The boutique that beat the US government
|People in Who’s Who Legal:||3|
|Pending cases as counsel:||17|
|Value of pending counsel work:||US$4 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments:||14 (of which 6 are as sole or chair)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator:||3|
Based in New York, this boutique was born in 2009 when Peter Chaffetz, global head of litigation at Clifford Chance, and David Lindsey, co-head of that firm’s Americas international arbitration group, decided to break away. “The key driver was wanting to rid ourselves of the conflicts and fixed cost structures that come with a full-service international law firm,” Lindsey said. Their boutique won “Small Firm of the Year” at the 2011 GAR Awards.
Today, Lindsey and younger partner James Hosking spearhead the international arbitration work, while Chaffetz and others focus more on insurance, reinsurance and securities disputes. Both Lindsey and Hosking have featured in GAR’s “45 under 45” (Lindsey in 2006 and Hosking in 2011).
A series of promotions and lateral hires has seen the partnership rapidly expand in the past couple of years. Other partners to know are Andreas Frischknecht, a Swiss–US national with experience at the ICC and Netherlands Arbitration Institute, and in SIAC cases; Jennifer Permesly (née Gorskie), a former Cleary Gottlieb lawyer and core member of the firm’s Latin America practice; and the recently promoted Yasmine Lahlou, who has a Franco–Moroccan background and is fluent in French, Italian and Arabic.
In January 2015, the firm also recruited partner Anibal Sabater, formerly of Norton Rose Fulbright in New York. Sabater is a Spanish national who also featured in GAR’s “45 under 45”, and brings experience in treaty and commercial cases.
Several members of the firm are active promoters of New York as an arbitration venue. Lindsey is a founding member of the New York Arbitration Club, and Permsely is treasurer of the New York International Arbitration Centre and sits on its board, where Hosking is also a member of the programme committee.
Who uses it?
The government of Iran has turned to the firm for a couple of state-to-state matters before the Iran–United States Claims Tribunal, the arbitral body in The Hague that is still dealing with the economic fallout of the Iranian revolution of 1979. Chaffetz Lindsey has also been helping the Central Bank of Iran resist enforcement of a US$2.7 billion US court judgment over the state’s alleged role in the 1983 bombing of US army barracks in Beirut.
Another state client is Liberia, in a US$750 million ICSID claim brought by a Canadian-owned investor concerning a terminated gold mining project.
But most of the firm’s clients are private companies, including Ashmore Energy International (AEI), American International Group, Brazil’s Vale, South Korea’s Samwhan Corporation, Jaguar Energy Guatemala, the Miss Universe Organisation and Canadian software maker Open Text Corp.
Turkish conglomerate Çukurova Holding has used the firm, along with Swiss co-counsel, in a billion-dollar dispute with a unit of Swedish–Finnish telecoms group TeliaSonera arising from failed negotiations to sell a controlling stake in Turkey’s main mobile operator, Turkcell. The case has spawned parallel arbitrations and enforcement proceedings in multiple jurisdictions including the United States, United Kingdom and British Virgin Islands.
Much of the firm’s work is focused on Latin America, with new instructions involving clients or projects in Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Guatemala – mostly relating to oil and gas, power and infrastructure, construction and project finance. In one big matter, it’s advising one of the world’s largest mining companies in a dispute with a leading investment bank over the sale of assets in the region.
Chaffetz Lindsey is also a useful referral source for US and non-US firms alike, as well as a decent option as co-counsel when, as the firm puts it, “you want international arbitration experts but don’t want to engage a big firm that will dominate the matter.” The firm says it often finds itself taking on active cases after clients become dissatisfied with the service or advice of larger firms, and seek a “second opinion”.
Chaffetz Lindsey is one of the few firms that can boast of having won a case against the US State Department. In July 2014, the firm achieved a rare win for Iran in a case before the Iran–US Claims Tribunal. The US government was ordered to pay damages for breaching the Algiers Accords through its failure to terminate litigation initiated by US nationals against Iran in the US courts following the Iranian revolution.
