Homburger was once the Zurich arm of Baker & McKenzie, breaking away to become an independent firm in 1991. The modern arbitration group emerged from a reorganisation seven years later by Markus Wirth, former president of the Swiss Arbitration Association, and Thomas Müller.
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$918 million
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 13 (of which 13 is as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
The team has grown steadily since then, to between 20 and 25 lawyers.
In 2010, Müller passed the role of head of the practice to partner Felix Dasser. Aside from Dasser, a name to know at the firm is Balz Gross, who was a prominent figure during the Megafon saga about the true ownership of a Russian telephone company. Georg Nägeli, Gabrielle Nater-Bass and Mariella Orelli are also well-known names. Wirth, who is still a senior partner at the firm, regularly sits as an arbitrator, as do Nater-Bass and Nägeli.
Though present only in Zurich, the team has come to comprise lawyers from civil and common law backgrounds, including at least two US-qualified lawyers. Like many firms in Switzerland – a country that encompasses German, French and Italian culture, and recognises four national languages (the fourth is Romansh, a language spoken in the eastern canton of Graubünden) – it regards itself “especially prepared” to offer a multicultural approach on cases.
Who uses it?
Homburger’s client list includes Swiss household names such as Nestlé, Zurich Financial Services and drilling rig owner Transocean, in addition to Northern European, Asian and US companies such as Sweden’s Sony Ericsson, France’s Vivendi and Malaysian Airline System Berhad.
It’ll be hard for the firm to top its win in the Megafon proceedings (admittedly as part of a team of law firms). The team turned the arbitration around by producing evidence of money laundering and corruption in Russia. They overturned an unfavourable award in what was first successful revision of an award before the Swiss Federal Tribunal on such grounds, before winning the main dispute.
But the firm has had other high points in recent times, including Dasser’s negotiation of a US$156 million settlement for German technology firm Infineon in an IP arbitration with a Taiwanese company, and a win for the Swiss power utility Atel (now Alpiq) against Italy’s Enel in an arbitration over long-term electricity supply contracts.
Melissa Magliana, who has been at the firm since 2005, was promoted to counsel. The group has also added two associates, fluent Russian speaker Mladen Stojiljkovic and Christina Rouvinez, a French avocat. It expects to add another two associates to the arbitration practice in early 2012. Another associate, Reto Marghitola, has temporarily left the office to write a doctoral thesis.