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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

05 April 2019

Having strengthened its investment arbitration expertise, the firm has received a series of new instructions from investors, including a multibillion-dollar claim against Turkey

People in Who's Who Legal 2
People in Future Leaders 1
Pending cases as counsel 32
Value of pending counsel work US$27.3 billion
Treaty cases 14
Third-party funded cases 2
Current arbitrator appointments 19 (11 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 7

Gibson Dunn has an enviable brand within the US for litigation, regularly appearing on the highest of high-stakes matters. Although not as famous as the litigation practice, the firm’s international arbitration group has started to put itself on the map.

The seeds of the current practice were planted between 2007 and 2008, with the lateral hires of Cyrus Benson from White & Case and Lord Falconer, the UK’s former secretary of state for justice. Laurence Shore joined in 2008, serving as co-head of the practice but left in 2013.

The practice bounced back almost immediately with the hire of Penny Madden (now a QC) and her team from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in London. And its momentum has continued with the hire of rising star Jeffrey Sullivan from Allen & Overy in 2017, which added to the firm’s investment treaty expertise.

It has had a foothold in Hong Kong since 2010, when it hired former GE in-house counsel Kelly Austin.

Away from mainstream commercial work, Gibson Dunn enjoys a franchise in the US for sports-related arbitration thanks to Maurice Suh, a partner in Los Angeles. Suh has defended numerous sports stars accused of doping violations, including disgraced Tour de France winner Floyd Landis.

The firm’s top-ranked US litigation team is also one of the first names on the list for those hoping to enforce or resist foreign judgments and awards in the US.

Network

The firm has international arbitration specialists on the west coast of the US and in London, Paris and Hong Kong. It also now has an office in Singapore, though it has yet to recruit or move any arbitration lawyers there.

Who uses it?

It is acting for former affiliates of Yukos Oil Company in a pair of Energy Charter Treaty claims against Russia; and for Kuwaiti logistics firm Agility in the first ICSID claim ever brought against Iraq.

Other clients for investment treaty work include Egypt’s Global Telecom; Hong Kong mining company SouthGobi Resources (for a claim against Mongolia); and Zimbabwe’s second-largest telecoms operator.

The government of Djibouti used the firm in a high-value LCIA claim against DP World over a port terminal (and a related English court action that garnered headlines in the UK legal press).

Elsewhere it’s been retained by Marriott International, Citibank, Hyatt, UBS, Anglo American, Facebook, satellite services provider SES, Enel, Brazilian defence contractor Embraer, Aspen Technologies, Russia’s Vimpelcom and Russian former politician Ashot Egiazaryan.

The firm is also lead counsel to Chevron in a series of large, related litigations in the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Canada arising from the well-known US$9 billion oil pollution case brought by a group of indigenous peoples in Ecuador.

Track record

Not long after arriving from Skadden, Penny Madden helped Orascom reach a US$4 billion deal with Algeria over ownership of mobile operator Djezzy, so ending what had been a US$16 billion investment treaty claim.

A team led by Cy Benson helped an affiliate of Yukos Oil Company defeat a US$250 million ICC claim by Poland’s PKN Orlen over the sale of a Lithuanian refinery. PKN challenged the award in the English courts, but the case was dismissed.

In another Yukos matter, litigators in the New York office persuaded a court to confirm a US$74 million award that Luxembourg entity Yukos Capital had won from Rosneft subsidiary Samaraneftegaz in compensation for unpaid loans. Gibson Dunn had already obtained an attachment order against Rosneft (and a US$600 million security) pending the award.

The firm has had other victories in New York courts against Samaraneftegaz for Yukos businesses. In 2014, it succeeded in restraining the Russian entity from moving assets until it satisfied an ICC award worth US$186 million.

Some of the firm’s best-known victories have been in litigation for Chevron. In one noteworthy incident, Chevron had the firm obtain out-takes from Crude, a 2009 documentary charting the environmental litigation against Chevron in Ecuador. The evidence the firm obtained helped to persuade a New York district court that the original Ecuadorean court proceedings had been tainted by corruption – a decision upheld in 2016 by the Second Circuit.

The litigation team also scored a victory for a group of holdout creditors from Argentina’s 2001 sovereign debt default in a well-known US appeals court action against the state, NML Capital v Argentina.

Recent events

Gibson Dunn filed an ICSID claim against Turkey on behalf of a UK member company of the Koza Group conglomerate. The group is seeking between US$5 billion and US$6 billion in compensation for the seizure of its companies, which were taken amid allegations that the company’s founder, Hamdi Akin Ipek, participated in financing terrorism.

US multinational personal care corporation Kimberly-Clark is also using the firm for an ICSID claim it has filed against Venezuela, after the Venezuelan government took over its factory to combat a national toilet paper shortage.

Another new instruction came from a subsidiary of Corral Petroleum, which is bringing an ICSID claim against Morocco over its shareholding in the country’s sole oil refinery, SAMIR, which was declared bankrupt in 2015.

In court, the firm secured a series of results for distressed Canadian mining company Crystallex, which is seeking to collect on its US$1.4 billion ICSID award against Venezuela. In August 2018, a US court said the company could seize assets held by a US subsidiary of Venezuela’s national oil and gas company PDVSA as part of those efforts to enforce the award.

In November 2018, it was also revealed that Venezuela has paid Crystallex US$500 million, as part of a renegotiated settlement deal intended to allow PDVSA to keep control of a US-based refiner, Citgo Petroleum.

Meanwhile, working alongside his former Allen & Overy colleagues, Sullivan helped two groups of solar investors to win awards against Spain in cases filed under the Energy Charter Treaty. The investors won €112 million and €64.5 million respectively.

Client comment

Joaquín Valcárcel Martínez from Enel described the team as “outstandingly skilled, fully available [and] capable of adapting efficiently to the evolving dynamics of the case”.

He singled out Cyrus Benson in particular, praising “his ability to quickly translate complex legal discussion into easily understandable and compelling reasoning”.

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