Settled Germany’s largest-ever arbitration as a high-profile case for Dutch insurer Achmea reached an endpoint
|People in Future Leaders||1|
|Pending cases as counsel||15|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$9.5 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments||11 (5 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||2|
A leading German independent firm, Hengeler Mueller was the result of a 1990 merger between firms based in Düsseldorf and Frankfurt. The Düsseldorf legacy firm dates back over a century, while the Frankfurt one was founded in 1947. It’s highly regarded in the sphere of corporate and M&A, having advised on a number of landmark German deals, as well as for dispute resolution. It advised Deutsche Telekom in an €11 billion dispute with the German government that gave rise to the country’s largest-ever arbitration (recently settled).
It’s also advised Dutch health insurer Achmea in proceedings before the German courts and the European Court of Justice relating to a treaty award, culminating in an epochal ECJ ruling on intra-EU investment arbitration.
The arbitration team includes Markus Meier, Gerhard Lang, Philipp Hanfland, and Carsten van de Sande in Frankfurt, Henning Bälz and Johanna Wirth in Berlin and Viola Sailer-Coceani in Munich.
While the practice is concentrated in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin, the firm also has an office in Düsseldorf and bases in London, Brussels and Shanghai.
It maintains “best friends” relationships with other GAR 100 firms such as De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in the Netherlands, Uría Menéndez in Spain and Portugal, BonelliErede in Italy, Bredin Prat in France, and Slaughter and May in the UK.
Who uses it?
Leading German clients of the practice include Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, Bayer, EWE and Deutsche Bank. It has also advised the World Bank, Merrill Lynch and French insurer AXA. The firm has a large base of blue-chip corporate clients and is well known for representing car manufacturers such as General Motors, Porsche, Pirelli and Opel.
The practice represented Deutsche Telekom as part of a consortium with Daimler in a dispute with Germany over a truck toll system for the country’s motorways. The 14-year dispute gave rise to a pair of Munich-seated arbitrations worth more than €11 billion before it finally reached a €3.2 billion settlement in mid-2018. The firm’s client agreed to pay €550 million to the government, with the settlement also including penalty payments, interest and non-monetary components such as transfer of equity and intellectual property rights.
Hengeler Mueller successfully defended a major German bank and payment services provider in an ICC case seated in Cologne concerning credit card transactions that spawned multi-jurisdictional litigation.
In the same year, it helped German technology provider GEA Group to defeat a Frankfurt court action that sought to have an arbitration declared inadmissible. The dispute later settled.
Going further back, the firm acted for Canada’s Bombardier in a post-M&A dispute with DaimlerChrysler over the sale of a rail systems business. It settled in 2001 with Daimler agreeing to adjust the purchase price in Bombardier’s favour by US$170 million.
Besides the settlement for Deutsche Telekom already mentioned, the practice’s highest-profile work was for Achmea in its efforts to defend a €22 million investment treaty award against a challenge by Slovakia. This culminated in a March 2018 ruling by the European Court of Justice that the treaty in question was incompatible with EU law.
The ECJ’s ruling has had wide-ranging consequences for cases under the roughly 200 bilateral investment treaties between EU member states as well as for intra-EU disputes under the Energy Charter Treaty. For Hengeler Mueller’s client Achmea, it also resulted in the annulment of its award by the German courts later that year.
In the commercial arbitration space, the firm obtained a favourable ICC award for an Austrian biopharmaceutical company against a Dutch counterparty concerning a collaboration and license agreement. It also successfully defended an Austrian mail service provider in a post-M&A arbitration conducted under DIS rules, with all claims against the client dismissed.
Partner Peter Heckel retired in 2018 after 36 years at the firm.