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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Vinge

05 March 2012

The Swedish team has cornered the market for “East-West” arbitrations, in which a US or Western European party takes on an East Asian or former Soviet party.

People in Who’s Who:
3
Pending cases as counsel:
21
Value of pending counsel work:
US$33 billion
Treaty cases:
0
Current arbitrator appointments:
13 (of which 8 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
3

Vinge’s arbitration group dates back to when the firm focused mainly on M&A. Late partner Robert Romlöv in Gothenburg was an early adviser on ICSID arbitration and counsel to Dutch investor CME in a precedent-setting treaty case against the Czech Republic.

The dispute resolution group – under Romlöv’s tutelage – was built up in tandem with the expansion of the wider firm. After being all about the M&A, Vinge is now a full-service boutique. Initially, the practice was developed by Hans Bagner, one of Sweden’s better known names in the field (he’s since moved to a smaller practice). More recently, the arbitration group poached a rival’s core practice in 2009, adding a number of new faces to the group, including the chair of the board of the SCC Institute, Johan Gernandt.

Today, those lawyers – Gernandt, Christer Söderlund and James Hope, all in Stockholm and all nominated to The International Who’s Who of Commercial Arbitration – anchor the work. Söderlund, who is in high demand as an arbitrator, was chairman of the ad hoc committee that controversially annulled the Sempra Energy award against Argentina in 2010.

Network

The arbitration group works from Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. It used to be in Hong Kong too, but local partner Paulo Fohlin has moved to his own firm, Odebjer Fohlin. The firm plans to base its China expertise in its Swedish offices – rather than in Hong Kong – for now saying that most of its Asia-related arbitration work revolves around the SCC. Vinge also has offices in Brussels and Shanghai.

Who uses it?

Businesses that are trading or investing across what used to be the Iron Curtain. The arbitration group boasts several Russian speakers and last year employed a Chinese arbitration specialist. The Swedish practice works closely with colleagues in Shanghai in cases related to China.

Chinese clients include Wahaha, one of China’s biggest food firms, in an arbitration against Danone; the Dongfang Boiler Group; and Shanghai Wujing Chemicals.

On the Russian side, joint stock company Acron, shipyard Baltiysky Zavod, Russian shareholders on one side of the TNK-BP joint venture and Naftogaz have all called on Vinge for arbitration advice.

Domestically, Sweden’s Tele2 is an important client.

Track record

One of the firm’s most illustrious moments was the CME v Czech Republic case from 2003. Vinge was part of the legal team acting for the Dutch investor in local court proceedings to defend a major award under the Netherlands-Czechoslovakia BIT. The investor won one of the largest sums seen at ICSID.

More recently, the team acted as legal counsel for a major Russian shipyard, helping to reduce a claim of €145 million to an award of €20 million.

In the work for Wahaha, the Chinese client prevailed in six out of eight arbitrations (although the arbitrators never released their final awards), laying the groundwork for a settlement on the remaining claims.

Recent events

The team bid farewell to Paulo Fohlin, a partner in the Hong Kong and Gothenburg offices; and to Christina Ramberg, who left to become a full-time professor in civil law at Stockholm University.

On the flip side, the firm added Han Zhang to the arbitration group. Zhang is a former counsel at CIETAC and a graduate of the Stockholm University masters programme in international commercial arbitration.

James Hope, meanwhile, was promoted to equity partner in the Stockholm office as of 1 January 2012.

2011 saw Vinge acting as lead counsel in a number of major cases under foreign law. The team paired up with Allen & Overy and with DLA Piper on two English-law cases. It handled a case under Chinese law, against Fulbright & Jaworski in London. And it has taken on several Russian cases – including one where the language of arbitration was Russian.

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