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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Lenz & Staehelin

05 April 2019

The Swiss firm secured wins for Romania’s Hidroelectrica and Germany’s Thyssenkrupp

People in Who's Who Legal 2
People in Future Leaders 3
Pending cases as counsel 17
Value of pending counsel work US$8.4 billion
Treaty cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 26 (14 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 5

Lenz & Staehelin was formed in 1991 when Conrad Staehelin’s Zurich firm merged with Raoul Lenz’s Geneva practice. Both arms of the firms already had experience of arbitration going back decades before the merger. The team on the Geneva side included the late Robert Briner, who served as a judge at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in the 1980s and went on to be chairman of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and a renowned arbitrator.

These days the group is headed by partners Xavier Favre-Bulle in Geneva and Harold Frey in Zurich, who both sit as arbitrators. The team is split evenly between the two cities (there’s also an office in Lausanne), with more than 40 fee-earners available for arbitration matters.

Who uses it?

The firm acts in cases involving states and state-owned entities in international disputes It also has private clients from industries including pharmaceuticals, energy, telecoms, construction, financial services and luxury goods. The list includes some well-known Swiss blue-chip companies and multinationals.

Unfortunately, few of the firm’s clients are on the public record but it is known to have advised France, and Romanian state entity Hidroelectrica. Going further back, it advised Deutsche Telekom (in a dispute with Vivendi). Supermarket chain Carrefour, multinational engineering and electronics company Bosch and tobacco group Philip Morris have all used the firm previously.

It also regularly co-counsels with international firms on large matters with a Swiss angle.

Track record

One spectacular result for the firm came in 2016 when it helped a government in the Middle East to defeat a claim for more than US$1.5 billion in damages, as well as a claim for the issuance of a long-term concession. The client also received a large part of its costs.

It has helped four of the most important industrial groups in Germany defeat a billion-dollar claim by a US company; and successfully defended the manufacturer of a desalination plant in a subcontractor dispute, winning costs.

For a healthcare company, it helped to settle a multibillion-euro dispute over the termination of licence and supply agreements – agreeing terms that allowed the client to maintain the business relationship.

Another highlight saw the firm represent an Irish company in a successful Geneva arbitration against a Libyan state entity over the use of a fibre optic cable across the Mediterranean.

Recent events

Lenz & Staehelin helped Romania’s Hidroelectrica defeat a €43 million ad hoc claim by a Swiss energy trader that alleged it failed to comply with an energy supply contract in the face of insolvency proceedings. The firm co-counselled with Romanian firm Leaua Damcali Deaconu Paunescu on the case. 

A team led by partner Harold Frey and counsel Martin Aebi in Zurich also secured a win for Germany’s Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions in an ICC dispute with an Istanbul-based fertiliser manufacturer over outstanding payments for the construction of a plant in Turkey. The construction group was awarded €24.5 million and 90% of its costs by an all-Swiss tribunal.

Alongside Norweigan firm Wikborg Rein, Frey represented a Danish energy company in a gas price review arbitration. The firm’s client was awarded a revision, as well as a reimbursement of the excess payments made under the gas price contracts during the relevant revision period.

Lenz & Staehelin also helped a private equity fund to settle a US$200 million dispute with a major pharmaceutical corporation on favourable terms.

Xavier Favre-Bulle is one of the newly appointed vice chairs of the IBA arbitration committee. Meanwhile, as arbitrator he chaired a panel that rendered an ICC award in favour of a Turkish construction company in a claim against Gabon.

Zurich-based practitioner Fadri Lenggenhager was promoted to counsel. In Geneva, counsel Eugène Ibig sadly passed away.

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