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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Winston & Strawn

18 February 2016

The group is under new leadership after some departures

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Pending cases as counsel: 29
Value of pending counsel work: US$20.6 billion
Treaty cases: 9
Current arbitrator appointments: 10 (of which 6 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 5

Winston & Strawn has had arbitration specialists in the United States and Europe for many years – but the line-up has changed a fair amount.

The origins of the group go back to 1993, when the firm merged with Geneva boutique Surrey & Morse. It was a unique local outfit comprising US litigators and Swiss lawyers who undertook WTO work and advocacy before international tribunals, especially the Iran-US Claims Tribunal.

The practice later expanded to Paris, Washington, DC and Hong Kong, but the growth period was followed by a slump, as various chunks of the team migrated to other firms.

Things steadied in 2011 with the hire of Mark Bravin and Don Wallace from the arbitration team at Morgan Lewis & Bockius in DC, and a year later the firm recruited Joe Tirado, one of the leaders of Norton Rose’s arbitration group. Bravin and Tirado co-chaired the practice until 2015, and helped to develop the firm’s reputation for Latin America and CIS-related work in particular.

However, the practice has had another recent shake-up after Winston closed its Geneva office and various members of the team retired or left for other firms – among them Tirado. The arbitration practice is now chaired by Ricardo Ugarte, who divides his time between the Chicago and London offices. Other names to know are Argentine partner Tomás Leonard in DC, who’s a core part of the investment arbitration team; and former Renault in-house counsel Philippe Cavalieros in Paris.

Network

The main offices for arbitration are now DC, Paris, London, New York, Hong Kong and, to a lesser extent, Chicago and Houston. There are also people in Brussels, Beijing and San Francisco.

Who uses it?

States, for the most part. A long-standing team is representing Ecuador in a range of arbitration and US court matters, including Chevron’s denial of justice claim at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

It has also acted for Chile in the interminable Víctor Pey Casado proceedings at ICSID (concerning a newspaper expropriated by the Pinochet regime) and helped Jordan prevail in another ICSID matter. Other recent state clients include Romania, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

But there are some investors on the books too. For example, the firm is acting for French voucher company Sodexo Pass International in an ICSID claim against Hungary. It has advised Philip Morris Asia in connection with its controversial treaty claim against Australia over tobacco packaging legislation. It also advised Gazprom in a treaty claim worth US$100 million against Lithuania at the ICC, which was discontinued.

For commercial cases, clients added recently include McDonald’s International and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.

Other clients include Abbott Laboratories, Alstom, Lear Corporation, Motorola, Symbion Power, along with engineering consultancy AMEC and US manufacturer PPG.

Track record

One notable win for Romania in 2011 saw Mark Bravin, working in tandem with a team from CMS Cameron McKenna in Bucharest, obtain the dismissal of a US$140 million ICSID claim brought by a Greek national over his stake in a privatised frozen-food warehousing business. The state was awarded US$8 million in costs.

Although some members of the team who worked on the cases have since left, Winston also had some early successes for Kyrgyzstan, securing the withdrawal (with costs) of a pair of treaty claims relating to the 2010 nationalisation of Asia Universal Bank.

Meanwhile, Winston secured a win for Jordan in an ICC arbitration over a contract for the construction of a railway system connecting the country’s two most populous cities. The case went to ICSID as well, with Winston obtaining a voluntary discontinuance of the case after the submission of Jordan’s jurisdictional objections.

For Ecuador, the firm has seen various successes in the past few years, including defeating a US$200 million claim by Canada’s Murphy Oil at the jurisdictional stage – because of the investor’s failure to comply with a six-month cooling-off period in the BIT.

Winston also obtained a favourable settlement for Motorola in a US$1 billion ICC arbitration with Huawei, and gained victories for a US pharmaceutical company and its German affiliate in an ICC trademark arbitration and the nutritional division of another US pharma in a Swiss Rules case.

Recent events

There has been a fair amount of turnover of personnel recently. Joe Tirado, who had co-chaired the practice with Mark Bravin since 2012, left the firm in early 2016. Leadership of the practice has passed to Ricardo Ugarte, who has relocated to Chicago and London following the closure of the Geneva office, where he had been based. Another Geneva-based partner, Swiss-Peruvian Franz Stirnimann Fuentes, left in 2015 to become a partner at Swiss firm Froriep.

In Paris, the firm promoted multilingual counsel Maria Kostytska to partner in July. She’s leading the charge for Ukraine in its efforts to set aside a US$112 million investment treaty award in favour of Russian oil company Tatneft in the French courts.

Before his departure, Tirado helped Italian-owned energy company Endesa Chile settle a billion-dollar ICC dispute over work on a power plant in Chile. The client agreed to pay US$131 million to Italy’s Maire Tecnimont and a Slovakian partner. Tirado also helped Ukrainian oligarch Mikhail Spektor reach a settlement in a high-profile LCIA dispute with former business partner Viktor Pinchuk.

The firm continued its work for Ecuador in its long-running treaty dispute with Chevron relating to environmental pollution in the Amazon, winning a preliminary ruling in April 2015 in the state’s favour.

Client comment

A government client praises Winston’s “dedication, professionalism and expertise” in its work on a particularly complex dispute, singling out Eric Bloom in particular as a great strategist. Greg Ewing has the “deepest understanding” of technical and forensic issues at the core of the dispute, while Nicole Silver is fêted for “the clarity of her expositions”. Nassim Hooshmandnia has also made “remarkable” contributions.

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