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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Von Wobeser y Sierra SC

21 February 2011

Latin Lawyer 250, the definitive guide to law firms in Latin America, thinks Von Wobeser y Sierra – and its arbitration practice in particular – is one of the best options in Mexico, thanks largely to the impressive international profile of firm’s founder Claus von Wobeser.

People in Who’s Who:
1
Pending cases as counsel:
3
Value of pending counsel work:
US$0.17 billion
Treaty cases:
0
Current arbitrator appointments:
7 (of which 5 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
1

Besides his numerous bar association roles, von Wobeser is a vice president of the ICC Court and also sits as an arbitrator in commercial and investor-state disputes. He and partner Marco Tulio Venegas recently acted as co-counsel to brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev (working with Skadden Arps and Sullivan & Cromwell) as it faced a substantial claim brought by Mexico’s Grupo Modelo. Construction companies – including market leader ICA and former Halliburton subsidiary KRB – are regular clients, and the firm also represents businesses in negotiations with state oil company Pemex or electricity utility CFE. Once a six-member practice, the team is now closer to 15. It’s not uncommon for members of the practice to find themselves appearing as expert witnesses on Mexican law in international cases.

Recent events

Anheuser-Busch won the arbitration with Grupo Modelo, which led to a good night out. “When I received the award, I was compelled to find the arbitration team and celebrate,” reports von Wobeser.

In another of the firm’s matters – acting for a chemicals company in ICC proceedings brought by a competitor over an alleged breach of a purchase agreement – the tribunal dismissed the case in July, and awarded Von Wobeser’s client its costs (in that, Hunton & Williams was co-counsel).

The firm also protected a US$300 million award in favour of Commisa, a US-Mexican oil platform maintenance company, against Pemex’s attempts to overturn it in local courts. Venegas describes as “exhilarating”.

Meanwhile, associate Montserrat Manzano was part of a precedent-setting decision clarifying the extent of the Mexican courts’ ability to refuse enforcement of awards on the grounds of due process violations. As arbitrator, Von Wobeser issued ICSID awards in cases against Hungary and Panama, and was appointed to a new tribunal to hear a claim against Uzbekistan.

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