GAR 100 - 8th Edition

Von Wobeser y Sierra

Professional notice

The Mexican outfit defended a US$500 million award in the local courts

People in Who’s Who Legal:1
Pending cases as counsel:13
Value of pending counsel work:US$2.8 billion
Treaty cases:2
Current arbitrator appointments:20 (of which 8 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator:2

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 Romania. 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 of around 12 lawyers versed in arbitration. Adrián Magallanes, who was promoted to partner in 2013, is considered a rising star. Another recruit, associate Victor Ruiz, used to work at the ICC Court and often sits as an arbitrator.

In 2014, the firm promoted Diego Sierra to partner. Sierra combines international arbitration work with an anti-corruption practice and is the son of one of the firm’s founding partners.

Who uses it?

Anheuser-Busch InBev used the firm (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.

Track record

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 also 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.

Lawyers from the firm also act as expert witnesses on Mexican law in arbitrations and related litigation. Von Wobeser gave testimony in US court proceedings on behalf of KBR, which led to the successful confirmation of a US$465 million ICC award against Pemex in 2013 (an appeal is pending). Von Wobeser was also an expert witness in the underlying arbitration.

Recent events

In another dispute involving Pemex, the firm successfully defended a US$500 million award in favour of Siemens and South Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction from a set-aside action.

It also settled a dispute between an oil major and Mexico’s Federal Commission of Electricity (CFE) over the termination of five power contracts valued at over US$1.2 billion. The firm says the settlement was triggered by an ICC claim it filed on behalf of the oil major.

Ruiz is acting for the applicants – 12 Mexican shareholders in a local insurance company – in what the firm describes as one of the first ICC emergency arbitrations concerning the Latin American region, which is seated in Dallas, Texas. The case arose out of agreements government by Mexican law, and the respondents are three Dutch shareholders in the insurer.

The firm has also been retained in five different ICC claims by clients in the consumer products, oil, alcohol and public works sectors.

In 2014, the team welcomed former president of the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico, Guillermo Ortiz Mayagoitia, as of counsel.

Von Wobeser was appointed by Hungary to an ICSID tribunal hearing a claim by a French investor in the service voucher industry. He was also nominated to sit on an ad hoc committee considering Romania’s bid to annul a US$250 million award in favour of Sweden’s Micula brothers – an award the European Commission believes to be in breach of EU state aid rules.

He also appeared as an expert for Mexican telecoms group Iusacell in US court proceedings. Despite his efforts, the court ordered a stay of Iusacell’s US$2.5 billion lawsuit against IBM pending the outcome of an ICC case in Mexico City.

Client comment

Lee Huckstep, Houston-based assistant general counsel at KBR, says that he goes to the firm “again and again” for its “excellent work”, and that he has recommended Von Wobeser y Sierra to others.

Telephone: 52 (55) 52 58 10 00

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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.

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