The highly regarded Swiss firm has seen a string of senior departures
Python & Peter, as it was known until recently, was founded in 1981 by a breakaway group from what is now Lenz & Staehelin. The arbitration practice was led for 34 years by the highly respected Wolfgang Peter, who helped it become one of the leading names in the Swiss market. Partners Pierre-Yves Gunter and Sébastien Besson also attained prominence within the practice, which carved out a name for itself handling high-value post-M&A and energy disputes and counted Iran among its long-term clients.
However, many of the key figures in the practice have now gone. Peter and four others left in 2015 to set up a new boutique, Peter & Partners, prompting a change of name for the firm. Besson went in the same year to Lévy Kaufmann-Kohler, while two other partners joined Pestalozzi. Then in 2016, Gunter announced he was moving to Bär & Karrer along with recently promoted partner Alexandra Johnson and two associates.
The arbitration practice is now headed by Homayoon Arfazadeh, a Swiss-Iranian who has worked at Python for more than 20 years and became partner in 2014. He was recently appointed a court member at the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution.
Arfazadeh worked with Wolfgang Peter on some of the firm’s most prominent cases – including as counsel to what is now Accenture in a seminal US$14 billion dispute over the break-up of Arthur Andersen in the late 1990s (the largest ICC arbitration of its day).
Together with Peter, he helped the National Iranian Oil Company to obtain a US$1.1 billion award against an Israeli government-owned entity in 2015, as compensation for oil shipments pre-dating the Iranian revolution of 1979. He co-counselled with Peter’s new firm to defend that award before the Swiss courts, defeating a challenge by the Israeli side in 2016.
In a related proceeding in 2014, he helped to persuade a Swiss court to reject arguments that enforcement of a US$97 million award in favour of an Iranian entity would violate public policy by circumventing international sanctions.
The firm’s arbitration practitioners are mainly found in Geneva and Berne but the wider firm has offices in Lausanne, Brussels and Tokyo (it was the first Swiss firm to enter the Japanese market).