Acting for MOL in a high-profile case against Croatia involving allegations of government corruprion
|People in Who’s Who Legal:||2|
|Pending cases as counsel:||18|
|Current arbitrator appointments:||15 (of which 7 are as sole or chair)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator:||5|
Founded in New York in the 1930s, Weil Gotshal & Manges has been a leading firm for US litigation for years. It started a stand-alone international arbitration group in 2003, but this only really began to gather momentum later with the arrival of some seasoned names from other firms.
These included Juliet Blanch, former head of McDermott Will & Emery’s disputes practice, who joined in 2010 and leads the group. Another boost came in 2012 with the hire of an ICSID-savvy team from Crowell & Moring, including Arif Hyder Ali – who co-led the arbitration group with Blanch for three years before moving to Dechert in 2015.
The group now reckons to have 30 lawyers across eight offices worldwide. The key people work from New York, London and Washington, DC, but there are arbitration-literate partners also found in Prague, Budapest and Warsaw, as well as the Paris and Frankfurt offices.
Who uses it?
Those offices in Eastern Europe supply a lot of energy-related work across the region and the CIS. In the United States, the firm is popular with life-sciences and pharma companies thanks to a name in IP.
Clients on record include: Gazprom, Aventis, Sanofi, Genzyme, Czech power utility CEZ, Panasonic, Taiwan’s Pegatron, the Williams Companies and Polish state-controlled gas utility PGNiG, as well as the governments of Ecuador, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Hungarian oil and gas distributor MOL has retained the firm to bring the first ever Energy Charter Treaty claim against Croatia, at ICSID – a high-profile case involving allegations of corruption against the country’s former prime minister. It also won a mandate from the Camisea consortium – investors in Peru’s largest natural gas project – for an ICSID claim against a state entity; the consortium members included the US’s Hunt Oil, South Korea’s SK Group, Spain’s Repsol, Algeria’s Sonatrach and Argentina’s Pluspetrol and Tecpetrol.
A case for PGNiG ended in a settlement worth US$12 billion to the client (a gas-pricing dispute – the company’s share price jumped 15 per cent at the result). PGNiG has since hired the firm to act on another gas price arbitration against Gazprom.
Ted Posner made a name for himself in 2012 when he helped to bring about Argentina’s removal from the United States’ preferential trade list (the US General System of Preferences), for non-payment of an arbitral award. It’s thought to be the first time that sanction has been used against a state. The award in question (owned by Blue Ridge Investments) has since been paid.
The team beat Slaughter and May to be instructed by a UK corporate on a Russian joint-venture dispute.
Roman Vojta and Weil’s Prague-based partner Karolína Horáková also took the lead in the firm’s work for CEZ in an ECT dispute with Albania, which ended in a US$100 million settlement with the state’s newly elected government in 2014.
In 2015, arbitration group co-head Arif Hyder Ali and partner Alexandre de Gramont moved to Dechert. Another partner – Samaa Haridi – joined the partnership at Hogan Lovells in New York. In Washington, DC, Charles “Chip” Roh retired from the partnership.
The firm had a good result defending Czech electricity distributor CEZ – after an ICC tribunal dismissed the bulk of an US$81 million claim, awarding the claimant, a Romanian state entity, just US$5.7 million.
There was a setback in an ICSID case the firm is handling for Hungary, after an ICSID tribunal held the state liable for denial of justice in connection with the conduct of liquidation proceedings affecting a local food company. A US$52 million damages claim is pending.
The ICSID case brought on behalf of the Camisea consortium also ended unhappily, with the tribunal ordering the firm’s client to pay US$65 million to a Peruvian state agency to resolve a dispute over gas export royalties.
Pál Kara, general counsel at MOL, says of the firm: “Whether it is brainstorming, preparation for a hearing or putting together a submission, they have a well-thought approach that such complex cases require.” He adds that the Weil team strives to understand as broadly as possible all the tiny elements of their clients’ complex issues, which then enables them to handle and present the case “even more firmly”.