Saw an end to high-stakes cases for Gazprom and promoted two female partners
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Since its inception in the 1980s, Sweden’s Vinge has maintained a dispute resolution practice, even though the firm was at that time focused mainly on M&A. A decade ago it transformed into a full-service law firm with its own international arbitration team. Late partner Robert Romlöv in Gothenburg helped build up the group and was an early adviser on ICSID arbitration and counsel to Dutch investor CME in a landmark treaty case against the Czech Republic.
The practice was further shaped by Hans Bagner, one of Sweden’s better-known names in the field (he’s since moved to a smaller practice). The arbitration group poached a rival’s core practice in 2009, adding a number of new faces to the group, including the then chair of the board of the SCC Arbitration Institute, Johan Gernandt.
Gernandt and another partner left the firm in 2017 to set up their own shop. Partner James Hope continues to anchor the work, serving as head of the dispute resolution team in Stockholm. Partner Silvia Dahlberg heads the dispute resolution team in Gothenburg, while partner Krister Azelius, who is a member of the executive committee of the Swedish Arbitration Association, heads the team in Southern Sweden in Malmö and Helsingborg.
Another name to know is Jonas Eklund who has particular experience in large-scale joint venture and energy-related arbitrations.
Often acting as lead counsel in international cases, the team regularly finds itself arguing against major foreign practitioners, including QCs, in foreign seats. While home to established names in the arbitration world, it is keen to note that in the Swedish market, the “old guard” is beginning to step down and a new generation of young and savvy lawyers are coming to the fore.
The arbitration group works from Stockholm, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Malmö. It also maintains a presence in Brussels.
Who uses it?
Vinge frequently pairs up with international counsel for big-ticket energy work. Together with DLA Piper, it acted for Russia’s Gazprom in a set of SCC cases against Ukraine’s Naftogaz under long-term gas supply and transit agreements, reportedly worth around US$80 billion (see ‘Recent events’).
Russia is a rich source of work for the firm. It’s advised Rosneft, Acron, shipyard Baltiysky Zavod, energy companies Rosgazifikatsiya and Tyumenneftegaz as well as the Russian shareholders in the TNK-BP joint venture. It has also acted for Spanish investment funds that held a minority stake in Yukos for Swedish court proceedings against the Russian state.
Other key clients include the Scandinavian energy company Ellevio (previously Fortum), the tobacco company Swedish Match, the consumer goods group Orkla, the clothing company H&M, the transport manufacturing company Bombardier, the pension and insurance company SPP, and the telecoms company Tele2.
A significant win for the firm came in 2017 when it helped Total subsidiary Elf Neftegaz defeat a US$22.4 billion UNCITRAL claim brought by the Russian provinces of Volgograd and Saratov. The dispute concerned an aborted oil deal agreed immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union and gave rise to criminal proceedings targeting two of the original arbitrators. Linklaters led the work on the case, with Vinge co-counselling with another Swedish firm, Mannheimer Swartling, as well as Paris boutique Darrois Villey and Russia’s Egorov Puginsky.
Vinge helped London-listed JKX Oil & Gas win interim relief in an SCC emergency arbitration procedure against Ukraine in 2015 – one of the first times the mechanism has been used against a state. The emergency award, requiring the state to suspend a hike in gas production royalties pending an Energy Charter Treaty arbitration, was later enforced in the Ukrainian courts.
In the Swedish courts, Jonas Eklund and Cecilia Möller Norsted managed to set aside a US$173 million award against its client Tyumenneftegaz in 2015, demonstrating that the arbitrators had exceeded their mandate.
It successfully defended Swedish Export Credit Corporation against claims of more than US$400 million brought by a large Swedish bank; and helped the same client settle an US$80 million dispute with a unit of Lehman Brothers a few weeks before hearings.
Going further back, one of the firm’s most illustrious moments was the CME v Czech Republic case from 2003. Vinge was part of the legal team acting for the Dutch investor in local court proceedings to defend a major award under the Netherlands–Czechoslovakia BIT. The investor won one of the largest sums seen at that time at ICSID (US$270 million).
Vinge represented Russia’s Gazprom alongside DLA Piper and two British QCs in a pair of Stockholm arbitrations against Ukrainian state entity Naftogaz, which culminated in a final award in February 2018. While Vinge hasn't disclosed any details about the outcome, public statements by the parties indicate that Gazprom was ordered to make a net payment of US$2.56 billion to Naftogaz.
Meanwhile, in set aside proceedings before the Svea Court of Appeal, the firm had a disappointing result for its clients, the Spanish investment funds that held a minority stake in Yukos; the court upheld Russia’s request to set aside an SCC award from 2012 which found the state liable for the oil company’s expropriation and ordered the payment of compensation to the Spanish minority shareholders. The court said that the SCC tribunal had lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.
The firm promoted Cecilia Möller Norsted in Stockholm and Yohanna Öhrnegård in Gothenburg to partner. Norsted has experience in high-value energy disputes and was part of the Vinge team that acted as counsel to Gazprom.
Öhrnegård has been acting in a multi-party SCC arbitration regarding a US$45 million warranty claim after a M&A transaction.
Marcus Palm, director of legal affairs at Välinge Innovation, says he was impressed at Vinge’s handling of a complex ICC dispute for the Swedish company. He says the Vinge team “outperformed the lawyers of the counter party in many aspects, especially during the main hearing and the cross examinations.”
He adds that Krister Azelius, who led the team, is “one of the most skilled litigation lawyers in Sweden with a unique ability to understand the client’s business and provide practical and strategical legal advice”.