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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Salans

05 March 2012

The firm is responsible for some groundbreaking results but its line-up has changed again recently.

People in Who’s Who:
4
Pending cases as counsel:
60
Value of pending counsel work:
US$8.7 billion
Treaty cases:
9
Current arbitrator appointments:
17 (of which 9 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
7

Founded in 1978 by two US attorneys and a French lawyer working in Paris, Salans made a name for itself in the late 1980s for its work on trade across the Iron Curtain. The firm handled some of the earliest disputes arising from Western investment in the Russia and CIS region. Now with a much bigger network, Salans continues to focus on East-West trade, which it says accounts for around 50 per cent of its arbitration caseload. However, it is also active in other parts of the world, especially Greater China, Africa and North America.

The practice is led by Jean-Christophe Honlet in Paris, with (following a recent departure) Hong Kong partner Darren FitzGerald now in charge of Asia.

The firm’s investment treaty practice is headed by Barton Legum, a former chief of the US Department of State’s NAFTA arbitration division, who joined from Debevoise & Plimpton in 2009.

The team has seen a few line-up changes in the past four years – beginning when the head of the group, Sarah François-Poncet, accepted a plum in-house job with Chanel. Most recently, Shanghai-based partner Brenda Horrigan, one of the co-heads of practice, moved to Herbert Smith.

That said, the two founding partners of the group, Carl Salans and Jeffrey Hertzfeld, remain connected with the firm and the practice, giving it ballast. Both are popular as arbitrators. Carl Salans and a Polish-based partner, Piotr Nowaczyk, are both members of the ICC Court (making Salans one of the few firms in the GAR 100 to boast two ICC Court members).

Network

The Paris office still has the largest international arbitration presence, but London and Warsaw are now pretty active, as are the two Russian offices in Moscow and St Petersburg, and Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Who uses it?

Clients who have business interests in the former Eastern bloc. One of the principal cities of the CIS, for example, recently used Salans on a major construction case (a US$3.5 billion ICC arbitration concerning the city’s metro). The firm has also acted for Gazprom (against Lithuania) and for PetroKazakhstan against Lukoil. The Prague office is currently representing a branch of the Czech ministry of economy in six actions to annul arbitral awards before Czech courts.

Other clients include Vivendi, Ciments Français, Rompetrol Group, Sterling Resources, ExxonMobil (for a NAFTA claim against Canada brought with Murphy Oil), businessman Rafat Ali Rizvi and, on the state side, Kyrgyzstan.

Track record

In 2009, Salans helped Vivendi claw back lost ground in a battle over ownership rights in a Polish telecoms firm. It won its client US$2.3 billion in an LCIA arbitration, but against a by-then bankrupt Polish entity. The result, however, paved the way for Vivendi to receive a billion-dollar payment that spared its blushes somewhat in the saga.

In 2010, the firm won another client US$145 million plus costs following proceedings that had encompassed a jurisdictional challenge, a challenge to the chair of the tribunal, a challenge to five procedural orders, and ancillary litigation in the US, Sweden and Ukraine.

Meanwhile, one of the firm’s cases – on behalf of Cypriot company Edimax – produced the first confirmation from the Presidium of the Supreme Court in Russia that its courts can grant injunctions in support of international arbitration.

More recently, the firm had a hand in a Russian decision that bears some similarities with the Hilmarton decision in England and the Putrabali case in France: the firm persuaded a court in Siberia to uphold an award set aside at the place of arbitration.

The team has had success on both sides of the ledger at ICSID too. In 2008, Salans won a US$125 million award for a pair of Turkish telecoms clients – Rumeli Telekom and Telsim – in an ICSID claim against Kazakhstan. In another case, it helped Kyrgyzstan settle a claim brought by Oxus Gold without any payment by the state or its instrumentalities. Afterwards, Salans’ lawyers were sent a special distinction for “outstanding services rendered to the Kyrgyz State” for their handling of the case.

Recent developments

Horrigan’s departure for Herbert Smith was announced in February 2012. In 2011, the firm gained Finnish arbitration specialist Matti Kurkela and Patrick Angénieux as of counsel in Paris and Berlin, respectively. Angénieux joined from Watson Farley & Williams in London where, he acted for Pakistan in the seminal Dallah v Pakistan case.

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