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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Guevara & Gutierrez SC

05 April 2018

A port of call for investors facing problems in Bolivia

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 2
Value of pending counsel work US$435 million
Treaty cases 2

Some have described Guevara & Gutiérrez as being in a class apart from other Bolivian firms when it comes to international arbitration.

Founding partner Ramiro Guevara was instrumental in drafting the country’s 1997 Arbitration and Mediation Law, and represented aggrieved investors in the boom of investment treaty claims that followed the nationalisation programme of President Evo Morales after 2006 – often teaming up with leading international firms on those cases.

Guevara teaches international commercial law at the Catholic University of Bolivia. Meanwhile, Georgetown-educated Jorge Luis Inchauste is a former general secretary of the Mediation and Arbitration Centre of the Bolivian Chamber of Commerce. Other names to know are Enrique Barrios and Rodrigo Rivera.

While the team devotes a fair amount of its time to international arbitration, the size of the Bolivian legal market means the partners often specialise in two or more fields of practice. Guevara is also part of the corporate and M&A department, while Barrios is a member of the energy practice and Rivera practises competition law.

Network

The firm has offices in La Paz and Santa Cruz and a network of associated law firms in other cities throughout the country.

Who uses it?

The firm reckons it has appeared in more investment arbitrations than any other law firm in Bolivia. In that capacity it has represented Bechtel Corporation in the US, London-listed power producer Rurelec, Spain’s Red Eléctrica, Chilean mining company Quiborax and Canada’s TriMetals Mining.

Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua (GCC), a Mexican cement producer, has used the firm for a commercial arbitration matter. Other clients of note include Brazil’s Construtora OAS and Petrobras, Spain’s Repsol and Argentine oil and gas operator YPF.

Track record

Teaming up with Chilean firm Bofill Mir & Álvarez Jana, it helped Quiborax win US$48 million in an ICSID claim against Bolivia in 2015 after nine years of proceedings. The state is still trying to have the award annulled.

In 2014, the firm (alongside Baker McKenzie) helped Red Eléctrica settle a treaty claim over the nationalisation of Bolivia’s main electricity transmission company. The state agreed to pay Red Eléctrica over US$36 million.

That same year, Guevara & Gutiérrez helped Rurelec win more than US$30 million in a treaty claim over another expropriation in the electricity sector – with the state swiftly agreeing to pay the award. Freshfields also worked on that case, which was financed by Burford Capital.

As co-counsel with Herbert Smith, Guevara acted for a Bechtel subsidiary in the seminal Aguas del Tunari case at ICSID, better known as the “Cochabamba Water War”, which settled in 2006 after the claimants won on jurisdiction.

Recent events

Guevara & Gutiérrez has paired with King & Spalding to represent TriMetals subsidiary South American Silver in an UNCITRAL claim against Bolivia relating to the nationalisation of the Malku Khota mine. Hearings concluded in July 2016 and a final award is awaited. The claimant in that case is also receiving third-party funding.

The firm has been representing Mexico’s GCC in a Bolivian court challenge to a US$40 million award in favour of Bolivia’s largest cement company, Soboce. The award was issued by a tribunal at the Inter-American Commission for Commercial Arbitration and has also given rise to US enforcement proceedings. A team from Astigarraga Davis in Miami (now Reed Smith) co-counselled in the arbitration.

Client comment

GCC’s general counsel Sergio Saenz says the firm has achieved “positive results” and delivered “very professional and loyal services”, with Rodrigo Rivera and Ramiro Guevara receiving special praise.

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