The Portuguese firm has taken on its biggest ever case, a US$3 billion ICC matter
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Morais Leitão, Galvão Teles, Soares da Silva & Associados was formed through a merger between two well-established Portuguese firms in 2004.
The merger brought together two leading figures in Portugal’s arbitration scene: João Morais Leitão, one of the founding fathers of modern commercial arbitration in Portugal, who died in 2006; and, Miguel Galvão Teles, who headed the firm’s public international law practice before his death in 2015.
The international arbitration team is now led by António Pinto Leite, president of the Portuguese Arbitration Association and the ICC’s Portuguese national committee, and includes five other partners.
A number of the firm’s lawyers have helped shape recent changes to Portugal’s arbitration infrastructure. António Sampaio Caramelo was one of the main drafters of the country’s 2012 arbitration law; Filipe Vaz Pinto took part in drafting the new 2014 rules of the Commercial Arbitration Centre of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (the country’s leading arbitral institution); and Miguel de Almada played a role in establishing the Concórdia Arbitration Centre in 2014.
Several members of the practice feature on the arbitrator lists of institutions in Portugal, Spain, Brazil and Angola.
The practice’s focus is on arbitrations connected to Portugal or Portuguese-speaking jurisdictions such as Angola, Brazil, Mozambique and Macao.
The firm has offices in Lisbon, Porto and Funchal (in Madeira), as well as long-standing associations with firms in Angola, Macao and Mozambique. In Brazil, it has a relationship with GAR 100 firm Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados.
Who uses it?
The firm is busy in energy and mining sectors, where its clients include Redes Energéticas Nacionais (REN), the operator of Portugal’s national electricity and gas services; Energias de Portugal; and Escom Mining, one of Angola’s biggest investors.
It has also acted for Lusoponte, the concessionaire of two bridges over the Tagus river in Lisbon, in arbitrations against the government over changes to the concession agreement.
US defence contractor General Dynamics used the firm for an arbitration over a US$475 million deal to supply armoured vehicles.
It also advises a number of financial institutions, including the European Investment Bank, Caixa BI, Banco Santander and Crédit Foncier de France. In the pharmaceutical sector, it has acted for Teva, Pfizer and SK Chemical.
In 2014, the firm clinched a US$90 million award in a dispute between the shareholders of a toll road concessionaire in Portugal – two major Portuguese and Spanish construction companies (MSF and Somague) – and a consortium of international and Portuguese banks over the shareholders’ obligation to make equity contributions.
The year before, it acted for Crédit Foncier de France in a dispute with a Portuguese high net worth individual over a shareholders’ agreement relating to a Portuguese bank, obtaining a favourable partial award that paved the way for a settlement.
Another win came for REN in a dispute with Galp Energia related to the unbundling of the natural gas sector in Portugal.
Morais Leitão helped to settle an ICC arbitration worth more than US$400 million on behalf of an Indian joint venture in a dispute with the government of Mozambique concerning the Biera rail project.
It also helped a client in the African mining sector to defeat LCIA claims worth US$130 million. The claimant was awarded nominal damages of US$10 and ordered to pay all legal costs.
In the Lisbon Court of Appeal, it defeated a challenge to a US$90 million award in favour of its clients. The underlying dispute was between shareholders of a toll road concessionaire and a consortium of international and Portuguese banks concerning the shareholders’ obligation to make equity contributions.
The firm was instructed in its biggest-ever case in late 2016, defending one of the respondents in a “bet the company” ICC arbitration worth US$3 billion.
António Pinto Leite was elected president of the Portuguese Arbitration Association in 2017, and Miguel de Almada became a board member and executive secretary of the same body. Catarina Monteiro Pires was promoted to partner.