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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Clifford Chance

05 April 2018

Obtained a US$1.2 billion payout from Malaysia and won a new mandate against Thailand

People in Who’s Who Legal 8
People in Future Leaders 13
Pending cases as counsel 198
Value of pending counsel work US$60.5 billion
Treaty cases 12
Current arbitrator appointments
38 (of which 22 are 
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator  16

Clifford Chance was one of the first law firms originating in a common law jurisdiction to take international arbitration seriously. In the mid-1980s, it decided to create a separate department at around the same time as Freshfields. (Rumour has it partners at the two firms conspired over their projects so that neither looked like they were “moving first”.)

The new department was led by John Beechey, who went on to serve as president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration from 2009 to 2015. Over 15 years, the group became a major international arbitration brand – strong in London, New York and Paris. It also became something of a training ground for lawyers seeking to get a start in the field. But a tough financial crisis and the departure of Beechey and another key partner, Jason Fry, for the ICC left the group looking a little lean.

The reinvigorated group is now co-led by Audley Sheppard (who became a QC in 2015 and chair of the LCIA Board in 2017) and Fry, who rejoined the Paris office in 2012 after five years with the ICC. Fry’s deputy at the ICC, Simon Greenberg, also joined in Paris and was rapidly promoted to partner.

Other names to know in London are Rob Lambert, Alex Panayides, Marie Berard and Jessica Gladstone (who joined from Debevoise & Plimpton in 2015 and brings public international law experience). Ignacio Suárez Anzorena in Washington, DC, and Romesh Weeramantry in Hong Kong specialise in investment treaty arbitration.

The group’s areas of expertise include the Energy Charter Treaty and its relationship with EU law. It was one of the first firms to fight cases on this.

Network

Clifford Chance operates from 26 countries. For international arbitration, the most important offices are London, Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore, with other practitioners stationed in Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Moscow, Dubai, Hong Kong, Perth and Sydney.

In Singapore, the firm formed an alliance with local boutique Cavanagh Law in 2012 and was one of the first international law firms to obtain approval to open an office in Seoul.

Who uses it?

The wider firm has a great name in banking and finance, leading to some exciting banking-related arbitrations involving institutions such as Crédit Agricole, Standard Chartered Bank and Standard Bank of South Africa.

Otherwise, it’s a pretty mixed bag. Energy clients include Abengoa, BG Group, E.ON, GE, Iberdrola, Shell, Sinopec and Statoil. It’s advised Hyundai Heavy Industries, US defence contractor Raytheon Systems, and the French Football Federation. Former French football star Michel Platini has used the firm.

In the Middle East, it has represented Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund IPIC.

Clients in investment treaty work have included EDF, Italian power company Enel and London-listed Churchill Mining.

A rare state client is São Tomé and Príncipe in a law-of-the-sea arbitration filed by Malta over the detention of an oil tanker.

Track record

In 2013, the team won a US$1.4 billion partial award for Shell and its consortium partners in an Abuja-seated arbitration against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. A Nigerian court later enjoined the arbitration from continuing. A US court petition to enforce the award has been stayed pending a challenge to the Nigerian injunction.

In the same year, the firm secured an award of over US$100 million for French bank BNP Paribas in a long-running dispute with Basic Element Group, owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

For Raytheon, it won a £224 million LCIA award against the UK government in 2014 in a dispute over a failed plan to implement an electronic border control system. The award was later overturned in the English courts but the UK settled the dispute with a payout of £150 million in the following year.

On the investment treaty side, it won US$45 million for Abengoa in an ICSID claim against Mexico and settled Enel Green Power’s dispute with El Salvador, securing a US$280 million payout for the claimant.

The German disputes team managed to set aside a €220 million award from the German Arbitration Institute (DIS) – one of the few times that a DIS award of that magnitude has been overturned.

Recent events

The firm helped the Abu Dhabi government-owned International Petroleum Investment Corporation negotiate a US$1.2 billion payout from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB – the final tranche of which was paid in early 2018. The settlement brought an end to a US$6.5 billion LCIA claim concerning the alleged breach of a bailout deal in the wake of the scandal over missing 1MDB funds.

Another settlement was for Bawabet Al Kuwait – part of the business empire of Kuwait’s wealthy Al-Kharafi family – in a US$400 million ICSID claim against Egypt. The case concerned gas pricing and tax measures affecting a petrochemicals investment.

The Perth and Hong Kong offices received a new mandate from Australian mining company Kingsgate for an UNCITRAL claim against Thailand under a free trade agreement. It follows the suspension of the company’s gold mining operation on environmental grounds. Clifford Chance is also helping Kingsgate in litigation against its political risk insurers.

Another instruction came from Australia’s New Century Resources to defend against an LCIA claim brought by a Belgian metals processing company over “legacy” contracts for a newly acquired Queensland zinc mine.

Clifford Chance continues to advise Churchill Mining in ICSID annulment proceedings, where it seeks to revive a US$1.3 billion claim against Indonesia that was thrown out after the tribunal found evidence that mining licences had been forged.

At ICSID, it is also acting for Singapore’s OleoVest in a claim against Indonesia over a palm oil refinery; and for Cortec Mining in a case against Kenya.

In the Hong Kong courts, it is representing Malaysian media conglomerate Astro in efforts to enforce a US$130 million SIAC award against Indonesia’s Lippo Group. The bulk of the award has been declared unenforceable by the courts of Singapore, where the arbitration was seated.

At the start of 2017, Audley Sheppard QC took over as chair of the LCIA board after Canada’s J William Rowley QC completed his four-year term.

Former ICSID legal counsel Janet Whittaker joined the firm as a partner from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in Washington, DC. In Hong Kong, legal consultant Kathryn Sanger left for Herbert Smith Freehills while counsel Heiko Heppner joined Clifford Chance in Frankfurt.

In Perth, Sam Luttrell was promoted to the partnership. The firm also made counsel in Paris, Düsseldorf and Munich.

Client comment

The head of dispute resolution at a major international oil company that retained the firm for drilling-related disputes in Iraq says he sees it as an “extension” of his in-house team and praises the quality of its advice, which prioritises business sense and commercial objective over “esoteric legal argument”.

He describes partner Alex Panayides as “on the ball; whether he’s on a plane or in a meeting half way around the world – a response to your question is guaranteed.” The client also praises senior associate Paul Coates, whose “measured and calming approach” will make him “a worthy partner someday soon”.

Insight

Reviews

Regional analysis from arbitrators around the globe, focussing on key developments in specific industry areas and jurisdictions.

P0ukwmhxvy98ld6fqby0

The Asia-Pacific Arbitration Review 2019

Highlights

Energy Arbitration in China

Huawei Sun

Zhong Lun Law Firm

Enforcement of Arbitral Awards in the Asia-Pacific

Andre Yeap SC and Kelvin Poon

Rajah & Tann Asia