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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Ogilvy Renault LLP

18 February 2011

Ogilvy Renault international arbitration group has in the past been synonymous with Yves Fortier QC, “the world’s top arbitrator” and “the king of Canadian arbitration”, former Canadian ambassador, a past permanent representative to the UN, ad hoc judge of the International Court of Justice, and the first non-European president of the London Court of International Arbitration. These days, Fortier is “chairman emeritus” at the firm and remains an extremely sought-after arbitrator and member of the group. Several other lawyers have taken on the mantle of developing the firm’s practice. They include senior partner Pierre Bienvenu (a former co-chair of the IBA’s arbitration committee who was recently made a vice president of the LCIA) Stephen Drymer, and a younger partner, Martin J. Valasek. Today, Ogilvy Renault remains the Canadian firm many think of first in connection with arbitration, the firm that’s sought out for tough cases especially if they have a government angle, and that has generally been most prominent on the wider arbitration stage.

People in Who’s Who:
4
Pending cases as counsel:
20
Value of pending counsel work:
US$5 billion
Treaty cases:
5
Current arbitrator appointments:
10* (of which 10 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
4

* excludes Yves Fortier’s cases, which have a collective value of US$1 billion.

Who uses it?

The practice handles commercial and investment treaty arbitration. In recent times it has become something of a specialist in NAFTA claims, often against Canada.

On the commercial side, it’s been working for a US distressed-debt fund – FG Hemisphere – taking on the Democratic Republic of the Congo over payment of an arbitration award in Hong Kong and other courts.

Big wins

The firm made headlines when the Canadian government agreed to pay Ogilvy Renault’s client, US forestry group Abitibi-Bowater, more than US$120 million – the largest amount of compensation ever obtained by an investor in a NAFTA chapter 11 case.

In the Hong Kong v DRC case, Ogilvy Renault and local counsel persuaded the Court of Appeal that the DRC was unable to invoke sovereign immunity to block interception of money that could be used to settle an award. The DRC has been granted leave to appeal to Hong Kong’s highest court.

Recent events

The firm was recently instructed by Canada’s Worldwide Minerals in a “bet the company” case against Kazakhstan. It took on the case nearly 10 years after WWM’s uranium mining concessions were terminated. If the claim is allowed to go ahead, it’s likely to be worth billions of dollars.

In addition to working on several of the firm’s NAFTA cases, Renée Thériault found the time to set up a networking forum for international arbitration practitioners based in Ottawa – the Ottawa International Arbitration Association aims to highlight the capital’s growing prominence as a seat for NAFTA cases.

Stephen Drymer secured two notable wins on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency in CAS arbitrations against Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde. The awards have created law on the standard of independence and impartiality required for arbitrators in CAS cases and set a record for the amount of costs awarded to successful applicants.

Otherwise the big news was the merger with Norton Rose. Interviewed soon after it was announced, Yves Fortier gave the combination his blessing, saying it would be “win win”.

Fortier meanwhile has been chairing the arbitration between the former majority shareholders in the now bankrupt Russian oil company Yukos and the Russian Federation, often billed the largest arbitration ever. Partner Martin J. Valasek is serving as one of the tribunal’s secretaries. Valasek recently finished a three-year term as president of the Young Canadian Arbitration Practitioners.

Client comment

Jacques Vachon, chief legal officer at Abitibi-Bowater, gives the firm a glowing report for its work on the NAFTA claim against Canada. The importance of this case to the US company “cannot be overstated”, he says, adding that, “The professionalism, refined skill, negotiating competency and sage advice of the Ogilvy Renault team contributed to the successful resolution of this complex and politically sensitive matter.” Vachon singles out Bienvenu and Valasek for special praise. “We were tremendously impressed by the legal support received from both gentlemen,” he says. Another client in an unrelated case says a team led by Fortier and Valasek “ran rings around the opposing lawyers,” making them look like “a bunch of amateurs.”

Who’s Who nominees

  • Yves Fortier, Stephen Drymer, Pierre Bienvenu & Martin J. Valasek

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