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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta Abogados

18 February 2016

Home to a new vice president of the ICC Court

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Pending cases as counsel: 27
Value of pending counsel work: US$2 billion
Treaty cases: 2
Current arbitrator appointments: 18 (of which 9 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 1

A standout firm in Colombia for international arbitration, Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta Abogados arose through the 2008 merger of two firms – disputes boutique Zuleta & Partners and transactional firm Gómez Pinzón Abogados.

Disputes group co-chairs Eduardo Zuleta and William Araque cut their teeth at Baker & McKenzie in Bogotá in the 1990s, where they acted for Merck Sharp & Dohme in some early cases that generated important local court precedents for arbitration. Zuleta is nowadays one of the country’s most in-demand arbitrators on the international stage. He was the senior co-chair of the International Bar Association’s arbitration committee for two years and was on the task force charged with revising the ICC rules. He has also had a hand in drafting Colombia’s new arbitration law.

Zuleta was added to ICSID’s roster of arbitrators in 2011 and has sat as chair or party-appointed arbitrator in cases against Greece, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru and on ad hoc annulment committees in cases involving Argentina, Paraguay and Ukraine.

In addition, he’s a member of the LCIA Court and a vice chair of the Latin American Arbitration Association (which he helped to found), and is listed on the AAA/ICDR’s Energy Arbitrators’ List.

Ranking guides put the firm, which is based in Bogotá, among the top practices in the country for dispute resolution.

Who uses it?

Colombia’s state-controlled electricity company Isagen has used the firm for an ICC dispute with Brazil’s Odebrecht and others over a hydroelectric plant, which has spilled into the local courts.

Merck, Hocol Petroleum, dredging contractor Royal Boskalis, IT provider Unisys, mining company Drummond and Spain’s Ferrovial Agroman have all used the firm on ICC matters. GlaxoSmithKline retained it for a US$60 million dispute over a distribution agreement.

Other clients include a subsidiary of Colombia’s Ecopetrol, Chilean department store chain Falabella, power company TermoEmcali and advertising agency Young & Rubicam. A state entity has turned to it for advice in an arbitration arising from the alleged breach of a legal stability contract; while a state oil agency is using it for an arbitration over windfall profit taxes under a concession agreement.

Colombia’s ministry of trade has also asked the firm to conduct educational workshops for civil servants on the subject of investment disputes.

Track record

The firm cites victories for Nortel Networks and several Japanese companies in disputes with the state-owned telecoms company; and for Boskalis in an ICC matter concerning construction work on the Cartagena dam.

The firm also says that it obtained a landmark ICC award recognising that an international arbitration tribunal has jurisdiction over disputes arising from agency agreements performed in Colombia.

The firm reports recently helping a Latin American state settle its first international investment dispute, for an undisclosed amount.

Recent events

Zuleta was named vice president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration. In another busy year as arbitrator, he chaired a panel that threw out an ICSID claim against Greece arising from its 2012 sovereign debt restructuring.

He is also chairing an ad hoc committee hearing Argentina’s petition to annul a US$59 million award issued last year in favour of French water management company SAUR International.