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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Winston & Strawn

05 April 2019

Suffered a setback for Ecuador in its multibillion dispute with Chevron

People in Who's Who Legal 1
People in Future Leaders 1
Pending cases as counsel 35
Value of pending counsel work US$15 billion
Treaty cases 10
Third-party funded cases 3
Current arbitrator appointments 3 (0 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

Winston & Strawn has had international arbitration specialists in the United States and Europe for a long time but the practice has had many incarnations over the years.

The origins of the group go back to 1993, when the firm hired Charles Adams and Nicolas Ulmer from Jones Day in Geneva (both now at other firms). The pair had been part of Surrey & Morse, a unique outfit combining US litigators and Swiss lawyers who took on advocacy work before international tribunals.

The Winston team that formed around them in the mid-1990s included Michael Stepek and current practice chair Ricardo Ugarte, both of whom had previously been based in Chicago.

The practice later expanded to Paris, Washington, DC and Hong Kong, but this period of growth was followed by a slump as various chunks of the team migrated to other firms.

In 2011, Mark Bravin joined in DC from Morgan Lewis & Bockius and a year later the firm recruited Joe Tirado in London, one of the leaders of Norton Rose’s arbitration group. Bravin and Tirado co-chaired the practice until 2015 and helped develop Winston’s reputation for Latin America and CIS-related work in particular.

Another shake-up came after Winston closed its Geneva office in 2015 and various members of the team retired or left for other firms, among them Bravin and Tirado.

Following their exit, Ugarte took over as chair of the practice, dividing his time between Chicago and London. Stepek returned to the firm in 2016 after 11 years away (including a time as head of the practice at Akin Gump in Geneva). He brought a team with him including Matthew Bate in London, who has a focus on energy and infrastructure.

Other names to know are Eric Bloom, Tomás Leonard and Nicole Silver in DC and Maria Kostytska in Paris, who are active on investor-state work; David Hall-Jones in Hong Kong; and Ben Bruton in Dubai. In 2017, Julissa Reynoso, a former US ambassador to Uruguay who previously worked at Chadbourne & Parke, joined the New York office.

Network

The main offices for arbitration are DC, Paris, London, New York, Hong Kong, Dubai and, to a lesser extent, Chicago and Houston.

Who uses it?

The team has advised clients such as Abbott, Motorola, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Sanyo, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Alstom, Lear Corporation and Symbion Power.

It acts for claimants and states in investment treaty matters. Current investor clients at ICSID include Jordanian-Lebanese businessman Michael Dagher (in a claim against Sudan) and US mining company Dominion Minerals (in a US$268 million case against Panama). It’s also acting for an insolvent Italian company, Eskosol, in one of the numerous Energy Charter Treaty claims against Italy relating to renewable energy reforms.

As for sovereign states, its most prominent recent clients include Ecuador (in its US$9.5 billion battle with Chevron over environmental pollution in the Amazon) and Ukraine.

Track record

Winston obtained a favourable settlement for a US private equity firm on the eve of hearings in an arbitration against its Chinese and Singaporean partners in a joint venture in China.

It secured a win for Jordan in an ICC case over the construction of a railway system connecting the country’s two most populous cities (and the discontinuance of a parallel ICSID case).

For Ecuador, the firm helped to reduce a substantial treaty claim by Chevron relating to delays in the country’s court system to an award of just US$96 million that was eventually paid after a long enforcement battle.

The firm obtained another positive settlement for Motorola in a US$1 billion ICC arbitration with Huawei; and gained victories for a US pharmaceutical company in an ICC case over trademarks and the nutritional division of another US pharma company in a Swiss Rules case.

Winston has also negotiated settlements for Italian-owned energy company Endesa Chile in a billion-dollar ICC dispute over work on a power plant in Chile (the client paid US$131 million).

Recent events

Winston & Strawn suffered a setback for Ecuador in its aforementioned dispute with Chevron over environmental contamination in the Amazon. The tribunal ruled in a partial award that a US$9.5 billion Ecuadorean court judgment holding Chevron liable for the pollution was procured through fraud and violated Ecuador’s obligations under international law. Ecuador has since announced that it will seek to annul the award in Dutch courts.

An ICSID claim in which Winston & Strawn had been representing French food voucher services company Sodexo Pass against Hungary reached a final award, with Sodexo winning €73 million plus interest. Although the instruction left the firm with former partner Philippe Cavalieros, who left for Simmons & Simmons in 2017, he and partner Eric Bloom had worked together on the case until the end of oral hearings.

The firm could not persuade the English Commercial Court to decline jurisdiction over Russian oil and gas producer Tatneft’s motion to enforce a US$144 million investment treaty award against client Ukraine. Winston continues to defend Ukraine in a related investment treaty claim by the semiautonomous Russian republic of Tatarstan relating to the same refinery.

The firm continues to represent Eskosol in its Energy Charter Treaty ICSID claim against Italy. In 2017, the case cleared a hurdle when the tribunal rejected Italy’s request for the summary dismissal of Eskosol’s Energy Charter Treaty claim. Italy argued that the claim should be barred because Eskosol’s majority shareholder had already brought its own unsuccessful ICSID claim over the same measures.

In other work, Winston & Strawn is acting for a joint venture in a €100 million ICC dispute arising from a railway project in Turkey.  

Partner Tomás Leonard and of counsel Nicole Silver, who both have experience representing Latin American states in disputes, left the firm’s Washington, DC office for Greenberg Traurig. In Paris, Sara Susnjar was promoted to partner.

Client comment

The president of retail group Brooks Brothers, Andy Lew, says Winston & Strawn represented his company in a dispute based in the Asia market. He says the firm did a “great job,” both in winning the case and managing expenses. Nassim Hooshmandnia in Hong Kong was “very impressive, both in her preparation for the case and the guidance she gave us.”

A government client praises Winston’s “dedication, professionalism and expertise” in its work on a particularly complex dispute, singling out partner Eric Bloom in particular as a great strategist. Of counsel Nicole Silver is fêted for “the clarity of her expositions”. Hooshmandnia is again singled out for praise due to her “remarkable” contributions.

Insight

Reviews

Regional analysis from arbitrators around the globe, focussing on key developments in specific industry areas and jurisdictions.

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The Middle Eastern and African Arbitration Review 2019

Highlights

CRCICA Overview

Ismail Selim and Dalia Hussein

The Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA)

DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Overview

Alec Emmerson

DIFC Arbitration Institute (DAI)

Robert Stephen, Matthew Harley and Katy Hacking

DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre