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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Norton Rose Fulbright

05 April 2019

The team recently secured a jurisdictional victory for ExxonMobil in a NAFTA claim against Canada

People in Who's Who Legal  4
People in Future Leaders  8
Pending cases as counsel  34 (excludes Europe, Middle East and Africa offices)
Treaty cases  4 (North America offices only)
Current arbitrator appointments  15 (9 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator  7

The product of a series of mergers since 2009, Norton Rose Fulbright has brought together under one roof the arbitration talent formerly at Norton Rose, Fulbright & Jaworski, Ogilvy Renault and Chadbourne & Parke (all of which used to feature in the GAR 100 or GAR 30 in their own right), led by two respected international names: Pierre Bienvenu in Montreal and Mark Baker in Houston.

Of the principal merger partners, Norton Rose had slightly less of a brand in international arbitration, though its roots in shipping, energy and construction give it a tradition in the field and it had been home to a series of well-known names (Michael Lee, Peter Rees, and Juliet Blanch to name but a few alumni).

Its 2009 merger with Ogilvy Renault, Canada’s preeminent arbitration practice, however, took things up a notch, adding Bienvenu and other specialists who had learned the trade from leading arbitrator Yves Fortier QC (though Fortier himself would soon depart for independent practice to avoid conflicts of interest).

The merger with Fulbright & Jaworski in 2013 completed something of an international arbitration supergroup. Fulbright was among the first US firms to gain stature in the field, having worked on cases such as Sibneft v Yukos (once the largest arbitration in the world), and to treat international arbitration as a practice area in its own right. The merger brought Mark Baker and several other partners who were well known.

Along the way, in 2012, another Canadian firm, Macleod Dixon, was also absorbed, which added Latin American experience.

In 2017, Norton Rose Fulbright completed its merger with another global law firm, Chadbourne & Parke, though the best-known members of that firm’s arbitration group had left before the merger was announced. As well as particular expertise in areas such as insurance, that merger gave the firm useful connections in the CIS region.

Network

The group is most concentrated in London, Houston, Montreal, Hong Kong and Singapore, but it has people in numerous other offices across Europe, the US, Canada, Asia, Australia and South Africa. The Macleod Dixon merger brought an office in Caracas.

Following its merger with Chadbourne, the firm has 58 offices in 32 countries.

Who uses it?

Clients include Canadian blue-chips and mining companies, UK financial institutions, construction firms, shipyards, energy businesses, and oil and gas service providers.

Some names include AbitibiBowater, Bombardier, BP, Bank of Nova Scotia, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Nestlé, Foster Wheeler, Norsk Hydro, BHP Billiton, ConocoPhillips, WADA, Canadian-Pacific Railways and Stonewall Resources.

Kazakhstan is an example of a government client.

Track record

One of the group’s most eye-catching recent results came in 2015, when it helped state-owned Israel Electric Corporation win US$1.7 billion in a politically charged ICC claim against two Egyptian state entities over the termination of a gas supply agreement in the wake of the Arab Spring.

It helped Canadian mining company Gold Reserve negotiate a US$770 million payment from Venezuela to satisfy an investment treaty award after bringing US enforcement proceedings and defeating an attempt to set aside the award in the French courts. (Norton Rose Fulbright only handled the enforcement part, not the underlying arbitration.) Impressively, Venezuela agreed to pay the award in full and allow the client to continue operating in the country.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s various merger partners have individual highlights too. In Ogilvy Renault’s case, the team secured one of the largest payments so far under NAFTA (a US$130 million settlement for AbitibiBowater, ending a claim against Canada) and a US$85 million award against Hungary at ICSID in 2005 (one of the largest of its time).

In an ICSID case in 2012, the Macleod Dixon team helped the US’s Exterran Holdings agree to a US$442 million settlement with Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, in compensation for nationalised gas compression assets.

Recent events

A subsidiary of ExxonMobil instructed the firm for a NAFTA claim against Canada over R&D spending requirements imposed on offshore drilling companies working off the coast of Newfoundland. An ICSID tribunal accepted jurisdiction over the claim in July 2018.

Bangladesh’s NEPC Consortium Power also turned to Norton Rose Fulbright to bring a contract-based ICSID claim against the Bangladesh Power Development Board; the dispute is thought to relate to a power plant it operates locally.

Kazakhstan continues to use the firm for the US side of a fight with Moldovan investors over the enforcement of a US$530 million Energy Charter Treaty award. The state has alleged the award was procured by fraud. 

A team in Johannesburg represented South African runner Caster Semenya in her high-profile case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport over limits imposed by athletics’ governing body on acceptable testosterone levels for female athletes.

Canada’s Niko Resources instructed a team in Calgary for an LCIA claim against Reliance and BP, after they asked it to withdraw from an Indian offshore gas block for defaulting on a cash call.

Acting alongside Dentons, Sven Förster, a partner in Munich, secured payment of a €28.8 million ICC award he had won for client Crystalox in a case against a Taiwanese photovoltaic company over silicon wafers; the parties ultimately reached a settlement.

Partner KC Lye in Singapore helped Taiwanese bubble tea franchiser La Kaffa International to settle a SIAC dispute with its Malaysian partner over franchise payments. 

Lawyers in Singapore also acted for India’s GMR Group in a US$100 million SIAC case over the construction of a power plant, before the case settled (once the Korean-owned claimant had obtained attachment orders in New York against the Indian group’s assets).

The firm also helped Ireland and South Africa-based aviation group Starlite to gain an interim order before a Texas court, granting emergency relief in a dispute about helicopters used to support US military operations in Afghanistan.

On the personnel front, Andrew Battisson, a former partner at Allen & Overy in Singapore, joined as partner in Sydney. Michael Chik and Kevin Hong in Hong Kong were elevated to of counsel.

In Singapore, however, Daniel Perera, a mining and resources partner, left to join Reed Smith; in London partner Poupak Anjomshoaa moved to Baker Botts (citing client conflicts); and in the US senior associate, Paul Neufeld moved to Locke Lord in Texas, joining as a partner (he will work for the firm from Houston and London).

Client comment

Paul Attard, commercial manager at South Africa’s Bombela Civil Joint Venture, retained the firm for a dispute with the South African government over the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link. He says the firm demonstrated the “highest levels of professionalism” and has special praise for Tony Chappel and Daniel McConnell in Johannesburg.

Kieren Barry, group counsel at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, used the firm in an arbitration that was worth several million pounds. He says Norton Rose Fulbright’s “excellent preparation was decisive and gave a massive advantage”.

Leah Ratcliff, a former in-house counsel at BHP Billiton, said the team acting on a complex dispute for the mining company was “committed, well organised and perform[ed] at the highest level”.

Meanwhile, Stacey O’Dea of ExxonMobil for whom the firm is working on a NAFTA claim said that partner Kevin O’Gorman and senior associate Denton Nichols had been “flawless” to date.

Insight

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