Indonesia’s only GAR 100 firm
|Current arbitrator appointments||
4 (of which 2 are
as sole or chair)
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||2|
Established in 1997, KarimSyah was one of the first Indonesian firms to combine transactional and contentious work. Its practice tended towards debt restructuring during the country’s 1998 economic crisis, but the firm soon began to take on more arbitration work.
Around that time, the firm cut its teeth by representing the Indonesian government and state power utility PLN in a pair of arbitrations against US developer CalEnergy (the Dieng and Patuha cases). The firm takes credit for restoring the government’s confidence in international arbitration after helping it win the first arbitration the state had ever filed. It now regularly advises the state in investment treaty matters.
The practice is led by Karen Mills and Iswahjudi Karim. Mills, a US national who relocated to Indonesia in the 1980s, is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the only chartered arbitrator in the country. She sits on the advisory board of local arbitral institution BANI, where Karim is also an arbitrator.
Mills is also a member of the executive board of ArbitralWomen, a global body that supports women in international dispute resolution, and sits on a task force of the International Mediation Institute looking at the potential for mediation to resolve investment disputes.
Who uses it?
Besides the Indonesian government, the state infrastructure company Persero and national oil company Pertamina, clients include Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas. Several clients come from the insurance and construction sectors.
The firm helped Indonesia escape damages in a pair of investment treaty matters arising from the government’s US$700 million bailout of a local bank during the global financial crisis of 2008. The owners of the bank, UK citizen Rafat Rizvi and Saudi national Hesham al-Warraq, brought separate treaty claims after the Indonesian courts convicted them in absentia of fraud and money laundering. The men alleged that the convictions were politically motivated.
Rizvi’s ICSID claim was thrown out in 2013 for lack of jurisdiction, after KarimSyah demonstrated that Rizvi’s investment had not received the regulatory approval required by the treaty. Al-Warraq’s damages claim, brought under an obscure treaty between 27 Islamic states, was also thrown out in 2014, although the tribunal found that the criminal proceedings against him fell short of international standards of due process. In the wake of that ruling, Interpol cancelled Red Notices it had issued against the two men.
KarimSyah helped to settle disputes between a Japanese construction group and its local co-contractors; and local and multinational insurers. The firm’s partners have meanwhile been sitting as arbitrators in cases in Jakarta and Singapore, including some large matters relating to coal facilities.
The firm obtained a favourable settlement in a Singapore-seated ICC arbitration between subsidiaries of a major national mining company and a US-based multinational contractor.
Partner Ilman Rakhmat left in August 2017 to open his own firm.