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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

04 April 2018

Won US$820 million against Ukraine’s richest oligarch

People in Who’s Who Legal 6
People in Future Leaders 9
Pending cases as counsel 119
Value of pending counsel work US$119.5 billion
Treaty cases 23
Current arbitrator appointments 24 (of which 10 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 9

Founded in Los Angeles in 1986 as a litigation shop, Quinn Emanuel has acquired a fearsome reputation in that field – particularly for complex, high-value cases in IP (it is acting for Samsung in the smartphone wars) and financial services.

Now at more than 600 lawyers, it’s famed for a brash style and a willingness to flout convention. For instance, the firm has a casual dress code and has been quicker than most to embrace alternative fee arrangements. Those tactics seem to have paid off: a recent ranking put it second only to Wall Street firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in terms of profit per equity partner.

Until a few years ago, though, the firm made little noise in the international arbitration field.

That changed following an audacious spate of lateral hires from other GAR 100 firms. Among the most notable of these was Stephen Jagusch (now a QC), former global chair of international arbitration at Allen & Overy. He joined at the start of 2013 to lead a practice in London, bringing investment arbitration specialist Anthony Sinclair with him. The pair have worked on some high-profile ICSID cases, including the first-ever claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

Jagusch’s decision to leave a Magic Circle firm to captain a start-up practice caused shockwaves in the arbitration community – Jan Paulsson told GAR that he could not recall “anything quite like it”.

Following that coup, Quinn Emanuel also succeeded in luring Philippe Pinsolle away from Shearman & Sterling to head a new Paris office. Pinsolle had been at Shearman for more than 20 years, working with Emmanuel Gaillard on, among other things, the Yukos case against Russia – the largest investment arbitration in history.

The hiring spree continued. In Washington, DC it recruited Latin American arbitration specialist David Orta from Arnold & Porter, while in New York it hired Tai-Heng Cheng, an arbitrator and former professor. In Hong Kong, John Rhie from Korean firm Kim & Chang joined as head of international arbitration in Asia.

Other additions included energy specialist Ted Greeno from Herbert Smith Freehills and Nick Marsh from DLA Piper.

The practice’s growth shows no signs of slowing down. In 2016, it made two more big-name hires: Michael Young QC in London, who had taken over as co-head of international arbitration at Allen & Overy following Jagusch’s departure; and Isabelle Michou, who had previously headed the Paris disputes practice at Herbert Smith Freehills. Both now work out of the Paris office, which is now equipped with four partners as part of a 21-attorney team.

The group continues to build remarkable momentum and is starting to see good results. A source at a rival firm told GAR he’s seen Quinn Emanuel pitching for more and more work, and winning more pitches than they lose. Managing partner John Quinn’s promise of building a “pre-eminent” international arbitration practice seems to be more than a pipedream.


The names to know are in London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong and Washington, DC, with other members in Los Angeles, Mannheim, Hamburg, Tokyo, Houston, Munich, Shanghai and Sydney. A team in Moscow recently left for Baker Botts.

Who uses it?

US insurer AmTrust, Berkshire Hathaway, Chevron, Korea’s Daewoo International, DP World, US film production company Dreamworks, Edison and its parent EDF, EDP, ExxonMobil, General Motors, Total, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Koch Industries, French oil and gas group Maurel & Prom, Asian private equity firm MBK Partners, Offshore Exploration and Production, German drug-maker Sandoz, Shaft Sinkers and Brazillian insurance company SulAmérica are all recent clients in arbitration matters.

At ICSID, it’s acting for companies linked to Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti, owner of Leyton Orient football club.

The firm has also been retained by Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Panama and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (a UAE sovereign wealth fund), and by state-owned Sonatrach of Algeria and Oschadbank of Ukraine.

Track record

There have been some impressive results on behalf of UAE port operator DP World. In early 2017, the firm won the complete dismissal of an LCIA claim in which the Djibouti government alleged that the company’s contract to run Africa’s largest container terminal had been procured through bribery. All allegations of corruption were dismissed and the client will receive costs. (Linklaters was co-counsel on the case.)

In 2012, Quinn Emanuel also helped DP World settle a dispute with the government of Yemen over the port of Aden that had threatened to play out in parallel investment treaty and commercial claims. The client received a lump-sum payment of US$35 million – representing 80% of what it had sought.

As co-counsel with Freshfields, the firm helped Cambodia defeat a US$300 million ICSID claim brought by a US-owned investor concerning a power plant in Phnom Penh.

Pinsolle helped French water company Saur win US$59 million in an ICSID claim against Argentina concerning an expropriated concession in Mendoza province in 2014. (Shearman & Sterling and Latham & Watkins were co-counsel.)