The sums involved aren’t huge (Iran won US$842,000 plus interest) but it represents an important symbolic victory for the Middle Eastern state, as well as a sign that this 30-year old institution is taking on a new lease of life. The State Department fielded a team of 17 lawyers at the hearing, with the advocacy conducted by Harold Koh, chief legal adviser during President Obama’s first term – a measure of how seriously the United States took the case.
The firm also reports a recent victory for a Korean construction company in an ICDR arbitration arising out of a project in Afghanistan.
One of Chaffetz Lindsey’s European clients won an award worth US$130 million at the Netherlands Arbitration Institute. Impressively, the firm was brought in late to the dispute, which was over a licensing agreement. A multinational was on the other side.
Besides Sabater, the firm has made two other lateral partner hires since the last edition: Steven Reisberg, who joined in May after 30 years with Willkie Farr & Gallagher and has particular expertise in pharmaceuticals, technology and finance disputes; and Steven Schwartz, who joined from Locke Lord and specialises in reinsurance matters.
Permesly was promoted to the partnership in 2014, with Lahlou elevated from counsel to partner at the start of 2015. Six associates also joined in the past year.
Away from the coal face, Chaffetz Lindsey lawyers also found time to draft an amicus curiae brief, in a bid to persuade the US Supreme Court to rule on the controversial doctrine of “manifest disregard of the law”, which many experts argue has hindered the United States’ attractiveness as a venue for international arbitration. Sadly, the court declined to hear the case.
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New York dispute resolution boutique Chaffetz Lindsey LLP has provided top-tier litigation and arbitration advice from a smaller, more economical and flexible platform since its founding in May 2009. The firm stands apart from others because of the reputation and track record of its lawyers, its flexibility on fees, and freedom from conflicts. Having previously worked together for ten years at Clifford Chance, the founding partners have an unusually strong international practice. Chaffetz Lindsey is highly ranked by all the leading industry guides. In 2011, Global Arbitration Review named it Small Firm of the Year, and in 2014, the firm received the Chambers USA Client Service Award for International Arbitration.
Led by co-founders David Lindsey and James Hosking, Chaffetz Lindsey’s international arbitration team has handled cases in all the world’s major arbitration fora, involving disputes arising out of infrastructure projects, engineering/construction claims, oil and gas ventures, mining and natural resources projects, pharmaceutical licensing, M&A, joint ventures, environmental contamination, business torts, complex commercial contracts, and investment treaty claims for and against states. These proceedings have been governed by the rules of the ICC, ICDR, AAA, SIAC, SCC, LCIA, ICSID and UNCITRAL. While many of its arbitrations are seated in the US, the firm’s current caseload involves Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The firm regularly works together with leading firms in those jurisdictions and can also draw on its own multilingual staff, many of whom have practiced or trained overseas.
The strength of the team lies in the depth of talent at the partner, counsel and associate level, many of whom regularly speak, write and present on developments in international arbitration, and who hold leadership roles in various industry organizations. David contributes to the leading text on international arbitration in New York and James co-authored the first commentary on the ICDR Rules and was on the sub-committee that drafted the revised 2014 ICDR Rules. A frequent writer and speaker in his field, Aníbal Sabater is NYIAC’s Program Committee Chair and a member of the Executive Council of the International Law Association. Partner Jennifer Permesly is the Treasurer of the New York International Arbitration Center and a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Partner Yasmine Lahlou is the US Regional Coordinator of the ICC Young Arbitrator Forum and Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s International Litigation Committee. Several members of the team sit regularly as arbitrators.
Chaffetz Lindsey also has an active US state and federal court litigation practice. The firm’s experience covers all aspects of general commercial litigation, with a particular focus on claims involving finance/securities, re/insurance, cross-border disputes and sovereign immunity issues. The team includes lawyers who are fluent in eight languages and with experience practicing in Europe and Latin America. With its strong network of contacts around the world, the firm values opportunities to co-counsel with lawyers from other jurisdictions.