• Search

GAR 100 - 13th Edition

Fangda Partners

14 April 2020

The Chinese law firm has lawyers skilled in English and Singaporean law and offers comprehensive legal services to clients in China and Hong Kong

People in Who's Who Legal 1
People in Future Leaders 1
Pending cases as counsel 26
Value of pending counsel work USD1665.5 million
Treaty cases 0
Third-party funded cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 10 (3 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 4

Founded in 1993, Fangda Partners was one of the first law firms established under mainland China’s contemporary legal system.

The firm has been advising foreign investors in China on disputes since the early days, but the international arbitration practice came to the fore after the opening of the Beijing office in 2004 and the addition of US-trained practitioners with deeper international experience. In 2007, the firm added former China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) deputy secretary general Ming Kang. The combination of common law (Hong Kong and English) and PRC law arbitration and litigation capability is still a relatively rare offering in the Greater China market.

Besides handling CIETAC work, Fangda Partners frequently teams up with leading foreign firms for ad hoc and institutional arbitrations under the major rules, and provides expertise on Chinese law in overseas proceedings. It is one of the few Chinese firms to have independently and successfully represented Chinese and foreign clients in international arbitrations in both Hong Kong and Singapore.

Prominent members of the practice are Daniel Huang, who has handled dozens of foreign investment cases; US-trained lawyer Helen Shi, a CIETAC arbitration specialist, an appointed ICC Court member for China and a member of the proceedings committee of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC); and Ming Kang, who served as the deputy secretary general of the CIETAC before he joined the firm.

Olga Boltenko – who joined the firm in 2018 – is also well known for her expertise in public international law and investor-state dispute resolution. She has acted as counsel in investment disputes before ICSID, the PCA, the ICC and the London Court of International Arbitration.

Another name to note is Damien McDonald, who has practised in London and Australia and was promoted to partner in 2016.

Almost all the arbitration partners in Fangda are empanelled as arbitrators with at least one arbitral institution.

In December 2018 Fangda merged with Peter Yuen & Associates, a firm operating in Hong Kong, to develop the same unified international arbitration brand across Greater China and the international market.

Network

The firm has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and, most recently, Guangzhou. Since 2012, it has offered litigation and international arbitration capabilities in Hong Kong through an association with Peter Yuen & Associates – headed by a former Freshfields partner and including bilingual lawyers qualified in Hong Kong, English and Singaporean law.

Who uses it?

Clients include Citibank, China National Offshore Oil Company, Deloitte, GE, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Texas Pacific Group and IDG Group.

The firm was instructed by US energy company ConocoPhillips to settle a US$230 million environmental claim brought by the Chinese government arising from an oil spill in the Yellow Sea – by far the largest such claim in China to date. It has also co-counselled the same client in a related US lawsuit brought by Chinese fishermen.

It acted as Chinese counsel to one of the big four firms in a US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation concerning the audit of a US-listed Chinese company; and for an Asian private equity firm fighting a US$20 million claim by a former partner in relation to their separation agreement.

Track record

Fangda helped a European real estate investment fund win a US$31 million award in 2015 after a six-year dispute over a transfer of property. The same year, the firm helped a client win 90% of its claim in a leasing dispute at the Shanghai International Arbitration Centre (SHIAC); and achieved a favourable settlement in a dispute over a US$300 million real estate development in Beijing that did not get the approval of Chinese security services.

In 2013, the firm acted for a large Chinese state-owned construction company in a London-seated UNCITRAL arbitration with the road authority of an African state. The parties settled their dispute, which was worth over US$100 million. It also says it gained a landslide win plus costs for a Spanish client in a Hong Kong seated UNCITRAL arbitration with two Chinese entities.

Looking further back, the firm famously advised leading Chinese beverage company Wahaha in a CIETAC arbitration with French dairy company Danone, which was settled on terms that were regarded as favourable to the French company.

It also acted for a Chinese business celebrity in a US$100 million Hong Kong-seated ICC arbitration against an international mobile service network – achieving a settlement in favour of the client.

In 2010, the firm helped a Chinese airline prevail in a contractual dispute with a Canadian pilot academy under ICC rules and before a New Zealand arbitrator. English was the arbitration language, meaning that until Fangda’s engagement the Chinese airline had been disadvantaged.

Its performances in the Chinese courts include enforcing the first ever Hong Kong-made ICC award for a European client in Shanghai in 2009, soon after the ICC Court opened its Asia office.

Recent events

Fangda successfully represented an American company in enforcing a multimillion-dollar monetary judgment handed down by a US court. The Mainland court hearing the case granted relief on the basis of reciprocity – reportedly only the second time a Chinese court has recognised a US court’s commercial judgment.

Keen Vision Capital, a British Virgin Islands-based global investment group, instructed the firm in HKIAC proceedings relating to the enforcement of a guaranty deed. The firm prevailed in the arbitration, and resisted opposition to the award’s enforcement in the Hong Kong courts. It is now pursuing enforcement remedies available to judgment creditors.

It continues to act for Apple in its claim against Chinese-based Iwncomm under the parties’ patent license agreement. The dispute relates to the rate of fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory royalty payable by Apple for use of the Chinese company’s patents to secure regulatory approval for the iPhone in China. Apple is also using the firm in concurrent proceedings before the Chinese courts.

The firm is also representing claimants in an SIAC proceeding over a “takeout agreement” governed by Chinese law. However, the Singapore Court of Appeal last October quashed the tribunal’s affirmation of its jurisdiction based on characterising Singapore as the seat of arbitration. As a result, the status of the arbitration is now unclear as Chinese law restricts foreign institutions from administering arbitrations seated within the nation.

Helen Shi was appointed as co-chair of the Asia Pacific arbitration group of the International Bar Association for 2020-2021.

Matthew Townsend – formerly with Norton Rose Fulbright – who specialises in China-related arbitration was promoted to counsel, along with Liu Yang and Diane Peng. The trio is advising Hong Kong company Primeline Energy Holdings in an SIAC-administered UNCITRAL claim against affiliates of state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation over petroleum blocks in the East China sea. Wang Zhang in Shanghai was also elevated to counsel.

Client comment

Mandar Jayawant of Mongolia Fund, who used Fanga in an arbitration relating to a dispute in Mongolia, says the firm provided “excellent honest advice as to costs”. He commends Matthew Townsend and Damien McDonald for their efforts in defending his company’s interests.

Insight

Reviews

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

Meaar 2020 reviews banner 20x5

The Middle Eastern and African Arbitration Review 2020

Highlights

AfCFTA and the Upcoming Protocol on Investment: What Can Investors Expect?

Théobald Naud, Maxime Desplats and Ophélie Divoy

DLA Piper

Analysing Liquidity: When the State of Matter matters to Expert Valuers in Damages Assessments

Jonathan Ruffell, Steve Harris and James Church-Morley

FTI Consulting