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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Sorainen

05 April 2019

The Estonian firm is a popular choice as co-counsel for ICSID disputes

People in Who's Who Legal 1
People in Future Leaders 4
Pending cases as counsel 28
Value of pending counsel work US$200 million
Treaty cases 4
Third-party funded cases 1
Current arbitrator appointments 3 (1 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 2

Sorainen opened its doors in the Estonian capital of Tallinn in 1995 but says the first seeds of its arbitration practice were sown in 2011. This was due to Estonia’s parliament adopting legislation that had a retroactive effect on foreign investors, who began asking the firm to analyse the possibility of bringing various actions against the state.

In the following years, Sorainen started receiving more work from parties seeking to enforce arbitral awards in Estonia and further afield, leading to the firm to develop increased specialisation in international commercial arbitration.

Sorainen’s dispute resolution group is led by partner Carri Ginter in Tallinn, who has been with the firm since 2005. In addition to his practice as counsel and arbitrator, he has defended Estonian government ministries and the City of Tallinn in court, as well as bringing civil damages claims against the Estonian government and acting in cases before the European Court of Justice.

Network?

In addition to Tallin, the firm has offices in Riga, Vilnius and Minsk. The arbitration practices in those offices are led by partners Agris Repšs, Kęstutis Švirinas and Alexey Anischenko respectively.

Who uses it?

Sorainen has a wide variety of clients on its books, including Alfa Bank, one of the largest commercial banks in Russia; Baltic renewable energy supplier AS Nelja Energia; global bitumen company Bitumina General Trading; Mexican cement producer Cemex; and UAB Bite Lietuva, one of Lithuania’s largest mobile network operators.

Sorainen is also increasingly visible in ICSID disputes acting as local co-counsel with international firms.  

Track record

While the arbitration practice was still in its infancy, Sorainen worked as co-counsel with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer defending Lithuania from a US$20 million ICSID arbitration brought by a Norwegian car park developer. The claim was entirely defeated in 2007.

Acting this time with Vinson & Elkins, in 2017 Sorainen helped a Lithuanian energy company win damages from its ICSID claim against Latvia over the nationalisation of a heating and hot water supply system. The dispute was touted as a test case for ICSID’s effectiveness at resolving lower value claims, with E-energija winning around €3 million in damages, costs and interest from the €7.25 million it had claimed. Latvia has since applied to have the award annulled.

The firm also reports having successfully defended a client from a €1 million VIAC claim brought by a Czech supplier of industrial equipment.

Recent events

Estonian construction company AS Windoor instructed Sorainen to act as co-counsel with Jones Day to bring an ICSID claim seeking over US$30 million in damages from Kazakhstan, in a dispute over the state’s alleged failure to pay for work on a new international business and conference centre in its capital, Astana. Sorainen had previously helped its client win a €23 million award against Kazakhstan in an SCC case, but the Kazakh courts refused to recognise the ruling.

The firm is also acting as co-counsel with Herbert Smith Freehills for water utility company Tallinna Vesi and its Dutch subsidiary in a €90 million ICSID claim brought against Estonia in 2014. The dispute arises from the state’s alleged refusal to permit tariff increases in Tallinn.

Sorainen says it successfully represented an Austrian insurance company in an SCC arbitration, defeating the claimant’s case and was winning €2.5 million counterclaim. It is now seeking enforcement of the award.

Another SCC success came defending a Belarusian producer and distributor of equipment for metal-processing against the claim of an Italian supplier. Sorainen says the sole arbitrator hearing the case dismissed all claims against its client.

Sorainen also acted in an ICC dispute for an Estonian energy company in a claim against a Nordic contractor.

Insight

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