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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

CMS

05 April 2018

The merger with Nabarro and Olswang in the UK has brought added arbitration experience

People in Who’s Who Legal 6
People in Future Leaders 5
Pending cases as counsel 158
Value of pending counsel work US$10 billion
Treaty cases 4
Current arbitrator appointments
57 (of which 27 are 
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator  17

Established in 1999, the CMS network comprises 10 financially independent law and tax firms, each carrying the CMS brand along with their original names. The network’s UK arm, CMS Cameron McKenna, recently completed a three-way merger with Nabarro and Olswang that has been called the biggest tie-up of its kind in the British legal market.

In 2005, the network made international arbitration one of its cross-organisation practice groups, paving the way for common training of associates and inter-office collaboration on cases. Initially, Guy Pendell in London led the cross-network practice, then Torsten Lörcher in Cologne. In 2014, Dorothee Ruckteschler in Stuttgart took over, leaving Lörcher to focus on his role as head of CMS’s global dispute resolution group.

A star partner in the practice is busy arbitrator Klaus Sachs. Based in Munich, Sachs is a member of the board of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration.

The Geneva arm of the network was until recently home to Charles Poncet, one of the arbitrators in the US$50 billion Yukos case. He left to set up his own practice in 2017.

Network

CMS reckons around 75 partners in 30 offices have arbitration experience. The core of the group consists of around 30 partners and 70 associates based mainly in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Dubai and now Singapore (thanks to the Nabarro-Olswang merger and an alliance with Singaporean boutique Holborn Law).

The wider network has 71 offices in 40 countries, including Russia, China, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Colombia. It recently formed an alliance with a firm in Saudi Arabia, adding to a Middle Eastern presence that already included Algeria, Iran, Morocco, Oman, Turkey and associated offices in Iraq and Lebanon.

Who uses it?

It varies depending on which branch of the network you look at, but CMS’s clients include Xerox, Siemens, Rosneft, Roche and Nokia.

In the energy sector, CMS has featured on the panels of external counsel of Royal Dutch Shell, BG Group and National Grid; and has acted for Areva, Repsol, Samsung C&T and JKX Oil & Gas.

The network has acted for Shaher Abdulhak, one of Yemen’s wealthiest individuals, in a dispute with Norway’s DNO over oil production in Iraqi Kurdistan; for Portugal’s Galp Gas Natural in an LNG price review arbitration against a Nigerian company; and for a national transmission operator in an Energy Charter Treaty claim against Spain over the reduction of feed-in-tariffs for solar projects.

Armenia and Romania have used CMS for ICSID work, and it has advised Poland’s road authority. Pakistan used it with success in a case brought by the Marshall Islands at the International Court of Justice.

Track record

In investment treaty work, CMS secured a win for Romania as co-counsel with Winston & Strawn in an ICSID case brought by Greek national Spyridon Roussalis. It also provided local law advice to Russian oil company Tatneft in a treaty claim against Ukraine that led to a US$112 million award in the client’s favour (Cleary Gottlieb was lead counsel).

Another matter saw CMS persuade a Kiev court to enforce an SCC emergency arbitration award requiring Ukraine to suspend a hike in gas royalties pending the outcome of an Energy Charter Treaty claim by London-listed JKX.

In 2014, the Warsaw office obtained a positive award for Gdansk Transport Company in a four-year dispute with the Polish government, while CMS Stuttgart won a €61 million post-M&A dispute concerning the client’s alleged failure to disclose an antitrust investigation.

CMS in Algiers acted as co-counsel to Shearman & Sterling in an UNCITRAL dispute between an Algerian state entity and Egypt’s Orascom over mobile phone operator Djezzy, which ended in 2014 when Orascom agreed to transfer a 51% stake in Djezzy to the state entity.

In 2012, a Zurich-led team knocked out the bulk of a US$64 million claim by German and Chinese companies against a Japanese client, Mori Seiki, in a case under the Swiss Rules that also saw the clients counterclaim upheld.

Recent events

CMS UK completed its merger with Nabarro and Olswang in May 2017, adding people with arbitration experience in London and Singapore (where it did not previously have an office). New arrivals include partners Richard Bamforth, Jeremy Mash and Adam Greaves in London and Steven Lim in Singapore, who joined with counsel Asya Jamaludin.

A formal law alliance with Singaporean boutique Holborn Law has added arbitration practitioner Lakshanthi Fernando and her team to the group.

CMS promoted two new partners in London, David Bridge and Luke Pardey, along with Pierre Ducret in Geneva, Jorge Sánchez in Barcelona and Horia Draghici in Bucharest.

Another recently promoted partner in London, Randall Walker, has relocated to Dubai. Partner Jeremie Witt, who had been based in Dubai, will now spend most of his time in Singapore.

On the case front, CMS in Belgrade, Munich and Vienna helped a Serbian state entity settle a €144 million dispute with an insolvent Australian contractor relating to the construction of the Danube river’s tallest bridge. The client agreed to pay €10.5 million to end an ICC arbitration.

A pair of Austrian banks retained the firm for an ICSID case against Croatia – one of numerous “francogeddon” claims relating to legislation passed in response to the Swiss central bank’s decision to abandon exchange rate controls.

Another ICSID mandate came from Armenia to defend a US$15 million claim by a US businessman concerning state authorities’ failure to act on fraud allegations against his business partner.

Partner Adrian Bell in London has been acting for a Disi Water Company, a joint venture between Turkey’s Gama Holdings and a division of GE, in a US$500 million UNCITRAL claim against Jordan over the construction of a water pipeline, which has been described as the biggest Turkish investment in Jordan.

CMS successfully defended a large European telecoms group in an expedited DIS arbitration, obtaining an award within nine months that entirely favoured the client.

It continues to represent India’s GMR Infrastructure in three consolidated multiparty SIAC arbitrations worth US$1.3 billion, relating to an airports business.

A French multinational in the logistics industry is using it in a €286 million Algiers-seated ICC claim against an Algerian state-owned company.

CMS represents a European group of companies and their Chinese subsidiary in a US$110 million ICC claim against a Chinese customer under a large-scale supply and engineering contract.

Client comment

Tisza-Papp Ákos, in-house counsel at Hungary’s OTP Bank, has used CMS’s Budapest office for an ICC dispute with a former client as well as a potential ICSID matter. “They are fast, up-to-date and business-minded,” he said. Partner Zsolt Okányi “has excellent solutions for the clients’ needs and in-depth knowledge” while Péter Szilas is “a good communicator”.

Another client, using the firm for a construction matter in central and eastern Europe, says CMS is “quick, committed, and very down to earth”. The firm brings “excellent knowledge of the construction industry and its special demands.” She praises Nicolas Wiegand and senior associates Tom Pröstler and Evgenia Peiffer in particular.

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