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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Baker Botts

05 March 2012

Baker Botts continues to thrive after being appointed global coordinator for Russia in Yukos-related arbitration and litigation matters

People in Who’s Who:
4
Pending cases as counsel:
41
Value of pending counsel work:
US$103 billion (includes Yukos)
Treaty cases:
6
Current arbitrator appointments:
11 (of which 2 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
7

Traditionally a preeminent firm in oil and gas work, Baker Botts had no dedicated stand-alone arbitration group until 2001, although it had numerous litigators who had each tried one or two international arbitrations. Since the launch of the group, it has established a reputation in high-value investor-state and commercial disputes, representing both claimants and respondents. The work now encompasses telecoms, finance, shipping and pharmaceuticals, with shareholder and joint venture disputes as well as oil and gas work.

Since 2010, the group has been co-chaired by Jay Alexander in London and Michael Goldberg in Houston.

The team prides itself on a collegiate approach and considers itself less affected by egos than some other firms.

Network

The London office in particular has become home to both civil and common law trained lawyers, and has grown over the years through a combination of organic growth and lateral hires. Other partners and leading juniors are based in Houston, Washington, DC, Dubai and Hong Kong.

Who uses it?

Securing Russia’s brief for disputes arising from the collapse of the Yukos Oil Company in late 2010 was a clear coup for the firm. Other Russian instructions have followed – it’s done substantial work for state-run energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom, including acting for Rosneft in a European Court of Human Rights complaint against the Netherlands. It’s also handled a number of cases for Russian financial institutions (including Troika Dialog, VTB Capital and Renaissance Capital in two LCIA arbitrations and an ancillary litigation in Cyprus and England).

In the energy world, ExxonMobil, Total and Hunt Oil Company are past clients, along with mining companies Rio Tinto and PT Bumi Resources (in an ICSID arbitration arising from a coal contract).

The firm has worked for Kia Motors Corporation, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation – a leading chemicals manufacturer – and Chinese telecoms company Huawei Technologies. It also represented Helnan International Hotels in its battle with Egypt at ICSID.

Track record

A joint venture between Hunt Oil and ExxonMobil hired the firm to bring an LCIA claim against Yemen a few years ago. The ensuing award granted a number of the joint venture’s claims and its full legal fees and expenses. It also completely dismissed Yemen’s counterclaims of US$8 billion.

On the commercial side, the group acted for Kia Motors in a Brazilian-law ICC case valued at several hundred million dollars (one of the largest Latin American arbitrations so far heard at the ICC Court). The award dismissed all claims against Kia and awarded it over US$200 million.

In 2007, Baker Botts won a US$6 billion Zurich Chamber of Commerce arbitration over a purported supply contract under Czech law after proving that the contract had been forged. That same year, the firm also secured dismissal of US$700 million worth of claims against an energy company in an LCIA case.

The firm also extricated Huawei Technologies from a major ICDR arbitration for a mere US$2 million, after the sides had been in a two-week merits hearing. A subsequent challenge to the award proved unsuccessful.

Recently, two energy companies hired the group for a US$100 million fast-track arbitration over a cogeneration facility – and won the full amount sought.

Recent developments

Dominic Pellew, the English and French qualified former head of the dispute resolution practice at Lovells CIS in Moscow, joined Baker Botts’ Moscow office as partner in August 2010.

Also in 2010, the firm recruited partner Jennifer Thornton, a former member of the NAFTA/DR-CAFTA legal team at the US Department of State, who has defended the US in some of the most contentious NAFTA chapter 11 cases to date.

Following the promotions of Ryan Bull and Johannes Koepp to partner in 2009 and 2010, last year saw the promotion of Chilean arbitration specialist and former ICSID counsel Alejandro Escobar in London.

New associate lawyers trained in France, Ireland, Italy, Russia and the US also joined the team.

Koepp, a German lawyer based in London who acts as both counsel and arbitrator, appeared in GAR’s “45 under 45”. Another Baker Botts lawyer, Ania Farren, is one of the driving forces behind the International Arbitration Charity Ball, which is now an annual event.

In Asia, Jun Bautista was one of the founding members of HK45, a new group for arbitration specialist in Hong Kong, in November 2010. He is also rapporteur for the Philippines for the ICC Taskforce on the New York Convention and is teaching an international arbitration course at one of the universities in Manila.

Dominic Pellew meanwhile was appointed chair of an ad hoc tribunal hearing an UNCITRAL claim (in Russian) brought by a CIS investor against an Eastern European country under a bilateral investment treaty and the Energy Charter Treaty.

Client comment

Tingting Hou, senior legal counsel at Huawei Technologies, was happy to vouch for Baker Botts’ arbitration specialists. Tingting described the lawyers she had used as “attentive, diplomatic and strategically the smarter of the two sides in the case.” Paul Wright, a coordinator of international disputes and special projects at ExxonMobil, said the team has the ability to “dig deep” and “will often find the golden nugget that makes all the difference between winning and losing.”

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