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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Mannheimer Swartling

05 April 2019

The Swedish firm has a role in a number of closely watched intra-EU investment cases

People in Who's Who Legal 3
People in Future Leaders 2
Pending cases as counsel 50
Value of pending counsel work US$15 billion
Treaty cases 3
Third-party funded cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 7 (6 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 5

Sweden has blessed and encouraged private dispute resolution for years (since its first civil code). But a twist of fate in the 1970s made Stockholm a hub for international arbitration, after the United States and USSR decided the SCC would be a good place to settle trade disputes. In the 1980s, China followed suit. Even today, local companies prefer arbitration over litigation for local disputes.

Swedish law firms therefore have arbitration in their DNA – and none more so than Mannheimer Swartling.

The firm’s members have been at the heart of local and foreign arbitral institutions for years: Mannheimer Swartling lawyers represented Sweden on the UNCITRAL working groups that developed the Model Law, and still represent the country’s interests before the commission. The firm also acted for a number of US oil companies before the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in The Hague.

Long-term team practice leader Kaj Hobér left the firm in 2014. These days the dispute resolution group co-chaired by Kristoffer Löf in Stockholm and Fredrik Andersson in Gothenburg. The team includes Jakob Ragnwaldh, a member of the SCC Arbitration Institute’s board who divides his time between Sweden and Hong Kong; and Robin Oldenstam, an ICC Court member and former president of the Swedish Arbitration Association.

Network

There are key people in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, and further afield in Moscow and Hong Kong.

Who uses it?

The firm is shy about mentioning clients, which can range from energy firms to Italian goods makers. A common theme is usually a Russian, Chinese or Nordic angle. Some clients it’s known to have advised include Vattenfall, Total, Endesa, Stena RoRo, Edison, Norwegian chemicals company Yara, Kazakhstan, Jordan and Lithuania’s energy ministry.

It featured on a list of 15 firms announced by China as its preferred counsel in investment disputes.

Track record

One of the firm’s biggest victories came in 2017, when it helped a Total subsidiary to defeat a US$22 billion UNCITRAL claim brought by two Russian provinces. In related proceedings, it won a landmark Swiss Supreme Court decision that has helped to clarify the scope of the Swedish courts’ ability to review arbitral tribunals’ jurisdiction. The firm acted as co-counsel alongside Linklaters in Paris and another Swedish firm, Vinge.

The firm helped RosInvestCo, a unit of private equity firm Elliott Associates, win a landmark investment treaty claim against Russia over the expropriation of Yukos Oil Company. The damages won were quite small – US$3.5 million – but it was the first time Russia had been held liable for its treatment of Yukos. However, the award was subsequently set aside by the Swedish courts.

It was also the firm that Sweden’s state-owned power company Vattenfall turned to for the first-ever ICSID claim against Germany (as co-counsel with German firm Luther). The two firms have since been retained by Vattenfall for a €4.7 billion ICSID claim over Germany’s decision to hasten the phase-out of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima crisis in Japan.

Mannheimer Swartling achieved an excellent result for Jordan in 2018, when an UNCITRAL tribunal dismissed virtually all of a US$460 million claim against the state over the construction of a water conveyance system. While the claimant was awarded a little over US$2.5 million, the tribunal upheld all Jordan’s counterclaims and awarded the state US$10 million in damages and US$12 million in legal costs. Jordanian firm Aljazy & Co co-counselled on the case.

The firm can’t talk about much of its commercial work, but it is reputed to be fairly successful. In one public matter, the team helped Swedish mobile operator Tele2 defeat a US$728 million claim over an M&A transaction. The New York-seated ICDR case ended in 2011 with the dismissal of all claims against Tele2 and a costs award of US$2 million in its favour. The award was later upheld at the seat.

Recent events

There was a good result for Vattenfall in its €4.7 billion claim against Germany, after an ICSID tribunal rejected the state’s objection that it lacks jurisdiction in light of the European Court of Justice’s ruling in Achmea that there was no basis to interpret the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) as excluding intra-EU investment arbitration.

Mannheimer Swartling also convinced the Svea Court of Appeal to largely uphold a pair of SCC awards worth €176 million in favour of a Luxembourgish client against Poland, as the court concluded the state had left it too late to raise objections based on the incompatibility of intra-EU bilateral investment treaties with EU law. 

There was a setback for client Ioan Micula in his efforts to enforce a €178 million ICSID award won by him and his brother Viorel against Romania. A Swedish district court refused to enforce the award in light of a decision by the European Commission that payment of the award would violate EU law.

The firm is also representing Ioan in a fresh ICSID claim by the Miculas against Romania over the state’s alleged failure to police the country’s black market for alcohol. 

Mannheimer Swartling continues to represent Kazakhstan in its efforts to resist enforcement of an Energy Charter Treaty award in favour of Moldovan investors Anatole and Gabriel Stati, which is now thought to be worth US$520 million including interest. The brothers have already obtained attachment orders over shares in 33 Swedish companies worth around US$100 million.

It is representing Swedish investment vehicle EcoDevelopment in an ICSID claim against Tanzania concerning the revocation of the land title for a project to produce sugar for use as a renewable fuel.

Ongoing commercial work includes representing a leading real estate company in a construction dispute with a contractor and a company in a dispute worth over US$200 million with a supplier of infrastructure.

In 2019, the firm added to the partnership by promoting Aron Skogman in Malmö and Åsa Waller in Stockholm.

Client comment

One client says a team led by Robin Oldenstam and Cecilia Darrell represented it in a multimillion-dollar arbitration and were “responsive, did what they promised and delivered good-quality work.”

Insight

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