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GAR 100 - 13th Edition

Tuca Zbârcea & Asociaţii

22 April 2020

A decision in a US$4.4 billion ICSID claim against Romania is expected soon

Pending cases as counsel 5
Value of pending counsel work US$4.5 billion
Treaty cases 5
Third-party funded cases 1

Ţuca Zbârcea & Asociaţii was formed in 2005 when a group of 20 lawyers – including disputes partners Florentin Ţuca and Cornel Popa – broke away from another leading Romanian firm, Muşat & Asociaţii. While at Muşat, Ţuca and Popa had teamed up with White & Case to represent Romania in its first-ever ICSID case – a US$447 million claim by US investor Noble Ventures over a privatised steel mill, which ended in a victory for the state.

The spin-off firm has gone on to successfully defend Romania in three other ICSID cases, variously teaming up with White & Case and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on those matters. In all, it reckons to have contributed to the dismissal of claims against the state totalling €700 million, more than any other rival practice in Romania has managed.

Popa co-heads the international arbitration practice with partner Levana Zigmund. Ţuca, a managing partner at the firm, is also a member of the IBA arbitration committee. The team includes six other lawyers.

At the GAR awards in Paris in 2014, Ţuca Zbârcea & Asociaţii won in the “best boutique or regional practice” category.

Who uses it?

Besides the Romanian government, the firm counts Romanian drilling and oilfield services company Grup Servicii Petroliere among its clients. It acted for the company in an ICC case worth US$131 million against an international oil company, which reached a settlement.

Luxembourg steelmaker ArcelorMittal turned to it for a US$67 million case, also at the ICC, arising from a privatisation contract. Meanwhile, Romanian consultancy Paz Management Group has used it for an ICC matter concerning the construction of a shopping mall. Canadian gold exploration company Gabriel Resources is another client – it is using the company for an ICSID case against Argentina and another against Romania (see below).

The firm is representing McDonald’s Romania in set-aside proceedings for an award issued in Romania.

Track record

On behalf of Romania, this is nothing short of excellent. In 2009, the team helped the state defeat a US$110 million damages claim by Eastern Duty Free and win US$6 million towards its costs. White & Case was co-counsel on the case, which was one of the most complex the state has faced and involved allegations of bribery against Romanian officials.

It also defended the state against a US$150 million claim by S&T Oil at ICSID, which was discontinued. For that matter, the firm paired with Freshfields.

In September 2013, with Freshfields again, the firm persuaded an ICSID panel to refuse jurisdiction over a €28 million treaty claim against the government by two Turkish businessmen, Ömer Dede and Serdar Elhüseyni. The tribunal said it couldn’t hear the case because the investors had failed to honour a treaty requirement to pursue domestic remedies before filing an arbitration.

Recent events

The firm, as co-counsel with White & Case, is still representing Gabriel Resources and its UK subsidiary in a US$4.4 billion ICSID claim against Romania over the Roșia Montană mining project. The hearings on the merits took place over two weeks in December 2019, with a decision expected soon.

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