Swedish lawyers have long been prominent in international arbitration, in part thanks to an uncommon ability with languages and the country’s unusual mix of civil and common law. “We have a civil law code,” says partner Kaj Hobér, “but the procedure has always included, for example, oral testimony and cross-examination”. He notes that French-Canadians have the same advantage “and they’re also quite prominent.” Another springboard is the lack of commercial litigation. In Sweden, disputes between local companies are more likely to be arbitrated than decided in court.
Mannheimer Swartling, the biggest firm in the Nordic region, arose through a merger in 1990 of two Swedish firms. The firm today employs 410 lawyers in 12 offices. Some years, Mannheimer Swartling is the only representative of the civil law world in the top 10 of the GAR 30. The dispute resolution group is now the firm’s second biggest component – in a good year it can produce €15 million in fees. The firm allows senior figures to combine advocacy and arbitrator work. Kaj Hobér is one of the foremost current practitioner-academics. Following the death of Thomas Wälde, he has become professor of international law at its Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy at The University of Dundee.
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$7.1 billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 27 (of which 14 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
As well as offices around Sweden, Mannheimer Swartling is in Germany, Russia, China and the US (New York). There are arbitration practitioners permanently based in Frankfurt and, now, Hong Kong, while members of the Swedish offices regularly fly out to support the Moscow operation.
Who uses it?
RosInvestCo, a US-owned minority shareholder in Yukos Oil Company, used the firm as co-counsel for a successful SCC claim against Russia. The US$3.5 million award obtained in September represents the first time the state has been held liable for expropriation over the Yukos affair. Hungary has retained the firm to defend it in two investment arbitrations: an Energy Charter Treaty claim by France’s EDF and a BIT claim by a Portuguese food retailer. Swedish state-run energy company Vattenfall also sought it out for a claim under the ECT against Germany – a case that has now settled.
The firm is often asked to represent clients that need to obtain annulment of an arbitral award from the Swedish courts – a tricky task at the best of times. When the Czech Republic needed to combat an award that would have cost it the equivalent to its annual healthcare budget, it instructed Mannheimer Swartling.
RosInvestCo’s win against Russia over Yukos fell well short of the US$200 million originally claimed, but still represents a milestone in that legal saga. (Getting the award enforced will be another matter.) Mannheimer’s bigger wins are, otherwise, not a matter of public record. That said, it’s understood that a few years ago the firm was integral to preserving E.ON’s main Swedish nuclear operation in a row with the government.
More recently, the firm helped the Rezidor Hotel Group win a US$13 million award against Finnish construction group SRV over a commercial property development in Russia. The firm also says it successfully defended a Russian oil refiner against a US$27 million claim by a US trader – an UNCITRAL tribunal dismissed the other side’s case entirely and awarded their client compensation.
Nils Eliasson was promoted to partner in Hong Kong, as was Niklas Astenius in Malmö and Mattias Göransson in Stockholm, following the retirement of the respected Tore Wiwen-Nilsson. He has left to focus on work as an arbitrator. Annette Magnusson has left to become secretary general of the Arbitration Institute of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce and head of the chamber’s legal department. She emerged as the chosen candidate to lead the institute following an executive search. Associate Pontus Ewerlöf also moved to a rival firm.
The year brought new roles for several members of the practice: Robin Oldenstam was asked to head the Swedish Arbitration Association, and Jakob Ragnwaldh joined the SCC Arbitration Institute’s board. Nils Eliasson was also elected to the ICC national committee on arbitration in Hong Kong and has been a key player in setting up a group for under 45 practitioners based there.
The three-strong Hong Kong team reported that in two months they received five new briefs from the Chinese mainland firms, bringing its total of Asia-related arbitrations to nine. Many of these instructions are on from claimant side, showing that Chinese companies are becoming more active in commercial arbitration.
Mannheimer’s client, Vattenfall, withdrew its ECT claim against Germany over a coal-fired plant, after being made a satisfactory settlement offer. Less happily, the firm proved unable to persuade a Swedish court to set aside a US$6 million costs award against Globe Nuclear Services and Supply. The firm was ordered to pay costs following the failure of a substantial SCC claim against Russian uranium supplier Tenex.
Mannheimer Swartling is the leading law firm in dispute resolution in the Nordic region and is top tier globally. We have extensive experience of commercial disputes in all conceivable industries and legal fields as well as governmental investment disputes and regulatory disputes.
Sweden has a long history of resolving complex business disputes through arbitration, and Mannheimer Swartling’s dispute resolution practice has developed against this backdrop. We currently represent clients, regardless of their nationality, in complex disputes all over the world. We have since long had dispute resolution practices at our offices in Germany, Russia and New York. Since 2009, we also have representation in Hong Kong where the main focus of the dispute resolution practice is to represent clients of any nationality in international arbitration in Hong Kong, China and Singapore.
Mannheimer Swartling has approximately 635 employees, of which approximately 410 are lawyers. The firm works with many of Sweden’s, and the world’s, leading major and mid-sized companies and organisations. Mannheimer Swartling is a full service firm with an extensive international practice. The firm has four offices in Sweden, as well as offices in Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York.
Read more on www.mannheimerswartling.com.
Robin Oldenstam, Partner, Head of Mannheimer Swartling’s Dispute Resolution Group
Tel: +46 709 777 613