King & Spalding’s international arbitration practice began in 2000 with the hire of Doak Bishop. It began to make a name for itself soon after, winning a series of ICSID cases against Argentina. (The practice has won some of the largest ICSID awards to date).
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$62 billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 26 (of which 11 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
Since then, many of the associates who worked on the Argentina cases have ben promoted to partners. The firm has also embarked on a significant programme of lateral hirings that has seen it bring in a respected ICC-focused team in Paris – led by Eric Schwartz and James Castello, formerly of Dewey & LeBoeuf and Freshfields, and one of Asia’s best-known arbitration names John Savage.
Doak Bishop co-heads the practice from Houston along with Edward Kehoe in New York, who has a litigation background. Margrete Stevens in Washington, DC, brings 20 years' experience working at ICSID. In the younger tier, Craig Miles is described as "Bishop's right hand man", while the leader of the Latin America practice Roberto Aguirre Luzi also seems to enjoy an influential position.
The investment team has expanded its zone of operations beyond Latin America to new clients - it has begun advising governments. In rankings and surveys King & Spalding has begun to appear at the same level as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, White & Case, and Debevoise & Plimpton.
As one rival lawyer put it recently: “There are two firms that are really on the move: Crowell & Moring and King & Spalding.”
The practice is run from Houston and New York with key figures in DC, Atlanta, and more recently, San Francisco. Paris and Singapore are the arbitration’s non-US bases, though the wider firm has other offices in Europe and the Middle East.
Who uses it?
Energy investors are a core client base, particularly those in disputes with Latin American governments. Chevron is using it for a number of BIT claims against Ecuador, while ConocoPhillips is retaining it for an ICC case against Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, among other matters. Exterran, El Paso, Enron and Sempra have all turned to the firm for help with their Argentine claims at ICSID, as have Italian engineering group Impregilo and Spanish travel company Marsans. Metals investor the Renco Group has recently turned to the New York office for help with an long-running environmental dispute in Peru. Outside the Latin American arena, the firm has been involved in treaty claims against Egypt, Romania and Kazakhstan.
Texan water services company Azurix won a US$185 million award against Argentina in 2006 thanks to King & Spalding, who also successfully resisted the state's attempt to have it annulled. (Argentina has yet to pay up, however, and with interest accruing the award is now worth more than US$220 million.) The firm represented Commisa, a subsidiary of US construction group KBR, in an ICC claim against Mexico's state oil company, Pemex, over payment for two platform builds - the case ended in a US$350 million award for its client in early 2010. Italian investors Waguih Elie George Siag and Clorinda Vecchi also have King & Spalding to thank for a US$133 million ICSID award against Egypt over the expropriation of a resort.
Two of the firm’s Argentina awards - the Sempra and Enron wins – were annulled by ad hoc ICSID committees. Little criticism has been directed King & Spalding’s way, however. As GAR's coverage at the time showed, observers have been more inclined to question the reliability of the ICSID system than the firm's strategy in the original arbitrations. Both Sempra and Enron are continuing to use King & Spalding for the resubmission of their claims.
A tribunal at The Hague hearing an oil pricing dispute between Chevron and Ecuador recently issued a partial award in Chevron's favour. The decision hasn't been published and reportedly didn't specify a figure. Chevron, however, says it's worth US$700 million (Ecuador's counsel says factoring in applicable tax structures gives a final payout of closer to US$90 million.)
The firm was tapped by Moldovan oil and gas group Ascom for a billion-dollar Energy Charter Treaty claim against Kazakhstan at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. Another new client is The Renco Group in an US$800 million dispute with the Peruvian government over environmental remediation of a city in the Andes. Another ICSID case, Murphy Oil v Ecuador, ran aground when a majority of the tribunal held that King & Spalding's client hadn't complied with the six-month 'cooling off' period prescribed in the US-Ecuador BIT before filing for arbitration.
On the conference circuit, Doak Bishop gave a keynote address at the ICCA Congress in Rio de Janeiro in May. He argued that it was time the IBA adopted a code of ethics that could be incorporated into the rules of the major arbitral institutions - he presented a draft code (co-authored with Margrete Stevens) to kickstart the process.
Roberto Aguirre Luzi was named co-chair of the American Branch of the International Law Association’s bilateral investment treaty and development committee. John Bowman in the Houston office was appointed vice president for education and board member of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators. He also wrote an article on the role of the in-house counsel in international arbitration.
2010 also saw the arrival of John Savage in Singapore and Guillermo Aguilar-Alvarez in New York. Savage is head of the Asia arbitration practice and joined after 17 years at Shearman & Sterling in Paris, Singapore and DC. He's also an arbitrator and director at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and was part of the committee that drafted the most recent revision to the SIAC rules. Aguilar-Alvarez joined after four years as co-head of Weil Gotshal's practice. He is Mexico's foremost trade and arbitration academic, a vice president of ICCA and a former general counsel of the ICC Court.
The year also saw some departures: Kenneth Reisenfeld left the DC office to head a new international arbitration practice at Patton Boggs, while counsel Troy Harris retired from the Atlanta office to take up an academic post at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he hopes to set up a centre of learning for international dispute resolution.
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