Notched up a solar-related win against Spain, settled a US$9 billion dispute in Germany and picked up a new case against Korea
|People in Who's Who Legal||4|
|People in Future Leaders||3|
|Pending cases as counsel||80+|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$36 billion+|
|Third-party funded cases||1|
|Current arbitrator appointments||21 (10 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||8|
One of the world’s largest law firms by revenue, Latham & Watkins entered early into international arbitration by US firms’ standards. The practice developed first in New York, where it was co-headed by Selvyn Seidel – now head of disputes funder Fulbrook Capital. It began to expand with additions in Germany and Paris.
It gained prominence in London following the arrival of two then rising stars: Philip Clifford (now QC) from Clifford Chance and Robert Volterra from Herbert Smith. Those two partners, plus Sebastian Seelmann-Eggebert in Germany, earnt it a reputation in commercial arbitration, public international law and investment treaty work.
A rocky period began in 2011, with Volterra leaving to set up his own firm and a team in New York departing a year later. Claudia Salomon, former co-chair of DLA Piper’s arbitration practice, joined in 2013 and now co-chairs the Latham practice from New York with another respected figure, Fernando Mantilla-Serrano, who joined in Paris from Shearman & Sterling in 2014.
Other names to know are the highly-respected Ing Loong Yang, who joined in Hong Kong from Sidley Austin in 2013; and Sophie Lamb, who joined from Debevoise & Plimpton in 2016 to head the London international arbitration practice and became a QC in 2018.
London partner Charles Claypoole is active on much of the firm’s public international law and investor-state work.
The best-known offices for arbitration are London, Paris, Frankfurt, Hamburg, New York and Hong Kong. The practice also has people in Madrid, Düsseldorf, Munich, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tokyo.
Who uses it?
Private clients include ArcelorMittal, Austria’s Strabag (for an ICSID claim against Libya), Swiss multinational ABB, Daimler Financial Services (in a dispute about a German toll project) and Chile-based asset management firm Linzor Capital (for a dispute with Uruguay).
It also acts for investors bringing Energy Charter Treaty claims against Spain over reforms to solar power subsidies.
States that have relied on the firm include Azerbaijan, Colombia, Croatia, Macedonia, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine. The firm also does work for state-owned entities such as Colombia’s Ecopetrol and Costa Rica’s Recope.
At ICSID, the firm has helped Croatia defeat a US$32 million claim by Belgian property investors; and secured the dismissal of similarly sized claims against Macedonia brought by New Zealand financial services group and a Swiss confectioner.
It has helped investors to settle a pair of ICSID claims against Egypt. One case, brought by Singapore’s Indorama Group, concerned a nationalised textiles factory and reportedly ended with a US$54 million payout. The other case for ArcelorMittal concerned a steel plant and settled on confidential terms.
Mantilla-Serrano (along with his old firm Shearman) helped French water company SAUR International win US$59 million in an ICSID claim against Argentina in 2014.
Wins for Latham in commercial matters include a US$200 million ICC award for Travis Coal Group against India’s Essar Group in 2014; and the dismissal of a German software company’s US$920 million ICC claim against the firm’s client Live Nation Entertainment.
Lawyers in the San Francisco office won US$125 million for a subsidiary of Edison International in an ICC claim against Mitsubishi concerning delivery of faulty steam generators for a nuclear plant in San Diego.
At the HKIAC, the firm won a US$100 million arbitration for Thai property and hospitality group LP Holdings in a dispute with a leading international hotel group.
Lawyers in Paris and Madrid won a €53 million Energy Charter Treaty award for solar investor Novenergia in one of the numerous arbitrations Spain has faced over reforms to its renewable energy industry. A team in the US is now attempting to enforce the award in Washington, DC.
In May 2018, the firm’s long-term client Daimler announced it and Deutsche Telekom had reached a €3.2 billion agreement with Germany to settle a 14-year dispute over a truck toll system that gave rise to a pair of ad hoc arbitrations, including Germany’s largest case to date, worth over €9 billion.
The firm also helped Interpol, the international criminal police organisation, fend off a claim brought before the Permanent Court of Arbitration by parties who alleged that the organisation’s refusal to remove a red notice against a certain individual constituted defamation and violated international law. In May 2018, the secretary general of the PCA said it lacked authority to form a tribunal to hear the case and dismissed the request for arbitration.
US private equity fund Mason Capital instructed the firm for an investment treaty claim against Korea over the state’s alleged interference in an US$8 billion merger between Samsung affiliates. It is alleged that the Samsung group’s controlling family bribed the now-imprisoned former Korean president Park Geun-hye to enable the merger to go ahead at an undervalue.
In another dispute, Latham is representing California-based Tessera Advanced Technologies in an ICC case against Samsung, where the South Korean group is accused of using technology for which it does not hold the patents in a number of its latest phones, laptops and notebooks.
The firm’s ongoing investor-state work includes defending Colombia in a trio of ICSID cases brought by Canadian mining companies Eco Oro, Red Eagle and Galway Gold – which all relate to a ban on mining operations in an environmental preservation zone.
Latham & Watkins is also defending Ukraine from a US$4.7 billion Energy Charter Treaty claim brought by companies owned by Ukrainian businessman Igor Kolomoisky. The dispute relates to the claimants’ minority stake in the country’s largest oil and gas produce and the state’s alleged interference in the sale price of natural gas.
Saudi Arabia retained it to defend an ICSID claim brought by Germany’s Hochtief. It is has also taken over from Hogan Lovells as counsel to a British businessman and his real estate companies in an ICSID case against Mauritius over changes to planning policy linked to the nomination of a new UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mantilla-Serrano is leading a team defending Costa Rica’s state-owned oil and gas-refining monopolist in a politically sensitive ICC dispute with a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, which relates to a cancelled US$1.5 billion project to upgrade an oil refinery.
John Adam, a member of the team that secured the €53 million win against Spain, was promoted from counsel to partner in the Paris office. A dual US-Spanish national, he previously worked at Shearman & Sterling for 10 years before joining Latham in 2014.
Simon Powell, who played a key role in building Latham & Watkins' disputes practice in Asia, left the firm after nine years to go solo as an arbitrator in Hong Kong.
Ling Zhang, from China-based investor Sequedge Group, hired Latham for a “troublesome” case in which the opponent took an aggressive stance. He says the firm was – without question – superior in skill, knowledge and finesse to the opponent’s counsel. Lead counsel Ing Loong Yang was “particularly impressive” when cross-examining two key witnesses.
Another client for the firm in Asia praised Ing Loong Yang as a “seasoned practitioner in China” who is supported by “a very able and competent” pair of associates, Tina Wang and Andrew Halliwell.