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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira

05 April 2018

The Iberian firm is pursuing multiple Energy Charter Treaty claims

People in Future Leaders 3
Pending cases as counsel 45
Value of pending counsel work US$3.5 billion
Treaty cases 8

Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira was born of a 2003 merger between two 80-year-old firms from Spain and Portugal. Initially, the firm’s international arbitration work rarely strayed from the Iberian Peninsula, but after a surge in Latin America and North Africa-related cases in 2007, it began to expand its focus.

The practice has gone from being one of the first Iberian firms invited to pitch for major work, to now winning some of those pitches ahead of the big Anglo-Saxon firms. You will find it acting opposite large international firms almost as often as against other Spanish names. Meanwhile, its Latin American regional international arbitration practice is also recognised in various legal directories as a front runner.

Recently, it’s become more prominent in the investment arbitration arena as a result of Spain’s cuts to renewable energy subsidies. The firm is advising investors in around seven Energy Charter Treaty cases relating to those reforms, with a combined value of around €1.7 billion, including the first ICSID claim ever brought by a Japanese investor.

The firm handles a fair number of ICC arbitrations, with its caseload having steadily increased in recent years. Spanish clients remain the key users, but EU and US companies have also retained the firm of late.

Network

Of its 14 Spanish offices, Madrid, Barcelona and Seville are the key arbitration hubs, while it also has members of the group based in Lisbon, São Paulo and more recently Bogotá and Mexico City. The wider firm also has offices in London, Brussels, New York, Shanghai and Casablanca as well as associations with firms in Angola and Mozambique.

Who uses it?

Clients traditionally hailed from Iberia and Latin America, but an increasing number are from other parts of the world. They include Spain’s Abengoa Group, Argentina’s Pluspetrol, France’s Engie, Germany’s BayWa, the US’s NextEra Energy. It has represented a number of market leaders in the motor industry, including Mitsubishi Corporation, Rolls-Royce and the SEAT-Volkswagen group.

It has also received instructions from Portuguese former colonies: one over the construction of an airport on the island of Cape Verde, and the other over an oil exploration project in Angola.

Track record

Cuatrecasas achieved a striking result in 2015 while defending Argentina’s Pampa Energía in an ICC dispute with Spanish construction group Isolux over the upgrade of a power plant. The firm succeeded in knocking out almost all of a US$200 million claim and prevailed on a counterclaim worth US$45 million.

In 2013, it won US$140 million for a US private equity firm in a Madrid-seated ICC case against a Luxembourg fund. The same year, it helped Abengoa win US$110 million in two New York-seated ICC arbitrations. The awards survived a challenge in the US courts.

The firm secured a US$45 million payout to US-Spanish toll-road consortium Codacsa in a London-seated ICC case against the Dominican Republic. The state paid the award in 2013.

In 2012, the firm won a US$2 million SCC award against Russia for a group of Spanish investment funds with a small stake in Yukos Oil Company, though the award was overturned in Sweden four years later.

Cuatrecasas has also won an investment arbitration against Cuba (albeit a small one). The case took place at the ICC and was brought by a medium-sized Spanish company. The firm was sole counsel to the claimant and won a US$2.8 million award.

A Cuatrecasas team also represented a motorway concessionaire in a €530 million Lisbon-seated arbitration against the Portuguese government, where it prevailed on part of its claims.

Recent events

Pierre Raoul-Duval joined Cuatrecasas as counsel in Madrid in early 2018 after retiring as co-chair of the international arbitration practice at Gide Loyrette Nouel in Paris.

The Madrid office also said goodbye to partner Pedro Claros, who had taken the lead on the firm’s investor-state work against Spain. Claros left to set up his own arbitration practice.

Latin America was a focus in the past year, with the firm hiring partner René Irra de la Cruz to head the litigation and arbitration practice in Mexico and relocating senior associate Manuel Franco from Madrid to Bogotá.

Cuatrecasas defended an ICC award it won on behalf of a group of Spanish sellers, defeating a challenge by Siemens before the Paris Court of Appeal.

Its Energy Charter Treaty cases against Spain continue to progress, with a client winning an award in jurisdiction in one case and defeating a request to bifurcate proceedings in two others.

Other cases on the firm’s roster include a US$200 million ICSID claim against Peru, brought on behalf of a Spanish-Italian consortium over a delayed project to build a second metro line in Lima. Meanwhile, a Spanish bank instructed the firm for a US$27 million ICC arbitration against another international bank related to an M&A transaction.

A final hearing took place in a US$166 million ad hoc arbitration in which the firm is defending a Portuguese public company against claims brought by a real estate business.

Client comment

Francisco Castillo of Dow Chemical Ibérica has been using the firm for a number of cases at the Madrid Chamber of Commerce. He is “extremely happy” with the results, praising partner Esther de Félix and associate counsel María Pérez Carrillo for their “detailed organisation of the whole dossier, intense work, and vision”.

Fernando Bergon of renewable energy firm NextEra says the Cuatrecasas team “stands out for its strong academic skills”. Partner Alberto Fortún is “a brilliant lawyer” who “always thinks out of the box and quickly grasps all components of the case”.

Roberto García, general director of Codacsa, commends the “very solid and hard-working” team in Madrid, noting that the lead partner on one important case even postponed his honeymoon in order to meet a deadline imposed by the client.

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