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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Bomchil

05 April 2019

The recently rebranded Argentine firm said goodbye to practice head Guido Tawil after 25 years

People in Future Leaders 1
Pending cases as counsel 5
Value of pending counsel work US$500 million
Treaty cases 0

Known until 2019 as M&M Bomchil, this Argentine firm developed a name in international arbitration beginning in the early 1990s, when Guido Santiago Tawil came aboard as partner.

Under Tawil’s leadership, the firm advised foreign investors in energy and water utilities in a number of investment treaty claims arising from emergency measures adopted by Argentina during its 2001-2002 financial crisis. Bomchil was also engaged on a series of cases arising out of the country’s 2004 energy crisis, when the government imposed export restrictions to safeguard domestic supply of gas and electricity.

Over that time, Tawil also built a name for himself as a leading arbitrator at ICSID and other international bodies. He left Bomchil in late 2018 after 25 years with the firm to focus on his work as an independent arbitrator, though he will continue to co-counsel with the firm on some matters.

Key figures who worked alongside Tawil stay on at the firm, including of counsel Rafael Manóvil, who also sits as arbitrator; and partner María Inés Corrá. GAR’s sister magazine Latin Lawyer included Corrá in a list of the 50 most inspiring women in the practice of law in Latin America. Both are professors at the University of Buenos Aires.

Partner Federico Campolieti is another name to note, having advised clients in numerous ICSID and ICC proceedings. Máximo Bomchil, who was managing partner of the firm for more than 30 years and is now its honorary president, is a member of the ICC Court.

Who uses it?

Clients include BG Group, Vivendi, Endesa, CMS, Azurix, Telefónica, Siemens, Camuzzi, Enron, Argentine supermarket operator Disco, Cargill and Wintershall in major investment and commercial disputes in Latin America. It has also worked with several clients from the Chilean energy sector.

Track record

A Tawil-led team won a succession of ICSID awards for foreign investors against Argentina beginning in the mid-2000s, including US$133 million for CMS Gas; US$165 million for Texan water services company Azurix; and US$106 million for Enron. The firm co-counselled with King & Spalding and Freshfields on those cases. The state eventually agreed to settle the Azurix and CMS awards with a payment of bonds.

The firm has gone on to assist investors in the settlement of five other treaty awards against Argentina, some of which had been acquired by US hedge funds. These include awards in favour of France’s Vivendi, the UK’s National Grid and US insurer Continental Casualty, which were settled in 2015; and two awards worth a combined US$317 million in favour of the UK’s BG Group and US energy company El Paso, which were settled in the following year.     

It has defended Argentina’s largest retail company against an UNCITRAL claim filed by the Chilean arm of Walmart. The claim was dismissed in its entirety.

In the Argentine courts, the firm helped Spanish energy giant Endesa annul a US$600 million ICC award obtained by EDF Energy. The annulment was confirmed by the country’s Federal Supreme Court.

Elsewhere the firm helped an Argentine company defeat a US$70 million claim by a Chilean retailer; and successfully represented a Chilean distributor in a US$40 million ICDR case.

Recent events

In the commercial arbitration field, the firm successfully defended German energy company Wintershall as part of a consortium facing a US$250 million claim by Chile’s Metrogas. The five year long dispute, which arose from gas export restrictions imposed by the Argentine government in 2004, ended in 2018 with the dismissal of the claimant’s claim and an award of US$10 million in costs in the respondents’ favour.

It is also co-counselling with a Uruguayan law firm on behalf of a gas distributor pursuing an ICC claim against Uruguay relating to the export restrictions.

Bomchil continues to represent another German client, Siemens, in ad hoc proceedings in connection with an Argentine government contract.

It also acted for an industrial crane manufacturer in an ICC arbitration in connection with the construction of a thermoelectric power plant in Argentina.

Client comment

Mathias Wolkewitz, general counsel at Wintershall in Germany, says Bomchil’s performance on the ICC case already mentioned was excellent, with the firm’s lawyers demonstrating “very good management of the case and anticipation of the dynamics” of the dispute. Partner María Inés Corrá “was of particular help and I would personally consider her to be a rising star amongst counsel from South America in international arbitration,” he adds.

Lucas García Oliver, in-house counsel at Siemens, has been working with Bomchil for more than eight years in a complex dispute and says the firm’s performance has been “outstanding”. María Inés Corrá has “amazing knowledge” and is “very easy to work with.”

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