The Miami boutique is a leader in Latin America-related work
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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 18-strong team speak English and Spanish. GAR’s sister publication, Latin Lawyer, notes the firm’s “excellent reputation” and says it is “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. Astigarraga has served as vice president of the London Court of International Arbitration and vice chair of the International Bar Association’s international arbitration committee. He is also member of the ICC commission on arbitration and ADR and co-chair of the arbitration committee of the American Bar Association’s international law section.
Astigarraga also works closely with the Institute for Transnational Arbitration’s “Americas initiative”, which aims to promote arbitration in the region, and is a founder director of the Latin American Arbitration Association. 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 Jenelle La Chuisa. Cristina Cárdenas was promoted to the partnership in 2013, and last year served as vice-chair of the organising committee for the International Council for Commercial Arbitration’s Congress in Miami.
The practice’s focus is on commercial arbitration, often under ICC or ICDR rules, and it is often brought in to assist on arbitration-related litigation, particularly US discovery proceedings.
Who uses it?
The firm is coy about trading on its clients’ names, but they are known to include some significant US manufacturers, as well as investors in the banking, construction, electricity, telecoms and agrochemical sectors – General Motors, GE Medical Systems, Citibank and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have all used it. The firm was also instructed in disputes relating to the Ponzi scheme run by Allen Stanford, representing banks that were accused by investors of not properly investigating the Texas businessman.
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 United States. 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 (IACAC) and parallel litigation in the United States 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 investment firm IIG Capital. In 2013, the US Court of Appeal for the 11th Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision.
The firm has also won 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 2012, 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.
Astigarraga Davis went on to obtain three similar orders in favour of US renewable energy provider Mesa Power in support of 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.
In 2014, Astigarraga concluded his work as part of the IBA subcommittee that drafted the latest revisions to the association’s guidelines on conflicts of interest for arbitrators.
In the past year, the firm has been acting for Ukrainian businessmen Igor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov in part of their multi-forum dispute with Victor Pinchuk, their partner in a metals joint venture. Astigarraga Davis represented the pair as intervenors in section 1782 discovery proceedings brought by Pinchuk against Georgian American Alloys and several other companies affiliated with the businessmen. The wider dispute has also spawned arbitration and litigation in London and numerous actions in Cyprus.
In a change from its usual Latin America focus, the firm is acting for a major client in an ICDR case in Vietnam worth more than US$50 million, which relates to the lease of power generators in the country.
A US company was happy with the firm’s work on a number of cases, including one that involved criminal charges overseas. The company’s general counsel says the firm handled the matter with “incredible discretion” and helped the client to prevail on all counts. “We received very good value for our money,” he concludes.
Astigarraga Davis is a firm of advocates with a focused practice: the representation of clients involved in significant international disputes. It has a strong concentration of cases emanating from Latin America and the Caribbean, but its cross-border practice spans the globe. 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, financial fraud and asset recovery, and financial services litigation, including creditors’ rights and bankruptcy.
The firm has an extensive international arbitration practice handling cases before the major international arbitral institutions. The firm’s work was recognised when it was awarded the worldwide prize by Global Arbitration Review for "Niche or Regional Practice that Impressed" in 2012. Astigarraga Davis is routinely engaged in international arbitrations arising out of Latin America. The firm’s cases often have little or no connection to the United States. Many of the firm’s engagements deal exclusively with foreign law, and the firm handles cases in both English and Spanish. 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 is a former vice-president of the London Court of International Arbitration, and is a member of the ICC Commission on Arbitration.
Astigarraga Davis litigates in US federal and state courts at the trial and appellate levels. 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 or opposing discovery assistance from US courts pursuant to 28 USC § 1782, which authorises discovery in the US to obtain evidence for use in foreign proceedings.
Using its extensive international experience, multilingual capabilities, multicultural background and broad network of regional contacts, the firm manages substantial disputes in Latin America having administrative, criminal, or other complicating dimensions and supervises litigation in courts there.
The firm’s work includes asset recovery and fraud prosecution. Working with an international network of contacts developed over the years, the firm seeks to preserve and recover fraudulently obtained assets transferred and concealed around the globe. In 2013, practice head Edward H Davis, Jr. was awarded the global "Lawyer of the Year" award for asset recovery from Who’s Who Legal, its first award ever in that field. He received the global award again in 2014 and 2015. The firm also received the Who’s Who Legal Asset Recovery Firm of the Year award in 2015. Among its engagements in this field, Astigarraga Davis acts as co-general counsel to the joint liquidators of Stanford International Bank, in connection with the liquidation of the Antigua-based bank at the centre of a multibillion fraud affecting more than 20,000 victims. The firm has also handled significant corruption-related asset recovery engagements on behalf of foreign sovereigns and their instrumentalities.
Astigarraga Davis has extensive litigation experience representing lenders, creditors, banks and other financial institutions in disputes in the United States and abroad. The firm represents lenders and creditors domestically in courts in Florida and other states, and internationally in Latin America, including in multi-jurisdictional insolvencies. Experienced in prosecutions of chapter 15 petitions under the US Bankruptcy Code, the firm regularly represents foreign officeholders seeking to enlist the aid of US bankruptcy courts to recover and protect estate assets in the United States. Practice head Gregory Grossman has broad bankruptcy experience. The World Bank engaged José Astigarraga as a consultant to assess the insolvency systems of Latin America and published the resulting study.
The firm’s commercial litigation work includes significant experience in breach of contract cases, FDUTPA, class action litigation and in intellectual property disputes. Edward M Mullins has represented media and non-media clients in lawsuits involving libel, slander, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference, trademark infringement trade secrets and copyright infringement.