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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Lévy Kaufmann-Kohler

18 February 2011

This boutique arbitrators’ practice was formed in 2007 when the co-founders of Schellenberg Wittmer’s international arbitration practice in Geneva realised their arbitrator appointments were overtaking their work as counsel and creating too many conflicts of interest. The boutique’s focus is commercial, investment and sports arbitration. A dual Swiss-Brazilian national, Laurent Lévy is a vice president of the ICC Court and council member of the ICC Institute of World Business Law, as well as a visiting professor at the School of International Arbitration at Queen Mary, University of London. Kaufmann-Kohler is probably one of the most recognised and in-demand arbitrators worldwide – she is sitting as chair or co-arbitrator in around a dozen pending cases at ICSID alone. In addition, she is founder and course director of the Geneva Master in Dispute Settlement, a one-year postgraduate programme sponsored by the Geneva Law School and Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. Kaufmann-Kohler helped set up the Court of Arbitration for Sport and presided over its ad hoc division for the Olympic Games until 2000. A third partner at the firm, Antonio Rigozzi, heads the sports practice – he’s a member of the arbitral tribunal for Swiss Athletics. The firm has eight junior members at counsel or associate level, who also do some counsel work.

Who’s Who Names:
Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler and Laurent Lévy

Recent events

Kaufmann-Kohler came in for some harsh criticism this year at the hands of the ad hoc committee in the Vivendi II case. She was part of the tribunal that issued a US$105 million award against the state, but Argentina sought annulment on the grounds that her appointment to the board of Swiss bank UBS in 2006 represented a conflict of interest. UBS held shares in Vivendi, although the ad hoc committee accepted that Kaufmann-Kohler had been unaware of this until after the award was issued. As GAR’s coverage at the time showed, a number of leading arbitrators spoke up to defend her, calling the ad hoc committee’s decision “ill conceived on every account” and “extremely questionable”. Kaufmann-Kohler resigned from the UBS board in April 2009.

Kaufmann-Kohler remains one of the leading lights of the Foundation for International Arbitration Advocacy, which this year held its first workshop outside Switzerland in the UK. She is also expected to be among those who take centre stage at the forthcoming celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of ICCA in Geneva.

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