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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Salans

18 February 2011

Founded in 1978 by two US attorneys and a French lawyer working in Paris, Salans made a name for itself in the late 1980s for its work on trade across the Iron Curtain. The firm handled some of the earliest disputes arising from Western investment in the Russia and CIS region. Now much expanded, Salans continues to focus on East-West trade, which it says accounts for around 50 per cent of its arbitration caseload.

People in Who’s Who:
3
Pending cases as counsel:
60
Value of pending counsel work:
US$8.5 billion
Treaty cases:
5
Current arbitrator appointments:
41* (of which 8 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
9

* Excluding WIPO cases

After an unsettled-period during which it said goodbye to some well-known names (for a variety of reasons) the global arbitration practice is now co-headed by Jean Christophe Honlet in Paris and Brenda Horrigan, who relocated from Paris to Shanghai in 2009. It’s made a number of lateral hires to bolster itself. Those include investment treaty specialist Barton Legum, from Debevoise in 2009. Legum is a former chief of the US State Department’s NAFTA arbitration division where he oversaw US$2 billion worth of claims that were all resolved in favour of the US. And Bird & Bird’s former Asia dispute resolution head, Darren Fitzgerald, in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile the two founding partners Carl Salans and Jeffrey Hertzfeld remain much in demand as arbitrators. Carl Salans and another member of the group Piotr Nowaczyk are members of the ICC Court (Carl Salans is also ICC Court vice president).

Network

Salans’ first foreign offices were Moscow and Alamaty in 1998. Since then it’s expanded in London and New York by absorbing other – usually niche – firms. It’s embarked more than once on much-grander merger talks – without cementing a deal. In around 2003 it took advantage of the demise of Altheimer & Gray to add five offices to its network in Europe’s east. It’s also been building its offices in China.

Who uses it?

Clients tend to have a connection of some type with the former Eastern bloc. A municipal government in a CIS state is using Salans for a US$3.5 billion ICC arbitration concerning the construction of the city’s metro (described as a “bet the city” case).

Kyrgyzstan has used the firm for a US$630 million BIT claim by the UK’s Oxus Gold over the termination of a gold mining licence (settled in 2008). Oil companies are regular clients – Chinese-owned PetroKazakhstan instructed the firm for three related arbitrations against Russia’s Lukoil with a total value of US$1.3 billion (the last of these was recently settled). The firm is representing Mobil and Murphy Oil in a NAFTA claim against Canada, and Holland’s Rompetrol in an ICSID case against Romania. Other clients have included French media group Vivendi, Germany’s GEA Group, France’s Bouygues Construction and Dutch insurer Eureko.

Big wins

In 2009, Salans won Vivendi $2.3 billion in an LCIA arbitration against a bankrupt Polish entity. The outcome helped restore some parity in a complex dispute that has seen Vivendi on the losing side of parallel arbitrations and court proceedings.

In 2008, Salans won a U$125 million award for a pair of Turkish telecoms clients – Rumeli Telekom and Telsim – in an ICSID claim against Kazakhstan.

The firm also helped Cyprus’s TMR Energy win an SCC arbitration against Ukraine’s State Property Fund – a case that caused diplomatic tension after Salans secured the seizure of two large aircraft in Belgium and Canada in support of the award.

The case between Oxus Gold and Kyrgyzstan has been settled. The state was sufficiently pleased that its prime minister award the Salans lawyers a special distinction for “outstanding services rendered to the Kyrgyz State”.

Recent events

Mikhail Ivanov in the St Petersburg office secured a precedent-setting decision in April 2010 on the ability of Russian courts to grant interim relief in support of an international arbitration. By way of background, Cypriot company Edimax sought a freezing order on assets belonging to Russian businessman Shalva Chigirinsky in support of a potential LCIA award. The Supreme Arbitrazh Court decision in Edimax’s favour has been widely commented on and welcomed as a judicial landmark. The firm says it has obtained a similar, though unpublicised, result in Kazakhstan.

Salans helped PetroKazakhstan sign a settlement with Russia’s Lukoil, ending a protracted dispute over share acquisition rights. Bart Legum survived an attempt by Romania to disbar him as counsel to an oil investor in an ICSID case on the grounds that he used to work in the same firm as one of the arbitrators. Legum also received his second appointment as an arbitrator at ICSID, joining a panel hearing a claim by Standard Chartered Bank against Tanzania. In London, George Burn was made partner. As mentioned, Darren Fitzgerald joined the Hong Kong office from Bird & Bird. Three associates joined the Paris office: Anna Crevon, formerly of Shearman & Sterling (where she worked with Emmanuel Gaillard on the Yukos arbitrations), former ICC Court deputy counsel Maria Hauser, and Russian national Inna Manassyan. The team also added associates in Warsaw, Berlin and Hong Kong.

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