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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Baker Botts LLP

18 February 2011

As this edition of the 100 went to press, news was filtering in that Baker Botts had become global coordinator for Russia in Yukos matters. Although full details had yet to emerge, it’s a testament to the prowess this oil and gas firm has developed in international arbitration.

People in Who’s Who:
4
Pending cases as counsel:
33
Value of pending counsel work:
US$100 billion*
Treaty cases:
9
Current arbitrator appointments:
4 (of which 0 is as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
4

The firm formalised its relationship with the work in 2000 when it launched a standalone arbitration group. Since then it has established a reputation in high-value investor-state and commercial disputes, representing both claimants and respondents. The work now encompasses telecoms, finance, shipping and pharmaceutical arbitrations, with shareholder and joint venture disputes as well as oil and gas work. The London office in particular has become home to both civil and common law trained lawyers, and has grown over the years through a combination of organic growth and lateral hires. It now includes a partner from a civil law background in London (Johannes Koepp). The team prides itself on a collegiate approach and considers itself less affected by egos than some of its near neighbours.

Who uses it?

As well as Russia, the firm has done substantial work for state-run Rosneft and Gazprom. For Rosneft, it is challenging a Dutch court ruling allowing a former subsidiary of Yukos to enforce against Rosneft assets in the country, even though the award had been set aside in Russia. That challenge will now go before the European Court of Human Rights. That work is being led by partner Johannes Koepp.

In the energy world, ExxonMobil, Total and Hunt Oil Company are past clients, and so is mining firm Rio Tinto. It’s also worked for Kia Motors Corporation, Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corporation – a leading manufacturer of chemicals, fertilisers, plastics and metals – and Chinese telecoms company Huawei Technologies. The team represented Helnan International Hotels in its battle with Egypt at ICSID (now at the annulment stage).

Big wins

Baker Botts was one of the two sides in a major ICC case between Hunt Oil and ExxonMobil subsidiaries) and Yemen a few years ago. Both sides claimed moral victory following a 2008 award. The award, however, granted a number of the Baker Botts’ clients’ claims. It also awarded them their legal fees and expenses.

In 2007, it won a Zurich Chamber of Commerce arbitration – valued for a while at US$6 billion dispute – after proving that documents in the case had been forged. That same year, the firm also secured dismissal of US$700 million worth of claims against its clients in an LCIA arbitration under an English law guarantee that was held to be void.

For Kia Motors the firm waged one of the largest Latin America related arbitrations so far heard in the ICC court. Kia Motors received a US$207 million award to compensate it for losses arising from participation in a joint venture with Brazilian partners.

The firm also extricated Huawei Technologies from a major ICDR arbitration for a mere US$2 million, after the sides had been in a two- week merits hearing.

Recent developments

Because of increasing practice demands, Jay Alexander relocated from Washington, DC, to London in September and took up the role of practice co-chair (alongside Michael Goldberg). Goldberg meanwhile was named “international partner”, responsible for leading the firm’s global strategy.

The group also added two new full-time members of the group – Ryan Bull and Michael Calhoon in DC. In London, German lawyer Johannes Koepp and Chilean arbitration specialist and former ICSID counsel, Alejandro Escobar, made partner.

In Moscow, Dominic Pellew formerly of Hogan Lovells in Moscow joined Baker Botts in Russia. An English and French qualified lawyer who also speaks fluent Russian, Pellew was part of the team that advised the Alfa-Access-Renova consortium in its high-profile dispute with BP over their oil joint venture, TNK-BP. He is also advising an Alfa subsidiary in a claim against Norway’s Telenor relating to the acquisition of a Ukrainian mobile phone operator.

Another recent hire has been Jennifer Thornton, a former US State Department lawyer who joined as special counsel in Washington, DC. As a member of the NAFTA arbitration division of the State Department, Thornton has defended the US government against claims brought by Canadian and Mexican investors under NAFTA chapter 11, including the recent Gold Glamis claim. Before that, Thornton was an associate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

In addition the firm has recently added six new associates to the group, including the former director of the Asia regional office of the ICDR Jun Bautista, in Hong Kong. He is currently teaching an international arbitration course at the University of the Philippines College of Law every weekend, and was invited by the ICC task force on the New York Convention to be the rapporteur for the Philippines.

For Ania Farren, 2010 included being the driving force behind the International Arbitration Charity Ball in London’s Royal Courts of Justice.

Client comment

Tingting Hou, senior legal counsel at Huawei Technologies, was happy to vouch for Baker Botts’ arbitration specialists. Tingting described the lawyers she had used as “attentive, diplomatic and strategically the smarter of the two sides in the case.” Paul Wright, a coordinator of international disputes and special projects at ExxonMobil, said the team has the ability to “dig deep” and “will often find the golden nugget that makes all the difference between winning and losing.”

* includes the Yukos claim

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