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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Mayer Brown

05 April 2018

Secured a win for the Panama Canal Authority in the first of multiple ICC claims

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
People in Future Leaders 4
Pending cases as counsel 70
Value of pending counsel work US$10 billion
Treaty cases 5
Current arbitrator appointments 19 (of which 11 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 10

Like many international firms in this directory, Mayer Brown built its reputation on litigation and later branched into international arbitration as part of that practice area.

The product of three firms dating back to the 19th century – Mayer, Brown & Platt in the US, JSM in Asia and Rowe & Maw in Europe – it began by taking a role in US insurance arbitrations. But by the mid-1990s, it was advising on much larger matters, such as representing Turkmenistan on a series of oil and gas arbitrations worth billions of dollars.

Today, the practice consists of over 100 lawyers, led by partner Raid Abu-Manneh in London (a fluent Arabic speaker) and Menachem Hasofer in Hong Kong. In 2015, it welcomed B Ted Howes in New York as chair of the group in the US.

The group in Singapore includes Yu-Jin Tay, former head of DLA Piper’s Asia-Pacific arbitration practice, who joined in 2017.

Another name to know is French-Lebanese partner Dany Khayat, who heads the international arbitration practice in Paris and is prominent in much of the investor-state work.

Senior consultant Robin Peard in Hong Kong is former deputy chairman of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and was involved in the drafting of Hong Kong’s 2012 international arbitration law as well as in the revision of various sets of HKIAC arbitration rules.

Members of the firm sit as arbitrators at CIETAC, the HKIAC, the ICC, the Dubai International Arbitration Centre, the Cairo Centre, DIS and the Madrid Court of Arbitration.

Network

The firm’s main offices for international arbitration are London, Paris, Chicago, New York, Houston, Frankfurt, Singapore, São Paolo and Hong Kong.

It has 10 offices in the Americas – including two in Brazil in association with Tauil & Chequer – eight in Asia, and five in Europe. The European offices are known for their expertise in Middle East and Africa matters.

It also has an alliance with Chinese firm Jingtian & Gongcheng, which assists it in enforcement matters in China.

Who uses it?

Egypt, Gambia, Benin and Morocco have used the firm for investor-state disputes. On the claimant side, it has acted for New York private equity firm Clarion Partners in a US$200 million NAFTA claim against Mexico; and Kuwait’s Fouad Alghanim & Sons in a claim against Jordan.

Aside from insurance expertise, Mayer Brown has industry-specific experience in the construction, energy and financial services sectors. The teams in London and Hong Kong are recognised for their construction disputes work.

Its Asian clients include South Korea’s LG Electronics (in a royalty dispute with Nokia); MTR Corporation, for disputes arising from a rail project linking Hong Kong with Guangzhou and Shenzhen on the mainland; Hong Kong & China Gas Company; and the Hong Kong government works bureau and tunnel company.

Other clients include UK defence contractor BAE Systems, US pharma group Merck and corn syrup producer Cargill.

Track record

In 2015, the firm helped US businessman Hassan Awdi win €8 million plus interest in an ICSID claim against Romania concerning his investment in a press distribution business and boutique hotel. The acrimonious case had taken place against the backdrop of multiple criminal investigations of Awdi, his family and companies.

The firm was brought in to defend a Brazilian satellite communications company in an ICDR proceeding seated in New York, winning substantive victories on the scope and applicability of Venezuelan telecoms law under the contract.

It has settled an ICSID claim for UK mining company Joy (against Egypt, ending an annulment application brought by the company). An ICSID case fought for Gambia saw the state ordered to pay US$23 million to Australian-owned Carnegie Minerals in 2015; annulment proceedings are pending.

The firm represented the HKIAC on a pro bono basis in the first litigation brought against the centre. The lawsuit, brought by a disgruntled user after the centre dismissed his challenge to two arbitrators, was rejected by the Hong Kong court of first instance with costs.

Recent events

Yu-Jin Tay joined in Singapore in March 2017 from DLA Piper, bringing with him two associates fluent in Chinese and Malay. Tay previously headed Shearman & Sterling’s Asia practice.

For the Panama Canal Authority, it won the complete dismissal of a US$192 million ICC claim brought by the Spanish-Italian consortium overseeing the canal’s expansion. The authority was also awarded US$23 million in legal fees and arbitration costs. Mayer Brown teamed with Vinson & Elkins on the case. They are still defending the authority in further ICC claims by the consortium with a combined value of more than US$3 billion.

Mayer Brown won a US$13 million ICC award for Canadian construction company SMI International against Algeria’s national airline in a dispute over a cancelled contract to build the airline’s new headquarters.

The firm helped Turkish construction company DVK prevail in a Louisiana-seated arbitration over a joint venture to carry out work on a US embassy project in Baghdad. The tribunal awarded the client 90% of what it sought.

There was less success for Kuwaiti client Fouad Alghanim & Sons. A tribunal rejected its ICSID claim against Jordan over a US$81 million tax bill on the sale of a mobile phone company– although a dissenting arbitrator did find that the tax was “politically motivated”.

It helped Morocco settle a dispute over payment of a €22 million ICC award in favour of Italian industrial group Salini, which had given rise to US enforcement proceedings.

Haina Investment Company used the firm for a dispute with its Dominican state-owned partner in an electricity utility. Haina prevailed on claims that it had not breached its obligations in the way it calculated management fees owed to it – though it was ordered to pay US$30 million for other breaches.

The West African state of Benin instructed for an investment treaty claim brought by Trafigura subsidiary Puma Energy over a local court’s decision to void its purchase of a fuels terminal. The firm is also Benin in an ICC dispute with French-owned AfricaRail over work on a proposed rail loop around West Africa, though that proceeding is currently suspended.

Client comment

Edward Parkin at satellite telecoms company Inmarsat says Mayer Brown was “highly competent and extremely responsive”. London-based partners Raid Abu-Manneh and Mark Stefanini and senior associate Rachael O’Grady were impressive in how they “very quickly got to grips with an in-depth knowledge of the background matter.”

Ravi Isaac, former general counsel at Aegion Corporation in Singapore, hired the firm’s Hong Kong office for a “fairly crucial matter”. The team made the other side’s lawyers look “bland, uninterested and unfamiliar with their client.” He also notes the firm’s willingness to scale back its fees and involvement in the case when other experts and QCs were involved, allowing the client to keep its costs down.

Insight

Reviews

Regional analysis from arbitrators around the globe, focussing on key developments in specific industry areas and jurisdictions.

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The European Arbitration Review 2020

Highlights

Overview - Limits to the Principle of ‘Full Compensation’

Matthias Cazier-Darmois

FTI Consulting