former member of the practice.

Network

The arbitration group is concentrated in Milan, with one partner in Rome. The wider firm has outposts in London and Brussels. It is also part of a “best friends” group with five other GAR 100 firms: Bredin Prat in France; De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in the Netherlands; Hengeler Mueller in Germany; Slaughter and May in the UK; and Uría Menéndez in Spain.

Who uses it?

Construction clients feature prominently. It’s acting for a European consortium including Spain’s Sacyr, Italy’s Salini Impregilo and Belgium’s Jan de Nul in a US$1.8 billion dispute with the Panama Canal Authority that is playing out in dispute adjudication board proceedings, various ICC arbitrations in Miami and potentially even an ICSID claim.

It has acted for Saipem (a unit of Italian energy group Eni), Tecnimont, Ericsson and Enel on a number of matters.

Increasingly the firm is to be found acting on energy disputes. Eni used it in a high-value gas pricing case (see Recent events). It’s also been involved in two cases arising from oil and gas projects in Romania and Poland.

The firm also handles post-M&A and joint venture disputes – with clients in that category including Italian industrial group CIR and BNP Paribas.

Track record

One of the firm’s most famous victories was a US$6 million ICSID award on behalf of Saipem in a case against Bangladesh in 2009. It was the first time an investment treaty tribunal had found a state liable for the acts of its judiciary.

The firm also acted for the claimant in the Salini v Morocco case at ICSID, which marked the first time a concession agreement was found to qualify as an investment. The case also ushered in the famous “Salini test”, now widely used by tribunals to determine whether an investment exists.

In the construction sector, the firm helped Italy’s Fisia Italimpianti win more than US$150 million in a series of disputes concerning desalination plants in the Middle East. The firm also represented Tecnimont in a long-running dispute with Greek contractors over a chemical plant in Thessaloniki. It won an award on liability for its client but the Reims Court of Appeal overturned it because of doubts about an arbitrator’s independence – a decision that was quashed by the French Supreme Court.

It helped CIR in a post-M&A dispute with a telecoms multinational. A tribunal rejected the other side’s claims and awarded the firm’s client US$500 million. Another case saw Bonelli act for BNP Paribas Personal Finance in a billion-dollar dispute over control of a major Italian consumer credit bank; the case swiftly settled after an award that was largely favourable to the client.

Recent events

Bonelli Erede successfully defended a major Italian group in a high-value ICC claim concerning the alleged breach of a share purchase agreement. The claimant’s main allegations were dismissed in early 2015, the firm reports.

A gas price review matter ended less happily in November 2015, when an ICC tribunal ordered the firm’s client, Eni, to pay €1 billion to EDF subsidiary Edison as a discount for gas supplied from Libya.

The past year has also seen the firm defend respondents in various ICC cases, including an Italian fashion designer in an M&A dispute; and an Italian construction company in a shareholder dispute with two Saudi parties. It’s also advising a leading international chemicals group in an ICC claim concerning the breach of environmental representations.

Crivellaro accepted an arbitrator appointment from Austrian construction group Strabag to hear an ICSID claim against Libya.

Client comment

Denis Lohest, vice president of business development for French company Energie, says that he was impressed by the firm’s “sharp” defence. He describes partner Alberto Saravalle, as a “masterchef lawyer” and praises Crivellaro as a “professional and acute” practitioner.

Luigi Patanè, former CEO of Italian construction company Consta, describes the firm as “excellent”, adding that it is easier to negotiate flexible fee arrangements with firms of Bonelli’s size than with the larger international firms.