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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

18 February 2016

Acting against Russia in a Ukrainian bank’s claim relating to the annexation of Crimea, among a legion of other instructions

People in Who’s Who Legal: 5
Pending cases as counsel: 53
Value of pending counsel work: US$21 billion
Treaty cases: 15
Current arbitrator appointments: 32 (of which 13 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 5

Founded in Los Angeles in 1986 as a litigation shop, Quinn Emanuel has acquired a fearsome reputation in that field – particularly for complex, high-value cases in IP (it is acting for Samsung in the smartphone wars) and financial services.

Now at more than 600 lawyers, it’s famed for a brash style and a willingness to flout convention. For instance, the firm has a casual dress code and has been quicker than most to embrace alternative fee arrangements. Those tactics seem to have paid off: a recent ranking put it second only to Wall Street firm Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz in terms of profit per equity partner.

Until three years ago, though, the firm made little noise in the international arbitration field.

That changed following an audacious spate of lateral hires from other GAR 100 firms. Among the most notable of these was Stephen Jagusch (now Stephen Jagusch QC) former global chair of international arbitration at Allen & Overy. He joined at the start of 2013 to lead a practice in London, bringing up-and-coming investment arbitration specialist Anthony Sinclair with him. The pair have worked on some high-profile ICSID cases, including the first-ever claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

Jagusch’s decision to leave a magic circle firm to captain a start-up practice caused shockwaves in the arbitration community – Jan Paulsson told GAR that he could not recall “anything quite like it”.

Following that coup, Quinn Emanuel also succeeded in luring Philippe Pinsolle away from Shearman & Sterling to head a new Paris office. Pinsolle had been at Shearman for more than 20 years, working with Emmanuel Gaillard on, among other things, Yukos v Russia, the largest investment arbitration in history.

The hiring spree continued. In Washington, DC, it recruited Latin American arbitration specialist David Orta from Arnold & Porter, while in New York it hired Tai-Heng Cheng, an arbitrator and former professor.

In Hong Kong, John Rhie from Korean firm Kim & Chang joined head of international arbitration in Asia.

Other additions included energy specialist Ted Greeno from Herbert Smith Freehills in London and Nick Marsh from DLA Piper.

The firm also has a strong Moscow team headed by a pair of partners who joined from Dechert.

While many of its cases still have some way to run, there’s no doubt that the group is building remarkable momentum. Indeed, a source at a rival firm told GAR he’s seen Quinn Emanuel pitching for more and more work, and winning more pitches than they lose. Managing partner John Quinn’s promise of building a “pre-eminent” international arbitration practice seems to be more than a pipedream.

Network

The names to know are in London, Paris, Moscow, New York, Hong Kong and Washington, DC, with other members in Los Angeles, Mannheim, Hamburg, Tokyo, Houston, Munich, Shanghai and Sydney.

Who uses it?

Churchill Mining, Korea’s Daewoo International, DP World, US film production company Dreamworks, Edison, EDP, EDF, ExxonMobil, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Koch Industries, French oil and gas group Maurel & Prom, Asian private equity firm MBK Partners, Offshore Exploration and Production, German drug-maker Sandoz, Shaft Sinkers, Brazillian insurance company SulAmérica and French oil group Total are all recent clients in arbitration matters.

Indian-owned textiles group Spentex is using it for a treaty dispute with Uzbekistan.

The firm has also been retained by Cambodia, Panama and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (a UAE sovereign wealth fund), and by state-owned companies Sonatrach of Algeria and Oschadbank of Ukraine.

Track record

In 2012, the firm helped Dubai Ports World settle a dispute with the government of Yemen over the port of Aden that had threatened to play out in parallel investment treaty and commercial claims. The client received a lump-sum payment of US$35 million – representing 80 per cent of the value of the claim. It’s now defending the same client in an LCIA claim brought by the east African state of Djibouti.

The firm also helped a central Asian state settle a US$250 million investment treaty arbitration for around 2 per cent of the value sought. (Freshfields acted for the claimant.)

As co-counsel with Freshfields, Los Angeles partner Fred Bennett helped Cambodia see off a US$300 million ICSID claim brought by a US-owned investor concerning a power plant in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh.

