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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP

21 February 2011

Skadden Arps was one of the US blue-chip firms that established a specialist international arbitration practice. Lawyers from the New York litigation department – Barry Garfinkel and Dana Freyer – undertook, among other things, a 1994 ICC arbitration for Cemex of Mexico over its acquisition of a Venezuelan business.

People in Who’s Who:
5
Pending cases as counsel:
35
Value of pending counsel work:
US$53 billion
Treaty cases:
7
Current arbitrator appointments:
10 (of which 7 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
5

In 2001, the firm recruited Paul Mitchard QC, one of London’s better-known names, as a lateral partner, followed soon by Karyl Nairn (today an ICC vice president). The London team has continued to expand, with a series of laterals at the expense of firms such as Shearman & Sterling and Norton Rose. Most recently, it recruited David Kavanagh, formerly of Watson Farley & Williams and O’Melveny & Myers.

Paul Mitchard has now moved to Hong Kong to develop the practice in Asia.

The team handles contract and investment arbitration. In the investment field it can claim never to have lost a case and to have worked on a few firsts, such as one of the few claims started under the ASEAN treaty. It is regarded as a great team to use for a high-value dispute that requires a rapid escalation, and the development of numerous parallel proceedings. Another distinguishing feature is that, in a male dominated market, 60 per cent of its members are women, including four partners and three counsel.

Network

As well as New York and London, Skadden Arps arbitration lawyers are on the ground in Asia where the practice has been reshuffling. Partner Frances Kao, a fluent Mandarin speaker, recently moved to the Hong Kong office along with two associates, while Calvin Chan has become a full-time arbitration specialist in Singapore.

Who uses it?

The firm and team represents the business interests of several high net-worth Russian individuals, including Roman Abramovich.

Otherwise, the client-base consists of both states and large corporations. Telecoms firms Vivendi and Orascom have both used members of the team on high-value shareholder disputes. Cemex, of Mexico, is a regular visitor. The firm also has in part thanks to the firm’s reputation for post-M&A disputes.

The team has also been representing two private investors, Israeli businessman Ron Fuchs and Greek national Ioannis Kardassopoulos, in an Energy Charter Treaty dispute with Georgia.

Big wins

The firm’s clients, Fuchs, and Greek national, Ioannis Kardassopoulos, have recently won US$98 million from Georgia – one of the largest recent investment treaty awards, obtained against fierce odds.

The team recently won a victory at the enforcement stage for Cemex in an ICSID claim against Venezuela.

The team also successfully defended Dutch technology company Kazaa BV in an ICDR arbitration about who owns the technology behind Skype. A few years ago it successfully extricated Anheuser-Busch from a difficult post-M&A dispute about a Mexican brewery.

Recent events

In addition to the moves to strengthen the Asian practice, the firm also added five new associates in London. In March, the practice said goodbye to one of its founders, Dana Freyer, who left the firm after more than three decades in the New York office. Freyer wanted to concentrate on running an NGO she started with her husband and two others that focuses on training and supporting farmers in Afghanistan. She continues to sit as an independent arbitrator.

Client comment

Andre De Cort of Millhouse Capital, an investment company that has used the firm on litigation and arbitration, said he’d seen the team turn the tables on opponents “numerous times” and would recommend them to a friend “without question”. Skadden says this year it impressed two defeated opponents so much that they sought out the firm to represent them on subsequent matters.

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