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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Țuca Zbârcea & Asociații

18 February 2016

Regularly handles disputes for Romania and its state entities

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Pending cases as counsel: 5
Value of pending counsel work: US$124 million
Treaty cases: 1

Țuca Zbârcea & Asociații was formed in 2005 when a group of 20 lawyers – including disputes partners Florentin Țuca and Cornel Popa – broke away from another leading Romanian firm, Mușat & Asociații. While at Mușat, Țuca and Popa teamed up with White & Case to represent Romania in its first ever ICSID case – a US$447 million claim by US investor Noble Ventures over a privatised steel mill, which ended in a victory for the state.

The spin-off firm has gone on to successfully defend Romania in three other ICSID cases, variously teaming up with White & Case and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on those matters. In all, it reckons to have contributed to the dismissal of claims against the state totalling US$745 million, more than any other rival practice in Romania has managed.

Popa co-heads the international arbitration practice with partner Levana Zigmund. Țuca, a managing partner at the firm, is also a member of the IBA arbitration committee. The team includes six other lawyers.

At the GAR awards in Paris in 2014, Țuca Zbârcea & Asociații won “best boutique or regional practice”.

Who uses it?

Besides the Romanian government, the firm counts Romanian drilling and oilfield services company Grup Servicii Petroliere among its clients. It acted for the company in an ICC case worth US$131 million against an international oil company, which reached a settlement.

Luxembourg steelmaker ArcelorMittal turned to it for a US$67 million case, also at the ICC, arising from a privatisation contract. Meanwhile, Romanian consultancy Paz Management Group has used it for an ICC matter concerning the construction of a shopping mall.

The firm is currently representing McDonald’s Romania in set-aside proceedings for an award issued in Romania. Sweden’s Ericsson has used it in a number of recent disputes.

Track record

The firm’s track record on behalf of Romania is nothing short of excellent. In 2009, the team helped the state defeat a US$110 million damages claim by Eastern Duty Free (EDF) and win US$6 million towards its costs. White & Case was co-counsel on the case, which was one of the most complex the state has faced and involved allegations of bribery against Romanian officials.

It also defended the state against a US$150 million claim by S&T Oil at ICSID, which was discontinued. For that matter, the firm paired with White & Case.

In September 2013, with Freshfields again, the firm persuaded an ICSID panel to refuse jurisdiction over a €28 million treaty claim against the government by two Turkish businessmen, Ömer Dede and Serdar Elhüseyni. The tribunal said it couldn’t hear the case because the investors had failed to honour a treaty requirement to pursue domestic remedies before filing an arbitration.

Recent events

Ericsson turned to the firm again in 2015 for the enforcement in Romania of a US$7.4 million award against a former chief executive accused of embezzlement. It also represented a real estate developer in a US$9 million claim at Romania’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry over a shareholders’ dispute.

Client comment

White & Case’s Abby Cohen Smutny calls the firm’s international arbitration team “the best in Romania”.

“Their analysis is thorough, precise and always on-point,” she says. “They approach legal issues with incredible rigour and deep understanding. They know what is needed to be effective in an international arbitration, and they deliver. They approach the issues with a sophisticated understanding of strategy and client needs. I recommend them for any assignment without hesitation.”

Madalina Buzan, general counsel at Siemens Romania, says: “They are all very professional lawyers as well as very business oriented and they managed to provide a quality service to us.”