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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Lenz & Staehelin

05 April 2018

The Swiss firm is acting in a multibillion shipbuilding arbitration initiated by a state

People in Who’s Who Legal 2
People in Future Leaders 3
Pending cases as counsel 19
Value of pending counsel work US$8.8 billion
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 17 (of which 6 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 6

Lenz & Staehelin was formed in 1991 when Conrad Staehelin’s Zurich firm merged with Raoul Lenz’s Geneva practice. Both arms of the firms already had experience of arbitration going back decades before the merger. The team on the Geneva side included the late Robert Briner, who served as a judge at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in the 1980s and went on to be chairman of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and a renowned arbitrator.

These days the group is headed by partners Xavier Favre-Bulle in Geneva and Harold Frey in Zurich, who both sit as arbitrators. The team is split evenly between the two cities (there’s also an office in Lausanne) and includes five partners and three counsel who do arbitration full-time as well as four other partners and a team of more than 20 counsel and associates.

Who uses it?

The firm acts for states and state-owned entities in international disputes. It also has private clients from industries including pharmaceuticals, energy, telecoms, construction, financial services and luxury goods. The list includes some well-known Swiss blue-chip companies and multinationals.

Unfortunately, few of the firm’s clients are on the public record but it is known to be advising Romanian state entity Hidroelectrica in a dispute with energy trader EFT. Going further back, it advised Deutsche Telekom (in a dispute with Vivendi) and Turkey’s Çukurova group (in a dispute with Teliasonera).

It regularly co-counsels with international firms on large matters with a Swiss angle. The firm also frequently appears on behalf of sports federations in cases before the Court of Arbitration for Sport and related Swiss court actions.

Track record

One spectacular result for the firm came in 2016 when it helped a government in the Middle East to defeat a claim for more than US$1.5 billion in damages, as well as a claim for the issuance of a long-term concession. The client also received a large part of its costs.

It has helped four of the most important industrial groups in Germany defeat a billion-dollar claim by a US company; and successfully defended the manufacturer of a desalination plant in a subcontractor dispute, winning costs.

For a healthcare company, it helped to settle a multibillion-euro dispute over the termination of licence and supply agreements – agreeing terms that allowed the client to maintain the business relationship.

Another highlight saw the firm represent an Irish company in a successful Geneva arbitration against a Libyan state entity over the use of a fibre optic cable across the Mediterranean.

Recent events

Harold Frey was instructed by a European shipbuilder in a multiparty arbitration worth billions that was initiated by a state.

A team led by Xavier Favre-Bulle defended a well-known luxury brand against a €32 million claim brought by a distributor. An ICC tribunal dismissed the claims and awarded the firm’s clients 95% of their costs.

In another case, Favre-Bulle defended an art dealer and persuaded a sole arbitrator under the Swiss Rules to dismiss all claims against the client and award him a large part of his costs.

The firm continues to act for a financial institution in a post-M&A dispute worth 1.5 billion Swiss francs, relating to the purchase of a Swiss bank; and for a Latin American bank in another post-M&A dispute worth 100 million Swiss frances.

The government of a European state has retained the firm to defend an award against a challenge in the Swiss Supreme Court.

Lenz & Staehelin is counselling an investor on a potential investment treaty claim against Russia.

The firm reports it is also acting as counsel in gas price review arbitrations.

Partner Xavier Favre-Bulle was appointed by Algeria’s national oil and gas company Sonatrach to sit as arbitrator in a US$1.5 billion ICC arbitration against French engineering group Technip concerning a refinery upgrade. The case was settled amicably in June 2017.

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