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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Pinsent Masons

05 April 2019

Successfully enforced against Turkey’s state-owned petroleum company

Pending cases as counsel 40
Value of pending counsel work US$10.6 billion
Treaty cases 2
Third-party funded cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 5 (2 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 2

Pinsent Masons developed through a series of mergers, most recently between Pinsent Curtis Biddle and Masons in 2005 and Pinsent Masons and McGrigors in 2012, helping the firm expand a global reach that now stretches across four continents. 

Unsurprisingly for a firm with a history of excellence in construction law matters, Pinsent Masons was named law firm of the year in that discipline by GAR’s sister publication Who’s Who Legal in 2017 and 2018. Its international arbitration practice had its roots in large-scale infrastructure projects, including the Channel Tunnel, but has since expanded into energy, technology, financial services and insurance disputes.

The late Tony Bunch was a member of the advisory committee that reported on the draft of the UK Arbitration Act 1996. The firm also helped the Dubai International Arbitration Centre in the revision of its rules and maintains close ties with other major centres around the world.

Mark Roe heads the international arbitration practice from the London office, where most of the team is based. Following the departure of Peter Rosher for Reed Smith in 2017, the Paris team is steered by Frédéric Gillion.

The arrival of Peter Megens in Melbourne in 2015 has brought added infrastructure expertise – he joined from King & Spalding in Singapore and also worked at King & Wood Mallesons.

Network

Apart from London and Paris, Asia is a hub – with Mohan Pillay leading the work in Singapore after his firm was absorbed by Pinsent Masons in 2007. There are also arbitration partners in Dubai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Melbourne, while others are based in Istanbul, Munich, Manchester and Edinburgh.

As of 2019, the wider firm has arbitration practitioners in Birmingham, Glasgow, Madrid, Dublin, Doha, Johannesburg, Perth and Sydney.

Track record

It obtained a US$270 million award for Indian infrastructure group GMR in 2016 in a dispute with the Maldives over the cancellation of a project to modernise an international airport. The tribunal that heard the case was chaired by Lord Hoffmann.

Pinsent Masons also defended the UK Home Office in a politically charged LCIA dispute with US defence contractor Raytheon over an electronic border control system. Although a tribunal ordered the UK to pay £224 million, Pinsent Masons persuaded the High Court in London to overturn the award because of serious irregularities. The dispute eventually settled with a reported £150 million payout to Raytheon in 2015.

Pinsent has also represented Fujitsu in a £700 million arbitration against the UK government relating to a failed IT system, in which DLA Piper acts for the UK.

There have been other successes for Qatari clients in five related LCIA cases worth a combined US$75 million. Four of the cases were discontinued and in the remaining one Pinsent Masons obtained security for costs totalling £1 million.

Recent events

As instructing solicitor Pinsent Masons secured the enforcement in Jersey of two ICC awards worth more than US$100 million against Turkish state-owned petroleum company Botaş in a ruling handed down by a five-member board of the UK’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In those proceedings, in which it was acting for Turkish construction company Tepe, the firm successfully argued that the entity was not covered by sovereign immunity. 

The firm had less luck defending a Libyan state entity against an ICC claim brought by Turkish contractors on the Great Man-Made River, a major hydro infrastructure project that was disrupted by the outbreak of civil war in the country in February 2011. The contractors were awarded US$40 million by the tribunal, while another treaty-based ICC claim against the state which concerns the same project continues. In those proceedings the firm is co-counsel with Dentons.

2018 saw a number of departures from Pinsent Masons. The firm’s head of the Middle East Sachin Kerur and head of disputes in the region Michelle Nelson left to join Reed Smith. Hew Kian Heong, head of construction in mainland China, departed for Herbert Smith Freehills, as did Shanghai partner Michelle Li. In London Majoj Vaghela joined Charles Russell Speechlys.

Client comment

Mahmud Kazaure, general counsel and group chief legal officer at Nigerian multinational industrial conglomerate Dangote Group, says the firm has represented it in a number of disputes and that it has “performed extremely well for us.” He says London-based partner Rob Wilkins “has particularly impressed us with his insight and responsiveness.”

Loukas Mistelis, a professor of transnational commercial law and arbitration at Queen Mary University of London, says he has not had direct involvement with Pinsent Masons but considers it to be a top firm for technology, media and telecommunications, infrastructure and construction disputes in Europe and the Middle East. He describes the firm as “technically knowledgeable, very good with clients and strategic and efficient in their service provision.”

A senior legal counsel at a US construction company says the firm has represented his company in a number of disputes including an ongoing “bet-the-company” arbitration relating to a liquid natural gas project. He says Pinsent Masons’ performance has been “top-notch” and that its practitioners have “a keen ability to predict what their opponents will do next and are always prepared.” London partners Jason Hambury and Gurmukh Riyat are “a class by themselves when it comes to international construction arbitration.”

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