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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Bär & Karrer

01 March 2017

The Swiss firm recruited a new practice co-head from a prestigious rival

People in Who’s Who Legal 2
Pending cases as counsel 3
Value of pending counsel work US$1.9 billion
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments

21* (of which 5 are as sole or chair)

Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 4

* Excludes sports cases

Founded in 1969, Bär & Karrer began to develop an international arbitration practice in the early 1980s. A key member of the group was Marc Blessing, a highly regarded arbitrator and honorary president of the Swiss Arbitration Association. Blessing retired as partner in 2007 but retains a counsel role at the firm.

Originating in Zurich, the firm opened offices in Lugano and Zug in the early 1990s and Geneva in 2000. In arbitration terms, it has traditionally been seen as more of a force in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, with the majority of the team based in Zurich, including long-term practice head Daniel Hochstrasser.

As of 2017, the practice will be co-led from the Geneva office by Pierre-Yves Gunter, who joined after nearly two decades with GAR 100 firm Python. He’s brought a team with him including partner Alexandra C Johnson.

Another Zurich-based partner, Michele Bernasconi, frequently sits as arbitrator in cases at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Partner Saverio Lembo has overseen the arbitration team in Geneva as well as heading the white-collar crime practice. There’s also a small team in Italian-speaking Lugano, including Cesare Jermini, vice president of the Arbitration Court of the Swiss Chambers' Arbitration Institution.

In addition to its own client base, the firm is popular with international law firms looking for local co-counsel in a Swiss-seated arbitration.

Who uses it?

Swedish-Finnish telecoms operator TeliaSonera; Italian engineering group Ansaldo; insurer Generali; European football’s governing body, UEFA; and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation have all used the firm. Sandoz, the generics division of pharmaceutical group Novartis, is also a client.

As co-counsel with a UK firm, Bär & Karrer defended an alleged affiliate of Tajikistan’s state aluminium company Talco in a pair of arbitrations with Russia’s Rusal.

Track record

The firm has had some big wins. It helped French nuclear company Areva win more than US$920 million in a dispute with Siemens concerning a collapsed joint venture.

For another client, a subsidiary of Swedish–Finnish telecoms group TeliaSonera, the firm secured an award of US$932 million plus interest against Turkey’s Çukurova Holdings in an ICC dispute over a share purchase agreement, and defeated a mirror claim by Çukurova. That award has been the subject of enforcement proceedings in the US, UK, the Netherlands and the British Virgin Islands.

The team successfully defended Sandoz against an ICC claim worth US$125 million brought by US biotech company Monsanto. In 2012, a tribunal rejected claims that Sandoz had failed to meet quality assurance obligations and awarded costs and attorneys’ fees to her client.

One of Gunter and Johnson’s last cases at Python was defending the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) in a pair of ICC arbitrations brought by Turkish state pipeline company BOTAŞ under a long-term gas supply agreement. The first case, in which BOTAŞ sought a US$13 billion price reduction, was dismissed in its entirety in 2014. In the second case, the Turkish company won a 13.3% price adjustment rather than the 37.5% it had sought. NIGC was also permitted to reimburse BOTAŞ by making deductions from future invoices rather than a lump sum payment, which could have threatened its cashflow.

In a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Bär & Karrer helped UEFA win a dispute with FC Sion concerning the sanctions for use of non-eligible players in UEFA play-off games. A panel of CAS arbitrators upheld the sanctions that UEFA had imposed on the Swiss football team, holding that the team should not be included in the UEFA Europa League 2011/2012.

Recent events

Besides welcoming Gunter and Johnson, the Geneva office promoted Aurélie Conrad Hari to the partnership in January 2017.

The firm is acting for a German utility in an ad hoc arbitration worth over 1 billion Swiss francs relating to alleged breach of duties of loyalty arising from a joint venture to promote waste-gasification technology.

Working alongside Luther and Allen & Overy, the firm advised Italian engineering company Ansaldo in a dispute with Siemens over the use of heavy duty gas turbine technology. In 2016, a tribunal ruled that Ansaldo could freely use the technology and dismissed a US$436 million claim brought by Siemens.

Bernasconi sat on a CAS panel that ratified two world records set by British swimmers at the European Championships in 2014 – overturning the decision of swimming governing body FINA not to recognise the times as world records because the swimmers had not been tested for the banned substance EPO.

Partner Nadja Jaisli Kull joined the board of the Swiss Arbitration Association and was appointed sole arbitrator in an ICC case.  

Client comment

Alfred Gerber, general counsel at gas company Winterthur, used the firm in an UNCITRAL case over an international licence agreement in marine business. He says the case was “100% decided in our favour”. He says the team showed “good business savvy” and that Nadja Jaisli-Kull in particular was “calm, concentrated, fact-driven, highly effective”.

Another client, who did not wish to be identified, praised Hochstrasser as an “experienced, strategic thinker, good at focusing on what is relevant and a tough counsel”.

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