The Austrian firm lost its second practice head in two years
|People in Who’s Who Legal:||1|
|Pending cases as counsel:||67|
|Value of pending counsel work:||US$4.4 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments:||15 (of which 5 are as sole or chair)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator:||4|
Wolf Theiss was established in Vienna more than 55 years ago. The firm is now made up of some 320 lawyers, based in 13 countries across Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
Christoph Liebscher’s arrival at the firm in 1997 contributed greatly to the growth of the arbitration practice. A renowned name in the field, Liebscher acted as both counsel and arbitrator, but left the firm to set up on his own in 2014.
Florian Haugeneder, who joined the Vienna office a decade ago and became a partner in 2011, was appointed head of arbitration following Liebscher’s departure. But in early 2016, Haugeneder and partner Bettina Knötzl announced they were leaving to start a new firm called Knoetzl, taking a senior associate with them.
In the wake of those departures, Clemens Trauttenberg has assumed the leadership of the practice. “We have the opportunity to redesign our arbitration practice, which is still very much active, especially in construction work,” Trauttenberg told GAR.
The firm’s arbitration practice was focused in Vienna until recently, but lately, it has been developing capability in Budapest, Kiev, Prague, Warsaw and Zagreb.
Who uses it?
The firm’s clients include Coca-Cola Export Corporation, Danish-Polish Telecommunication Group, Shell Hungary, ExxonMobil, Kraft Foods, Germany’s retail company Metro Group, and the Strauss Group. It has also advised Hungarian and Croatian oil and gas companies in ICC proceedings against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Danish-Polish Telecommunication Group (DPTG) called on Wolf Theiss when it needed to bring UNCITRAL claims against various opponents over a miscalculation in revenue – and won nearly €400 million in a partial award in 2010, which Wolf Theiss successfully defended in the Vienna courts. DPTG eventually received €550 million in a settlement in 2012.
Wolf Theiss also tasted success in a high-stakes case for the Coca-Cola Export Corporation, which faced allegations of collusion in a US$110 million arbitration proceeding against ROZ, a Cayman Islands-based company. The case related to a joint venture in Uzbekistan and was widely reported in the press – posing a serious threat to Coca-Cola’s reputation. The 2009 award saw all corruption charges against the company dismissed.
In another matter, the firm advised Tirana International Airport when a local subcontractor brought a claim for reimbursement of tax liabilities. During ICC proceedings, Wolf Theiss convinced the arbitral tribunal to dismiss the claimant’s case.
Erste Bank was another happy client. It avoided paying €18 million in damages thanks to Wolf Theiss’s successful representation.
As mentioned, the big news was the departure of Haugeneder and Knötzl and their team in early 2016.
In the previous year, Dalibor Valinc˘ic˘ was made partner in the Zagreb office. The firm’s Polish offices welcomed Marcin Asłanowicz, the former head of Baker & McKenzie’s disputes practice in Warsaw. László Kenyeres in Budapest was listed as an arbitrator at the Energy Arbitration Court.
Alongside Clifford Chance, the firm advised Belgian power company Electrabel in its €700 million ICSID claim against Hungary for the state’s alleged breaches of the Energy Charter Treaty. A tribunal dismissed all but one of Electrabel’s claims in 2012 and rejected the final claim in November 2015.
Wolf Theiss also picked up an instruction from Austrian property development company Immofinanz for an M&A-related dispute with the seller of office buildings in Warsaw, which is playing out in an UNCITRAL arbitration.
Inder Tiwana, general counsel at duty-free store operator Flemingo International, has high praise for members of the Warsaw office for being knowledgeable and efficient and making sure that “nothing gets lost in translation” for non-Polish clients.
Krzysztof Zoła, chief financial officer of Polish steel company Cognor, says that Vienna-based partner Andrea Gritsch impressed with her dedication and attention, leading a “perfectly organised” team.