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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Bonelli Erede

05 April 2019

Acting in high-stakes energy and construction disputes, including over the expansion of the Panama Canal

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

This Italian firm is the product of a 1999 merger between three firms from Milan, Genoa and Brussels. Since then, it has grown from 90 lawyers to over 300 while retaining a reputation for strength in EU and international law. In arbitration terms, it is one of the few local players that can boast of ICSID experience.

As of 2017, the international arbitration practice is co-headed by of counsel Antonio Crivellaro and partner Laurence Shore, who joined in 2017 from Herbert Smith Freehills in New York, where he was head of the public international law practice.

Another partner to know is Andrea Carlevaris, who returned to the firm in 2017 after five years as secretary general of the ICC International Court of Arbitration. He had previously been a partner between 2009 and 2012.

Network

The arbitration group is concentrated in Milan, with one partner in Rome and another in Cairo (where BonelliErede has a partnership with respected Egyptian firm Kosheri, Rashed & Riad).

The wider firm has expanded to Addis Ababa and Dubai, and has more recently integrated with Tribonian Law Advisors, which has offices in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Bonelli Erede also has outposts in London and Brussels.

The firm is part of a “best friends” group with five other GAR 100 firms: Bredin Prat in France; De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in the Netherlands; Hengeler Mueller in Germany; Slaughter and May in the UK; and Uría Menéndez in Spain.

Who uses it?

Construction disputes feature prominently. It acts for a consortium made up of Spain’s Sacyr, Italy’s Salini Impregilo and Belgium’s Jan De Nul in a multibillion-dollar dispute with the Panama Canal Authority. It has also acted for Saipem (a unit of Italian energy group Eni), Tecnimont, Daniele Company, Ericsson and Enel.

Increasingly BonelliErede is to be found acting on energy disputes. Eni used it in a high-value gas pricing arbitration against Edison. It has also been involved in cases arising from oil and gas projects in Romania and Poland.

A major Israeli fertiliser producer, Israel Chemicals, is using the firm for a treaty claim against Ethiopia. Procter & Gamble is also using the firm in a dispute with a notable Italian fashion company.

Track record

One of the firm’s most famous victories was an ICSID award on behalf of Saipem in a case against Bangladesh in 2009. It was the first time an investment treaty tribunal had found a state liable for the acts of its judiciary.

The firm also acted for the claimant in the Salini v Morocco case at ICSID, which marked the first time a concession agreement was found to qualify as an investment. The case ushered in the famous “Salini test”, widely used by tribunals to determine whether an investment exists.

In the construction sector, the firm helped Italy’s Fisia Italimpianti win more than US$150 million in a series of disputes concerning desalination plants in the Middle East. It helped another Italian construction client defeat the bulk of a US$138 million claim in a shareholders’ dispute with Saudi parties.

The firm also represented Tecnimont in a long-running dispute with Greek contractors over a chemical plant in Thessaloniki. It won an award on liability for its client that was annulled because of doubts about an arbitrator’s independence before being reinstated by the French Supreme Court.

It helped Italian industrial group CIR in a post-M&A dispute with a telecoms multinational. A tribunal rejected the other side’s claims and awarded the firm’s client US$500 million.

Another case saw BonelliErede act for BNP Paribas Personal Finance in a billion-dollar dispute over control of a major Italian consumer credit bank; the case was swiftly settled after an award largely favourable to the client.

Recent events

Larry Shore helped a consortium of banks including UBS win an ICDR award in November 2018 that held two Egyptian brothers personally liable to pay nearly US$200 million for their companies’ default on Eurobonds issued two decades ago.

Together with his old firm Herbert Smith Freehills, Shore has also been acting for Chinese-owned oil company Andes Petroleum in a dispute with Houston-based Occidental Petroleum over the allocation of proceeds from a billion-dollar ICSID award against Ecuador.

Alongside White & Case and others, BonelliErede continues to act for the Grupo Unidos por el Canal consortium in a dispute related to the expansion of the Panama Canal that has been playing out in a series of ICC arbitrations seated in Miami, with the amount in dispute now exceeding US$3 billion. Awards favouring the canal authority were handed down in two of the cases in 2017 and 2018.

The firm was appointed as counsel for Tecnimont and its Indian branch in a complex construction dispute against a state-owned polyethylene and polypropylene plant in India. The amount in dispute exceeds US$180 million.

Antonio Crivellaro was on a tribunal that rendered a €53 million Energy Charter Treaty award in favour of a Luxembourg fund in one of the numerous claims against Spain relating to its reforms to the renewable energy sector.

Client comment

Denis Lohest, vice president of business development for French company Energie (formerly GDF Suez), says that he was impressed by the firm’s “sharp” defence. He describes partner Alberto Saravalle, as a “masterchef lawyer” and praises Crivellaro as a “professional and acute” practitioner.

Luigi Patanè, former CEO of Italian construction company Consta, describes the firm as “excellent”, adding that it is easier to negotiate flexible fee arrangements with firms of BonelliErede’s size than with the larger international firms.

Insight

Reviews

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The Middle Eastern and African Arbitration Review 2019

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CRCICA Overview

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The Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA)

DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Overview

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