GAR 100 - 8th Edition

Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta Abogados

Professional notice

Home to one of Colombia’s best-known arbitrators

People in Who’s Who Legal:1
Value of pending counsel work:US$5 billion
Treaty cases:0
Current arbitrator appointments:14 (of which 7 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator:1

A standout firm in Colombia for international arbitration, Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta Abogados arose through the merger of two full-service firms – Gómez Pinzón Abogados and Zuleta & Partners Legal Group.

Its dispute resolution and investment protection practice, created in 2009, is co-chaired by Eduardo Zuleta, increasingly one of the country’s most in-demand arbitrators on the international stage. He was the senior co-chair of the International Bar Association’s arbitration committee for two years and was on the task force charged with revising the ICC rules. The Colombian government also turned to him to sit on the drafting committee for the country’s new arbitration law, which was approved in October 2012.

Zuleta was added to ICSID’s roster of arbitrators in 2011 and has sat as chair or party-appointed arbitrator in cases against Greece, Mexico and Peru and on ad hoc annulment committees in cases involving Argentina, Paraguay and Ukraine.

In addition, he’s a member of the LCIA Court and a vice chair of the Latin American Arbitration Association (which he helped to found), and is listed on the AAA/ICDR’s Energy Arbitrators’ List.

The other practice co-chair is William Araque, whose focus is more on litigation.

Ranking guides put the firm, which is based in Bogotá, among the top practices in the country for dispute resolution.

Who uses it?

Merck Sharp & Dohme, Colombian energy group Isagen, Hocol Petroleum, dredging contractor Royal Boskalis, IT provider Unisys, mining company Drummond and Spain’s Ferrovial Agroman have all used the firm on ICC matters. GlaxoSmithKline retained it for a US$60 million dispute over a distribution agreement.

Other clients include a subsidiary of Colombia’s Ecopetrol, Chilean department store chain Falabella, power company TermoEmcali and advertising agency Young & Rubicam. A state entity has turned to it for advice in an arbitration arising from the alleged breach of a juridical stability contract; while a state oil agency is using it for an arbitration over windfall profit taxes under a concession agreement.

Colombia’s ministry of trade has also asked the firm to conduct educational workshops for civil servants on the subject of investment disputes.

Track record

The firm cites victories for Nortel Networks and several Japanese companies in disputes with the state-owned telecoms company; and for Boskalis in an ICC matter concerning construction work on the Cartagena dam.

The firm also says that it obtained a landmark ICC award recognising that an international arbitration tribunal has jurisdiction over disputes arising from agency agreements performed in Colombia.

The firm reports recently helping a Latin American state settle its first international investment dispute, for an undisclosed amount.

Recent events

2014 was a busy year for Zuleta. He was appointed chair of several tribunals, including the UNCITRAL panel hearing South American Silver’s treaty claim against Bolivia. He is also the chair of the ICSID annulment committee that is considering whether to annul an award in favour of French oil company Total against Argentina.

The international arbitration team has also been involved with several ICC arbitrations for companies in the United States and Spain.

The firm hired Estefanía Ponce Durán, a former associate from the Paris office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, and María Marulanda, a former adviser to Columbia’s Ministry of Labour.

The firm welcomed back some younger members of the practice after a spell abroad: Rafael Rincón, who’d been practising at Latham & Watkins after obtaining an LLM from New York University; and David Araque, who returned with an LLM from Queen Mary, University of London. Other associates left to pursue LLM or doctoral studies in the United States and Germany.

New hires included María Angélica Burgos, a former chief of staff to Colombia’s Ministry of Interior and a former clerk at the International Court of Justice in The Hague; and Manuela Corredor, who was previously a lawyer at the Arbitration and Conciliation Centre of the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce.

Client comment

Dietmar Prager, litigation partner at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, says that Zuleta is “one of the four leading Latin American arbitrators”, noting that he has “a brilliant mind, great creativity and an incredible depth of knowledge in the field”. Zuleta “is not only a giant in Latin America, but a key player worldwide”, Prager concludes.

The Dispute Resolution and Investment Protection Practice of Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta Abogados has been repeatedly selected by specialized publications as No. 1 in Colombia and one of the leading practices in Latin America.

This Practice provides clients with high-quality legal advice on arbitration and litigation and has been pioneer in international commercial and investment arbitration in the region. Members of our Practice have conducted -as advisors, counsel or arbitrators- more than one hundred national and international commercial arbitrations under multiple rules, including ICC, UNCITRAL, ICDR, IACAC and the rules of major arbitration centers or courts in Latin America. Additionally, members of our Practice have acted as arbitrators and counsel in investment disputes under ICSID and UNCITRAL Rules and in proceedings before the Inter-American System of Human Rights. The sums involved in commercial and investment arbitrations in which members of our Practice have been involved exceed USD 5 billion.

Moreover, our Practice has represented clients in complex litigations before civil, commercial and administrative courts in matters related to distribution, agency, tort, international commercial contracts, public contracts, infrastructure, oil & gas, class actions, consumer protection, anti-trust, construction and enforcement of foreign awards, judgments and preventive and interim measures. Additionally, our lawyers have acted as experts and co-counsel in foreign courts in litigation involving Latin American parties.

Members of our Practice have received legal education in Colombia, and several of them hold degrees from the USA, UK and France and speak Spanish, English, French and Portuguese.



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