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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Norton Rose Fulbright

05 April 2018

Achieved good results for clients against Venezuela and Albania

People in Who’s Who Legal 4
People in Future Leaders 8
Pending cases as counsel 115
Value of pending counsel work US$6.16 billion
Current arbitrator appointments 10 (of which 7 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 7

The product of a series of mergers that began in 2009, this practice brings together former lawyers from Norton Rose, Fulbright & Jaworski, Ogilvy Renault and Chadbourne & Parke (which all used to feature in the GAR 100 or GAR 30 in their own right) under global co-heads Pierre Bienvenu in Montreal and Mark Baker in Houston.

Of the main merger partners, Norton Rose was perhaps less well known for international arbitration, though its deep roots in shipping, energy and construction had brought it success in the field since the 1990s and it counted leading UK arbitrator Michael Lee among its alumni.

Its 2009 merger with Ogilvy Renault, Canada’s preeminent arbitration practice, took things to a new level, adding Bienvenu and other specialists who had learned the trade from leading arbitrator Yves Fortier QC (though Fortier himself departed for independent practice to avoid conflicts of interest).

The merger with Fulbright & Jaworski in 2013 completed the development of an international arbitration supergroup. Fulbright was among the first US firms to gain a name in the field, having worked on cases such as Sibneft v Yukos (once the largest arbitration in the world), and the first to treat international arbitration as a practice area in its own right. It brought Baker plus other big names such as Kevin O’Gorman and Deborah Ruff with it.

Along the way, another Canadian firm, Macleod Dixon, was added to the mix in 2012, bringing capability in Latin America in particular.

In 2017, Norton Rose Fulbright completed its merger with another global law firm, Chadbourne & Parke, though the best-known members of that firm’s arbitration group had already left before the merger was announced, and others have left since. The remaining Chadbourne team includes CIS disputes specialist Irina Tymczyszyn, who joined in 2016 from Bryan Cave.

Network

The group is most concentrated in London, Houston, Montreal, Hong Kong and Singapore, but it has people in numerous other offices across Europe, the US, Canada, Asia, Australia and South Africa. The Macleod Dixon merger brought an office in Caracas.

Following its merger with Chadbourne, the firm has 58 offices in 32 countries.

Who uses it?

Clients include a lot of Canadian blue-chips and mining companies, City of London financial institutions, construction firms, shipyards, energy businesses, and oil and gas service providers.

Some names with which members of the practice have been associated include AbitibiBowater, Bombardier, BP, Bank of Nova Scotia, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Nestlé, Foster Wheeler, Norsk Hydro, BHP Billiton, ConocoPhillips, WADA, Canadian-Pacific Railways and Stonewall Resources.

Track record

One of the group’s most eye-catching recent results came in 2015, when it helped Israeli state-owned Israel Electric Corporation win US$1.7 billion in a politically charged ICC claim against two Egyptian state entities over the termination of a gas supply agreement in the wake of the Arab Spring.

It helped Canadian mining company Gold Reserve negotiate a US$770 million settlement with Venezuela to satisfy an investment treaty award after bringing US enforcement proceedings and defeating an attempt to set aside the award in the French courts. (A different firm represented the company in the underlying arbitration.) Venezuela agreed to pay the award in full and allow the client to continue operating in the country.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s various merger partners each bring their own reel of highlights. In Ogilvy Renault’s case, the team secured one of the largest payments so far under NAFTA (a US$130 million settlement for AbitibiBowater, ending a claim against Canada) and a US$85 million award against Hungary at ICSID in 2005 (one of the largest of its time).

In an ICSID case in 2012, the Macleod Dixon team helped the US’s Exterran Holdings agree to a US$442 million settlement with Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, in compensation for nationalised gas compression assets.

Recent events

Partner Deborah Ruff in London left to become global head of international arbitration at US firm Pillsbury, taking two senior associates with her. Partner Julissa Reynoso and counsel Marcelo Blackburn in New York were part of a legacy Chadbourne team who moved to Winston & Strawn in 2017.

Kazakhstan has been using the firm for the US side of a multijurisdictional fight with Moldovan investors over the enforcement of a US$520 million Energy Charter Treaty award. The state has lodged a racketeering lawsuit against the investors before a Washington, DC court, alleging they procured the award through fraud. In Europe, the dispute has given rise to a freeze on US$22.6 billion in Kazakh assets.

Martin Valasek in the Montreal office helped Canadian client Bankers Petroleum prevail in an early but important round of an ICC arbitration against Albania relating to one of Europe’s largest oil fields. In 2018, the tribunal rejected the state’s appeal against an expert determination requiring it to revise a US$57 million tax assessment it imposed on the company. Other disputes between the parties are pending before the same tribunal.

Partner Sven Förster in Munich helped client Crystalox win €28 million plus interest in a Frankfurt-seated ICC case against a Taiwanese photovoltaic company over the supply of silicon wafers.

A Melbourne-led team got a good result for Australian mining company Stonewall, persuading a Beijing court to enforce a US$12.6 million HKIAC award against Chinese metals group Qixing over a share purchase agreement for a South African gold mine.

Hong Kong-based partner Camille Jojo is acting for a party funded by Burford Capital in a Singapore-seated arbitration – believed to be the first such case in the wake of Singaporean legislation expressly permitting third-party funding of international arbitration.

Client comment

Paul Attard, commercial manager at South Africa’s Bombela Civil Joint Venture, retained the firm for a dispute with the South African government over the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link. He says the firm demonstrated the “highest levels of professionalism” and has special praise for Tony Chappel and Daniel McConnell in Johannesburg, who showed an ability to grasp complex and technical matters.

Kieren Barry, group counsel at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, used the firm in an arbitration that was worth several million pounds. He says Norton Rose Fulbright’s “excellent preparation was decisive and gave a massive advantage”.

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