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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson

05 April 2018

The practice founder retired from the partnership

People in Future Leaders 1
Pending cases as counsel 8
Value of pending counsel work US$7.65 billion
Treaty cases 2
Current arbitrator appointments
3 (of which 0 are 
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator  1

Fried Frank’s international arbitration practice began to take shape in Washington, DC in the early 1990s, but it was three wins at the turn of the decade that made it a fixture within the firm.

In one case, the firm obtained an award for specific performance for a major multinational oil company in a dispute with its Turkish joint venture partner, and later an award for breach of oral contract. In another, the firm successfully defended the United Nations against a claim brought by a Canadian company under an air charter services agreement. It also defended a major European aerospace company in a patent infringement case brought by a large US multinational.

Elliot Polebaum, who founded and led the practice, retired from the partnership in 2017 but two other core team members who worked on those cases remain in the Washington, DC office – Douglas Baruch and Joseph LoBue.

Other partners to know are barrister James Kitching; and Justin Michaelson, who joined in 2012 from SJ Berwin and is particularly well known for his Russia-related work.

The group’s experience is primarily in international commercial arbitration though it has also done some ICSID work. It frequently works with or against other firms in GAR 100, including
Hogan Lovells, Linklaters, Mayer Brown, Jones Day, Dechert and DLA Piper.


The key offices for arbitration are New York, London and Washington, DC. The firm closed its Hong Kong and Singapore offices in 2015 but partner Huen Wong remains resident in Hong Kong and Shanghai (he is a former chairman of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre). The firm has a further office in Frankfurt.

Who uses it?

Clients include Chevron, Total, France Télécom, Thales, General Electric, Dassault Aviation, Hawker Beechcraft, Oranto Petroleum, Rusal, TNK-GB, Turkey’s Setkom and Yemen LNG. The firm acted for Pavel Durov, the man behind “the Russian Facebook” VKontakte, in a shareholder dispute

Track record

The firm helped French aerospace company Thales Alenia Space defeat a €358 million AAA/ICDR claim over a satellite contract in 2012. A tribunal dismissed the claim filed by US company Globalstar and awarded Thales €53 million in cancellation charges.

It secured a good result for West African petroleum company Oranto in an ICC arbitration over terminated rights for an offshore oil block in Sierra Leone. After the firm filed its statement of claim and supporting evidence, the state capitulated and agreed to restore Oranto’s rights in the block.

Fried Frank defended Hawker Beechcraft in an ICC claim brought by Airbus UK – limiting the client’s liability to £6.65 million, substantially less than the £40 million Airbus had claimed.

TNK-BP, the joint venture between BP and Russia’s Alfa-Access-Renova consortium, instructed Fried Frank to represent it in claims against BP and its directors following BP’s aborted attempt to enter into a joint venture with Rosneft to explore and extract oil from the Arctic shelf off the coast of Russia. The claims were dropped as part of a US$325 million settlement in 2012.

Recent events

The team is handling a number of cases relating to the oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and aerospace sectors.

It continues to advise Cerner, a Kansas-based healthcare technology company, in a high-profile dispute over an IT project for the UK’s National Health Service. Cerner is a subcontractor to the main respondent in the case, Japan’s Fujitsu. The arbitration has led to a parliamentary enquiry in the UK into the government’s handling of the dispute.

Fried Frank is also advising Total in an ICSID case against Uganda concerning the imposition of duties. The proceedings have been suspended for two years while the parties pursue settlement talks.

Client comment

Christine Guerrier, in-house counsel for Thales Group, says Fried Frank defended the company in a fast-track arbitration and was able to grasp difficult issues quickly and “smartly negotiate the time necessary to prepare the counterclaim”.

Marc Borello, general counsel at Thales Alenia Space, says the firm was able to convince an ICDR tribunal to dismiss all claims against the company, while accepting its counterclaim. He calls Fried Frank’s work “remarkable”.

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