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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Winston & Strawn

04 April 2018

Made hires in New York, Dubai and Shanghai

People in Future Leaders 4
Pending cases as counsel 27
Value of pending counsel work US$15 billion
Treaty cases 8
Current arbitrator appointments 9(of which 4 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 5

Winston & Strawn has had international arbitration specialists in the United States and Europe for a long time but the practice has had many incarnations over the years.

The origins of the group go back to 1993, when the firm hired Charles Adams and Nicolas Ulmer from Jones Day in Geneva (both now at other firms). The pair had been part of Surrey & Morse, a unique outfit combining US litigators and Swiss lawyers who took on advocacy work before international tribunals.

The Winston team that formed around them in the mid-1990s included Michael Stepek and current practice chair Ricardo Ugarte, both of whom had previously been based in Chicago.

The practice later expanded to Paris, Washington, DC and Hong Kong, but this period of growth was followed by a slump as various chunks of the team migrated to other firms.

In 2011, Mark Bravin joined in DC from Morgan Lewis & Bockius and a year later the firm recruited Joe Tirado in London, one of the leaders of Norton Rose’s arbitration group. Bravin and Tirado co-chaired the practice until 2015 and helped develop Winston’s reputation for Latin America and CIS-related work in particular.

Another shake-up came after Winston closed its Geneva office in 2015 and various members of the team retired or left for other firms, among them Bravin and Tirado.

Following their exit, Ugarte took over as chair of the practice, dividing his time between Chicago and London. Stepek returned to the firm in 2016 after 11 years away (including a time as head of the practice at Akin Gump in Geneva). He brought a team with him including Matthew Bate in London, who has a focus on energy and infrastructure.

Other names to know are Eric Bloom, Tomás Leonard and Nicole Silver in DC and Maria Kostytska in Paris, who are active on investor-state work; David Hall-Jones in Hong Kong; and recent arrival Ben Bruton in Dubai. Another new addition to the team is Julissa Reynoso in New York, a former US ambassador to Uruguay who previously worked at Chadbourne & Parke.

Network

The main offices for arbitration are DC, Paris, London, New York, Hong Kong, Dubai and, to a lesser extent, Chicago and Houston.

Who uses it?

The team has advised clients such as Abbott, Motorola, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Sanyo, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Alstom, Lear Corporation and Symbion Power.

It acts for claimants and states in investment treaty matters. Investor clients at ICSID include Jordanian-Lebanese businessman Michael Dagher (in a claim against Sudan); French voucher company Sodexo (against Hungary); and US mining company Dominion Minerals (in a US$268 million case against Panama). It’s also acting for an insolvent Italian company, Eskosol, in one of the numerous Energy Charter Treaty claims against Italy relating to renewable energy reforms.

As for sovereign states, its most prominent recent clients include Ecuador (in its US$9 billion battle with Chevron over environmental pollution in the Amazon) and Ukraine.

Track record

Winston obtained a favourable settlement for a US private equity firm on the eve of hearings in an arbitration against its Chinese and Singaporean partners in a joint venture in China.

It secured a win for Jordan in an ICC case over the construction of a railway system connecting the country’s two most populous cities (and the discontinuance of a parallel ICSID case).

For Ecuador, the firm helped to reduce a substantial treaty claim by Chevron relating to delays in the country’s court system to an award of just US$96 million that was eventually paid after a long enforcement battle.

The firm obtained another positive settlement for Motorola in a US$1 billion ICC arbitration with Huawei; and gained victories for a US pharmaceutical company in an ICC case over trademarks and the nutritional division of another US pharma company in a Swiss Rules case.

Winston has also negotiated settlements for Italian-owned energy company Endesa Chile in a billion-dollar ICC dispute over work on a power plant in Chile (the client paid US$131 million).

Recent events

In 2017, the Dubai office recruited Ben Bruton as partner and Nick Sharratt as counsel from Eversheds Sutherland, with Bruton assuming the role of head of disputes for the Middle East.

Julissa Reynoso and Marcelo Blackburn in New York were part of a group of 10 lawyers who joined from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Latin America group. The pair had been at Chadbourne & Parke before that firm’s merger with Norton Rose.

Terence Wong, a Chinese investment disputes specialist, joined as partner in Shanghai from Hogan Lovells.

There were some departures too. In Paris, partner Philippe Cavalieros moved to Simmons & Simmons to leads its practice in the same city. Chilean-Italian energy disputes specialist Alejandro Garcia left to join the partnership at Clyde & Co in London.

The Eskosol case against Italy cleared a hurdle, with an ICSID tribunal rejecting the state’s request for the summary dismissal of the client’s Energy Charter Treaty claim. Italy argued that the claim should be barred because Eskosol’s majority shareholder had already brought its own unsuccessful ICSID claim over the same measures.

The firm is advising Ukraine in its challenge to a US$144 million investment treaty award in favour of Russian oil and gas producer Tatneft relating to the takeover of an oil refinery. The case has given rise to set-aside proceedings in France and enforcement actions in the US and Russia.

Winston is also defending Ukraine in a related investment treaty claim by the semiautonomous Russian republic of Tatarstan relating to the same refinery.

Client comment

A government client praises Winston’s “dedication, professionalism and expertise” in its work on a particularly complex dispute, singling out partner Eric Bloom in particular as a great strategist. Of counsel Nicole Silver is fêted for “the clarity of her expositions”. Nassim Hooshmandnia in Hong Kong also made “remarkable” contributions.

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