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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Stephenson Harwood

04 April 2018

Had a ground-breaking win for Nigeria in the UK Supreme Court, while its practice head took silk

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
People in Future Leaders 3
Pending cases as counsel 236
Value of pending counsel work US$9.5 billion
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments
1 (of which 0 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

Stephenson Harwood’s stand-alone practice group dates back to 2008 and the arrival of solicitor-advocate Louis Flannery (now QC). In the role of global head of international arbitration, he has increased the commercial arbitration caseload considerably and also led the firm into investment treaty work.

As well as serving as an arbitrator, Flannery is the co-author of a commentary on the English Arbitration Act 1996 and one of the figures behind London’s International Arbitration Charity Ball, which has raised substantial sums for Save the Children.

Other names to note in London include Kamal Shah, who heads the Africa and India groups; Shai Wade, a former co-head of international arbitration at Reed Smith who also sits as arbitrator; and John Fordham, who also heads the commercial litigation practice.

Counsel Duncan Bagshaw in London also focuses on Africa-related work, having served as registrar of the LCIA-MIAC arbitration centre in Mauritius for three years before joining the firm in 2015.

The firm’s Asia practice is also picking up steam. Phillip Rompotis leads the international arbitration group in Asia and is one of a handful of solicitor-advocates in Hong Kong. Stephenson Harwood also opened an office in Seoul in 2014 headed by shipping and arbitration partner Michael Kim.

Network

For arbitration, the key office is London, though the practice has boots on the ground in Paris, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul.

The firm also has offices in mainland China (Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai) and in Piraeus, Greece – as well as ties with firms in Athens, Bucharest, Jakarta and Kuwait City.

It works closely with the Africa Legal Network, a group of 10 law firms in Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Who uses it?

The arbitration practice handles work in the banking, aviation, insurance, energy, construction, defence and telecoms sectors. Many of the cases have a tie with Africa. State clients have included the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Venezuela’s national oil and gas company PDVSA and the governments of Egypt, India and Bolivia.

The former majority shareholders in Yukos Oil Company have instructed the firm to enforce their US$50 billion Energy Charter Treaty award against Russia in the English courts.

In Asia, Indonesia’s Lippo Group is a client. Since opening the Seoul office, the firm says it is also picking up work from major Korean conglomerates.

Konkola Copper Mines (a subsidiary of India’s Vedanta Resources) is using the firm for a US$400 million dispute with a Brazilian mining group over a project in Zambia. Stephenson Harwood took over the case from Debevoise & Plimpton.

Track record

The firm has scored many wins when it comes to arbitration-related litigation and enforcement proceedings, for which it is considered a “go-to” firm.

A few years ago, partner John Fordham helped PDVSA lift a US$12 billion freezing order put on its assets by ExxonMobil. He has done the same for Bolivia, lifting a US$50 million freezing order obtained by Dutch telecoms unit ETI.

The firm also helped Costa Rican company Dowans Holding secure US$30 million in security in the English courts against Tanzanian state power company Tanesco, in support of an arbitral award that the respondent was seeking to have set aside at the seat.

Recent events

Louis Flannery was among four English solicitor-advocates in the international arbitration field to be appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2017.

Hong Kong-based partner Phillip Rompotis, who headed the Asia arbitration group, left to join the boutique Cordells. Singapore-based barrister Timothy Cooke joined the firm as a partner in June 2017.

On the case front, the firm represented the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in a precedent-setting matter before the UK Supreme Court, where it overturned a ruling that had required the state entity to provide US$100 million in security as a condition of challenging the enforcement of a US$340 million award.

British investment group Lehram instructed the firm for a potential treaty claim against Russia, alleging that its Siberian coal mine was seized with the help of local government officials following the imprisonment of one of its directors.

Stephenson Harwood is acting for South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding in a challenge to two London Maritime Arbitrators Association awards that denied its US$372.8 million claim against an offshore platform operator.

Client comment

Mindy Allen, in-house counsel of Sojitz Corporation, is using the firm for a shipping dispute before SIAC and says is impressed. The team is “small and very well managed” and “all lawyers involved have been very responsive”.

Allen says Michelle Yong as an individual that is responsive and easy to work with. “She is skilful in guiding the case toward the path she thinks best in light of her experience but is also open to our feedback when our views differ.”

Insight

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The Middle Eastern and African Arbitration Review 2019

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