The Moscow office helped Mabofi Holdings – a Cypriot company controlled by Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash – prevail in an arbitration at the Russian Chamber of Commerce over ownership of Hungary’s largest gas distributor, Emfesz. Quinn Emanuel went on to defend the award in the Russian courts.

If one counts successes of individual members at their previous firms, the track record is even stronger. Pinsolle was part of the Shearman & Sterling team that helped former majority shareholders in Yukos Oil Company win a US$50 billion award against Russia (he moved to Quinn Emanuel after the post-hearing briefs had been filed but before the award was issued).

While at DLA Piper, Nick Marsh in London helped Sual – a Bahamian entity controlled by Ukrainian oligarchs – settle a shareholder dispute with Russian aluminium producer Rusal over the validity of supply contracts worth US$48 billion. It is believed to have been one of the largest Russia-related disputes ever heard in London.

At Arnold & Porter, David Orta helped a US investor win around US$14 million in an ICSID case against Guatemala (the first case under DR-CAFTA to reach an award on the merits). He also helped Panama defeat its first-ever ICSID claim (brought by US investors over tax credits) and saw El Salvador through the landmark Inceysa case.

At Allen & Overy, Jagusch and Sinclair won the termination of two ICSID claims against their client, Azerbaijan. Sinclair also helped Luxembourg telecoms group Millicom settle a long-running ICSID claim against Senegal.

Recent events

The firm helped gas client Edison gain a €1 billion gas price review win over Eni, after a three-year ICC claim relating to the value of gas supplied from Libya under a long-term contract.

It also brought a favourable end to three ICSID claims against Egypt for Jordanian investor Ossama Al Sharif, with the state agreeing to renew the client’s concession to build oil storage facility on the Red Sea coast.

Other high-value disputes have seen positive progress, the practice beat off a jurisdictional challenge from Cyprus in a US$500 million claim for Lebanese banking investors Ayoub-Farid and Fadi Saab. In the New York courts it won dismissal of an application from Citigroup to block the filing of a second ICDR claim from its sovereign wealth fund client the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Algeria’s state-owned oil and gas company Sonatrach has retained it for a US$1.5 billion ICC dispute with French engineering company Technip over the refurbishment of an Algerian oil refinery.

A team led by Alex Gerbi in London has also been instructed in a US$680 million investment claim against Russia for the State Savings Bank of Ukraine, related to losses arising from Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. It is thought to be the one of the first investment treaty claims filed in connection with the annexation of territory.

The practice is also acting for a group of Italian investors pursuing Albania after it froze their assets in the country and issued international arrest warrants over accusations of money laundering and tax law violations.

Meanwhile, Sinclair and Jagusch are leading a team acting for German aviation investor Abed El Jaouni in a claim over Lebanon’s revocation of his private jet company’s licence.

On the state side, it is defending Panama in a new ICSID claim from US engineering group IBT over an asphalt production concession.

It has been instructed in what could become the first ever claim under the US–Australia FTA, relating to the cancellation of a coal exploration licence by the government of New South Wales.

The firm promoted three new partners: London counsel Epaminontas Triantafilou, senior associate Daniel Salinas-Serrano in Washington, DC, and senior associate Duncan Watson in Sydney and Hong Kong Jagusch joined the growing ranks of international arbitration solicitor advocate who have taken silk in London.

Client comment

Bronwen de Lange, general counsel at Shaft Sinkers, praises the firm’s “most eloquent drafting of extremely technical legal documents” and “unmatched cross-border and inter-jurisdiction ability”. Even people connected to the other side praised the QE team for the best opening argument, he says.

Scott Enright, general counsel at Emmis Communications (which lost its ICSID case against Hungary last year), says: “I’ve replayed our case over and over again in my head and cannot think of anything I wished Quinn Emanuel had done differently – and it’s not often people say that after a loss.” He adds,“The Quinn Emanuel team are among the finest attorneys I’ve worked with.”

Robert Peake, chairman at The Cragus Group, says: “I am always pleased to see how the Quinn Emanuel team works together seamlessly, with each member having a clear, coordinated role.”

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