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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Betto Seraglini

05 April 2019

Representing former banker Sergei Pugachev in a US$12 billion claim against Russia

People in Who's Who Legal 3
People in Future Leaders 3
Pending cases as counsel 16
Value of pending counsel work US$34 billion
Treaty cases 1
Third-party funded cases 1
Current arbitrator appointments 17 (9 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 4

Betto Seraglini was formed in 2013 by Jean-Georges Betto, formerly of Hogan Lovells, and Christophe Seraglini from White & Case.

Both had an impressive track record at their former firms. In 2010, Betto helped French naval defence contractor DCNS (now known as Naval Group) settle a billion-euro arbitration with Spanish state-owned shipbuilder Navantia over the alleged theft of trade secrets concerning a new model of submarine. Two years later, he helped the same company knock out the bulk of a €45 million ICC claim brought by Taiwan.

Seraglini was part of the White & Case team that helped a Lebanese businessman win a €550 million award against the Republic of the Congo in 2013.

In 2015, the firm recruited partner Julien Fouret from Castaldi Mourre & Partners, the former home of the current president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, Alexis Mourre. Other partners to know are Gaëlle Le Quillec (formerly of Hogan Lovells) and more recent arrivals Dominique Perben and Gaëlle Filhol. Perben is a former justice minister of France, while Filhol joined from White & Case.

Who uses it?

The firm’s recent international clients include Russian oligarch Sergei Pugachev; Romanian-Australian mining magnate Frank Timiș; Italian construction group Saipem; and the Opportunity private equity group. Gabon is an example of a government client.

Besides DCNS, French companies that have turned to the firm include aircraft engineering group Safran, rail company Alstom and hospitality group Accor (in a dispute with Togo).

Between 2013 and 2015, it represented Bernard Tapie, the controversial French businessman whose €400 million arbitral award against a French state entity over the sale of the Adidas sportswear group in the 1990s became a national scandal.

The firm is particularly well known for West Africa-related work.

Track record

There have been further victories for DCNS. It helped the group prevail in 2014 in an ICC claim against a subsidiary of Italian defence contractor Finmeccanica over a cancelled torpedo venture. DCNS was awarded €6 million while defeating a €78 million counterclaim. In another case, the firm helped DCNS defeat a US$180 million claim brought over a failed joint venture in the Middle East, while winning costs.

Gabon turned to Betto Seraglini to defend a US$1 billion ICC claim brought by Chinese-owned Addax Petroleum over oilfield rights. The firm won an early round of that case in 2013, with the tribunal refusing to grant interim measures in Addax’s favour. The dispute settled a year later.

Fugitive ex-banker Sergei Pugachev asked Betto Seraglini to replace another GAR 100 firm as counsel in a US$12 billion investment treaty claim against Russia over the expropriation of his business interests. The firm obtained an interim award in 2017 that required Russia to suspend its request for the extradition of Pugachev from France while the arbitration is pending.

The firm helped a consortium including Tecnimont and Saipem defend an ICC award in a dispute with Engie that generated a landmark ruling by France’s supreme administrative court on its power to review arbitral awards arising from public works contracts.

It secured a €4 million ICC award for Accor against Togo in 2017 concerning a hotel lease, which it is defending in the French courts. It is also advising on related proceedings before the Togolese courts and the OHADA Common Court of Justice and Arbitration in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Recent events

A US$2.2 billion claim the firm had been pursuing for Frank TImis’ mining company Pan African Minerals against Burkina Faso ended in something of a score draw. An ICC tribunal dismissed the client’s claims relating to the termination of a concession for one of the world’s largest manganese mines. But the panel also dismissed a counterclaim of equal size as well as the west African state’s allegations of corruption.

Together with Shearman & Sterling, the firm has been representing Opportunity Group and its founder Daniel Dantas in their efforts to have an ICC award annulled by the French courts. The award rejected their US$15 billion claim against Telecom Italia, which related to allegations they were deceived and coerced into settling a shareholder dispute more than a decade earlier.

Alexandre Reynaud, who has been with the firm since it was created, was promoted as the firm’s first counsel in February 2018.

Client comment

In-house counsel for Saipem says the firm’s performance has been “excellent” on an ICC case in Paris, where it is instructed jointly with another firm. Julien Fouret is a “distinguished gentleman and a great lawyer. He is particularly focused on the relationship with the client and always available even for a quick advice.”

A client in Dubai says the firm is “very efficient and knows perfectly the rules and practices of arbitration. On top of that they do not impose their view but listen to the client and suggest after.”

Insight

Reviews

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

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The Middle Eastern and African Arbitration Review 2019

Highlights

CRCICA Overview

Ismail Selim and Dalia Hussein

The Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA)

DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Overview

Alec Emmerson

DIFC Arbitration Institute (DAI)

Robert Stephen, Matthew Harley and Katy Hacking

DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre