GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

The US firm scored a defence win for DP World, picked up a mega-instruction against Chad and made more audacious hires in London and Paris

People in Who’s Who Legal6
Pending cases as counsel92
Value of pending counsel workUS$110.5 billion
Treaty cases26
Current arbitrator appointments32 (of which 10 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator8

Founded in Los Angeles in 1986 as a litigation shop, Quinn Emanuel has acquired a fearsome reputation in that field – particularly for complex, high-value cases in IP (it is acting for Samsung in the smartphone wars) and financial services.

Now at more than 600 lawyers, it’s famed for a brash style and a willingness to flout convention. For instance, the firm has a casual dress code and has been quicker than most to embrace alternative fee arrangements. Those tactics seem to have paid off: a recent ranking put it second only to Wall Street firm Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz in terms of profit per equity partner.

Until a few years ago, though, the firm made little noise in the international arbitration field.

That changed following an audacious spate of lateral hires from other GAR 100 firms. Among the most notable of these was Stephen Jagusch (now a QC), former global chair of international arbitration at Allen & Overy. He joined at the start of 2013 to lead a practice in London, bringing investment arbitration specialist Anthony Sinclair with him. The pair have worked on some high-profile ICSID cases, including the first-ever claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

Jagusch’s decision to leave a magic circle firm to captain a start-up practice caused shockwaves in the arbitration community – Jan Paulsson told GAR that he could not recall “anything quite like it”.

Following that coup, Quinn Emanuel also succeeded in luring Philippe Pinsolle away from Shearman & Sterling to head a new Paris office. Pinsolle had been at Shearman for more than 20 years, working with Emmanuel Gaillard on, among other things, the Yukos case against Russia – the largest investment arbitration in history.

The hiring spree continued. In Washington, DC, it recruited Latin American arbitration specialist David Orta from Arnold & Porter, while in New York it hired Tai-Heng Cheng, an arbitrator and former professor. In Hong Kong, John Rhie from Korean firm Kim & Chang joined as head of international arbitration in Asia.

Other additions included energy specialist Ted Greeno from Herbert Smith Freehills and Nick Marsh from DLA Piper.

The practice’s growth shows no signs of slowing down. In 2016, it made two more big-name hires: Michael Young QC in London, who had taken over as co-head of international arbitration at Allen & Overy following Jagusch’s departure; and Isabelle Michou, who had previously headed the Paris disputes practice at Herbert Smith Freehills.

The group continues to build remarkable momentum and is starting to see good results. A source at a rival firm told GAR he’s seen Quinn Emanuel pitching for more and more work, and winning more pitches than they lose. Managing partner John Quinn’s promise of building a “pre-eminent” international arbitration practice seems to be more than a pipedream.


The names to know are in London, Paris, [LY1] New York, Hong Kong and Washington, DC, with other members in Los Angeles, Mannheim, Hamburg, Tokyo, Houston, Munich, Shanghai and Sydney. A team in Moscow recently left for Baker Botts.

Who uses it?

Korea’s Daewoo International, DP World, US film production company Dreamworks, Edison and its parent EDF, EDP, ExxonMobil, Total, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Koch Industries, French oil and gas group Maurel & Prom, Asian private equity firm MBK Partners, Offshore Exploration and Production, German drug-maker Sandoz, Shaft Sinkers and Brazillian insurance company SulAmérica are all recent clients in arbitration matters.

At ICSID, it’s acting for companies linked to Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti, owner of Leyton Orient football club.

The firm has also been retained by Cambodia, Panama and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (a UAE sovereign wealth fund), and by state-owned Sonatrach of Algeria and Oschadbank of Ukraine.

Track record

There have been some impressive results on behalf of UAE port operator DP World. In early 2017, the firm won the complete dismissal of an LCIA claim in which the Djibouti government alleged that the company’s contract to run Africa’s largest container terminal had been procured through bribery. All allegations of corruption were dismissed and the client will receive costs. (Linklaters was co-counsel on the case.)  

In 2012, Quinn Emanuel also helped DP World settle a dispute with the government of Yemen over the port of Aden that had threatened to play out in parallel investment treaty and commercial claims. The client received a lump-sum payment of US$35 million – representing 80% of what it had sought.

As co-counsel with Freshfields, the firm helped Cambodia defeat a US$300 million ICSID claim brought by a US-owned investor concerning a power plant in Phnom Penh.

Pinsolle helped French water company Saur win US$59 million in an ICSID claim against Argentina concerning an expropriated concession in Mendoza province in 2014. (Shearman & Sterling and Latham & Watkins were co-counsel.)

