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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Fangda Partners

18 February 2016

A mainland Chinese firm with a presence in Hong Kong

People in Who’s Who Legal

1

Pending cases as counsel

16

Value of pending counsel work

US$1 billion

Treaty cases

0

Current arbitrator appointments

31 (of which 9 are as sole or chair)

Lawyers sitting as arbitrator

4

Founded in 1993, Fangda Partners was one of the first law firms established under mainland China’s contemporary legal system. It now boasts over 150 lawyers offering commercial law services in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as a presence in Hong Kong through an association with Peter Yuen & Associates.

Its name comprises two Chinese characters – fang, meaning integrity, and da, meaning open-mindedness – which the firm says provides “a short-form mission statement”.

The firm has been advising foreign investors in China on disputes since the early days, but the international arbitration practice really came to the fore after the opening of the Beijing office in 2004 and the addition of new US-trained practitioners with deeper international experience. In 2007, the firm added former CIETAC deputy secretary general Ming Kang.

Nowadays, the firm says the dispute resolution team consists of around 40 lawyers. Besides handling CIETAC work, it frequently teams up with leading foreign firms for ad hoc and institutional arbitrations under the major rules and provides expertise on Chinese law in overseas proceedings. It is also one of the few Chinese firms to have independently and successfully represented both Chinese and foreign clients in international arbitrations in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Increasingly, clients are using it in arbitration-related court proceedings in China.

Prominent members of the practice group include Daniel Huang, the first partner at the firm to specialise in arbitration, who has handled dozens of cases about foreign investments; US-trained senior corporate lawyer Xiang Ji, who is said to be a household name in China for his skills in public debate; and veteran litigator and expert in construction arbitration, Nuo Ji.

Helen Shi is an internationally experienced specialist in handling CIETAC cases (she also sits as an arbitrator for the centre), while Benjamin Miao has spent six years with a UK magic circle firm in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Network

The firm has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Since 2012, it has offered litigation and international arbitration capabilities in Hong Kong through a formal association with Peter Yuen & Associates – headed by a former Freshfields partner who joined the firm in June 2012 and including bilingual lawyers qualified in Hong Kong, English and Singaporean law. This has prompted speculation that the firm may aspire to open other international offices beyond China.

Who uses it?

Clients include Citibank, China National Offshore Oil Company, Deloitte, GE, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Texas Pacific Group and IDG Group.

Recently, the firm has been instructed by energy company ConocoPhillips to settle a US$230 million environmental claim brought by the Chinese government arising from an oil spill in in the Yellow Sea – by far the largest such claim in China to date. It is also co-counsel to the same client in a related US lawsuit brought by Chinese fishermen.

It acted as Chinese counsel to one of the big four firms in a US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation concerning the audit of a US-listed Chinese company; and for an Asian private equity firm fighting a US$20 million claim by a former partner in relation to their separation agreement.

Track record

In 2013, the firm acted for a large Chinese state-owned construction company in a London-seated UNCITRAL arbitration with the road authority of an African state. The parties settled their dispute, which was worth over US$100 million. It also says it gained a landslidewin plus costs for a Spanish client in a Hong Kong seated UNCITRAL arbitration with two Chinese entities.

Looking further back, the firm famously advised leading Chinese beverage company Wahaha in a CIETAC arbitration with French dairy company Danone, which was settled on terms that were regarded as favourable to the French company.

It also acted for a Chinese business celebrity in a US$100 million Hong Kong-seated ICC arbitration against an international mobile service network – achieving a settlement in favour of the claimant.

In 2010, the firm was engaged by a Chinese airline in a contractual dispute with a Canadian pilot academy under ICC rules and before a New Zealand arbitrator. English was the arbitration language, meaning that until Fangda’s engagement the Chinese airline had been disadvantaged. With the firm on board, the client won (Fangda lawyers provided four rounds of written submissions and cross-examined witnesses in English).

It obtained a favourable settlement for a global private equity client in relation to an ICC claim for fraudulent misrepresentation against a Bermuda company holding two wholly foreign-owned enterprises in China.

Its performances in the Chinese courts include enforcing the first ever Hong Kong-made ICC award for a European client in Shanghai in 2009, soon after the ICC Court opened its Asia office.

Recent events

Fangda won US$31 million for a European real estate investment fund in a six-year-long transfer of property dispute with a domestic real estate developer – which the firm believes is the biggest amount ever awarded a claim of this nature. The dispute was heard by the Shanghai International Arbitration Centre. It also won 90 per cent of a SHIAC claim for a European leasing company against its lessee.

A favourable settlement was obtained with two wholly owned foreign enterprises in a case concerning a US$300 million real estate development in Beijing that did not get the approval of Chinese national security services.

The firm is involved in CIETAC arbitrations in fields as diverse as hotel development, drug regulation, construction, real property transfer and film production. In one CIETAC case that has grabbed attention in Greater China it acts for the holding company of one of China’s biggest herbal tea manufacturers in a dispute over the validity of a trademark licence – leading five other co-counsel. The Hong Kong office is acting for an Italian client in an ICC claim concerning a joint venture, over which the client is attempting resume control.

Away from China, the firm is acting for a Chinese state-owned construction company in a London-seated US$100 million UNCITRAL arbitration against an African state’s road authority.

It continues to handle enforcement efforts in mainlandCchina, for example for a leading US electronics company attempting to collect on a US$35 million HKIAC award.

Client comment

In 2011, Judy Zhang, chief financial officer of M+W Shanghai engineering and construction company, wrote that the company had worked with Fangda for over 10 years. She said the firm places “high emphasis on excellence of their services, a commercial attitude to transactions, efficiency of costs and, most importantly, speed of response.

“We trust their professional services and have always valued their insights during the course of our working relation.”