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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP

18 February 2011

After a rocky two or three years – in which a number of talented lawyers joined laterally in Paris, Frankfurt and Washington, DC, only to decamp to rival firms not long afterwards – Dewey & LeBoeuf’s international arbitration practice appears to be settling down.

People in Who’s Who:
1
Pending cases as counsel:
48
Value of pending counsel work:
US$9 billion
Treaty cases:
8

The main development in recent months has been the quiet departure of one of the practice’s main rainmakers, London and Hong Kong-based Arthur Marriott QC, who is moving into a set of arbitrators’ chambers in London. He leaves a strong team behind in London, best known for its insurance and energy sector work, led by global practice co-head Deborah Ruff. Associate Matthew Page, hired from Herbert Smith in late 2009, is GAR’s correspondent on UK arbitration matters. The other global practice co-head is Derek C Smith in DC, who is highly regarded for his representation of states in public international law cases, including in some of the first claims to be brought under the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement. Luis Parada, recently promoted to counsel in DC, shores up the firm’s increasingly busy Latin American disputes practice. As this book went to press, the firm also announced it had hired veteran arbitrator James Carter, the retired co-head of the international arbitration practice at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York. Carter is a former chair of the board of the American Arbitration Association and brings 40 years of experience to the role.

Network

London, DC, New York and Warsaw are the best-represented of the offices, but the firm also has names to know in Milan, Moscow and Johannesburg. The firm is seeing increased activity in the Middle East: a London partner relocated to Dubai recently, while a formerly DC-based partner now works from Doha.

Who uses it?

Energy, insurance, construction and telecoms are core areas of business. One of Central Europe’s largest oil refiners, PKN Orlen, is using the firm for a US$250 million ICC claim against Yukos International. A major Asian conglomerate turned to it for help against claims arising from the collapse of a power plant and port facilities in an earthquake. French, Polish and South African telecoms groups have all turned to the firm for high-value disputes. The firm is helping the major shareholder of a large Middle Eastern property development group in a US$1 billion claim at the Dubai International Arbitration Centre. A number of states have turned to Dewey to defend them in treaty claims and related proceedings – including El Salvador, Ghana and Georgia – as well as in international boundary disputes (Chile is using it for its maritime border dispute with Peru at the International Court of Justice, while the firm is also advising Equatorial Guinea in a UN-sponsored mediation with Gabon). Finally, Dewey can boast some impressive work in the sporting arena: representing the National Football League Players Association in proceedings against the league, its member clubs and their owners, and undertaking pro bono work for some high-profile South African athletes.

Big wins

As previously reported by GAR, in 2009 the London team successfully defended Finland’s Neste Oil against a US$100 million LCIA claim brought by an Israeli trading firm, and a subsequent attempt by the losing side to have the tribunal’s decision overturned by a London court on grounds of fraud. Another LCIA tribunal ruled in favour of Dewey’s client, the US Coalition of Fair Lumber Imports, in 2009, ordering Canada to remedy overshipments of lumber to the US by imposing C$68 million of additional taxes on its exports.

Recent events

In what was arguably the highest-profile sports law case of 2010, a cross-border team led by partner Greg Nott in Johannesburg represented Caster Semenya after she was barred by the International Association of Athletics Federations from participating in female athletics competitions pending an investigation into her gender. The firm’s pro bono negotiations on her behalf got the ban lifted. That follows similar work on behalf of double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius in 2008, persuading the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn a decision by the IAAF that had banned him from competing in able-bodied track events and attempting to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

Derek C Smith was instructed by Georgia for annulment proceedings against a US$98 million award issued in 2010 by an ICSID tribunal in an oil dispute (the state had used DLA Piper in the original arbitration), but events took a surreal turn after Georgian police arrested one of the recipients of the award, Israeli national Ron Fuchs, alleging that he sought to bribe a government minister during negotiations over payment. Fuchs – who at the time of writing is facing a criminal trial in Tbilisi – denies the charges and says they are part of an effort to get him to waive enforcement of the award. The ad hoc committee hearing the annulment proceeding has ordered Georgia to post the full amount of the award in security.

Dewey & LeBoeuf’s client Telekomunikacja Polska (TPSA) lost the first part of its billion-euro dispute with the Danish Polish Telecommunications Group (DPTG) over a fibre-optic transmission system after a tribunal awarded the claimant €396 million. TPSA is now seeking to challenge the award in court, while DPTG has filed a new claim.

A significant departure besides Marriott’s was that of partner Gillian Lemaire in Paris, who left to become head of Egyptian boutique Hafez’s new office in the French capital.

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