It helped a Jordanian investor, Ossama Al Sharif, settle three ICSID claims against Egypt on favourable terms; and helped a central Asian state settle a US$250 million investment treaty arbitration for around 2% of what was claimed (Freshfields were on the other side).

On the commercial side, the firm helped Edison prevail in a price review claim against Italy’s Eni concerning gas supplied from Libya. In 2015, an ICC panel awarded Edison a downward price adjustment and a refund of €1 billion for gas already paid for.  

If one counts successes of individual members at their previous firms, the track record is even stronger. Pinsolle was part of the Shearman & Sterling team that helped former majority shareholders in Yukos Oil Company win a US$50 billion award against Russia.

While at DLA Piper, Nick Marsh in London helped Sual – a Bahamian entity controlled by Ukrainian businessmen – settle a shareholder dispute with Russian aluminium producer Rusal over the validity of supply contracts worth US$48 billion. It is believed to have been one of the largest Russia-related disputes ever heard in London.

Recent events

Stephen Jagusch and Nick Marsh achieved great results for US insurer AmTrust when it found itself facing claims totalling €3 billion in two Milan arbitrations brought by a former business partner. The firm helped AmTrust to bring a US lawsuit against the Italian arbitrator presiding over the dispute after investigators obtained audio recordings that appeared to suggest he had been bribed. Together with Italian boutique ArbLit, Quinn Emanuel also persuaded the Milan courts to disqualify the arbitrator, who denies any wrongdoing. AmTrust settled the underlying dispute soon after, though litigation against the arbitrator continues.

A team led by Pinsolle helped Sonatrach prevail in one round of an UNCITRAL claim against Paris-based Medex Petroleum in late 2016, when a tribunal agreed to the termination of contracts for two oilfields, allowing Sonatrach to regain control of the assets. The panel has still to rule on other claims. Quinn Emanuel also acts for Sonatrach in a separate US$1.5 billion ICC arbitration with France’s Technip over the refurbishment of an oil refinery.

Pinsolle paired up with Debevoise & Plimpton to assist a group of investors in an ICSID case against Albania, winning a provisional measures order that enabled two Italian businessmen (including Francesco Becchetti) to avoid extradition from the UK to face charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

A team including Orta helped Panama to settle an ICSID claim brought by US investor IBT relating to asphalt manufacturing plants.

Not every case panned out, however. Orta was brought in late to a co-counsel team that advised British-Iraqi national Ali Allawi and his company Progas in a third-party-funded investment treaty claim against Pakistan. The claim, relating to an LPG terminal in Karachi, was dismissed in August 2016 and the state was awarded £11 million in costs.

The firm received a raft of new instructions, including from an ExxonMobil consortium for an ICC case against Chad relating to taxes on pipeline exports. That dispute has seen a court in Chad impose a US$77 billion fine on the consortium.

South African mining company AngloGold Ashanti retained it for an ICSID claim against Ghana; as did a group of US investors for a US$100 million NAFTA claim against Mexico over measures relating to the country’s gaming industry.

A London team continues to advise Ukrainian state-owned Oschadbank in a treaty claim against Russia at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague – one of a number of cases relating to the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.

Aside from hiring Michael Young and Isabelle Michou, the firm promoted three new partners: Epaminontas Triantafilou in London, Daniel Salinas-Serrano in Washington, DC, and Duncan Watson in Sydney and Hong Kong. Young was appointed QC a year after Jagusch took silk.

Partners Ivan Marisin and Vasily Kuzentsov, who had joined the Moscow office in 2011 from Dechert, left for Baker Botts.

Client comment

Anita Wu, legal counsel at China’s Star Communications, says the firm is well organised and works efficiently across its different offices. She reserves special praise for Hong Kong partners John Rhie and Duncan Watson, who provide solutions that are “appropriate and practical” for the company.

Bronwen de Lange, general counsel at Shaft Sinkers, praises the firm’s “most eloquent drafting of extremely technical legal documents” and “unmatched cross-border and inter-jurisdiction ability”. Even people connected to the other side praised the QE team for the best opening argument, he says.

Scott Enright, general counsel at Emmis Communications (which lost an ICSID case against Hungary in which the firm acted), says: “I’ve replayed our case over and over again in my head and cannot think of anything I wished Quinn Emanuel had done differently – and it’s not often people say that after a loss.” The team are “among the finest attorneys I’ve worked with”.

Robert Peake, chairman at The Cragus Group, says: “I am always pleased to see how the Quinn Emanuel team works together seamlessly, with each member having a clear, coordinated role.”

 [LY1]Quinn didn’t include any practitioners from this city in its submission

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