Acted for Slovenia in a fractious border dispute
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Eversheds Sutherland is the product of a 2017 merger between UK-based Eversheds and US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.
The international arbitration practice has its roots in the public international law work of Eversheds legacy firm Frere Cholmeley. In the early 1980s, one of that firm’s founding partners, Rodman Bundy, began to represent states in boundary disputes at the International Court of Justice. Iran and its national oil company became regular clients, including for matters at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal, and that platform led to more general commercial arbitration work, particularly oil and gas and construction cases.
With the arrival of David Sellers as a partner, Bundy and his team in Paris worked on many of the well-known nationalisation and lex petrolea cases of the decade and a succession of famous ICJ cases going into the 1990s. After Frere Cholmeley merged with Eversheds in 1998, the practice took on more commercial arbitration and expanded its PIL work into ICSID cases.
As a series of mergers expanded Eversheds’ reach in Europe and Asia, the firm began to pull together the various strands of its arbitration work, appointing Zurich-based partner Claudius Triebold to head the firm-wide international arbitration group in 2010. Rising star Will Thomas in Paris took over the role three years later.
The past few years have brought some personnel changes, however. Thomas left the firm in late 2016 for Freshfields, while Stuart Dutson in London (who had been instrumental in growing the commercial arbitration portfolio) left for Simmons & Simmons. Loretta Malintoppi, a veteran of the PIL practice, moved to 39 Essex Chambers. There have been other departures in Geneva and Singapore.
The international arbitration group is now co-led by Rodman Bundy in Singapore and David Sellers in Paris. The London arbitration and PIL practice is headed by Jonathan Leach, who joined in 2016 from Hogan Lovells, where he had been head of South East Asia disputes.
The key offices for the group are Paris, London, Zurich, Geneva and Singapore (where Bundy relocated in 2013). Other members of the group are based in Hong Kong, Dubai, Doha, Milan and Moscow. The Sutherland merger has added people in Houston and Atlanta.
In addition, there are arbitration-literate partners in Amman, Brussels, Budapest, Helsinki, Madrid, Munich, Riga, Stockholm, St Petersburg, Vienna and Warsaw.
The wider firm has capabilities in Saudi Arabia and Iraq (in Baghdad and the capital of the Kurdistan region, Erbil).
Who uses it?
Recent years have seen the group strike a roughly 50:50 balance between acting for states and investors.
The firm is popular with governments of all types. Iran, Colombia, Yemen, Libya, Indonesia, Egypt and Brunei are all clients. Sudan used it for high-profile proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which redrew the boundary of the oil-rich Abyei region. In addition, Peru, India, Cambodia, East Timor and Slovenia have also used the firm on sensitive inter-state disputes. Other clients include the Polish State Treasury and the China National Petroleum Corporation.
As for private clients, BAE Systems, Eni, Exxon, Heinz, Marubeni, Michelin, Orange, Royal Dutch Shell, Samsung, Total and Vodafone have all used the firm.
The firm scored a tremendous result for Iran in 2014, helping the state win its first-ever investment treaty arbitration. A tribunal threw out a US$600 million claim by Turkish mobile operator Turkcell on the basis that no qualifying investment had been made, and ordered the claimant to pay over €1 million in costs.
Before the merger, Eversheds also acted for Iran Electronic Development Company in a related US$500 million ICC claim by Turkcell’s local subsidiary, which was thrown out in 2012. The firm continues to act for Iran in a number of significant claims at the Iran–US Claims Tribunal, including a mammoth case concerning military sales contracts pre-dating the country’s 1979 revolution.
A London team helped Russian businessman Vitaly Smagin win US$84 million in an LCIA case against Russian ex-politician Ashot Yegiazaryan in a dispute over a Moscow mall.
As for state-to-state work, Bundy was part of the advocacy team that helped Peru win much of what it wanted in a maritime boundary dispute with Chile at the ICJ in 2014. A year earlier, he helped India successfully defend its right to build a hydroelectric plant on the Kishanganga river in Kashmir.
In 2015, the firm helped Egypt settle a trio of claims brought by a Jordanian investor Ossama Al Sharif over investments in ports and customs operations. The terms of the settlement were confidential.
Going further back, in 2009 it helped Pakistan defeat a US$750 million claim brought by a Turkish contractor.
Eversheds Sutherland completed a merger with Singaporean firm Harry Elias in 2017, prompting two partners in the Singapore arbitration group – Oommen Mathew and Iain Black – to move to British firm DWF.
There were departures in other offices too. In Geneva, partner James Hargrove in Geneva – who had headed the Russia and CIS disputes group – moved to Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. Counsel Neil Newing in London moved to Signature Litigation. In the United Arab Emirates, partner Ben Bruton moved to Winston & Strawn.
Mark Howarth was promoted to partner in London and Wesley Pydiamah to partner in Paris. Greek practitioner Athina Fouchard Papaefstratiou joined as counsel in Paris from Lazareff Le Bars.
Rodman Bundy was part of a team that helped Slovenia secure a favourable award in a land and maritime border dispute with Croatia at the Permanent Court of Arbitration. A five-member tribunal defined the limits of the state’s territorial waters for the first time and granted Slovenia direct access to the international waters beyond. However, Croatia has refused to implement the award, saying it is tainted by revelations that one of Slovenia’s agents engaged in ex parte communication with an arbitrator. Slovenia has since threatened to take Croatia to the European Court of Justice over the affair.
The firm is also defending Slovenia against a €55 million ICSID claim brought by Italian construction company Grassetto.
Eversheds continues to defend the National Iranian Oil Company against a multibillion-dollar claim by the UAE’s Crescent Petroleum, which is at the damages phase.
Marubeni has praised the firm for work on an LCIA case. “Despite our team’s lack of experience in arbitration processes, Eversheds lawyers have guided us professionally and with a clear client focus on all matters,” a spokesperson said.