The Iberian firm now has a weighty portfolio of Energy Charter Treaty claims
|People in Who’s Who Legal||2|
|Pending cases as counsel||37|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$3.6 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments||1 (of which 0 is as sole or chair)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||1|
Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira was born of a 2003 merger between two 80-year-old firms from Spain and Portugal. Initially, the firm’s international arbitration work rarely strayed from the Iberian Peninsula, but after a surge in Latin America and North Africa-related cases in 2007, it began to expand its focus.
The practice has gone from being one of the first Iberian firms invited to pitch for major work, to now winning some of those pitches ahead of the big Anglo-Saxon firms. You will find it acting opposite large international firms almost as often as against other Spanish names. Meanwhile, its Latin American regional international arbitration practice is also recognised in various legal directories as a front runner.
Recently, it’s become more prominent in the investment arbitration arena as a result of Spain’s cuts to renewable energy subsidies. The firm is advising investors in around seven Energy Charter Treaty cases relating to those reforms, including the first ICSID claim ever brought by a Japanese investor. Partner Pedro Claros has been leading the work on those cases, which have a combined value of around €1.7 billion.
The firm handles a fair number of ICC arbitrations, with its caseload having steadily increased in recent years. Spanish clients remain the key users, but EU and US companies have also retained the firm of late, and it has also received instructions from Portuguese former colonies: one over the construction of an airport on the island of Cape Verde, and the other over an oil exploration project in Angola.
Of its 14 Spanish offices, Madrid, Barcelona and Seville are the key arbitration hubs, while Lisbon, Paris and São Paulo are also home to leading names. The arbitration practice has further access to operations in London, Brussels, New York, Shanghai and Casablanca.
More significantly, perhaps, it has associations with two law firms in Lusophone Africa: Sousa Abogados in Luanda, Angola; and Couto, Graça & Associados in Maputo, Mozambique.
Who uses it?
Clients traditionally hailed from Iberia and Latin America, but an increasing number are from other parts of the world. They include Spain’s Abengoa Group, Argentina’s Pluspetrol, France’s Engie, Germany’s BayWa, the US’s NextEra Energy and Japanese clients JGC, Mitsubishi and Matsui.
Cuatrecasas achieved a striking result in 2015 while defending Argentina’s Pampa Energía in an ICC dispute with Spanish construction group Isolux over the upgrade of a power plant. The firm succeeded in knocking out almost all of a US$200 million claim and prevailed on a counterclaim worth US$45 million.
In 2013, it won US$140 million for a US private equity firm in a Madrid-seated ICC case against a Luxembourg fund. The same year, it helped Abengoa win US$110 million in two New York-seated ICC arbitrations. The awards survived a challenge in the Second Circuit.
The firm secured a US$45 million payout to US-Spanish toll-road consortium Codacsa in a London-seated ICC case against the Dominican Republic. The state paid the award in 2013.
In 2012, the firm won a US$2 million SCC award against Russia for a group of Spanish investment funds with a small stake in Yukos Oil Company, though the award was overturned in Sweden four years later.
Cuatrecasas has also won an investment arbitration against Cuba (albeit a small one). The case took place at the ICC and was brought by a medium-sized Spanish company. The firm was sole counsel to the claimant and won a US$2.8 million award.
A Cuatrecasas team also represented a motorway concessionaire in a €530 million Lisbon-seated arbitration against the Portuguese government, where it prevailed on part of its claims.
An international consortium instructed the firm for a US$200 million ICSID claim against Peru over a delayed project to build a metro line in Lima. The firm has also been representing Portuguese energy group EIP in a €16 million claim against Angolan telecoms group Telectrinf before the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Several of the firm’s cases against Spain are advancing, with ICSID tribunals in three cases declining Spain’s request to consider jurisdictional objections separately from the merits.
Francisco Castillo of Dow Chemical Ibérica has been using the firm for a number of cases at the Madrid Chamber of Commerce. He is “extremely happy” with the results, praising partner Esther de Félix and associate counsel María Pérez Carrillo for their “detailed organization of the whole dossier, intense work, and vision”.
Fernando Bergon of renewable energy firm NextEra says the Cuatrecasas team “stands out for its strong academic skills”. Partner Alberto Fortún is “a brilliant lawyer” who “always thinks out of the box and quickly grasps all components of the case”.
Roberto García, general director of Codacsa, commends the “very solid and hard-working” team in Madrid, noting that the lead partner on one important case even postponed his honeymoon in order to meet a deadline imposed by the client.