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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Hogan Lovells

18 February 2011

Last year’s GAR 100 gave Hogan Lovells a high billing before the merger between Lovells and Hogan Hartson went ahead. The merged firm has not disappointed – bringing together the traditional strength of the legacy Lovells’ practice in Europe and Asia with the prominent US and Latin American experience of the former Hogan & Hartson practice (which brought operations in Caracas and Miami as well as the traditional US legal centres). The merger also bolstered practice in the Middle East as the Lovells’ international arbitration practice, headed by Stephen York in Dubai, benefited from the acquisition of a Hogan Hartson office in neighbouring Abu Dhabi.

People in Who’s Who:
4
Pending cases as counsel:
143
Value of pending counsel work:
US$17.4 billion
Treaty cases:
14
Current arbitrator appointments:
35 (of which 29 is as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
14

The combined practice has 130 lawyers worldwide and is headed by Michael Davison in London (Lovells) and Daniel González in Miami (Hogan & Hartson). In an interview soon after the merger, they spoke of the “personal chemistry” between the teams and described how they had already borrowed from each other in terms of management systems, style and procedures: “We want to be more than the sum of our parts.” As Gonzalez put it: “The key thing has been getting to know each other’s people and each other’s clients.”

Who uses it?

Since the merger, Hogan Lovells has attracted publicity for its work on behalf of states in particular. For example, a team led by Volker Triebel in Dusseldorf recently helped the government of Montenegro settle a US$400 million dispute over aluminium assets with an Oleg Deripaska-owned company – a case that will have significant repercussions for the state’s economic strength. Another team is advising Slovakia in a dispute over reforms in the health insurance sector, and before the merger Lovells was assisting Iceland with disputes arising from its financial troubles.

The firm is also acting for Mexico and China in WTO cases, and representing Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, in an ICC arbitration against the Simco engineering consortium. González says that nowadays he is more likely to bump into some of his colleagues in Buenos Aires than in Miami – perhaps as a result of the firm’s recent work for Sabre International’s Argentina branch in an American Arbitration Association dispute with a leading travel agency group in Buenos Aries. Following a win in that case, Hogan Lovells is representing multiple subsidiaries of Sabre – one of the world’s largest retailers of travel products – in arbitrations in London, New York and Miami.

It is understood that other current arbitration clients of the firm include energy group ConocoPhillips and Japanese electronics company NEC, while past instructions have come from Mexico’s Pemex, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Statoil and Vodafone. In Asia it has recently advised a Sino-Russian chemical company, Shangdong Hongri, in its battle with PetroChina over a sulphur delivery (the firm instructed Teresa Cheng SC in enforcement proceedings in Hong Kong). Paris partner Laurent Gouiffés revealed at a recent conference that he was acting on two treaty arbitrations against sub-Saharan African states.

Although details have yet to emerge, Hogan Lovells is also rumoured to be the exclusive representative of a major player in the energy sector.

Big wins

Hogan Lovells’ marriage hasn’t been long enough for it to celebrate many big wins, but asked about the major achievements of the legacy practices in the past couple of years, Michael Davison pointed to Lovells’ work for brewery SABMiller and its Tanzanian subsidiary in an ICC arbitration arising from the breakdown of a joint venture with Diageo’s Kenyan subsidiary. The dispute – in which Simon Nesbitt was lead partner – was dubbed “African beer wars” by the press. Davison also mentioned Lovells’ success for France’s Alstom group against Insigma in Singapore – a case that attracted notoriety because of a SIAC tribunal’s decision to let an arbitration proceed under ICC rules – and for German construction group Walter Bau in ICSID proceedings against Thailand (enforcement proceedings have now commenced in the Southern District of New York). Back in pre-merger time, there was also a significant result for the Czech Republic and Arcelor Mittal.

Gonzalez chose the firm’s work for Americatel in the US and Central America against Mexican telecoms entrepreneur Carlos Slim and América Movil.

To that we can add recent victories for PKN Orlen (more on that to come) and the settlement of a Franco-Spanish naval dispute, which was terminated after the parties agreed to end a submarine partnership. Paris-based partner Jean George Betto was the lead counsel in this case. The survey reveals a mixed approach to advocacy, with the group either doing its own or bringing in barristers.

