High-profile rehires and promotions suggest that Clifford Chance has strongly revived its commitment to international arbitration
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$35 billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 31 (17 as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
In the mid-1980s, Clifford Chance was one of the first Anglo-Saxon law firms to create a distinct international arbitration group, separate from the litigation department – spearheaded by the chairman of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, John Beechey.
Legend has it that partners at Clifford Chance and Freshfields coordinated on the matter of whether to do so, so that, when raising it with management, each could point to the threat posed by the other to gain impetus. Whatever the truth, that model – truly innovative in its day – has been widely copied.
Over the next 15 years, as the firm went global, the team expanded – becoming particularly prominent in Paris and New York, in addition to London. But some high-profile departures – including of Beechey and the head of the Paris practice, Jason Fry, to the ICC – led to a perception that arbitration was not a priority for the firm and that it lacked a succession plan.
The core practice in London continued to perform well, with mainstays such as the head of international arbitration, Audley Sheppard, and high-billing partners Rob Lambert and Alex Panayides. The practice’s high volume of work, however, perhaps got less recognition than it deserved – with only Sheppard prominent on the conference circuit.
This year saw a revival in investment in the practice and in the firm’s reputation as a thought leader when it comes to arbitration. This was in large part owing to Fry’s return to the firm as co-head of international arbitration with Sheppard, accompanied by his deputy at the ICC, Simon Greenberg.
Further bolstering the perception of change, Latin American arbitration specialist Ignacio Suárez Anzorena rejoined the firm’s Washington, DC, office after three years at Chadbourne & Parke – clearly confident of what the future holds.
The firm has also embarked on investment in its Asia Pacific practice, in Hong Kong, Singapore, mainland China and Australia, and seems hungry to find new clients rather than to feed off its existing network.
The main offices for arbitration at Clifford Chance are Amsterdam, Beijing, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Moscow and Singapore. Recently, the firm enhanced its practice in Singapore through an alliance with a local disputes group created shortly before and comprising two senior arbitration lawyers from WongPartnership. This enables it to handle local arbitration and court proceedings under the branding Clifford Chance Asia.
Who uses it?
The firm has been representing the leading US defence contractor Raytheon in LCIA arbitration proceedings against the UK’s Secretary of State for Home Affairs in connection with the termination of a major government programme related to UK border control. This is a US$1 billion dispute involving highly confidential matters of national security.
Other high-profile clients include Abengoa, in an ICSID claim against Mexico under the Mexico-Spain bilateral investment treaty.
The practice is also advising Kuwaiti and UAE investors on claims against Egypt, and handling an Asian government’s defence of a BIT claim.
Other clients include the French Football Federation, BNP Paribas, Citibank, Shell, L’Oréal and Deutsche Telekom. In an unprecedented case, Clifford Chance is also advising an investment group owned by the ruler of Dubai in arbitration with three banks regarding repayment of loans. The arbitration, to be heard in London under LCIA rules, marks a new departure for the banking world, which has traditionally shied away from legal action against government entities.
The firm successfully defended Poland against an Energy Charter Treaty claim over the operation of an oil product business – heard in Stockholm under SCC rules. It also acted for Belgium’s Electrabel in an ECT claim against Hungary. The ICSID tribunal that heard the claim recently ruled that Hungary did not breach the treaty when it terminated a power purchase agreement to comply with EU law on state aid.
On the commercial side, Clifford Chance represented an international bank in two parallel arbitrations arising out of its US$60 million investment in a film post-production company in India. Interim awards were obtained from the SIAC emergency arbitrator requiring the respondents to stop dissipating assets, freeze their bank accounts and disclose information. The emergency awards were then enforced by the Singapore court for what is believed to be the first time.
It acted for Maxis Communication in a corporate dispute under a share purchase agreement relating to the purchase of an Indian mobile company. All claims against Maxis were dismissed by the tribunal.
In court, Clifford Chance acted for Traxys Europe SA in one of the first enforcement proceedings to be decided under Australia’s recently amended arbitration legislation. Traxys sought the enforcement of a London arbitral award against an Indian company, arising from a dispute over the sale of metallurgical coke.
It also advised MMK, a company incorporated in Russia, on ex parte proceedings involving the freezing of over A$700 million of shares in an Australian publicly listed company held by an MMK subsidiary. The proceeding marked the first time an Australian court has frozen assets in the jurisdiction or made interim orders under the UNCITRAL Model Law in support of a foreign arbitration.
In addition to rehiring Fry and Suárez Anzorena, the firm has promoted three new partners since January 2012: Marie Berard in London, Marcin Ciemin´ski in Warsaw and Tim Schreiber in Munich.
Counsel additions include Greenberg from the ICC, and two internal promotions: Kabir Singh in Singapore and Julia Popelysheva in Moscow.
The lawyers from WongPartnership added in Singapore are Harpreet Singh SC and Paul Sandosham.
Associates were added in Singapore, Perth and Sydney, among other offices.
International reach, international expertise, international solutions
Our integrated global arbitration practice provides clients with arbitration specialists wherever in the world they might have a dispute.
Clifford Chance has 35 offices in 25 countries, as well as experience of working in many others.
We are able to deploy teams with the appropriate country, language and industry experience and expertise to meet the specific requirements of the arbitration.
We have unrivalled insights into the leading arbitral institutions around the globe, including the ICC, LCIA, SIAC and HKIAC.
We have a track record of achieving excellent results for our clients, in negotiated settlements and decisions by arbitral tribunals. Our objective is to resolve disputes to our clients’ satisfaction as cost effectively and efficiently as possible.
Recently we have obtained awards for $1.4 bn for oil & gas clients in a dispute in West Africa, and $110 million for a New York investor in Russia, and successfully defended a claim from an Indonesian company against a major European industrial company for $175 m and another against an African bank for $500m.
We are also involved in several high profile BIT and ICSID cases, in Europe, Asia and Latin Amercia. Recently we successfully defended Poland from a $300 m claim.
Wherever you are in the world, turn to Clifford Chance.
Audley Sheppard, Co-Head of the International Arbitration Group
E: [email protected]
Jason Fry, Co-Head of the International Arbitration Group
E: [email protected]