Settled a multibillion-dollar dispute for Malaysia’s 1MDB and had two wins for the Czech Republic as co-counsel
|People in Who’s Who Legal||1|
|Pending cases as counsel||27|
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5 (of which 4 are as sole or chair)
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Founded in New York in the 1930s, Weil Gotshal & Manges has been a leading firm for US litigation for years. It started a stand-alone international arbitration group in 2003, which began to gather momentum later with the arrival of some seasoned names from other firms.
These included Juliet Blanch, former head of McDermott Will & Emery’s disputes practice, who joined in 2010 to lead the group. Another boost came in 2012 with the hire of an ICSID-savvy team from Crowell & Moring, including Arif Hyder Ali – who became co-leader of the arbitration group with Blanch.
Both those figures have now left, however. Ali moved to Dechert in 2015 and Blanch resigned in 2016 to practise as an independent arbitrator.
While the firm hasn’t announced a replacement as head of the arbitration group, it continues to field prominent partners including Jamie Maples in London, Eric Ordway in New York, Ted Posner in Washington, DC, and Karolina Horakova in Prague.
The group has 30 lawyers across various offices. The key people are found in New York, DC and London, as well as Prague, Warsaw and Budapest. It also has arbitration-literate partners in Paris, Frankfurt, Silicon Valley and Dallas.
Who uses it?
Those offices in eastern Europe supply a lot of energy-related work across the region and the CIS. In the United States, the firm is popular with life-sciences and pharma companies based on its IP expertise.
Clients on record include MOL, Gazprom, Aventis, Sanofi, Genzyme, Czech power utility CEZ, Panasonic, Taiwan’s Pegatron, the Williams Companies, Chinese property investor Jinpeng Group and Polish state-controlled gas utility PGNiG, as well as the governments of Ecuador, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Another recent client is Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
It also acted for a consortium including Hunt Oil, Repsol, Sonatrach and South Korea’s SK Group in a ICSID claim against a Peruvian state agency.
Weil Gotshal has achieved amazing results for Hungarian oil and gas distributor MOL in a high-stakes dispute with the Croatian government. In 2016, it won the dismissal of an UNCITRAL claim in which MOL had been accused of bribing Croatia’s former prime minister Ivo Sanader to gain control of oil and gas producer INA. The tribunal rejected the bribery allegations as implausible, and the award has been upheld in the Swiss courts.
Weil Gotshal co-counselled with Dechert in the case and the two firms continue to act for MOL in a related ICSID claim against Croatia under the Energy Charter Treaty.
A case for PGNiG ended in a settlement worth US$12 billion to the client (a gas-pricing dispute – the company’s share price jumped 15% at the result). PGNiG later hired the firm to act on another gas price arbitration against Gazprom.
Ted Posner made a name for himself in 2012 when he helped bring about Argentina’s removal from the United States’ preferential trade list (the US General System of Preferences) for non-payment of an investment treaty award. It was thought to be the first time that sanction has been used against a state. The award in question (owned by Blue Ridge Investments) has since been paid.
Roman Vojta and Karolína Horáková in Prague also took the lead in the firm’s work for CEZ in an Energy Charter Treaty dispute with Albania, which ended in a US$100 million settlement with the state’s newly elected government in 2014. A year later, the team helped CEZ defeat the bulk of an US$81 million claim by a Romanian state entity.
A team in London helped Malaysia’s embattled 1MDB agree a US$1.2 billion settlement with Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund IPIC to settle an LCIA arbitration over the alleged breach of a bailout deal. The dispute, in which IPIC had claimed as much as US$6.5 billion, took place against the backdrop of the international scandal over billions in missing funds from 1MDB, which has given rise to criminal proceedings in various jurisdictions.
Karolína Horáková in the Prague office had a hand in two victories for the Czech Republic in investment treaty cases. In March 2017, the state defeated a US$90 million UNCITRAL claim by British company WNC Factoring over an energy equipment supply business (Weil Gotshal co-counselled with Dechert on the case).
The second win came in October 2017 in a US$22 million claim brought by German investors regarding reforms to the solar power sector. In that matter, it teamed with Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer.
In the US courts, it defended an ICDR award in favour of magazine publisher Forbes against companies owned by Ukrainian businessman Serhiy Kurchenko. The court rejected arguments that the arbitration should have been halted after Kurchenko was placed on a US sanctions list.
The top executive of a South East Asian entity that used the firm in a large commercial claim says partner Jamie Maples is “truly a breath of fresh air” with his non-confrontational approach and talent for “refining strategy on the trot”. The executive also has high praise for the firm’s ability to prevent the deterioration of relationships between the parties, chalking it up to Weil Gotshal’s “client first and resolution first” approach.
Pál Kara, general counsel at MOL, says of the firm: “Whether it is brainstorming, preparation for a hearing or putting together a submission, they have a well thought approach that such complex cases require.” He adds that the Weil team strives to understand as broadly as possible all the tiny elements of their clients’ complex issues, which then enables them to handle and present the case “even more firmly”.
A general counsel at another Hungarian company that has used the firm repeatedly describes Weil Gotshal as “outstanding”.