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GAR 100 - 12th Edition


05 April 2019

Spanish construction group OHL has been using the firm for a billion-dollar dispute over a hospital in Qatar

People in Who's Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 27
Value of pending counsel work US$2.5 billion+
Treaty cases 0
Third-party funded cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 2 (0 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

In 1981, Garrigues became the first Spanish firm to create a disputes department. As Spanish companies became more active abroad in the 1990s, it received its first instruction in an international arbitration and by the end of the decade decided to build capability in this area.

Initially, work was led by José María Alonso and Miguel Moscardó (who left the firm in 2012 and 2009 respectively). They recruited a rising star from the counsel ranks at the ICC, Fernando Mantilla-Serrano, now at Latham & Watkins. The team made its name working on, among other things, a dispute about the ownership of Peru’s largest gold mine.

Others have since come to the fore. Carlos de los Santos in Madrid took over the practice in 2009 and now co-leads it alongside Joe Tirado in London – a former global head of arbitration at Winston & Strawn who joined in 2016. De los Santos is vice president of the Spanish Arbitration Club, while Tirado is known for his work in energy and financial services disputes and features on ICSID’s panel of conciliators. Both regularly sit as arbitrator.

Other names to know are Francisco Serrano in Madrid (who is especially active in gas pricing and M&A disputes), Jaime Luis Iglesias in São Paulo, Alberto Acevedo Rehbein in Bogotá and Mónica van der Schraft in Santiago de Chile.


Garrigues is in 13 countries across four continents. It began expanding into Latin America in 2013 and now has offices in Mexico City, Bogotá, Lima, Santiago and São Paulo.

Besides the partners already mentioned, there are lawyers with international arbitration experience in Brussels, Lisbon, Paris, New York, Shanghai, Tangiers and Warsaw.

Who uses it?

The practice serves well-known Spanish companies in construction, energy, banking and finance, and distribution and services. These include BBVA, Santander, Aegon, Endesa, Iberdrola, Obrascón Huarte Lain and Sacyr. It has also represented French pharmaceuticals group Sanofi, Portuguese bank Banif, Denmark’s Maersk Group and car manufacturers Volvo and Kia. The government of Namibia is another client.

Track record

Iberdrola used the firm in two gas price reopener arbitrations with a combined worth of US$700 million. One of them concluded with a downward price revision worth much less than the client had feared; the other with a confidential award in the client’s favour.

For another client, the firm knocked out the bulk of a US$177 million claim over a construction project in the Middle East. In the final award, the client was ordered to pay only US$540,000, with the other side bearing the costs. It has since defeated two other claims worth more than US$100 million.

Garrigues acted for Aegon in an ICC arbitration regarding a “change of control” clause in a joint venture agreement with Banco Sabadell, for which the firm negotiated a €450 million settlement in the client’s favour.

Another matter saw Garrigues help Namibia to reverse a Spanish court’s injunction against an ICC arbitration in Paris.

In 2015, Garrigues helped Spanish TV channel operator Mediapro knock out a significant part of a €200 million claim by Spain’s Grupo Prisa over sports broadcasting rights. Grupo Prisa was reportedly awarded around €77 million.

Recent events

The firm continues to act for Spanish construction group Obrascón Huarte Lain (OHL) in an ICC claim against a Qatari state-backed foundation over the cancellation of a €1.7 billion contract to build a medical centre in Doha. There was a partial award in November 2018 finding that the foundation validly terminated the contract and ordering it to pay €44 million to OHL and its Egyptian joint venture partner. The tribunal is still to rule on other claims and counterclaims. It has been advising Maersk subsidiary APM Terminals in a Madrid arbitration against the former owners of port operator Grup Maritim TCB in connection with costs incurred in investigating allegations of bribery in Guatemala.

An energy client instructed the firm for a US$250 million gas price reopener case as well as a US$400 million dispute over pipeline capacity. It has been advising a Spanish contractor in a US$100 million ICC claim against a German company regarding a project in Latin America.

Client comment

Iñigo Cisneros of Mediapro commended the team’s business knowledge, noting its “conscientious and tireless work”.

Tomás López of Amadeus IT Group notes that the firm is pragmatic and has a “particularly good business view when dealing with complex cases.”

Tomás Alfaro of Aegon praised Garrigues’ “amazing work”, singling out partner Alberto Pimenta. He says he “would definitely recommend them to anyone for an important arbitration”, highlighting the firm’s “amazing thought leadership in legal matters”.



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