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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Chaffetz Lindsey

18 February 2016

Bringing in big work from Latin America

People in Who’s Who Legal 4
Pending cases as counsel 12
Value of pending counsel work US$4.1 billion
Treaty cases 4
Current arbitrator appointments 20 (of which 10 are
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 6

Based in New York, this boutique was born in 2009 when Peter Chaffetz, global head of litigation at Clifford Chance, and David Lindsey, co-head of that firm’s Americas international arbitration group, decided to break away. The pair had grown tired of the conflicts of interest and fixed cost structures of a full-service international firm, they explained. Their boutique won “Small Firm of the Year” at the 2011 GAR Awards.

Today, Lindsey and younger partner James Hosking spearhead the international arbitration work, while Chaffetz and others focus more on insurance, reinsurance and securities disputes. Both Lindsey and Hosking have featured in GAR’s “45 under 45” (Lindsey in 2006 and Hosking in 2011).

A series of promotions and lateral hires has seen the partnership rapidly expand in the past few years. Other partners to know are Andreas Frischknecht, a Swiss–US national with experience at the ICC and Netherlands Arbitration Institute, and in SIAC cases; Jennifer Permesly, a former Cleary Gottlieb lawyer and core member of the firm’s Latin America practice; and Yasmine Lahlou, who has a Franco–Moroccan background and is fluent in French, Italian and Arabic.

In 2015, the firm also recruited partner Anibal Sabater, formerly of Norton Rose Fulbright in New York. Sabater is a Spanish national who also featured in GAR’s “45 under 45”, and brings experience in treaty and commercial cases.

Several members of the firm are active promoters of New York as an arbitration venue. Lindsey is a founding member of the New York Arbitration Club, and Permesly is treasurer of the New York International Arbitration Centre and sits on its board, where Hosking is also a member of the programme committee.

Who uses it?

The government of Iran has turned to the firm for a couple of state-to-state matters before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, the arbitral body in The Hague that is still dealing with the economic fallout of the Iranian revolution of 1979. Chaffetz Lindsey has also been helping the Central Bank of Iran resist enforcement of a US$2.7 billion US court judgment over the state’s alleged role in the 1983 bombing of US army barracks in Beirut.

Another state client is Liberia, in a US$750 million ICSID claim brought by a Canadian-owned investor concerning a terminated gold mining project. But most of the firm’s clients are private companies, including Ashmore Energy International (AEI), American International Group, Brazil’s Vale, South Korea’s Samwhan Corporation, Jaguar Energy Guatemala, HCC Insurance Holdings, the Miss Universe Organisation and Canadian software maker Open Text Corp.

Turkish conglomerate Çukurova Holding has used the firm, along with Swiss co-counsel, in a billion-dollar dispute with a unit of Swedish-Finnish telecoms group TeliaSonera arising from failed negotiations to sell a controlling stake in Turkey’s main mobile operator, Turkcell. The case has spawned parallel arbitrations and enforcement proceedings in multiple jurisdictions including the United States, United Kingdom and British Virgin Islands.

Much of the firm’s work is focused on Latin America, with new instructions involving clients or projects in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Guatemala – mostly relating to oil and gas, power and infrastructure, construction and project finance. In one big matter, it’s advising one of the world’s largest mining companies in a dispute with a leading investment bank over the sale of assets in the region.

Chaffetz Lindsey is also a useful referral source for US and non-US firms alike, as well as a decent option as co-counsel when, as the firm puts it, “You want international arbitration experts but don’t want to engage a big firm that will dominate the matter.” The firm says it often finds itself taking on active cases after clients become dissatisfied with the service or advice of larger firms, and seek a “second opinion”.

Track record

Chaffetz Lindsey is one of the few firms that can boast of having won a case against the US State Department. In 2014, the firm achieved a rare win for Iran in a case before the Iran–US Claims Tribunal. The US government was ordered to pay damages for breaching the Algiers Accords through its failure to terminate litigation initiated by US nationals against Iran in the US courts following the Iranian revolution.

The sums involved aren’t huge (Iran won US$842,000 plus interest) but it represents an important symbolic victory for the Middle Eastern state. The US government fielded 17 lawyers at the hearing, with the advocacy conducted by Harold Koh, chief legal adviser during Obama’s first term as president – a measure of how seriously the United States took the case.

As co-counsel with Korean firm Yulchon, Chaffetz Lindsey helped Samwhan Corporation prevail in an dispute with US company over a roadbuilding project in Afghanistan. An ICDR panel found the opther side liable for fraud and breach of good faith in 2014, an award that was upheld in the courts of New Jersey.

Chaffetz Lindsey also reports a US$12 million victory for the Miss Universe Organisation. The firm is now working with Hogan Lovells to enforce the award in Mexico.

Going further back, one of Chaffetz Lindsey’s European clients won an award worth US$130 million at the Netherlands Arbitration Institute. Impressively, the firm was brought in late to the dispute, which was over a licensing agreement. A multinational was on the other side.

Recent events

Latin America-related work has continued to keep the firm busy over the past year, including one mammoth dispute over a power project that culminated in a 12-day hearing. A succession of large international firms appeared for the other side.

It has also been instructed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in its efforts to resist enforcement of an US$2.8 billion award in favour of ExxonMobil and Shell subsidiaries in the US courts.

Away from arbitration, Chaffetz Lindsey has also been acting for insurer HCC in a claim against Spain before the European Court of Human Rights, which arises out of the collapse of Spain’s housing bubble in 2008.