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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Volterra Fietta

05 March 2012

London has its first international arbitration boutique – with a PIL focus.

People in Who’s Who:
Pending cases as counsel:
Value of pending counsel work:
US$4.8 billion
Treaty cases:
Current arbitrator appointments:
1 (of which 1 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:

After six years leading the public international law group at Latham & Watkins, Robert Volterra broke away with younger partner Stephen Fietta to found this specialist firm in February 2011.

Less than a year later, far from dropping off the map, both are as visible as ever and have swiftly picked up new work – including two weighty new claims against Venezuela at ICSID.

Volterra, a Canadian who cut his teeth working with Jan Paulsson in Paris and then later at Herbert Smith, has counsel experience in a variety of PIL forums. He’s acted for states including Bahrain, Barbados, Eritrea and Chile in territorial and maritime boundary disputes before the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Fietta also has experience beyond the normal array of arbitral rules; he’s worked on cases at the ICJ, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the European Court of Human Rights.

Who uses it?

Koch Industries and Owens Illinois have both recently retained it, both for expropriation claims against Venezuela (the new work mentioned above). Former colleagues at Latham & Watkins are co-counsel in those.

A lot of their cases involve third-party funding.

US businessman Ronald Lauder (son of Estée) is also a client – via a Cypriot company he co-owns (Vigotop). Vigotop has turned to the firm for an ICSID claim against Hungary concerning an aborted project to build a billion-euro casino resort overlooking Lake Velence.

On the state side, Croatia is a client.

Track record

It’s early days for the firm, but the pair certainly enjoyed some successes while at Latham & Watkins.

Last year, for instance, Volterra helped Ukraine defeat an ICSID claim by German technology group GEA. (In a much-discussed award, a tribunal chaired by Albert Jan van den Berg ruled that neither an ICC arbitral award nor a settlement agreement could qualify as an “investment” under the ICSID Convention or the Germany-Ukraine BIT.)

In another Latham case, Stephen Fietta helped Croatia see off an €80 million claim from an Austrian casino operator dating back to the Balkan wars of independence. An UNCITRAL panel rejected the claimant’s case on the merits in mid-2010, holding that its dispute with the state was entirely commercial in nature and had already been dealt with by the local courts.

Recent events

Fietta was picked for inclusion in GAR’s latest “45 under 45” in 2011. Volterra previously appeared in the 2006 edition.

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