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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Mayer Brown

05 April 2019

Secured another win for the Panama Canal Authority

People in Who's Who Legal 1
People in Future Leaders 4
Pending cases as counsel 90+
Value of pending counsel work US$14 billion+
Treaty cases 7
Third-party funded cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 26 (18 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 10

Like many international firms in this directory, Mayer Brown built its reputation on litigation and later branched into international arbitration as part of that practice area.

The product of three firms dating back to the 19th century – Mayer, Brown & Platt in the US, JSM in Asia and Rowe & Maw in Europe – it began by taking a role in US insurance arbitrations. But by the mid-1990s, it was advising on much larger matters, such as representing Turkmenistan on a series of oil and gas arbitrations worth billions of dollars.

Today, the practice consists of over 100 lawyers, led by partner Raid Abu-Manneh in London (a fluent Arabic speaker) and Menachem Hasofer in Hong Kong. In 2015, it welcomed B Ted Howes in New York as chair of the group in the US.

The group in Singapore includes Yu-Jin Tay, former head of DLA Piper’s Asia-Pacific arbitration practice, who joined in 2017.

Another name to know is French-Lebanese partner Dany Khayat, who heads the international arbitration practice in Paris and is prominent in much of the investor-state work.

Senior consultant Robin Peard in Hong Kong is former deputy chairman of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and was involved in the drafting of Hong Kong’s 2012 international arbitration law as well as in the revision of various sets of HKIAC arbitration rules.

Members of the firm sit as arbitrators at CIETAC, the HKIAC, the ICC, the Dubai International Arbitration Centre, the Cairo Centre, DIS and the Madrid Court of Arbitration.

Network

The firm’s main offices for international arbitration are London, Paris, Chicago, New York, Houston, Frankfurt, Singapore, São Paolo and Hong Kong.

It has 12 offices in the Americas – including three in Brazil in association with Tauil & Chequer – eight in Asia, and five in Europe. The European offices are known for their expertise in Middle East and Africa matters.

It also has an alliance with Chinese firm Jingtian & Gongcheng, which assists it in enforcement matters in China.

Who uses it?

Egypt, Gambia, Benin and Morocco have used the firm for investor-state disputes. On the claimant side, it is acting for New York private equity firm Clarion Partners in a US$230 million NAFTA claim against Mexico; and Kuwait’s Fouad Alghanim & Sons in ICSID proceedings against Jordan.

Aside from insurance expertise, Mayer Brown has industry-specific experience in the construction, energy and financial services sectors. The teams in London and Hong Kong are recognised for their construction disputes work.

Its Asian clients include South Korea’s LG Electronics (in a royalty dispute with Nokia); MTR Corporation, for disputes arising from a rail project linking Hong Kong with Guangzhou and Shenzhen on the mainland; Hong Kong & China Gas Company; and the Hong Kong government works bureau and tunnel company.

Other clients include UK defence contractor BAE Systems, US pharma group Merck and corn syrup producer Cargill.

Track record

In 2015, the firm helped US businessman Hassan Awdi win €8 million plus interest in an ICSID claim against Romania concerning his investment in a press distribution business and boutique hotel. The acrimonious case had taken place against the backdrop of multiple criminal investigations of Awdi, his family and companies.

The firm was brought in to defend a Brazilian satellite communications company in an ICDR proceeding seated in New York, winning substantive victories on the scope and applicability of Venezuelan telecoms law under the contract.

It has settled an ICSID claim for UK mining company Joy (against Egypt, ending an annulment application brought by the company). An ICSID case fought for Gambia saw the state ordered to pay US$23 million to Australian-owned Carnegie Minerals in 2015; annulment proceedings are pending.

The firm represented the HKIAC on a pro bono basis in the first litigation brought against the centre. The lawsuit, brought by a disgruntled user after the centre dismissed his challenge to two arbitrators, was rejected by the Hong Kong court of first instance with costs.

Recent events

Mayer Brown claimed another big win for the Panama Canal Authority – after an ICC tribunal ordered the Spanish-Italian consortium overseeing the canal’s expansion to repay US$847 million in advances paid by the authority, as well as US$13 million in interest.

It follows the result it won for the authority in 2017, where the firm won the complete dismissal of a US$192 million ICC claim brought by the same consortium, in which it was also awarded US$23 million in legal fees and arbitration costs. The firm successfully enforced that award in a Miami court in 2018.

Mayer Brown continues to work alongside Vinson & Elkins and a number of Latin American firms to defend the authority in a number of other ICC claims worth billions of dollars.

A team led by Dany Khayat helped knock out a €140 million ICSID claim brought by French utility company Veolia against Egypt in a waste management dispute.

Khayat has also been retained by a Veolia subsidiary for an ICSID claim against Gabon over the government’s seizure of its assets following allegations it had caused severe pollution, following an unsuccessful attempt at conciliation at the centre.

The firm secured a first-of-its-kind jurisdictional decision on behalf of a real estate investor subsidiary of Clarion Partners in its US$230 million NAFTA claim against Mexico, when the tribunal found that mortgages are protected investments under the free trade agreement.

In other investor state work, the firm is acting for Kuwaiti client Fouad Alghanim & Sons as it seeks to annul a decision by an ICSID tribunal rejecting its claim against Jordan over a US$81 million tax bill.

The firm promoted Vivien Yip to partner in Hong Kong while Jim Tancula, an experienced energy and arbitration lawyer based in Chicago who had spent 30 years with the firm, retired.

Client comment

Clarion Partners’ managing director Onay Payne says of the team at Mayer Brown that it is “not only incredibly knowledgeable, it is also thoughtful, intellectually creative and client-focused.” She continues that “at the end of the first hearing for our arbitration claim, the counsel’s counterparty actually shared with me that ‘your counsel did a really good job,’” a perspective she says was confirmed by the positive jurisdictional ruling in 2018.

Maarouf Farah, the managing partner of New Horizon Contracting & Maintenance, says the firm is representing his company in an ICC dispute with an international contracting firm. He says his company is impressed by the lead partner on the case, Paris-based Alejandro López Ortiz, and that “what distinguishes Mayer Brown from other firms is the fact that we feel that their approach to the handling of our case is not commercially motivated.” 

Insight

Reviews

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The Asia-Pacific Arbitration Review 2020

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Distinction and Connection: Hong Kong and Mainland China, a View from the HKIAC

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Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre