Part of a "best friends" network, the firm is defending Repsol in a US$5 billion SIAC claim by a Chinese partner
|Pending cases as counsel||21|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$9.5 billion+|
Slaughter and May’s international arbitration practice grew out of contentious work done by the firm in the 1980s, notably work on a case relating to the high-profile Westland Helicopters affair that split Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet. In the following decade, it advised Standard Chartered Bank in matters arising from the Bombay Stock Market scandal when employees from the bank’s Mumbai office illegally diverted funds to speculate.
By this time, Nick Archer and Nick Gray had emerged as key figures in the practice. Archer retired in 2015, with Gray and partner James Stacey taking over the practice.
The firm prides itself on eschewing the “star” culture of many arbitration groups, instead providing the right team for the job drawn from eight partners and eight associates who specialise in this area and its “best friends” network. It makes regular use of barristers.
Slaughter and May works in conjunction with a group of five other European firms. The “best friends” network includes Italy’s Bonelli Erede Pappalardo, France’s Bredin Prat, the Netherlands’ De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Germany’s Hengeler Mueller and Spain’s Uría Menéndez – all of whom feature in the GAR 100. The network has 32 offices in 15 jurisdictions.
In Asia, Slaughter and May was the first City firm to establish a presence in Hong Kong, in 1974. It also has an office in Beijing, which opened in 2009. Arbitration work in the region is led by partner Mark Hughes. In Europe, it has offices in London and Brussels.
Who uses it?
Slaughter and May is said to advise more London Stock Market, FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 clients than any other firm in the UK but it is reluctant to name names.
Clients that are on the record include the UK’s Standard Chartered Bank, German power utility RWE, Spain’s Repsol, Swedish financial group SEB, Sociedade de Fomento Industrial (a major Indian exporter of iron ore), Cable & Wireless, Siemens and Rolls-Royce.
After the Western Helicopter and Bombay Stock Market matters, the firm claims to have developed a niche in high-profile, bet-the-company work.
Nick Gray advised in Lesotho Highlands Development Authority v Impregilo, the leading House of Lords case on the ability of the courts to interfere with arbitral awards.
The firm earned a “disputes deal of the year” award from India Business Law Journal in 2012 after it won an ICC award for Indian ore exporter SFI in a dispute with state-owned Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation that raised challenging economic and political issues. It also helped to enforce the award in Canada.
In 2015, it helped RWE to settle a multibillion-dollar LCIA arbitration against the UAE’s Dana Gas and Crescent Petroleum. The dispute, which related to operations in Iraqi Kurdistan, was described by The American Lawyer as the largest contract-based arbitration in the world. The firm also advised RWE in its successful defence of a US$1.4 billion claim by Russia’s Sintez Group.
Slaughter and May helped Malaysia’s YTL Power Generation win US$125 million in an UNCITRAL claim against Malaysian state oil and gas company Petronas in 2015 in a dispute over gas payments lasting nearly two decades. The case was heard in Kuala Lumpur by three retired UK Supreme Court justices.
The firm also secured an award in favour of a Central Asian state-owned bank in a US$600 million ICC arbitration with another financial institution concerning a billion-dollar fraud.
The firm is reportedly defending a Canadian subsidiary of Repsol in a US$5 billion SIAC claim brought by China’s Sinopec concerning an investment in a Scottish offshore oil venture. Another client is a Hong Kong-listed energy company in an arbitration with a US multinational.
The Russian practice has been busy with a new instruction from a Russian bank; and the representation of a Russian steel pipe mill company in a €150 million ICC case against a German steel manufacturer. It is also acting in an arbitration over the delayed construction of a Middle Eastern airport.
The firm promoted two partners, Damian Taylor and Richard Jeens, both in London.
Slaughter and May continues to participate in the annual “best friends” debate on international arbitration, compered by Matt Frei of the UK’s Channel 4 News.