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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Tomov & Tomov

18 February 2016

Defending Bulgaria in ICSID arbitrations with Omani and Czech claimants

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Pending cases as counsel: 6
Value of pending counsel work: US$2 billion
Treaty cases: 0
Current arbitrator appointments: 10 (of which 1 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 1

The boutique firm was founded in 1993 by Lazar Tomov in Sofia andspecialises in arbitration, litigation and complex financial transactions. Tomov himself balances his work as counsel with a thriving practice as an arbitrator, having been appointed to more than 100 panels. His counsel work has included ICSID, ICC and UNCITRAL proceedings, as well as disputes under the auspices of the Arbitration Court of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The firm’s other partner is Sylvia Steeva, who with Tomov co-authored the Bulgaria chapter of GAR’s sister publication, Getting the Deal Through – Arbitration.

Tomov & Tomov is best known for its representation of Bulgaria in the first four ICSID claims brought against the country, acting always with Bulgaria’s regular international counsel, White & Case. This pairing started in 2003 with the successful defence of the state from a US$280 million Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) claim by Cyprus’s Plama Consortium – the first ECT case before ICSID to reach the merits stage.

They have since worked together on two more claims filed in the past few years: one from Dutch waste management group Novera for which an award was issued in August 2015 , and another ECT claim filed in 2013, this time by Austrian electricity company EVN.

In 2015, the firm was retained by Bulgaria as co-counsel to Arnold & Porter in a new ICSID claim filed by Oman’s largest sovereign wealth fund in a dispute over the fund’s investment in a collapsed bank.

The firm has also teamed up with White & Case again to act for Bulgaria in an ICSID arbitration with the Czech power supply company Energo-Pro.

As the firm itself admits, the Bulgarian legal market is “limited in regard to significant international arbitration cases”, with almost all such disputes involving the state as a party in some way. As a result, the firm has taken a decent share of Bulgaria-related commercial arbitrations too.

Along with White & Case it’s acting currently for the state in an ICC dispute filed by a US claimant. The two firms also celebrated a victory for the state against an ICC claim filed by a Swedish claimant. In 2015, they convinced French courts to reject the Swedish claimant’s application to set aside the jurisdictional award issued by the tribunal.

Tomov & Tomov also successfully defended Bulgaria, as co-counsel to Sidley Austin, from a claim by a German investor before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The tribunal dismissed the claim for lack of jurisdiction and ordered the claimant to pay costs. It co-counselled with Hanefeld Rechtsanwalte to enforce the award in Germany, and also worked with De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek to defend a set-aside action in the Netherlands, which was ultimately abandoned by the losing side.

Client comment

Abby Cohen Smutny, partner at frequent co-counsel White & Case, says, “Tomov & Tomov, and Lazar Tomov in particular, are among the most competent, technically proficient local counsel we have had the pleasure of working with.

“The Tomov & Tomov team are among the most knowledgeable and experienced firms in Bulgaria in the area of international arbitration, public international law, and international transactions generally. Their team has the knack for quickly mastering every detail, they are precise and thorough – the hallmark of every winning team – and they effectively convey the nuance that is essential to the deep understanding of the situation at hand.”

She adds: “Sylvia Steeva has impeccable attention to detail and is always precise and on point. She is multi-lingual and masters even complex and technical subjects easily.”

One user of the firm’s services praises its strategic judgment in the selection of arguments, and its thoroughness. “They approach every legal issue with legal knowledge, diligence and dedication,” the user says. The fees are reasonable, and Lazar Tomov in particular is an “outstanding litigator with good judgement and powerful argumentation,” the client adds.

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