Retained by Colombia for an ICSID claim
|People in Who’s Who Legal||4|
|People in Future Leaders||5|
|Pending cases as counsel||128|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$116.7 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments||20 (of which 11 are as sole or chair)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||6|
Now the world’s largest law firm by revenue, Latham & Watkins entered early into international arbitration by US firms’ standards. The practice developed first in New York, where it was co-headed by Selvyn Seidel – now head of disputes funder Fulbrook Capital. It began to expand with additions in Germany and Paris.
For many, though, it really gained prominence in London following the arrival of two then rising stars: Philip Clifford (now QC) from Clifford Chance and Robert Volterra from Herbert Smith. Those two partners, plus Sebastian Seelmann-Eggebert in Germany, earnt it a reputation in commercial arbitration, public international law and investment treaty work.
A rocky period began in 2011, with Volterra leaving to set up his own firm and a team in New York departing a year later. Claudia Salomon, former co-chair of DLA Piper’s arbitration practice, joined in 2013 and now co-chairs the Latham practice from New York with another big figure, Fernando Mantilla-Serrano, who joined in Paris from Shearman & Sterling in 2014.
Other names to know are the highly-respected Ing Loong Yang, who joined in Hong Kong from Sidley Austin in 2013; and Sophie Lamb, who joined from Debevoise & Plimpton in 2016 to head the London international arbitration practice and became a QC in 2018.
London partner Charles Claypoole is active on much of the firm’s public international law and investor-state work.
The best-known offices for arbitration are London, Paris, Frankfurt, Hamburg, New York and Hong Kong. The practice also has people in Madrid, Düsseldorf, Munich, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tokyo.
Who uses it?
Private clients include ArcelorMittal, Austria’s Strabag (for an ICSID claim against Libya), Swiss multinational ABB, Daimler Financial Services (in a long-running dispute about a German toll project) and Chile-based asset management firm Linzor Capital (for a dispute with Uruguay).
It’s got a fair few energy disputes on as well: it has represented Colombia’s largest petroleum company Ecopetrol; and recently acted for South California Edison in a multibillion-dollar dispute with Mitsubushi over a nuclear power plant.
Mantilla-Serrano is meanwhile acting for a number of investors bringing Energy Charter Treaty claims against Spain over reforms to solar power subsidies.
On the state side, Latham has defended Colombia, Croatia, Macedonia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
At ICSID, the firm has helped Croatia defeat a US$32 million claim by Belgian property investors; and secured the dismissal of similarly sized claims against Macedonia brought by New Zealand financial servcies group and a Swiss confectioner.
It has helped investors to settle a pair of ICSID claims against Egypt. One case, brought by Singapore’s Indorama Group, concerned a nationalised textiles factory and reportedly ended with a US$54 million payout. The other case for ArcelorMittal concerned a steel plant and settled on confidential terms.
Mantilla-Serrano (along with his old firm Shearman) helped French water company SAUR International win US$59 million in an ICSID claim against Argentina in 2014.
Wins for Latham in commercial matters include a US$200 million ICC award for Travis Coal Group against India’s Essar Group in 2014; and the dismissal of a German software company’s US$920 million ICC claim against the firm’s client Live Nation Entertainment.
At the HKIAC, the firm won a US$100 million arbitration for Thai property and hospitality group LP Holdings in a dispute with a leading international hotel group.
Lawyers in the San Francisco office won US$125 million for a subsidiary of Edison International in an ICC claim against Mitsubishi concerning delivery of faulty steam generators for a nuclear plant in San Diego.
Colombia retained it for an ICSID claim by Canadian gold mining company Eco Oro Minerals over environmental regulations. Ongoing treaty work includes defending Ukraine from a US$4.7 billion Energy Charter Treaty claim by minority shareholders in the country’s largest oil and gas producer, over alleged interference in the sale price of natural gas.
The Hong Kong office is acting for Deloitte China in an HKIAC dispute over disciplinary sanctions against two of its partners. It is acting for a Chinese company in a US$100 million HKIAC dispute with its British Virgin Islands joint venture partner in a commercial development in Nanjing, winning related litigation in the Hong Kong courts.
It also acting for a Chinese IT company in a HKIAC arbitration that is part of a US$100 million supply dispute which has generated around a dozen items of litigation.
A Latin American state oil and gas company is using the firm in an LCIA arbitration relating to its performance as the unit operator of a hydrocarbons block. It acts for a Colombian business conglomerate in an ICC arbitration with Volvo over the termination of an agency agreement.
Two of the firm’s London partners – the practice’s global co-chair Sophie Lamb and Philip Clifford – were appointed QCs in February 2018.
Ling Zhang, from China-based investor Sequedge Group, hired Latham for a “troublesome” case in which the opponent took an aggressive stance. He says the firm was – without question – superior in skill, knowledge and finesse to the opponent’s counsel. Lead counsel Ing Loong Yang was “particularly impressive” when cross-examining two key witnesses.