New developments

Every merger has its teething problems and the build-up to this one saw a few departures in Europe on the Hogan & Hartson side when Charles Adams and his team in Geneva joined Akin Gump, and Maciej Jamka and his team in Warsaw defected to K&L Gates.

In Germany, former Lovells partner Daniel Busse left with some associates to become head of Allen & Overy’s dispute resolution team in Germany. In the months after the merger, GAR also covered the loss of Dominic Pellew, a former Lovells partner in Moscow who left to join Baker Botts.

According to Davidson and Gonzalez, such departures have been driven not so much by issues with Hogan Lovells “as with particular situations and client relationships that couldn’t be accommodated”. They deny that the exoduses have left a hole in their central European network citing the merged firm’s continued presence in Germany and the Czech Republic and Lovells’ large office in Warsaw. That message appeared to be borne out late last year when a Prague-based Hogan Lovells’ team prevailed for Poland’s largest oil company PKN Orlen in a claim brought by Czech chemical company Agrofert.

Following Pellew’s departure, Russian-related work is led from London where Davison is overseeing multiple arbitrations arising from oligarch Chalva Tchigirinski’s public allegations against Russia’s richest woman, the wife of the mayor of Moscow. Kieron O’Callaghan, meanwhile, has experience of acting for oligarch consortium Alfa-Access-Renova in its high-profile joint venture dispute with TNK-BP a couple of years ago.

In Asia, Hogan Lovells has been spreading its reach – cementing a three-year relationship with Mongolian firm GT Advocates in Ulan Bator by entering into a formal association. This adds to the firm’s alliances in India and Saudia Arabia and makes Hogan Lovells the only international firm with a presence in Mongolia.

In the Middle East, meanwhile, Stephen York says the financial crisis has brought a spike in cases for the firm. Speaking to GAR for a recent article he said that several big construction projects have ended up in arbitration and “there is a host of main contractor, subcontractor and consultant disputes, all based on unpaid sums and termination suspension.” York also mentioned a wave of claims stemming from the wind-up of financial services providers – leading to disputes as far afield as the Cayman and British Virgin Islands.

York added that the main cause of disputes, though, has been plummeting prices in the real estate market, an area that it still inadequately covered by UAE law. “Parties want to get out of deals that may not have been well documented in the first place or to avoid the losses sustained,” he says.

Finally, Hogan Lovells’ practice in Europe seems more informed than most about the future direction of European investment protection in light of the transfer of competence for BIT negotiations under the Lisbon Treaty – in part thanks to the expertise of partner Robert Hunter in Frankfurt and senior associate Markus Burgstaller in London.

As counsel to Slovakia, Burgstaller is seeking to quash a jurisdictional award in favour of Dutch insurance provider Eureko in light of continued questions over the validity of intra-EU bilateral investment treaties. Hunter, meanwhile, made discussion of the future of BITs in Europe a central plank of a conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first BIT between Germany and Pakistan.

Other achievements that should be recognised are Jean George Betto’s advisory work on the new French arbitration law, published early this year, and Spanish associate Alejandro López Ortiz’s sterling contribution as co-chair of the Spanish Arbitration Club’s under-40 group.

As the firm settles into normal business following the merger, we’ve also seen noteworthy speaking engagements from Hogan Lovells’ lawyers – for example, Laurent Gouiffés’ overview of the African arbitration market (including the OHADA regime) at an ICC UK conference. At the same event London partner Simon Nesbitt livened up the usually dry conference format with a “What happened next” session based on the long-running UK television show A Question of Sport.

Client comment

A Lithuanian client said he was impressed by the firm’s “wide and deep law knowledge” and its focus on key issues rather than side issues. “What distinguishes the team is its consistency and reliability in terms of technical quality, ability to get to grips with the commercial context and the ease of their working relationship with other internal and external lawyers,” he adds. “I was impressed with the genuine consideration throughout as to whether there may be ways in which we could prioritise and sensibly cut down on the time allocated to particular work streams – as opposed to simply throwing further junior lawyers at them.”

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