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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Musat & Asociati

18 February 2016

The firm that defended Romania in its first-ever ICSID case has had two wins for a French construction company

Pending cases as counsel: 14
Value of pending counsel work: US$2.2 billion
Treaty cases: 0
Current arbitrator appointments: 4 (of which 2 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 2

Founded during the privatisation boom in the early 1990s, Musat & Asociatii was one of Romania’s first independent law firms, and became the first to represent the state in an investment dispute at ICSID, partnering with White & Case in a claim brought by US firm Noble Ventures in 2001.

The firm suffered a blow in 2005 when 20 of its lawyers (including Florentin tuca and Cornel Popa, who took the lead in the Noble matter) broke away to form fellow GAR 100 firm tuca Zbârcea & Asociatii. Luminita Popa became a partner at Musat in the same year, later becoming head of the revamped international arbitration practice.

In February 2016, as this book went to press, Luminita Popa announced she was leaving Musat to found a new firm, Suciu Popa & Asociatii, taking a team with her.

Who uses it?

Having counselled the government early on, the firm has more often acted against Romania in recent years. For a time, it advised Swedish investor Viorel Micula in a dispute with the state and counts Italian energy group Enel among its current users. Other clients include Greek financial services company Piraeus Bank, German conglomerate Thyssen Krupp, Calgary-based oil producer Sterling Resources, GDF Suez and Google.

Track record

The firm successfully acted for Enel in a US$59 million ICC claim and is defending the company in a US$1.2 billion case brought by the Romanian government over issues concerning the interpretation of a privatisation contract.

It was also retained in further ICC matters by Hungarian property developer Trigranit Group in a case involving claims of over US$70 million, and by Italian manufacturer Termomecanica Ecologia in a case worth US$13 million. Both matters ended in success for the firm in 2012.

More recently, it acted in an arbitration administered by the Romanian Chamber of Commerce’s arbitration court on behalf of ECE Projektmanagement Romania and ECE Projektmanagement International. The case, worth US$20 million, ended favourably for the firm’s clients in 2013.

Recent events

The firm secured a US$25 million victory for French construction company Colas in 2015, following another victory for the company the year before. The dispute arose from the client’s contract with Romanian National Company of Motorways and National Roads, and related to the restoration of a major road in the country.

The firm is representing a Romanian television broadcasting company in an arbitration seated in Los Angeles.

Client comment

Alain Clotte at Colas describes the firm as “less polemic and more legal” and highlights the quality of the documents drafted by the lawyers, as well as the team’s coordination with their clients during hearings. Thought it “may be seen a bit expensive”, the quality and the reactivity is there, he says.

Enel’s Edoardo Marcenaro says: “Musat & Associatii was much more professional than the counterparty’s counsel, especially in view of not causing unfruitful waste of time to the arbitral tribunal.” He says the firm was put to the test in one case when the tribunal chairman raised a final question in the last hearing, giving Musat only a 15-minute break to prepare its reply. But the firm rose to the challenge and gave a response that was “decisive for a favourable award to Enel”, he contends.

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