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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

DLA Piper LLP

18 February 2011

If featuring in GAR is a reliable indicator of the strength of an international arbitration practice, then the group at DLA Piper are a force to be reckoned with. Few firms have appeared more often in our news reports in 2010, thanks to its participation as counsel in a number of extremely high-profile disputes.

People in Who’s Who:
2
Pending cases as counsel:
75
Value of pending counsel work:
US$11 billion
Treaty cases:
6
Current arbitrator appointments:
3 (of which 0 is as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
3

International arbitrations don’t come much bigger than the series of claims and counterclaims administered by the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce that arose from the Russo-Ukrainian “gas war” of 2008-2009. The dispute has had a huge political impact in Ukraine: one Kiev-based lawyer said it has “introduced the term ‘international arbitration’ into the day-to-day vocabulary of all Ukrainians”. In this context, DLA Piper recorded its biggest victories of the year. Matthew Saunders led a team representing both Gazprom and RosUkrEnergo (a Swiss-registered gas trader co-owned by Gazprom and Ukrainian tycoon Dmytro Firtash) in separate arbitrations against Ukrainian state entity Naftogaz. In March an SCC tribunal ordered the Ukrainian company to pay RosUkrEnergo US$197 million for breaching a gas supply contract. It followed this up with another award ordering Naftogaz to return 11 billion cubic metres of gas (worth approximately US$2.8 billion) to DLA Piper’s client. This development caused political uproar in Ukraine, and more than one public official has been arrested. Nevertheless, the country’s Supreme Court upheld the award in November. Unsurprisingly, Saunders lists the victories on behalf of RosUkrEnergo as his highlight of the year.

The other co-head of the practice, Claudia Salomon in New York, led the team that defended Georgia in another highly publicised oil and gas dispute, this time at ICSID. Two investors brought separate arbitrations under the Israel-Georgia bilateral investment treaty and the Energy Charter Treaty, reportedly claiming more than US$700 million in damages for the expropriation of rights acquired shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In March, the investors were awarded more than US$45 million each. The firm notes that this represents a fraction of the original claim. DLA Piper no longer represents Georgia in the annulment proceedings that have followed.

Perhaps the reason for DLA Piper’s recent prominence in GAR is reflected in this assessment by a former clients: “Let me put it this way, you would not want this bunch of street fighters against you.”

Recent events

On the personnel side, the practice has grown significantly over the last seven years so that, in London, arbitration instructions now account for the majority of disputes. The past year has seen more comings and goings as well as promotions. Partner Michael Ostrove, who joined in November after more than 15 years at Debevoise & Plimpton, now leads the practice in Paris. Meanwhile the London office promoted Kate Knox and Nick Marsh to partner, and also added associates from WilmerHale and Herbert Smith. Knox has considerable experience of Latin American disputes and Marsh is a Russian and CIS region specialist. In New York, Camilo Cardozo also made partner. Heading through the out door, Tom Canning and Julian Stait joined Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, while Chiann Bao moved away from New York, becoming the new HKIAC secretary general. Michael Pollen joined K&L Gates in Singapore and Nick Gvinadze left the practice in Tbilisi to set up his own boutique firm.

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