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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Watson Farley & Williams

04 April 2018

Acting for solar power investors against Italy

Pending cases as counsel 38
Value of pending counsel work US$7.28 billion
Treaty cases 2
Current arbitrator appointments
1 (of which 0 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

Founded in 1982 as a breakaway from Norton Rose, the firm initially focused its attention on shipping and offshore construction disputes.

In the early 2000s, a group led by two partners in London helped establish the firm’s name in international arbitration. They won a pitch to represent India in the state’s first investment treaty arbitration and later brought in Vivendi as a client in a dispute with Deutsche Telekom over control of a Polish telecoms firm. During the same era, the Singapore office began to develop a local name for expertise in the field.

Apart from Andrew Hutcheon – one of the partners on the Vivendi matter – all of the senior partners from that period have been poached by other practices, but the arbitration group they built has endured in the hands of the younger partners who worked under them.

The group – led by litigation and arbitration head Andrew Savage since 2007 – has expanded in recent years with lateral hires in London, Paris and Bangkok.

Network

The practice continues to have a strong presence in London and South-East Asia (Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore), with the ability to call on colleagues in New York, Hamburg, Rome and Paris.

Who uses it?

The firm has worked for India, Pakistan, Zambia, Greece and Bangladesh in the past few years, and has advised the Bahamas on its arbitration legislation.

Corporate clients include banks, energy businesses and metals companies. The firm has advised Hydro Aluminium, Vivendi, Trafigura, drilling contractor Aban Offshore, Ford and AIG.

US mobile satellite operator Globalstar used the firm (in an ICDR claim against France’s Thales Alenia Space), as did a Mauritian subsidiary of a UK-listed company in a US$100 million SIAC case over a broadcast licence agreement.

Track record

The firm helped Pakistan prevail in 2010 in the final round of the Dallah dispute – in which the UK Supreme Court refused to enforce an ICC award against the firm’s client. It was a rare example of the English courts refusing to enforce an award under the New York Convention. It earned the firm (along with its appointed barrister, Toby Landau QC of Essex Court Chambers) the “Court Win of the Year” award at the GAR Awards in 2011.

The firm also helped Hydro Aluminium secure an LCIA award in a row with Tajikistan and defended an Iranian offshore construction company against a US$100 million ICC claim by an Italian counterparty.

There have been a number of successes in cases relating to Thailand. These include wins for a renewables consultancy against a Dutch dairy products producer; and a major Thai paper manufacturer in the liability phase of a US$50 million HKIAC case against a Chinese state-owned machinery maker. It also helped the operators of the largest petrochemical refinery in Thailand win 21 awards against a Hong Kong company, which were upheld in the English courts 2015.

Recent events

It helped client MRI Trading enforce a London Metal Exchange arbitration award, also obtaining a worldwide freezing order and asset disclosure orders. The dispute settled in early 2017.

The firm’s Italian office is currently representing Belenergia, a Luxembourg investor in solar power plants, in Energy Charter Treaty claims against Italy relating to reforms to the country’s renewable energy regime.

The Italian team is also helping Chinese investment company Jiangsu Zongyi defend a €32 million ICC award in the Milanese courts in a dispute with a local construction company over Italy’s largest rooftop photovoltaic plant.

It acted for a Thai tin-can manufacturer in a US$70 million UNCITRAL claim against a multinational food company over a manufacturing agreement, and for a Chinese supplier in a US$42 million ICC claim over a power plant.

Construction specialist Rebecca Williams was promoted to partner in the London office and Singapore partner Marcus Gordon relocated to the Hong Kong office.

Client comment

“All the typical dispute resolution methods had failed in the prior 18 months,” recalls Barbara Rebola, supply chain manager for oil company Northern Endeavour, “I then called in Watson Farley & Williams. In short order, they found a significant ‘lever’ which, when applied, provided basis for negotiations to resolve the dispute and change company business strategy for the region.”

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