An impressive series of hires has launched the West Coast US firm’s investment treaty practice
|Value of pending counsel work||US$2.5 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments||
3 (of which 0 are
as sole or chair)
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||2|
NEW ENTRY. Headquartered in Palo Alto, Cooley has benefited from its proximity to Silicon Valley, developing an extensive practice representing blue-chip clients in high-value IP and technology disputes, albeit with more of a focus on litigation than arbitration.
The international arbitration practice began to take shape after the firm opened a London office in 2015, absorbing a team from Edwards Wildman Palmer that included partner Laurence Harris, also known for his fraud and asset recovery practice.
A further boost came at the end of 2016 with the hire of three partners from Chadbourne & Parke – former practice head Mark Beckett and colleagues Rachel Thorn and Marc Suskin. The trio, who are based in New York, also worked together at Latham & Watkins and brought valuable experience in commercial and investment treaty arbitration and public international law.
Another important arrival in 2017 was former Volterra Fietta partner Christophe Bondy, who previously led the Canadian government’s defence in NAFTA investor-state cases and helped to negotiate its trade agreement with the EU. He is a special counsel in London.
With this depth and variety of experience, the firm says it can now handle “bet the company” cases for multinational corporations and sovereign states.
The international arbitration team is concentrated in New York and London. The firm has nine other offices in the US (including Boston, Colorado, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC) as well as outposts in Beijing and Shanghai.
Who uses it?
At ICSID, a major client is Koch Minerals, the second-largest privately owned company in the United States, which is owned by prominent Republican Party donors Charles and David Koch. A subsidiary of France’s Engie and various Turkish construction clients have turned to the firm for investment treaty matters.
US technology company Qualcomm used it for a billion-dollar royalties dispute with BlackBerry. It has also advised automotive parts supplier Johnson Controls and insurers Lodestar, Munich Re and XL.
A rare example of a government client is the Turks & Caicos Islands in a dispute over a conch farm.
While it’s early days for the new practice, it has already had a striking result in an ICSID case for Koch Minerals against Venezuela, which Beckett and his team brought over from Chadbourne. In 2017, the company won US$409 million for an expropriation in the fertiliser sector. Volterra Fietta was co-counsel in the arbitration. Cooley is now representing Koch in a US court action to enforce the award.
In another ICSID case they brought over from their old firm, Beckett and Suskin secured a favourable award for Engie subsidiary Baymina Enerji in an ICSID dispute with Turkey’s state-owned pipeline company Botaş over a gas supply contract. While details of the outcome are scarce, a victory for Cooley’s client can be inferred from the fact that Botaş is trying to annul the award.
Cooley is advising a group of Turkish construction companies in a pair of ICC arbitrations against Libya and its river authority over a contract to install a large pipeline. The cases are worth US$500 million.
Three Turkish investors in a textile enterprise turned to the firm for a US$100 million ICSID claim against Uzbekistan. Another Turkish investor, BM Mühendislik, has retained it for an ICSID claim worth US$75 million against the United Arab Emirates over a land reclamation project.
Cooley helped Qualcomm to negotiate a settlement with BlackBerry that saw the firm’s client pay US$940 million to satisfy a JAMS award concerning royalty overpayments.
In addition to Bondy, the London office welcomed special counsel Joshua Brien, former head and legal advisor of the Oceans and Natural Resources Advisory Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat, who has further enhanced the firm’s public international law offering.