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GAR 100 - 13th Edition

Chaffetz Lindsey

14 April 2020

The disputes boutique celebrated its tenth anniversary and had successes for Nigeria and Iran

People in Who's Who Legal 5
People in Future Leaders 1
Pending cases as counsel 17
Value of pending counsel work US$10 billion
Treaty cases 4
Third-party funded cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 26 (11 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 5

Based in New York, this boutique was founded in 2009 when Peter Chaffetz, global head of litigation at Clifford Chance, and David Lindsey, co-head of that firm’s Americas arbitration group, decided to break away. The pair explained that they had grown tired of the conflicts of interest and fixed-cost structures of a full-service international firm. Their boutique was named “Small Firm of the Year” at the 2011 GAR Awards.

Today, Lindsey and partner James Hosking spearhead the international arbitration work, while Chaffetz and others focus more on insurance, reinsurance and securities disputes. Both Lindsey and Hosking have featured in GAR’s “45 under 45” list.

A series of promotions and lateral hires has seen the partnership rapidly expand in the past few years. These include Caline Mouawad, a Lebanese-US national who joined in 2019 after 10 years at King & Spalding, where she specialised in Latin America-related arbitrations.

Other partners to know include Swiss-US national Andreas Frischknecht, who has experience at the ICC, SIAC and the Netherlands Arbitration Institute; and Yasmine Lahlou, who has a Franco–Moroccan background and is fluent in French and Italian. Spanish partner Aníbal Sabater joined the firm in 2015 from Norton Rose Fulbright. He brings experience in investment and commercial cases and has also featured in the “45 under 45”.

Several members of the firm are active promoters of New York as an arbitration venue. Lindsey is a founding member of the New York Arbitration Club.

Who uses it?

It has acted for governments including Iran, the Czech Republic, Moldova and Liberia, and for state entities such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

But most of the firm’s clients come from the private sector, including Houston-based Enron spin-off Ashmore Energy International (AEI), French defence contractor Safran, Italy’s Enel Green Power, insurers AIG and Tokio Marine HHC, Brazil’s Vale, South Korea’s Samwhan, the Miss Universe Organization and the Cartesian Capital Group. Turkey’s Çukurova group used the firm along with Swiss co-counsel in a billion-dollar dispute with TeliaSonera over the sale of a stake in Turkish mobile operator Turkcell.

Much of the firm’s work is focused on Latin America, involving clients or projects in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru – mostly relating to oil and gas, power and infrastructure, construction, and project finance.

Chaffetz Lindsey is also a useful referral source for US and non-US firms alike, as well as a decent option as co-counsel when, as the firm puts it, “You want international arbitration experts but don’t want to engage a big firm that will dominate the matter.” The firm says it often finds itself taking on active cases after clients become dissatisfied with the service or advice of larger firms and seek a “second opinion”.

Track record

One of the firm’s most striking results to date was helping AEI subsidiary Jaguar Energy prevail in a billion-dollar ICC dispute with a Chinese contractor over the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Guatemala. Chaffetz Lindsey secured its client a final award in 2015 for US$129 million in damages along with US$20 million in costs, also knocking out a counterclaim of around US$800 million. The dispute had hearings in London, Singapore, Toronto, Hong Kong and Dublin. The award has since been upheld by the courts at the seat in Singapore.

Chaffetz Lindsey is one of the few firms that can boast of having won a case against the US State Department. In 2014, the firm achieved a rare win for Iran in a case at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in The Hague. The sums involved weren’t huge but it represented an important symbolic victory for the client. The US fielded 17 lawyers at the hearing. Chaffetz Lindsey was also part of a bigger co-counsel team that had success for Iran in another claim before the tribunal (see below).

In 2016, the firm helped Liberia settle a US$750 million ICSID claim lodged by a Canadian mining company, following negotiations that had been stalled by an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the country.

Going further back, one of Chaffetz Lindsey’s European clients won an award worth US$130 million at the Netherlands Arbitration Institute. Impressively, the firm was brought in late to the dispute, which was over a licensing agreement. A multinational was on the other side.

Recent events

David Lindsey teamed up with lawyers from Eversheds Sutherland and various barristers and academics to represent Iran in another long-running case at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal. In March 2020, a majority of the tribunal found the US liable for failing to arrange the return of certain non-financial assets that had been frozen in 1979 as a result of the Tehran embassy hostage crisis. The majority ordered the US to pay US$29 million in damages and return several antique string instruments within four months.

Chaffetz Lindsey scored big wins for clients in enforcement proceedings in the US courts. In New York, it defended the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation against enforcement of a US$2.7 billion award in favour of ExxonMobil and Shell subsidiaries. The court dismissed the case, ruling that it could not enforce an award that had been set aside by the courts at the seat of arbitration in Nigeria.

In Washington, DC, a team lead by Andreas Frischknecht helped Turkish construction company Entes to enforce a US$25 million UNCITRAL award against the Kyrgyz ministry of transport and communications in a dispute over road construction.

Chaffetz Lindsey also acted for Dutch engineering company HPK in its attempt to enforce a US$12 million LCIA award in Washington, DC against a Serbian state-owned steel entity. HPK agreed to withdraw the action after a New York court recognised that insolvency proceedings had started against the steel entity in Serbia.

In the realm of investment treaty arbitration, the firm represented Spanish tuna producer Albacora in a US$100 million UNCITRAL claim against Ecuador over the state’s refusal to grant tax exemptions in a free trade zone. The tribunal ruled it had jurisdiction to hear most of Albacora’s claims but dismissed them after concluding there had been no breach of the Spain-Ecuador BIT.

It is defending Czech Republic from a US$20.5 million UNCITRAL claim brought by a Dubai-based property developer.

It continues to act for US electrical power company AES in a revived ICSID claim against Argentina. The parties had agreed to suspend the arbitration in 2006 but resumed proceedings in late 2019. A newly reconstituted tribunal chaired by Mexico’s Ricardo Ramírez Hernández will now hear the dispute.

The firm has also been active in commercial disputes. Recent instructions have come from a South Pacific nation in a London-seated ICC arbitration over an investment in the education sector and a Brazilian construction company in an ICC dispute arising from the oil and gas sector.

Client comment

Maureen Ryan, general counsel at US renewable energy company Altas, says she has been using Chaffetz Lindsey since its inception and the firm “provides outstanding value and service”. 

“It is one of the best firms I have worked with,” she notes, “and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone needing practical, business-minded advice.” She also says she has “complete trust” in James Hosking.

 

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