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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Homburger

18 February 2011

For many years, the arbitration team at Homburger were the Zurich arm of Baker & McKenzie. The firm broke away in 1991 and a separate international arbitration group was set up seven years later by Markus Wirth (former president of the Swiss Arbitration Association) and Thomas Müller. Today the practice is still based in Zurich but has 23 lawyers in total, 13 of whom are partners. The group includes lawyers from both civil and common law backgrounds, and more than one is US-qualified. Understandably, the practice is therefore keen to emphasise that it is sought out for more than simply Swiss work.

People in Who’s Who:
2
Pending cases as counsel:
23
Value of pending counsel work:
US$4 billion
Treaty cases:
0
Current arbitrator appointments:
29 (of which 17 is as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
5

For some years, Homburger’s arbitration practice was synonymous with Wirth and Müller. But these days there are a number of other names to know at the firm. Balz Gross, for example, led the team that acted as local counsel along with Conyers Dill & Pearman and SJ Berwin in their highly sensitive case about the fate of Russian telecoms company Megafon. In July, Müller passed the role of head of the practice on to Felix Dasser, who represented German technology firm Infineon in an IP arbitration with a Taiwanese company, which resulted in a US$156 million settlement for Homburger’s client. Both Wirth and Müller continue to practice at the firm. Wirth is in high demand as an arbitrator, as is Gabrielle Nater-Bass.

Who uses it?

A list of some of the firm’s current clients bears out the group’s international credentials. As well as Swiss companies such as Roche and Nestlé, the firm can also count Swedish mobile phone manufacturer Sony Ericsson, French media conglomerate Vivendi and Malaysian Airline System Berhard among its high-profile users.

Big wins

Victory in the Zurich arbitration in the aforementioned Megafon case must rank high up in the firm’s list of achievements. The firm successfully sought the first ever cancellation of an award before the Swiss Federal Tribunal in a multibillion-dollar dispute involving allegations of corruption. The dispute eventually settled on terms favourable to Homburger’s client. The practice is also proud of its victory on behalf of Swiss power utility Atel (now Alpiq) over Italian energy company ENEL in a dispute over electricity supply contracts.

Recent events

Shortly after stepping down from his role at the Swiss Arbitration Association, Markus Wirth accepted his first arbitral appointment in an ICSID case; he was appointed by German poultry farmer Adem Dogan to hear its claim against Turkmenistan. He was also chair of an ICC tribunal that dismissed a €265 million claim against Belgian imaging technology group Agfa-Gevaert in late 2009. A number of associates departed in 2010 for different reasons – Nicolas Herzog and Niccolò Gozzi left to set up their own boutique, while Pascal Schmid was elected president of a Swiss district court, and Sebastian Stolzke became general counsel at one of the firm’s clients. Associate Nina Rabaeus, who is dual-qualified in the US and Switzerland, joined the firm.

Client comment

Alfred Gerber, general counsel at Swiss manufacturing firm Sulzer, says the firm’s “outstanding” arbitration group is distinctive “not only because the lawyers have business savvy, but also because they are down to earth and have a good sense of humour.” Gerber also says the firm is distinguished by a rare strength in depth. “Even the younger associates are usually of impressive quality,” he says.

Who’s Who nominees:

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