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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Chaffetz Lindsey

05 April 2019

The New York boutique regularly appears in US enforcement actions and is increasingly visible in the investment arbitration arena

People in Who's Who Legal 4
People in Future Leaders 1
Pending cases as counsel 19
Value of pending counsel work US$5.54 billion
Treaty cases 4
Third-party funded cases 1
Current arbitrator appointments 23 (15 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 6

Based in New York, this boutique was founded in 2009 when Peter Chaffetz, global head of litigation at Clifford Chance, and David Lindsey, co-head of that firm’s Americas arbitration group, decided to break away. The pair explained that they had grown tired of the conflicts of interest and fixed-cost structures of a full-service international firm. Their boutique won “Small Firm of the Year” at the 2011 GAR Awards.

Today, Lindsey and partner James Hosking spearhead the international arbitration work, while Chaffetz and others focus more on insurance, reinsurance and securities disputes. Both Lindsey and Hosking have featured in GAR’s “45 under 45” list.

A series of promotions and lateral hires has seen the partnership rapidly expand in the past few years. Other partners to know include Swiss-US national Andreas Frischknecht, who has experience at the ICC, SIAC and the Netherlands Arbitration Institute; and Yasmine Lahlou, who has a Franco–Moroccan background and is fluent in French and Italian. Spanish partner Aníbal Sabater joined the firm in 2015 from Norton Rose Fulbright. He brings experience in investment and commercial cases and has also featured in the “45 under 45”.

Several members of the firm are active promoters of New York as an arbitration venue. Lindsey is a founding member of the New York Arbitration Club.

Who uses it?

It has acted for governments including Iran, the Czech Republic, Moldova and Liberia and for state entities such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

But most of the firm’s clients come from the private sector, including Houston-based Enron spin-off Ashmore Energy International (AEI), French defence contractor Safran, Italy’s Enel Green Power, insurers AIG and Tokio Marine HHC, Brazil’s Vale, South Korea’s Samwhan, the Miss Universe Organisation and the Cartesian Capital Group. Turkey’s Çukurova group used the firm along with Swiss co-counsel in a billion-dollar dispute with TeliaSonera over the sale of a stake in Turkish mobile operator Turkcell.

Much of the firm’s work is focused on Latin America, involving clients or projects in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru – mostly relating to oil and gas, power and infrastructure, construction and project finance.

Chaffetz Lindsey is also a useful referral source for US and non-US firms alike, as well as a decent option as co-counsel when, as the firm puts it, “You want international arbitration experts but don’t want to engage a big firm that will dominate the matter.” The firm says it often finds itself taking on active cases after clients become dissatisfied with the service or advice of larger firms, and seek a “second opinion”.

Track record

One of the firm’s most striking results to date was helping AEI subsidiary Jaguar Energy prevail in a billion-dollar ICC dispute with a Chinese contractor over the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Guatemala. Chaffetz Lindsey secured its client a final award in 2015 for US$129 million in damages along with US$20 million in costs, also knocking out a counterclaim of around US$800 million. The dispute had hearings in London, Singapore, Toronto, Hong Kong and Dublin. The award has since been upheld by the courts at the seat in Singapore.

Chaffetz Lindsey is one of the few firms that can boast of having won a case against the US State Department. In 2014, the firm achieved a rare win for Iran in a case at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in The Hague. The sums involved weren’t huge but it represented an important symbolic victory for the client. The US fielded 17 lawyers at the hearing, with the advocacy conducted by Harold Koh, chief legal adviser during President Obama’s first term – a measure of how seriously the US took the case.

In 2016, the firm helped Liberia settle a US$750 million ICSID claim lodged by a Canadian mining company, following negotiations that had been stalled by an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the country.

It helped Italian tunnel-builder SELI win a US$28 million ICC award against Spain’s Cobra Group in a dispute over a hydroelectric power plant in Guatemala in 2017. Cobra agreed to settle the case in the following year, dropping a set-aside action it had launched in Florida.

Going further back, one of Chaffetz Lindsey’s European clients won an award worth US$130 million at the Netherlands Arbitration Institute. Impressively, the firm was brought in late to the dispute, which was over a licensing agreement. A multinational was on the other side.

Recent events

The firm helped to settle a dispute between its Italian subcontractor client and a Spanish engineering group over the construction of a water tunnel for a hydroelectric power plant in Guatemala. It had already helped its client win a US$28 million ICC award and resist a subsequent attempt to set the award aside in Miami.

The Czech Republic instructed the firm for the first time, asking it to defend a US$20 million investment treaty claim brought by a Dubai-based property developer.

A team led by Aníbal Sabater continues to represent Spanish tuna producer Albacora in a US$100 million investment treaty claim against Ecuador over the state’s refusal to grant tax exemptions in a free trade zone. A final award is awaited.

It is representing US-based International Investment Group in parallel ICC arbitrations against several South American entities arising out of credit facilities. A sovereign state is also using the firm for an ICC claim seated in London.

The firm is acting for Queiroz Galvão Exploração e Produção, the Brazilian operator of an oil exploration venture of the coast of Rio de Janeiro, in an LCIA-administered dispute with one of its partners. The case has already seen a partial award in favour of the firm’s client.

In the US courts, the firm continues to defend the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation against enforcement actions from major oil companies, one of which relates to a US$2.8 billion award in favour of ExxonMobil and Shell subsidiaries.

It has been retained by a Turkish construction company to enforce a US$16 million UNCITRAL award against Kyrgyzstan in Washington, DC. The claimant argues that with interest that award is now worth almost US$2 billion.

The firm is also helping a Dutch engineering enforce a US$12 million LCIA award against a Serbian state-owned steel entity, and is advising Moldova as it resists enforcement of an award.

French defence company Safran and its German unit have retained it for a US action in which they seek to stay an ICC arbitration filed against them in New York.  

Hosking has been chairing a New York-seated ICDR arbitration between three oil and gas companies: Chinese-owned Andes Petroleum, Houston-based Occidental Petroleum and Canada’s Encana. The dispute concerns the allocation of the proceeds of a billion-dollar ICSID award that Occidental obtained against Ecuador for the expropriation of an Amazon oil block. 

Gretta Walters and Erin Valentine, who have acted on some of the firm’s big cases mentioned above, were promoted from associate to counsel at the start of 2019. Valentine was also named the firm’s first head of client development.

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