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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Pérez Bustamante & Ponce

18 February 2016

Counsel of choice for energy clients in Ecuador

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Pending cases as counsel: 7
Treaty cases: 4

In 2004, Pérez Bustamante & Ponce participated in the first-ever claim against Ecuador at ICSID, helping Repsol YPF to win US$13 million in a contractual claim. Remarkably, two of the firm’s partners oversaw the whole case, without any assistance from international co-counsel.

Today, the firm – one of Ecuador’s oldest – attracts many foreign oil and gas companies affected by regulatory changes introduced by president Rafael Correa’s administration. It is often found pairing up with firms such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, King & Spalding and White & Case on investment treaty cases.

Rodrigo Jijón, a founder and former president of the Ecuadorean Arbitration Institute, leads the international arbitration practice and is also well known for his energy law expertise. Another name to know is Juan Manuel Marchán, who was promoted to partner in 2013 and is increasingly active on investment treaty matters.

Who uses it?

Energy clients loom large on the list. Perenco, Burlington Resources, Murphy Oil, Noble Energy and Teikoku Oil have all turned to the firm for investment claims against Ecuador. Another client is Brazilian state oil and gas company Petrobras.

Although the firm won’t confirm it, Chevron is also reportedly using the firm for local law advice in connection with its long-running dispute over environmental pollution in the Amazon rainforest – including in a denial of justice claim against Ecuador now playing out before an arbitral tribunal in The Hague.

It has also defended Occidental Petroleum and BP in local environmental litigation (the BP case was in connection with the Deepwater Horizon spill). Other clients of note include Daimler Chrysler, Brazilian construction group Odebrecht, Spain’s Telefónica and Nestlé.

Track record

Together with White & Case, the firm helped airport consortium Quiport settle a dispute with the Ecuadorean government in 2011 over the construction of an international airport in Quito; the claimants dropped their ICSID case after agreeing on new contractual terms. The firm also helped Noble Energy settle an ICSID claim against Ecuador in 2009, convincing the state to pay US$70 million to resolve the dispute.

More recently, the firm helped Murphy Oil clear a jurisdictional hurdle in 2013 in its UNCITRAL claim against Ecuador concerning the state’s 99 per cent tax on windfall oil profits. A year later, it helped UK consultancy firm Development Delivery International settle a denial of justice claim against Ecuador over the failure of its courts to enforce domestic arbitral awards in the client’s favour.

Recent events

In November 2015, the firm helped subsidiaries of Hong Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings knock out the bulk of a US$200 million claim brought by an Ecuadorean port authority over their early termination of a port upgrade project. A split tribunal awarded just US$35 million in damages.

It also emerged that Pérez Bustamante (together with Freshfields) is acting for Petrobras and its partners in an UNCITRAL claim against Ecuador over two nationalised oil projects. The contract-based claim is being heard in The Hague.