GAR 100 - 6th Edition

Astigarraga Davis

Professional notice

This Miami boutique picked up a GAR award in 2012 and won some important court decisions on discovery in aid of arbitration

Who’s Who name:
José Astigarraga

Founded in Miami in 2000 by lawyers with a background in commercial litigation, Astigarraga Davis has capitalised on the growth in arbitration across Latin America. The firm has worked on numerous complex, high-value arbitrations and litigations across multiple jurisdictions in the region, often with little or no Florida law component. Most of its 20-strong team is bilingual in English and Spanish. GAR’s sister publication, Latin Lawyer, calls it “small but prestigious” and “more than able to hold its own among renowned global firms, with which it often finds itself in competition.”

The arbitration practice is led by Cuban-born José I Astigarraga, an advocate with almost 35 years’ experience and an active figure in the international arbitration community. As well as being a serving vice president of the LCIA court and a former vice chair of the IBA’s international arbitration committee, he was recently elected co-chair of the arbitration committee of the American Bar Association’s international law section. He is spearheading the Institute for Transnational Arbitration’s “Americas initiative”, which aims to promote arbitration in the region. Further, he is part of a US Commerce Department project to help harmonise commercial laws within Central America. Other partners to know are Edward Mullins and the recently promoted Jenelle La Chuisa.

The practice’s focus is on commercial arbitration, often under ICC or ICDR rules, but it is also advising on potential ICSID matters.

As well as international arbitration, the firm enjoys a reputation in fraud and asset recovery. It is a member of the ICC’s respected FraudNet service and has helped several sovereign nations reclaim assets illegally removed by former leaders.

Who uses it?

The firm is coy about trading on its clients’ names, but it is known that they include some significant US manufacturers, as well as investors in the banking, construction, electricity, telecoms and agrochemical sectors. General Motors, GE Medical Systems and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are all on record as having used it. The firm was also instructed in relation to the Ponzi scheme run by Allen Stanford – representing banks that were accused by investors of not properly investigating the Texas businessman.

Track record

It is not difficult to find examples of successful Astigarraga Davis work. In the mid-2000s, Florida-based Alon International turned to it for a bet-the-company dispute with Nike subsidiary Converse over a distribution and licensing agreement for the Mercosur region. As well as an ICDR arbitration in Boston, the matter generated parallel litigation in Brazil, Argentina and the US. Ultimately the arbitral tribunal awarded Alon US$52 million – leading José Astigarraga and colleagues Paul Capua and Cristina Cárdenas to be recognised as “Most Effective Lawyers” by a Florida business daily in 2007.

On another occasion, after a falling out between GE’s medical technology division and its Brazilian distributor, Astigarraga Davis handled an arbitration at the Inter-American Commercial Arbitration Commission, or IACAC (and parallel litigation in the US and Brazil). It won the arbitration and also persuaded a New York court to enjoin the Brazilian proceedings. When the distributor refused to comply, Astigarraga Davis obtained a civil contempt judgment against the company and its president.

In 2011, the firm persuaded a district court in Florida to enforce a multimillion-dollar ICC award in favour of its client, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (acting as receiver of a US bank), against US investment firm IIG Capital.

Recent events

The firm made two associate hires in 2012: Nicaraguan-born Sujey Herrera and Regan Kruse, a graduate of the University of Miami who has served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay.

The past year also saw the firm win some landmark victories in applications under section 1782 of the United States Code, which allows courts to order discovery in support of international proceedings. In June, an appeal court in Miami allowed the firm’s client, Conecel, to obtain documents in support of an arbitration in Ecuador against air freight carrier JASE.

The firm went on to obtain three similar orders in favour of US renewable energy provider Mesa Power, for a NAFTA claim it is pursuing against Canada. The orders, against US companies NextEra and Pattern Energy and South Korea’s Samsung C&T, allow Mesa to obtain documents and witness statements from executives concerning their dealings with Ontario’s electricity authority.

Finally, Astigarraga Davis was one of the winners at the 2012 GAR Awards in Stockholm, picking up a prize for “niche or regional practice that most impressed in 2011”.

Astigarraga Davis is a firm of advocates. The firm litigates, arbitrates and manages international business disputes. It is a boutique disputes firm with a focused practice: the representation of clients involved in significant disputes arising from their international business operations primarily in Latin America. It has an extensive cross-border practice, its lawyers having handled business disputes emanating from virtually every country in the Western hemisphere. Its clients include multinational companies, financial institutions, other public and non-public companies, as well as sovereign states and their instrumentalities. The firm’s strengths are international arbitration, international litigation and financial services litigation, including creditors’ rights and bankruptcy. With its international network of lawyers worldwide, the firm manages complex disputes in foreign jurisdictions for its clients, including by developing and executing strategies for multi-jurisdictional cases and high-profile controversies, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The firm has a leading international arbitration practice handling cases before the major international arbitral institutions. As a testament to its dedication to its clients, the firm was presented with the Outstanding Client Service award for the Latin America region by Chambers.

The firm’s work was also recognised when it was awarded the worldwide prize by Global Arbitration Review for Niche or Regional Practice that Impressed. Astigarraga Davis is routinely engaged in international arbitrations arising out of Latin America. Its lawyers are also active in arbitration initiatives. José Astigarraga, for example, was one of ten delegates appointed by the US Government to advise the NAFTA Commission on the development and use of international arbitration and dispute resolution. He serves as vice-president of the 35-member London Court of International Arbitration, and is a member of the ICC Commission on Arbitration.

Astigarraga Davis also litigates in US federal and state courts at the trial and appellate levels. For example, the firm has represented foreign and domestic clients in commercial disputes, ranging from shareholder disputes, distributor lawsuits, and other contract or business tort litigation. The firm is well versed in all aspects of international litigation including issues involving personal jurisdiction, forum non conveniens, and choice of law issues. The firm often represents foreign litigants in obtaining discovery assistance from US courts pursuant to 28 USC § 1782, which authorises discovery in the US to obtain evidence for use in foreign proceedings, either pending or contemplated.

The firm’s lawyers know the foreign systems, their rules, and the right questions to ask in connection with disputes pending in Latin America and the Caribbean. Using its extensive international experience, multilingual capabilities, multicultural background and broad network of regional contacts, the firm manages substantial disputes in Latin America and supervises litigation in courts there.

Unlock unlimited access to all Global Arbitration Review content