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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Schönherr

18 February 2016

The Austrian firm is defending Montenegro at ICSID

People in Who’s Who Legal: 10
Value of pending counsel work: US$1.2 billion
Treaty cases: 4

Founded more than 50 years ago, Schönherr is part of the Austrian establishment. As such, it has long been counsel to numerous big-name companies from the CIS region. In 2000, the firm decided to expand its service to include a focused international arbitration practice.

Hellwig Torggler and Gerold Zeiler co-promoted the idea, and led the training programme that it required (the firm opted to grow its own rather than make lateral hires). Torggler has since moved on to become a full-time arbitrator, while Zeiler left the firm in 2014 to found his own boutique.

Since Zeiler’s move, the arbitration practice is headed by Christoph Lindinger, also the firm’s managing partner.

Network

The Austrian firm began expanding eastwards in 1996 and is now open in 12 cities across the CIS, the Balkans, Poland and Ukraine, with country desks in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro. It has had a cooperation agreement with a firm in Istanbul since 2009, where the local disputes head is Murat Canyürek.

Who uses it?

The arbitration group’s focus is on energy or investment work – much of it related to central and eastern Europe. At present, it is acting for German energy group RWE in various oil and gas arbitrations, as well as Romania’s OMV Petrom. Siemens and Spanish carmaker SEAT have also relied on the firm.

It has also represented the governments of the Czech Republic, Montenegro and Republika Srpska in disputes arising from investments in the energy field, real estate development and other matters. Montenegro is using it to defend an ICSID claim worth €72 million brought by a Dutch investor in a bankrupt steel company.

The government of Moldova recently chose the firm to defend it in a treaty dispute with a Russian banking investor at the SCC, though the case settled soon after.

Track record

The firm scored a big win for the government of Republika Srpska in a case against Czech energy conglomerate CEZ. After an extensive jurisdictional phase, the tribunal dismissed CEZ’s claim against the government for lack of jurisdiction.

Recent events

The firm has been acting for Montenegro to defend a claim by a subsidiary of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s En+ Group, after it alleged that the state unlawfully interfered an insolvency process.

In February 2015, Schönherr successfully defended Switzerland’s Valora International in a post-M&A dispute seated in Frankfurt, with the tribunal rejecting the claims in their entirety.

The firm also secured a favourable settlement for Austria-based oil and gas company OMV in another post-M&A arbitration under ICC Rules.

In August 2015, Anne-Karin Grill was promoted to partner, having joined the firm as counsel a year earlier.

Insight

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