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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Ferrere

05 April 2018

Counselling Petrobras in a feud with Uruguay

People in Who’s Who Legal 2
People in Future Leaders 2
Pending cases as counsel 16
Value of pending counsel work US$5 billion
Treaty cases 7
Current arbitrator appointments
1 (of which 1 is 
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator  1

Ferrere is the largest law firm in Uruguay and the only South American firm to have pursued cross-border expansion without the backing of a foreign firm, setting up offices in Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador.

The firm began to cooperate with US and UK firms on cross-border disputes in the late 1990s, and set up a dedicated dispute resolution department around that time, headed by construction partner Julio Iribarne. The collapse of some large private banks in Uruguay in 2002 meant the firm soon found itself co-counselling with arbitration teams at Allen & Overy, Shearman & Sterling and Arnold & Porter. It represented JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse, Commerzbank and Dresdner Lateinamerika in two ICC cases against the Uruguayan government worth more than US$1 billion – and its success in those cases helped the arbitration group grow.

The practice received a boost in 2015 when it founded a new office in Quito staffed by a team from Ecuadorean firm Paz Horowitz. The Quito team includes Javier Robalino, who now co-chairs the arbitration practice with Sandra González in Montevideo, who is overall head of the disputes department.

Other names to know are Agustin Mayer West, managing partner of Ferrere's Uruguay office; and Andrés Donoso, a former member of Ecuador’s hydrocarbons ministry.

Network

Besides five offices in Uruguay, the firm has bases in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and La Paz (Bolivia); Quito, Manta and Guayaquil (Ecuador); and Asunción (Paraguay).

Who uses it?

Clients that have used Ferrere include ConocoPhillips, Schlumberger, Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Petrobras, and Austrian technology group Andritz.

It has worked for private equity groups such as Elliott & Associates, Bluecrest Capital Management and Chile’s Linzor Capital (which retained it for a US$100 million ICSID claim against Uruguay, alongside Latham & Watkins). It’s also reported to have advised a national oil and gas operator YPF in Uruguayan court proceedings related to a US$1.4 billion ICC dispute over gas exports.

Track record

In 2015, the firm helped Austrian technology group Andritz secure a €40 million payment to settle a claim against the Finnish-Chilean owners of Uruguay’s largest pulp mill project, Montes del Plata. It partnered with WilmerHale on the case.

A co-counsel pairing with White & Case saw the firm help an Indian steel company secure a U$22.5 million award against a Bolivian state mining company. The award was later set aside by a Bolivian court, but the parties have entered settlement talks – thereby pausing another arbitration worth US$100 million relating to the same iron ore project.

Recent events

The firm helped ConocoPhillips settle a nine-year fight with Ecuador over the expropriation of two oil blocks, with the state agreeing to pay US$337 million in late 2017 to satisfy an ICSID award. In the arbitration, Conoco also saw off most of a groundbreaking US$2 billion counterclaim advanced by Ecuador for alleged environmental damage to the Amazon rainforest (the state was awarded just US$40 million.) Three Crowns, Freshfields and King & Spalding were co-counsel to Conoco in the case.

Conoco’s partner in the disputed oil blocks, Bahamian entity Perenco, is still using Ferrere in a parallel ICSID case in which Ecuador has lodged an environmental counterclaim worth US$2.5 billion. Debevoise & Plimpton is co-counsel on that case, which is awaiting a final award.

Ferrere has also recently paired with King & Spalding to represent Zamin Ferrous, a Jersey mining company owned by Indian magnate Pramod Agarwal, in a potential investment treaty claim against Uruguay over an iron ore project.

Another instruction came from gas distribution subsidiaries of Brazil’s national oil and gas company Petrobras in a pair of arbitrations against Uruguay. The dispute concerns the rising costs of importing gas from Argentina.

Client comment

Kim Sang-Youp, project control manager at Hyundai Engineering and Construction, has used the firm since 2016 for a US$175 million relating to a power plant. He says Ferrere’s “experience in large-scale construction projects, ICC arbitration and related disputes, as well as multi-party litigation is unmatched in the Uruguayan market.” Partner Sandra González is “brilliant, highly sophisticated and extremely experienced” while senior associate Soledad Díaz is “sharp, proactive and highly versed in international and local legal matters,” he adds.

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