It helped a Jordanian investor, Ossama Al Sharif, settle three ICSID claims against Egypt on favourable terms; and helped a central Asian state settle a US$250 million investment treaty arbitration for around 2% of what was claimed (Freshfields were on the other side).

On the commercial side, the firm helped Edison prevail in a price review claim against Italy’s Eni concerning gas supplied from Libya. In 2015, an ICC panel awarded Edison a downward price adjustment and a refund of €1 billion for gas already paid for.

If one counts successes of individual members at their previous firms, the track record is even stronger. Pinsolle was part of the Shearman & Sterling team that helped former majority shareholders in Yukos Oil Company win a US$50 billion award against Russia.

While at DLA Piper, Nick Marsh in London helped Sual – a Bahamian entity controlled by Ukrainian businessmen – settle a shareholder dispute with Russian aluminium producer Rusal over the validity of supply contracts worth US$48 billion. It is believed to have been one of the largest Russia-related disputes ever heard in London.

Recent events

After following Jagusch from Allen & Overy in 2016 and then to silk later the same year, Young moved from London to the Paris office. His former Allen & Overy colleague James Clark joined the firm in Paris as of counsel in February 2017. In London it hired a team led by former Herbert Smith Freehills partner James Bremen, and Clifford Chance partner Liesl Fichardt, who now heads the tax disputes team, and promoted Timothy Foden to of counsel.

The firm won a US$820 million LCIA award against Ukraine’s richest oligarch Rinat Akhmetov in a dispute over client Raga Establishment’s sale of Ukraine’s privatised telecoms company.

Jagusch and Sinclair are acting in an ICSID claim against Latvia on behalf of five UK shareholders in AS Norvik, a bank in the respondent state. In Washington Orta is acting for the scandal-hit Brazilian construction group Odebrecht, which has admitted to paying bribes to win projects in 12 countries, in a potential treaty claim against Peru over measures taken by the state following the revelations. is pursuing an UNCITRAL claim against Bolivia for a US national and his locally incorporated mining company over the alleged illegal use of its concession by a state-owned company and one connected to a former Bolivian president.

It’s acting for a group of 37 US investors in a US$125 million NAFTA claim against Mexico over the cancellation of casino licences. It’s taken on Tanzania in an UNCITRAL claim for subsidiaries of Angogold Ashanti which it values in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s acting for a Luxembourgish telecoms company, Millicom, in three ICC arbitrations with Senegal’s Wari Group over the failed US$129 million sale of Millicom’s local subsidiary. It is acting against both France and Spain in a US$450 million claim relating to the construction of a high-speed railway between the two countries.

A US$1.5 billion ICC arbitration for Sonatrach, over a cancelled project to upgrade a refinery near Algiers, ended in settlement.

Ongoing work includes one of the set of claims filed by Ukrainian state-owned companies against Russia following its 2014 annexation of Crimea – Quinn’s is for commercial bank Oschadbank. It is acting for two Italian energy companies in ICSID arbitrations against Albania, one of which is valued at US$1 billion. It’s acting in a US$5.5 billion matter for Repsol against Sinopec over representations made as to the nature of claims the Chinese company intended to bring against a Repsol subsidiary. It represents a Qatari foundation in two ICC arbitrations both worth over US$1 billion, over construction projects in Doha.

In the courts the firm is attempting to set aside an UNCITRAL award dismissing its client Progas’ US$640 million claim against Pakistan. The English Commercial Court ruled in October Progas’ argument deserved a full hearing.

Client comment

The firm represented North Atlantic Refining Limited in a US$200 million dispute with a BP entity over the valuation of a physical tolling contract. Kaushik Amin, a partner at the client’s owner Silverpeak Strategic Partners, says the firm is “very competent” and Philippe Selendy is “top notch”.

Anita Wu, legal counsel at China’s Star Communications, says the firm is well organised and works efficiently across its different offices. She reserves special praise for Hong Kong partners John Rhie and Duncan Watson, who provide solutions that are “appropriate and practical” for the company.

Bronwen de Lange, general counsel at Shaft Sinkers, praises the firm’s “most eloquent drafting of extremely technical legal documents” and “unmatched cross-border and inter-jurisdiction ability”. Even people connected to the other side praised the QE team for the best opening argument, he says.

Scott Enright, general counsel at Emmis Communications (which lost an ICSID case against Hungary in which the firm acted), says: “I’ve replayed our case over and over again in my head and cannot think of anything I wished Quinn Emanuel had done differently – and it’s not often people say that after a loss.” The team are “among the finest attorneys I’ve worked with”.

Robert Peake, chairman at The Cragus Group, says: “I am always pleased to see how the Quinn Emanuel team works together seamlessly, with each member having a clear, coordinated role.”



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