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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Mayer Brown

18 February 2016

Acting for the Panama Canal Authority in a billion-dollar ICC claim

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Pending cases as counsel: 46
Value of pending counsel work: US$6 billion
Treaty cases: 6
Current arbitrator appointments: 25 (of which 17 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 9

Like many US firms in this directory, Mayer Brown built its reputation on US litigation and later branched into international arbitration as part of that practice area. The firm has been acting in international arbitrations for decades, but perhaps not as conspicuously as some of its US rivals.

The product of three firms dating back to the 19th century – Mayer Brown & Platt, JSM and Rowe & Maw – it began by taking a role in US insurance arbitrations. But by the mid-1990s, it was advising on much larger matters, such as representing Turkmenistan on a series of oil and gas arbitrations worth billions of dollars.

Today, the practice consists of over 100 lawyers, led by partner Raid Abu-Manneh in London (a fluent Arabic speaker) and Menachem Hasofer in Hong Kong. In 2015, it welcomed B Ted Howes in New York as a fellow global co-leader and chair of the international arbitration group in the US.

Another name to know is French-Lebanese partner Dany Khayat, who heads the international arbitration practice in Paris.

Senior consultant Robin Peard in Hong Kong is former deputy chairman of the HKIAC and was involved in the drafting of Hong Kong’s 2012 international arbitration law as well as in the revision of various sets of HKIAC arbitration rules.

Nine Mayer Brown lawyers are acting as arbitrators in cases at CIETAC, the HKIAC, the ICC, the Dubai International Arbitration Centre, the Cairo centre, DIS and the Madrid Court of Arbitration.

Network

The firm’s main offices for international arbitration are London, Paris, Chicago, New York, Houston, Frankfurt, Singapore, São Paolo and Hong Kong. It has nine offices in the Americas – including two in Brazil in association with local firm Tauil & Chequer – eight in Asia, and five in Europe. The European offices are known for their expertise in Middle East and Africa matters.

In 2015, the firm announced that it was opening an office in Mexico City. It also recently launched an alliance with Chinese firm Jingtian & Gongcheng.

Who uses it?

Aside from insurance expertise, Mayer Brown has industry-specific experience in the construction, energy and financial services sectors. The teams in London and Hong Kong are recognised for their construction disputes practices.

Among its Hong Kong clients are MTR Corporation, for disputes arising from a rail project linking Hong Kong with Guangzhou and Shenzhen on the mainland, and the Hong Kong government works bureau and tunnel company.

It is also acting for Canada’s SMI Construction in an ICC claim against Algeria’s national airline.

At ICSID, the firm is advising investors in claims against Romania and Jordan and defending Egypt against a claim by French waste management company Veolia.

On the corporate side, it has also done work for UK defence contractor BAE Systems, US pharma group Merck and corn syrup producer Cargill.

Track record

The firm was brought in to defend a Brazilian satellite communications company in an ICDR proceeding seated in New York, winning substantive victories on the scope and applicability of Venezuelan telecoms law under the contract.

It has settled ICSID claims for UK mining company Joy (against Egypt, ending an annulment application brought by the company) and for Gambia.

More recently, the firm represented HKIAC on a pro bono basis in the first litigation brought against the centre. The lawsuit, brought by a disgruntled user after the centre dismissed of his challenge to two arbitrators, was rejected by the Hong Kong court of first instance with costs.

Recent events

With co-counsel Vinson & Elkins, it is defending the Panama Canal Authority against a multibillion-dollar ICC claim brought by a Spanish construction consortium over costs incurred during the expansion of the canal and has helped the authority to file its own competing claim against the consortium.

Dany Khayat and Raid Abu-Manneh continue to represent a subsidiary of Kuwait’s Foauad Alghanim & Sons Group in a US$150 million ICSID telecoms claim against Jordan.

The firm promoted José Caicedo to counsel in Paris, in addition to hiring Howes.

Client comment

Ravi Isaac, general counsel at pipeline protection infrastructure company Insituform (now Aegion Corporation) in Singapore, hired the firm’s Hong Kong branch, Mayer Brown JSM, for a “fairly crucial matter.”

“Frankly, JSM made the other solicitors look bland, uninterested and unfamiliar with their client,” Isaac says. He also notes the firm’s willingness to scale back its fees and involvement in the case when other experts and QCs were involved, allowing the client to moderate its fees in a “complex and labour-intensive” arbitration.

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