Acting for solar power investors against Spain
|People in Who’s Who Legal||3|
|Pending cases as counsel||32|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$4.2 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments||24|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||11|
Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira was born of a 2003 merger between two 80-year-old firms from Spain and Portugal. Initially, the firm’s international arbitration work rarely strayed from the Iberian peninsula, but after a surge in Latin America and North Africa-related cases in 2007, it began to expand its focus.
The practice has gone from being one of the first Iberian firms invited to pitch for major work, to now winning some of those pitches ahead of the big Anglo-Saxon firms. You will find it acting opposite large international firms almost as often as against other Spanish names. Meanwhile, its Latin American regional international arbitration practice is also recognised in various legal directories as a frontrunner.
Recently, it’s become more prominent in the investment arbitration arena as a result of Spain’s cuts to renewable energy subsidies. The firm is advising investors in some 10 Energy Charter Treaty cases relating to those reforms, including the first ICSID claim ever brought by a Japanese investor. Partner Pedro Claros has been leading the work on those cases.
The firm handles a fair number of ICC arbitrations, with its caseload having steadily increased in recent years. Spanish clients remain the key users, but wider EU and US companies have also retained the firm of late, and it has also received instructions from Portuguese former colonies: one over the construction of an airport on the island of Cape Verde, and the other over an oil exploration project in Angola.
Of its 14 Spanish offices, Madrid, Barcelona and Seville are the key arbitration hubs, while Lisbon, Paris and São Paulo are also home to leading names. The arbitration practice has further access to operations in London, Brussels, New York, Shanghai and Casablanca.
More significantly, perhaps, it has associations with two law firms in Lusophone Africa: Sousa Abogados in Luanda, Angola; and Couto, Graça & Associados in Maputo, Mozambique.
Who uses it?
Clients traditionally hailed from Iberia and Latin America, but an increasing number are from other parts of the world. They include Spain’s Abengoa Group, Argentina’s Pluspetrol, France’s Engie, Germany’s BayWa, the US’s NextEra Energy and Japanese clients JGC, Mitsubishi and Matsui.
Cuatrecasas won US$140 million in damages for US private equity firm TSG Consumer in 2013 following ICC proceedings in Madrid against Luxembourg’s CVC.
It secured a US$45 million payout to US-Spanish toll-road consortium Codacsa in a London-seated ICC case against the Dominican Republic in 2012. The state, represented by Arnold & Porter, paid the award in 2013.
The same year, Cuatrecasas advised on two New York-seated ICC arbitrations, obtaining awards totalling US$110 million in favour of its client Abengoa. The awards survived a challenge in the Second Circuit.
The firm secured a victory for its clients in a Yukos-related case in 2012. A group of Spanish funds with minority stakes in the now defunct Russian oil company won an award for US$2 million against Russia. Though the payout was small, the tribunal effectively valued Yukos at more than US$60 billion at the time it was expropriated. Cuatrecasas has also won an investment arbitration against Cuba (albeit a small one). The case took place at the ICC and was brought by a medium-sized Spanish company. The firm was sole counsel to the claimant and won a US$2.8 million award.
Antonio Hierro, who led the arbitration group until 2009 and had been instrumental in its expansion, left the firm in 2015 to establish his own arbitrator practice.
The firm brought in a good result defending Argentine utility Pampa Energía in an ICC dispute with Spanish construction group Isolux over the upgrade of a power plant in Argentina. Cuatrecasas succeeded in reducing Isolux’s US$200 million claim to just US$1 million – while also helping Pampa prevail on a counterclaim worth US$45 million. The firm is now working to enforce the award in several jurisdictions.
Cuatrecasas team has also been acting for a motorway concessionaire in a €530 million Lisbon-seated arbitration against the Portuguese government.
Fernando Bergon, in-house counsel at NextEra, says the Cuatrecasas team “stands out for its strong academic skills”. In particular, he praises partner Alberto Fortún as “a brilliant lawyer” who “always thinks out of the box and quickly grasps all components of the case.”
Roberto García, general director of Codacsa, praises Cuatrecasas for its “very solid and hard-working” team in Madrid. He notes that the lead partner on one important case even postponed his honeymoon in order to meet a deadline imposed by the client.