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GAR 100 - 12th Edition


05 April 2019

Helped an Indian client settle a billion-dollar dispute with its private equity backers

People in Who's Who Legal 6
People in Future Leaders 6
Pending cases as counsel 146
Value of pending counsel work US$12.6 billion
Treaty cases 10
Third-party funded cases 1
Current arbitrator appointments 89 (33 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 28

Established in 1999, the CMS network comprises 10 financially independent law and tax firms, each carrying the CMS brand along with their original names. The network’s UK arm, CMS Cameron McKenna, completed a three-way merger with Nabarro and Olswang in 2017 that has been called the biggest tie-up of its kind in the British legal market.

In 2005, the network made international arbitration one of its cross-organisation practice groups, paving the way for common training of associates and inter-office collaboration on cases. Initially, Guy Pendell in London led the cross-network practice, then Torsten Lörcher in Cologne. In 2014, Dorothee Ruckteschler in Stuttgart took over.  Partner Zsolt Okányi in Budapest heads CMS’s global dispute resolution group.

A star partner in the practice is busy arbitrator Klaus Sachs. Based in Munich, Sachs is a member of the board of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration.

Members of the firm are active in the international arbitration community. Ruckteschler and the Warsaw office’s managing partner Malgorzata Surdek were recently appointed members of the ICC Court. Guy Pendell, who continues to head the disputes practice in London, is an ambassador to the ICC commission helping to promote China’s Belt and Road initiative. The head of disputes in Germany, Matthias Schlingmann, sits on the ICC task force examining arbitration of climate change-related disputes.


CMS reckons around 75 partners in over 30 offices have arbitration experience. The core team consists of around 40 partners and nearly 100 associates based mainly in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Central and Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Dubai and now Singapore (thanks to the Nabarro-Olswang merger and an alliance with Singaporean boutique Holborn Law).

The wider network has 74 offices in 42 countries, including Russia, China, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Colombia. It recently formed an alliance with a firm in Saudi Arabia, adding to a Middle East and North Africa presence that already included Algeria, Iran, Morocco, Oman, Turkey and associated offices in Iraq and Lebanon.

Who uses it?

It varies depending on which branch of the network you look at, but CMS’s clients include Xerox, Siemens, Rosneft, Roche and Nokia.

In the energy sector, CMS has featured on the panels of external counsel of Royal Dutch Shell, BG Group and National Grid; and has acted for Areva, Repsol, Samsung C&T and JKX Oil & Gas.

The network has acted for Shaher Abdulhak, one of Yemen’s wealthiest individuals, in a dispute with Norway’s DNO over oil production in Iraqi Kurdistan; for Portugal’s Galp Gas Natural in an LNG price review arbitration against a Nigerian company; and for a national transmission operator in an Energy Charter Treaty claim against Spain over the reduction of feed-in-tariffs for solar projects.

Armenia and Romania have used CMS for ICSID work, and it has advised Poland’s road authority. Pakistan used it with success in a case brought by the Marshall Islands at the International Court of Justice.

Track record

In investment treaty work, CMS secured a win for Romania as co-counsel with Winston & Strawn in an ICSID case brought by Greek national Spyridon Roussalis. It also provided local law advice to Russian oil company Tatneft in a treaty claim against Ukraine that led to a US$112 million award in the client’s favour (Cleary Gottlieb was lead counsel).

Another matter saw CMS persuade a Kiev court to enforce an SCC emergency arbitration award requiring Ukraine to suspend a hike in gas royalties pending the outcome of an Energy Charter Treaty claim.

In 2014, the Warsaw office obtained a positive award for Gdansk Transport Company in a four-year dispute with the Polish government, while CMS Stuttgart won a €61 million post-M&A dispute concerning the client’s alleged failure to disclose an antitrust investigation.

CMS in Algiers acted as co-counsel to Shearman & Sterling in an UNCITRAL dispute between an Algerian state entity and Egypt’s Orascom over mobile phone operator Djezzy, which ended in 2014 when Orascom agreed to transfer a 51% stake in Djezzy to the state entity.

A CMS team in Belgrade, Munich and Vienna helped a Serbian state entity settle a €144 million dispute with an insolvent Australian contractor relating to the construction of the Danube river’s tallest bridge. The client agreed to pay €10.5 million to end an ICC arbitration.

In 2012, a Zurich-led team knocked out the bulk of a US$64 million claim by German and Chinese companies against a Japanese client, Mori Seiki, in a case under the Swiss Rules that also saw the clients counterclaim upheld.

Recent events

CMS helped India’s GMR Group to settle a US$1.3 billion SIAC dispute between the company and its private equity backers over investments in international airports in Delhi, Hyderabad, Istanbul and the Maldives.

A team in London represented Turkey’s Disi Water Company in a US$460 million contractual claim against Jordan over the construction of a water conveyance system. The bulk of the claim was dismissed in early 2018.

The firm picked up a new instruction from Maltese-registered ACF Renewable Energy in an Energy Charter Treaty claim against Bulgaria over investment in a solar park. It is acting alongside King & Spalding in that dispute.

A team in Lisbon is representing a Spanish electric company in a Paris-seated ICC arbitration against a Portuguese power plant owner. The value of the case exceeds €72 million and relates to the negotiation of a tolling agreement and changes in the Iberian electrical market.

It continues to act for a pair of Austrian banks in an ICSID case against Croatia – one of numerous “francogeddon” claims relating to legislation passed in response to the Swiss central bank’s decision to abandon exchange rate controls.

In another ICSID case, it is defending Armenia from a US$15 million claim by a US businessman concerning state authorities’ failure to act on fraud allegations against his business partner.

The firm hired Patrick McPherson from Hadef & Partners to the partnership in Dubai.

There were also partner promotions for Benjamin Lissner in Cologne, Tilman Niedermaier in Munich and Niklaus Zaugg in Zurich.

Hong Kong-based counsel Olga Boltenko left to join Chinese firm Fangda Partners.

Client comment

Ralf Forster of German industrial gases group Linde had occasion to use CMS for a pair of disputes with Finnish and Italian contractors. In both cases, the firm deployed “an excellent and competent team” led by Niklaus Zaugg in Zurich, who has “outstanding analytical skills”. Zaugg was able to “explain very complex issues in a highly convincing manner” to the tribunal.  

Tisza-Papp Ákos, in-house counsel at Hungary’s OTP Bank, has used CMS’s Budapest office for an ICC dispute with a former client as well as a potential ICSID matter. “They are fast, up-to-date and business-minded,” he said. Partner Zsolt Okányi “has excellent solutions for the clients’ needs and in-depth knowledge” while Péter Szilas is “a good communicator”.



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