Juggles public international law with impressive pro bono work
|People in Who’s Who Legal||1|
|Pending cases as counsel||12|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$4.9 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments||7 (of which 4 are
as sole or chair)
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||5|
This US firm’s disputes practice grew from its strength in project finance, energy and insurance. It was one of the first foreign law firms to open in Moscow and other emerging markets. The international arbitration practice really took off from around 2007 with a series of lateral hires that made it particularly strong in Latin America-related disputes and also gave it a foothold in London.
Following a number of senior departures between 2011 and 2013, the practice is now helmed by partner Mark Beckett in New York, part of a contingent that joined from Latham & Watkins around that time. His team, including partners Rachel Thorn and Marc Suskin and senior associate Christina Hioureas, bring experience in public international law as well as investment and commercial arbitration.
A more recent addition to the partnership is Dominican-born Julissa Reynoso, who joined in 2014 after a three-year spell as the US ambassador to Uruguay. Meanwhile the head of the disputes practice in Warsaw, Sylwester Pieckowski, is the president of the Polish Arbitration Association and much in demand locally as an arbitrator.
The anchor of the practice continues to be New York, with other practitioners in Moscow, Warsaw, Dubai and Washington, DC. Despite the loss of an energy disputes team in 2013, the London office still fields some insurance arbitration specialists. The wider firm has offices in Mexico City, São Paulo, Los Angeles, Kiev, Istanbul and Beijing.
Who uses it?
Its clients are mostly from the construction, energy, mining, telecoms, insurance and financial services sectors. The firm’s ICSID clients include the US’s Koch Minerals and French multinational Engie (formerly known as GDF Suez). It’s also reported to be advising Turkish construction group Tekfen in an ICC claim against Libya.
Governments use the practice. The Republic of the Congo has retained the firm to defend it in US enforcement proceedings, while European and African states have consulted it on boundary and law of the sea issues.
Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich also turned to a member of the firm to provide expert evidence on Russian law in his high-profile US$5 billion English High Court litigation with the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky.
The firm isn’t able to disclose much about its recent successes but reports a major victory for a US energy company in an ICC claim against a west African state, and favourable settlements in a joint venture dispute between two of the world’s largest chemicals groups.
Going further back, a team in the Moscow office upset French multinational Total’s plans in a high-profile LCIA case over rights to the biggest oil field in Siberia. Chadbourne & Parke represented the respondent – a subsidiary of a Russian state entity – and had Total’s claim dismissed.
Chadbourne has also achieved good results for an Asian licensee against the owner of a low-earth-orbit satellite system in an ICDR case; and for a Danish company in a VIAC dispute with Vodafone Americas over the sale of shares in Polish mobile phone operator Polkomtel.
Before leaving Latham, Mark Beckett and Christina Hioureas achieved a laudable win in 2012 for Abukar Hassan Ahmed, a former law professor who was tortured in Somalia. Working pro bono, they helped Ahmed win US$15 million in a US court action against Abdi Aden Magan, former chief of national security in the government of Siad Barre. The case was brought under the Alien Tort Statute.
The year brought a new instruction from a subsidiary of Engie in an ICSID claim against Turkish state-owned pipeline company Botas¸ relating to a natural gas power plant.
Chadbourne continues to act for Koch Minerals in an ICSID claim against Venezuela concerning the expropriation of a fertiliser plant. That case has been delayed by the death of an arbitrator, Florentino Feliciano.
In another pro bono case, the team has been helping the family of the late Chilean folk musician and socialist activist Víctor Jara in Florida litigation against a former general in the Chilean army under Augusto Pinochet, accusing him of responsibility for Jara’s death while imprisoned in a football stadium during the Chilean military coup of 1973.
One client that used Chadbourne lawyers in an investor-state arbitration tells GAR that Beckett was “fantastic in an arbitral hearing” and did an “outstanding job” in cross-examining the opposing party’s quantum expert. Overall, the firm was “knowledgeable and capable” in international arbitration.
Another client dealing with “the most important case our company has ever faced” praised the team as “absolutely stellar lawyers.” The source said Mark Beckett has “strong ethics and integrity” and “knows his cases inside and out”. Meanwhile Christina Hioureas is “academically distinguished, yet commercially minded; tough and powerful yet elegant and eloquent; she memorises all intricacies of the case yet always keeps the big picture and strategy in mind.”