2011 saw the global firm win a big case for Brazil’s Petrobras and make the headlines in Sweden
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$35 billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 32 (of which 20 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
In the 1980s and 1990s, members of Baker & McKenzie acted for US companies at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal – acquiring expertise in UNCITRAL arbitration in a pre-NAFTA and BIT arbitration era. The firm went on to advise claimants against Iraq at the United Nations Compensation Commission after the first Gulf War. Today it works in both investment and commercial arbitration, representing, on the commercial side, mainly clients from the oil and gas, engineering or construction sectors.
One of its partners, Vladimir Khvalei in Moscow, is a vice chairman of the ICC court, while Joaquim Muniz chairs the arbitration commission of the Rio de Janeiro Bar, and Larry Newman has been chairman of the CPR arbitration commission since 1997.
The practice has seen some of its senior figures leave or retire in the past two years: David Fraser in London, Andrew Aglionby in Hong Kong, and Tan Chuan Tye left the Singapore but the firm has been quick to fill their shoes (see “Recent events”, below).
Few practices can match Baker & McKenzie in terms of global reach. The firm reckons to have around 200 lawyers working on international arbitration in more than 30 jurisdictions – though the number who spend more than half their time in that field is closer to 50. For clients with a cross-border dispute in an emerging jurisdiction, it’s often the first port of call.
The firm reorganised the international arbitration management group in 2009 to improve the coordination of the practice area across offices. There’s now a steering committee, chaired by Grant Hanessian in New York and Guenter Pickrahn in Frankfurt. Nancy Thevenin, a former deputy director of the ICC for North America, is its global coordinator. Collectively, the group is fluent in more than 20 languages – including Haitian, Creole, Kazakh and Vietnamese. Offices that are particularly active in the arbitration group are New York, Toronto, Caracas and London.
Who uses it?
Air Liquide, Bombardier, Czech bank CSOB, Dow Chemical, Hyatt, Lukoil, KPMG, Monsanto, Siemens, Verizon and Weatherford International, to name but a few. In addition, state-controlled entities such as Mexico’s Pemex and Brazil’s Petrobras are all past clients, as are Turkey, Uzbekistan and Papua New Guinea.
The practice has enjoyed a productive few years. One matter came to light via a little-known route – Mexico’s freedom of information laws. They disclosed how Baker & McKenzie had helped French and Argentine investors Gemplus and Talsud win US$21 million in related ICSID claims against Mexico over the cancellation of a concession for a vehicle registration database.
Meanwhile in Europe, lawyers from Baker & McKenzie’s Stockholm and Moscow offices were behind a win secured by Lukoil against PetroKazakhstan in a dispute over shares in a joint venture. The case, which was heard under SCC rules, was settled later on different terms with a US$438 million payout to Lukoil.
And in Prague, Martin Hrodek led a team that achieved an US$85 million award for Czech bank CBOS in an ICC arbitration against the Czech Republic. It was one of the first arbitrations to consider the application of state aid laws to a bank bailout.
The firm has also had success defending states. It advised Uzbekistan, with success, in an UNCITRAL arbitration brought by Swiss wheat trader Romak. The Paris and London offices – and a lawyer on the ground in Tashkent – secured a seminal award that drew a distinction between “investments” in a country and one-off transactions.
Leng Sun Chan SC joined as partner and co-head of dispute resolution in Singapore. He arrives, having spent 16 years at Ang & Partners, with a practice focused on shipping, trade, oil and insurance. He was appointed Senior Counsel (the Commonwealth equivalent to QC) in January 2011, one of only two Singaporean lawyers to receive the title that year. He will co-lead the practice with Andy Leck and will play an “integral role” in the firm’s participation during ICCA 2012 in Singapore.
Meanwhile, Asia-Pacific and Middle East specialist James Kwan joined as a partner in the Hong Kong office after three years with Simmons & Simmons. An Australian national, he was born in Hong Kong, speaks fluent Cantonese and co-leads the Australasian Forum for International Arbitration.
In Berlin, associate Axel Benjamin Herzberg joined from the ICC secretariat in Paris, where he had been a deputy counsel.
The practice added to its track record with two big results last year. In September, a team led by Grant Hanessian obtained a US$200 million award in favour of Brazil’s Petrobras in a dispute with former Halliburton subsidiary KBR over faulty oil platforms.
And in Stockholm, Jonas Benedictsson and Stefan Bessman persuaded a Swedish court to set aside a ¤900,000 award against their client KPMG, on the grounds that one of the arbitrators had a conflict of interest.
The court held that arbitrator Axel Calissendorff of Roschier in Stockholm, lacked impartiality because his firm had been instructed in another case in which KPMG was a counterparty. The case made the headlines in Sweden (Calissendorff is solicitor to the King of Sweden) and triggered a disciplinary investigation by the Swedish Bar Association.