Gibson Dunn’s litigation practice has enjoyed a spectacular year thanks to some high-profile US court victories on behalf of Chevron, in connection with its US$113 billion oil pollution lawsuit in Ecuador, and fruit producer Dole, persuading a Californian court to throw out toxic tort claims by Nicaraguan workers who said they had been made sterile by pesticides on Dole’s banana plantations.
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$5 billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 7 (of which 6 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
Now in its third year as a cross-office practice area, the international arbitration group doesn’t have any comparable big wins to its name just yet, but it is certainly benefiting from the firm’s rising reputation. MMX, the Brazilian iron-ore miner controlled by billionaire Eike Batista, has instructed them for commodities disputes at the ICC, while the team are also representing Yukos International and affiliates in arbitrations and arbitration-related proceedings. The arbitration practice is co-chaired by two lateral hires – Cy Benson, who joined from White & Case in London, and Herbert Smith’s former head of global arbitration, Laurence Shore (who also appears in The International Who’s Who of Commercial Arbitration). The pair are buttressed by some other impressive names – Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor of England and Wales, and former US deputy secretary of commerce John Sullivan – who both bring extensive connections with foreign governments and regulatory insight. The practice has continued to expand slowly but steadily in the past year: the hiring of Kelly Austin, former Asia-Pacific litigation counsel for General Electric, has given it a Hong Kong presence for the first time, and multi-linguist Amal Bouchenaki joined from Orrick as full-time arbitration counsel in New York.
As most of the team’s cases have yet to progress to merits hearings, the firm is more vocal about its successes in arbitration-related litigation, notably on behalf of Chevron. While the US oil group has instructed King & Spalding for a BIT claim against the government of Ecuador at The Hague in relation to the pollution lawsuit, it was Gibson Dunn who in March thwarted Ecuador’s efforts to have the arbitration stayed by a New York court. In May, the firm also persuaded a judge to order the production of 600 hours of unreleased footage from the documentary Crude, which Chevron claims shows evidence of collusion between the Ecuadorean plaintiffs, the court-appointed environmental expert and the government. The decision affirmed for the first time that discovery applications under section 1782 of the United States Code can extend to investment treaty arbitrations.
The Yukos affair continues to bear fruit for the firm. In February, Gibson Dunn helped Luxembourg’s Yukos Capital secure a US$419 million attachment on US assets of Russian state oil company Rosneft as part of efforts to enforce four MKAS arbitral awards issued against YNG, the former oil production unit of Yukos Oil Company that Rosneft acquired. Rosneft has since paid security in the full amount of the judgment plus interest.
The team also negotiated a settlement on behalf of Brazil’s MMX in a US$30 million ICC case against Turkish metals company Eregli. Meanwhile Maurice Suh, in the Los Angeles office, has continued to make a name for himself representing US sports figures accused of doping violations before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.