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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Crowell & Moring LLP

18 February 2011

Recently, a Crowell & Moring case ended with all claims against its client – a US hotel operator in a US$90 million ICC arbitration – dismissed. Unusual? Perhaps not - except, this time, the successful law firm was brought into the case super-late, and had barely any time to prepare.

People in Who’s Who:
3
Pending cases as counsel:
38
Value of pending counsel work:
US$13.5 billion
Treaty cases:
21
Current arbitrator appointments:
5 (of which 2 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
2

It’s not the first time the team has been called on to takeover a case mid-way through. Oil company Caratube interviewed nine other law firms before asking Crowell & Moring to take over its ICSID claim against Kazakhstan in April 2010 from Allen & Overy.

The current international arbitration team traces its origins to a DC litigation practice and found itself working on a number of major arbitrations a little unexpectedly. They were joined a few years ago by a team comprising senior and mid-level specialists who previously worked at Fulbright & Jaworski and Freshfields. The new arrivals have helped the firm understand the mix of languages and legal cultures required to be a top-rank international arbitration practice.

The combined group proceeded to make a quick name for itself on various ICSID cases. It has since expanded further with additional lateral hires in DC and is working on building up the number of arbitration specialists it has in London.

A previous edition of the GAR 100 described Crowell & Moring as one of a handful of US arbitration teams “on a growth charge”. As one practitioner and observer of the international arbitration community told us, “There are two firms that are really on the move: Crowell & Moring and King & Spalding. Both have made substantial inroads and also solidified their positions in international arbitration. A list (like your ranking) is just a snap shot. What is arguably more important is to be able to chart who is going up or down on it.”

 

Network

As well as working from DC and London, the firm recently launched an affiliate office in Cairo, through a tie-up with Hegazy & Associates (the local firm’s managing partner, Walid Hegazy, is ex-Freshfields with 15 years’ experience of Middle East-related arbitration).

Crowell & Moring has also recently formed an alliance with a Saudi Arabian firm, giving it offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. The firm has twelve offices in all, including bases in London and Brussels.

Who uses the firm?

The US’ Duke Energy is a current client, and is using the firm to defend an US$18 million ICSID award, facing annulment proceedings brought by the government of Peru (Fulbright lawyers worked on the original arbitration, which concerned a tax stability agreement).

Members of the Hourani family (who own Caratube) are using Crowell & Moring to wage a row being played out over multiple fronts with the Kazakh government. As well as an ICSID claim, the work encompasses an UNCITRAL claim by an affiliated poultry company and a lawsuit in DC against a US businessman whom, it is alleged, orchestrated a plan to help President Nazarbayev seize the investments of his political opponents.

The firm also works for a number of Canadian mining companies – it advised Canada’s Glamis Gold in its unsuccessful NAFTA claim against the US and more recently has been representing Pacific Rim in a DR-CAFTA case against El Salvador and Khan Resources in an Energy Charter Treaty claim against Mongolia.

The team also recently won the honour of being appointed as standing advisers to South Korea in all its treaty dispute issues, following a contest with five other law firms.

Big wins

In the hotel case referred to earlier, not only were claims against the US hotel chain dismissed, but it won US$5 million in unpaid hotel fees and an option to recover up to US$20 million more. In another, highly sensitive matter, the firm successfully defended a major intergovernmental organisation that must remain anonymous in a US$20 million UNCITRAL claim that sprang from corruption allegations.

The firm also helped Florida’s ICM Registry win an arbitration against California internet regulator ICANN over the ‘.xxx’ top-level domain name. An ad hoc tribunal featuring several of the world’s leading names held that ICANN had breached its own rules, as well as international law in handling ICM Registry’s request.

Recent events

Pacific Rim’s claim against El Salvador cleared its first hurdle in August when an ICSID tribunal dismissed the state’s first set of preliminary objections (the state responded by filing another set). The case has attracted considerable scrutiny from NGOs and environmental groups – ICSID broadcast the hearings live over the internet for the first time, and Crowell & Moring reportedly saw its Washington, DC, office picketed by activists opposed to Pac Rim’s action against the state.

In the New York office, Samaa Haridi was promoted to partner in January 2011. A dual US-Egyptian national, she joined the firm as counsel in 2008 from Thacher Profitt & Wood and is fluent in Arabic, French and English. The firm buttressed its Latin America credentials with two other hires: Colombian senior counsel Nicolás Lloreda in Washington, DC, and Peruvian Cristina Ferraro in New York. A former director general of the Andean Community free trade area, Lloreda joined the firm from Sidley Austin, where he worked on the Lucchetti and Duke Energy cases at ICSID on the side of the government of Peru. Ferraro, who joined from Curtis Mallet-Prevost Colt & Mosle, is a former a legal analyst at the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Lima and an ex-associate of Miranda & Amado (one of only two Peruvian law firms listed in the GAR 100). In Cairo, Crowell & Moring welcomed Mohamed Madkour, who maintains an Islamic law and finance practice alongside his international arbitration work.

Client comment

Pacific Rim CEO Tom Shrake gave the practice “a very solid 10 out of 10” for its work on the El Salvador case, which he describes as “imperative to the future of the company”. He highlighted his lawyers’ client communication, their availability to him, and preparation. As advocates, they are “concise, eloquent and persuasive,” he says. “I am not easily impressed, but the team set themselves apart from the competition from the very start.”

He adds that “Crowell has bent over backwards to work within our means and provides our shareholders with value and quality. My recommendation is unconditional.”

 

Who’s Who nominee: Alexandre de Gramont

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