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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Fietta

05 April 2018

Won big against Poland as it pursues treaty claims against Egypt and Kazakhstan

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
People in Future Leaders 1
Pending cases as counsel 6
Value of pending counsel work US$2 billion
Treaty cases 6

Stephen Fietta set up this firm in late 2015 after almost five years with Volterra Fietta, the boutique he co-founded with Robert Volterra. The pair had worked together for more than a decade at Latham & Watkins and Herbert Smith Freehills before setting up their own shop in 2011 devoted exclusively to public international law and international arbitration.

Fietta’s new outfit has a similar focus, encompassing investment treaty arbitration, environmental and boundary disputes at the state-to-state level, and human rights. He has advised on cases at the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights and has co-authored a practitioner’s guide to maritime boundary delimitation.

Among Fietta’s new team are former members of Volterra Fietta who had already left before his departure. These include counsel Jiries Saadeh, a former legal officer at the United Nations; senior associate Laura Rees-Evans (who has also practised at Debevoise & Plimpton); Senior associate Ashique Rahman also followed Fietta from his old firm.

Who uses it?

In 2017, Stephen Fietta was added to the UK Attorney General’s prestigious Public International Law “A Panel” – the list of preferred counsel to the UK government.

Less than a year after it opened, Fietta was also one of 12 law firms shortlisted by India to provide external counsel in investor-state disputes.

Other state clients that have turned to the firm’s members in the past include Nigeria, Malaysia, Barbados, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Croatia.

It is acting for a group of more than 600 Greek depositors and bondholders in an ICSID claim against Cyprus arising from the state’s 2013 financial bailout.

Fietta lawyers have also advised Owens-Illinois; Koch Industries; Vigotop (a company co-owned by US businessman Ronald Lauder); and British-Iraqi national Ali Allawi and his company Progas.

Track record

The firm’s first major win came in September 2017 when it helped Central European private equity firm Abris secure a €176 million SCC award against Poland in an investment treaty claim arising from the forced sale of a bank. Linklaters co-counselled on the case.

Members of the team were involved in some significant wins while at Volterra Fietta – including securing a US$455 million ICSID award against Venezuela on behalf of US bottlemaker Owens-Illinois; and helping Malaysia prevail in a politically sensitive arbitration with Singapore concerning a billion-dollar land development charge.

While at Latham, Fietta helped Croatia defeat an €80 million investment treaty claim by an Austrian casino operator. He has also helped Colombia settle a dispute with Ecuador at the International Court of Justice over aerial herbicide spraying.

Recent events

Fietta was instructed alongside GAR 100 firm Teynier Pic to represent US private equity firm Schooner Capital in another dispute with Poland. Schooner has brought set-aside proceedings in the French courts in the hopes of reviving a US$185 million ICSID additional facility claim that was thrown out in 2015.

US energy company Big Sky turned to the firm for an ICSID claim against Kazakhstan over the expropriation of an oil field (replacing Jones Day).

The firm helped Finnish businessman Mohamed Bahgat’s investment treaty claim against Egypt clear the jurisdictional stage. An UNCITRAL tribunal concluded in late 2017 that Bahgat was Finnish at all relevant times and that it didn’t need to decide whether he was also Egyptian. A majority of the panel added that in any event claims by dual nationals were permitted under the treaty. Bahgat is seeking more than US$150 million over the expropriation of his iron ore and steel production concession, as well as moral damages for his wrongful imprisonment.

The firm mourned the loss of James Upcher, a consultant at Fietta and lecturer at Newcastle University, who died in an accident in May 2017. The firm described him as “one of the leading public international lawyers of his generation” as well as a “close friend and inspiration” to all who knew him well.

Client comment

Helen Milne of Abris Capital says that Stephen Fietta was “insightful, hard-working and extremely effective” in securing the win against Poland, also praising Rees-Evans and Rahman for their “great support” and “good grasp of detail and arguments”.

Mohamed Bahgat says the firm has done an “excellent job” for him so far and that he is “amazed” at the knowledge the firm has of his case.

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