The Mexican firm’s expert evidence helped KBR enforce an eye-popping US$465 million award against Pemex in the US courts.
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$3.2 billion
- Treaty cases
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 16 (of which 7 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
GAR’s sister guide to law firms in Latin America, Latin Lawyer 250, singles out Von Wobeser y Sierra’s arbitration practice as one of the best options in Mexico – thanks, largely, it says, to the impressive international profile of the firm’s founder, Claus von Wobeser.
It’s hard to disagree. On top of multiple bar association roles, von Wobeser is a vice president of the ICC Court and regularly sits as arbitrator in commercial and investor-state disputes. He has lately been on ICSID panels hearing claims against Spain, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, Poland and Uzbekistan. In addition, he is sitting alone in a rare ICSID conciliation filed by Equatorial Guinea against CMS Energy Corporation.
The arbitration and litigation practice is headed by Marco Tulio Venegas, who has helped to build the team to around 12 lawyers versed in arbitration. Adrián Magallanes, who was recently promoted to partner is considered a rising star. Another recruit, associate Victor Ruiz, used to work at the ICC Court.
Who uses it?
Anheuser-Busch InBev used the firm (along with Skadden Arps and Sullivan & Cromwell) in a substantial case brought by Mexico’s Grupo Modelo.
Construction companies – including Mexican market leader ICA and former Halliburton subsidiary KBR – are regular clients, and the firm also represents businesses in negotiations with state oil company Pemex or electricity utility CFE.
Members of the firm are often in demand as expert witnesses on Mexican law in international cases.
Anheuser-Busch won the arbitration with Grupo Modelo – prompting the boss to take the team on a night out. “When I received the award, I was compelled to find the arbitration team and celebrate,” von Wobeser says.
In another case – for a chemicals company in ICC proceedings brought by a competitor over an alleged breach of a purchase agreement – the team won its client full costs after the tribunal dismissed the claim (Hunton & Williams was co-counsel).
The firm secured a win for its client, ICA, in a multimillion-dollar claim regarding the construction of a hydroelectric project. Following the win, ICA has instructed Von Wobeser y Sierra in a number of its most important arbitration cases.
Meanwhile, associate Montserrat Manzano was part of a precedent-setting decision clarifying the extent of the Mexican courts’ ability to refuse enforcement of awards on the grounds of due process violations.
The firm promoted Adrián Magallanes to the partnership in early 2013.
It was instructed by two Spanish investors, Cemusa and Corameq, in an ICSID claim against Mexico over a concession to provide bus stops and street furniture in the city of Guadalajara.
Von Wobeser also appeared as an expert witness in Mexican law for KBR in US court proceedings to confirm an ICC award worth US$465 million against Pemex. A district court in New York ruled that it had a narrow discretion to enforce the award even though it had been set aside at the seat of arbitration in Mexico. Thanks in part to von Wobeser’s contributions, the court held that the Mexican court’s decision “violated basic notions of justice”. It represents something of a turnaround in US case law, after a decade of enforcement decisions that have given greater deference to the courts of the arbitral seat.
In addition, von Wobeser continued to be busy as an arbitrator. He was part of an ICSID panel that threw out a US$174 million claim by an Israeli investor against Uzbekistan in October 2013 on the ground that the investment was tainted by corruption – only the second case at ICSID where this has happened and the first under an investment treaty. He was also on a panel that refused jurisdiction over a US$633 million claim against Venezuela brought by a pair of privately owned mining companies.
He also survived a challenge by Argentina to his appointment as chair of the ICSID panel hearing a US$10 billion claim by Spanish oil company Repsol. The president of the World Bank dismissed the challenge, in which the state alleged “close relations” between the Mexican and Repsol’s counsel in the case, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The case, which concerned the expropriation of Repsol’s stake in oil and gas operator YPF, has been suspended after Repsol and Argentina reached a preliminary settlement agreement.
Telephone: 52 (55) 52 58 10 00
Offering excellence and integrity, Von Wobeser y Sierra is a full service law firm founded in 1986. In the arbitration field, law firm ranking agencies confirm that Wobeser y Sierra, S.C. (VWyS) is the leading firm for dispute resolution services in Mexico and one of the most prominent in the field in the Latin American region. VWyS is the only firm in Mexico ranked by Global Arbitration Review among the best 100 law firms worldwide and Chambers & Partners has ranked its dispute resolution team in the top tier.
The dispute resolution practice of VWyS is domestic and international, and its clients include many Fortune 500 companies. Over the past 25 years, the firm has successfully represented several companies and foreign governments in a wide variety of disputes of different sizes and complexities, ranging from a fully successful defense of a 2.5 billion dollar commercial arbitration claim between two shareholders of a beer company, to a 130 million dollar judicial claim involving the malfunctioning of a satellite in outer space, just to mention some representative examples.
The dispute resolution practice group of the firm is co-headed by Claus von Wobeser and Marco Tulio Venegas. Adrián Magallanes and Diego Sierra are also key partners of the globally recognized arbitration practice. The team includes more than15 attorneys, all graduates with honors from the top law schools in Mexico, U.S. and Europe, and many of them trained in New York, Washington D.C. The level of sophistication of this practice group is unparalleled in Mexico and highly competitive worldwide.