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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Derains & Gharavi

18 February 2016

Outgrowing its “boutique” label, the Paris firm now has a presence in DC and Beirut

People in Who’s Who Legal 3
Pending cases as counsel 30
Value of pending counsel work US$6.9 billion
Treaty cases 10
Current arbitrator appointments 74 (of which 35 are
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 4

Launched in 2009, this Parisian boutique originally brought together two leading French arbitrators, Yves Derains and the late Serge Lazareff, with two younger partners, Hamid Gharavi (formerly of Salans) and Yves’ son, Bertrand Derains.

Though Lazareff left to join another boutique not long afterwards, Derains & Gharavi has gone from strength to strength.

The partnership expanded in 2011 with the arrival of Dutch lawyer Mélanie van Leeuwen from Loyens & Loeff, and more recently with the hire of Eloïse Obadia, a long-term senior counsel at ICSID. Obadia launched the firm’s first overseas offices in Washington, DC, while a new office in Beirut is run by the first partner to be promoted from its associate ranks, Nada Sader.

Yves Derains, Gharavi and van Leeuwen all sit as arbitrators, and have been appointed to the ICSID panel of arbitrators. Derains, who is a former secretary general of the ICC Court, was appointed chairman of the ICC Institute of World Business Law in 2010 and is an ICCA board member. He features in Who’s Who Legal’s latest list of the 25 most highly regarded people in arbitration.

Gharavi has an enviable record of success as counsel in ICSID cases. He's also a thought leader in the arbitration community, having emerged as a trenchant critic of the ICSID annulment system. His firm convened a conference on that subject in 2015 together with the French ministry of foreign affairs.

Network

The firm marked the opening in DC with a drinks party before the 2015 GAR Awards after many months spent renovating the office in the Watergate Building. Opening there and in Beirut makes sense in light of its high quantity of ICSID cases, many of them brought by investors with links to Lebanon and the wider Middle East. To mark its expansion, the firm has amended its name to Derains & Gharavi International.

Who uses it?

Albania has been a returning client for investor-state work, with the governments of Sudan, Turkey and Togo also lining up to use the firm on ICSID matters. It has acted for investors in ICSID cases too, including the US’s Eurogas and Canada’s Belmont Resources in a €1 billion claim against Slovakia; French investor Franck Charles Arif in a claim against Moldova; and three Belgian real estate developers in a claim against Croatia.

Kazakh oil company Caratube turned to Derains & Gharavi for a resubmitted ICSID claim worth US$1 billion, as well as proceedings to annul the outcome of an earlier unsuccessful arbitration (in which the firm played no part). London-listed mining company Oxus Gold used it for a treaty claim against Uzbekistan (see ‘Recent events’).

Other private clients include Alcatel, Invista, Thales, Vinci, Veolia and various Greek companies in construction and M&A disputes. A more controversial client has been French businessman Bernard Tapie, who used Derains & Gharavi and Betto Seraglini to defend his arbitration award against a French government entity over the sale of his stake in German sportwear brand Adidas.

Track record

Derains & Gharavi helped Turkey knock out one of the biggest cases in ICSID’s history in 2010: a US$19 billion telecoms expropriation claim filed by Dutch–Jordanian national Saba Fakes. The tribunal dismissed the claim as frivolous at the jurisdictional phase and ordered Fakes to pay Turkey US$1.5 million in costs.

The firm also helped two Turkish telecoms companies fend off an attempt by Kazakhstan to annul a US$175 million award in their favour.

In 2011 another client, US radio investor Joseph Lemire, won almost US$9 million in an ICSID claim against Ukraine. The award survived an annulment challenge by the state.

There have been various successes for Albania, including the defeat at the jurisdictional stage of a US$18 million claim by investors in the country’s scratch card market in 2013.

Recent events

The firm’s recent string of successes for Albania continued when it persuaded a majority tribunal to reject a €45 million Energy Charter Treaty claim brought by Greek fuel distributor Mamidoil.

But there was a blow for another client, Oxus Gold, which was awarded just US$10 million (plus interest) out of the US$1.3 billion it had sought in a bet-the-company claim against Uzbekistan. The state’s US$117 million counterclaim was also rejected. Oxus suspended trading of its shares following the ruling. The case had been financed by third-party funder Calunius Capital.

Gharavi is representing Turkish clients Aktau Petrol and Som Petrol in a US$150 million claim against Kazakhstan – a case with strong echoes of an another case conducted by Gharavi for telecoms client Rumeli.

It is acting in a new US$170 million claim for American and British pharmaceuticals investors Devincci and Issam Hourani and for Devincci Hourani in a separate ICSID claim against Kazakhstan filed jointly with Caratube International Oil Company.

It took over the file from another Paris firm for Muhammet Çap’s ICSID claim against Turkmenistan after the jurisdictional phase.

In Africa, it is acting for Tunisian construction investor Kontinental Conseil Ingénierie against Gabon in a rare claim under the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation investment agreement worth €200 million.

Another new instruction comes from the Iranian Dayyani family, who have filed UNCITRAL proceedings against South Korea over an aborted sale of a stake in consumer electronics chaebol Daewoo.

The firm continues to act in a €1 billion ICSID claim against Slovakia by clients Eurogas and Belmont Resources. On the state side, it is defending Sudan against ICSID claim by telecoms investor Michael Dagher.

It was ultimately unsuccessful in an attempt to annul an adverse jurisdictional decision in favour of Turkmenistan against client Kılıç Insaat. Derains & Gharavi took over the case from another firm at the annulment stage.

At the start of 2016, the firm promoted Paris-based Marie Laure Bizeau to counsel.

Client comment

Nikolaj Gube, deputy head of legal and international affairs at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, hired Derains & Gharavi for an ad hoc arbitration over a construction project, following a Europe-wide selection process.

“The team demonstrated a dedicated and professional approach throughout the procedure from the first preparatory meeting until the last follow up after the final award,” he says. “Although the underlying matter was very technical, this was handled in all necessary detail without losing sight of the general interests and requirements of the client.”

Gube adds that the team adapted quickly to changing situations and its advice was “valuable and much appreciated”.

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