GAR 100 - 14th Edition

Bär & Karrer

Bär & Karrer

Professional notice

Defended an award against Libya in the Swiss courts

People in Who's Who Legal5
People in Future Leaders2
Pending cases as counsel31
Value of pending counsel workUS$9.9 billion
Treaty cases as counsel0
Third-party funded cases1
Current arbitrator appointments49 (22 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator8

Founded in 1969, Swiss firm Bär & Karrer began to develop an international arbitration practice in the early 1980s. A key member of the group was Marc Blessing, a highly regarded arbitrator and honorary president of the Swiss Arbitration Association. Blessing retired as partner in 2007 but carried on as of counsel at the firm until 2019.

Originating in Zurich, the firm opened offices in Lugano and Zug in the early 1990s, and Geneva in 2000. In arbitration terms, it has traditionally been seen as more of a force in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, with the majority of the team based in Zurich, including long-term practice head Daniel Hochstrasser.

As of 2017, the practice is co-led from the Geneva office by Pierre-Yves Gunter, who joined after nearly two decades with GAR 100 firm Python. He brought with him a team that includes partner Alexandra C Johnson. Gunter is a director of the recently rebranded Swiss Arbitration Centre (formerly the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution, or SCAI) – while Johnson is a vice president of its arbitration court.

In Zurich, the team includes partners Michele Bernasconi and Jan Kleiner, who often sit as arbitrator in cases at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and Nadja Jaisli Kull, who is a board member of the Swiss Arbitration Association.

There is a small team in Italian-speaking Lugano, including Cesare Jermini, another member of the Swiss Arbitration Centre’s arbitration court.

In addition to its own client base, the firm is popular with international law firms looking for local co-counsel in a Swiss-seated arbitration.

Who uses it?

Clients of note include Sandoz (the generics division of pharmaceutical group Novartis) and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. It has also acted for telecoms operator TeliaSonera; Italian clients such as Ansaldo, Generali and pharma company Alfasigma; and, in Germany, Deutsche Telekom and power utility Energie Baden-Württemberg.

On the government side, it has recently advised the Israeli state-owned Israel Electric Corporation, the National Iranian Gas Company and the Kingdom of Spain.

Clients in the sports world include European football’s governing body, UEFA, and the Olympic Council of Asia.

Track record

The firm has had some big wins. It helped French nuclear company Areva win more than US$920 million in a dispute with Siemens concerning a collapsed joint venture.

For TeliaSonera it secured an award of US$932 million against Turkey’s Çukurova Holdings in an ICC dispute over a share purchase agreement, also defeating a mirror claim by Çukurova. The award has been the subject of enforcement proceedings in the US, the UK, the Netherlands and the British Virgin Islands.

In another success, the firm helped German public utility Energie Baden-Württemberg prevail in an ad hoc arbitration worth US$1 billion, which had been brought by a German inventor in a dispute over waste-gasification technology. The claim against the client was dismissed in its entirety, with EnBW winning costs.

It also helped the Israeli state-owned Israel Electric Corporation defend a US$1.7 billion ICC award from a challenge by two Egyptian state entities before the Swiss courts. The award arose from the termination of a deal to supply gas from Egypt to Israel in the wake of the Arab Spring.

The firm defended Deutsche Telekom in high-profile proceedings before the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, where India had sought to set aside an investment treaty award. After a rare public deliberation, the court ruled by majority that the treaty extended to indirect investments such as the one Deutsche Telekom had made in India via a Singaporean subsidiary. 

Recent events

Bär & Karrer had another victory before the Swiss Supreme Court, which upheld a US$22 million investment treaty award in favour of its Turkish client against Libya.

It also represented the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) in a €1.5 billion ICC arbitration against Turkmenistan’s national gas company over payments for gas deliveries. The case ended with an award against NIGC that was upheld by the Swiss courts.

A CAS panel ruled against the firm’s client UEFA in a high-profile dispute with English football club Manchester City, overturning the club’s two-year ban from European football for overstating its sponsorship revenue.

The firm is acting for French sports marketing agency Lagardère in a Geneva-seated ICC dispute with the Confederation of African Football over the termination of a billion-dollar contract relating to the media and marketing rights for Africa’s biggest football competitions.

Gunter chaired an ICC tribunal that issued a US$265 million award in favour of the Panama Canal Authority in a dispute with the consortium that built a third set of locks on the canal. The consortium failed to disqualify Gunter and is now seeking to overturn the award in the courts of Florida.

The firm promoted arbitration practitioners Cinzia Catelli and Pascal Hachem to partner in Zurich.

Client comment

EnBW legal counsel Norbert Sturm says Bär & Karrer has a “first rate mentality” with “excellent knowledge” of arbitration procedures. He commends Cinzia Catelli, litigation head Matthew Reiter and associate Alain Grieder.

A client who used the firm for a Swiss arbitration says Nadja Jaisli Kull and associate Nadine Wipf knew the case and the arbitral rules “down to the last detail.” The pair were tough when necessary and “couldn’t be fooled.”

Deutsche Telekom vice president Ina Roth commends the firm’s “hands-on approach” in the case against India (mentioned above). She praises Hochstrasser’s “focused advice” and availability, saying he “was very committed to the case.”

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 150 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug.

Bär & Karrer represents clients in commercial arbitrations and related court and enforcement proceedings. We act in ad hoc and institutional arbitrations governed by Swiss or foreign law. We are experienced in proceedings administered by major arbitral institutions, including the ICC, the Swiss Chambers of Commerce, WIPO, LCIA, the Vienna Center, the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, AAA/IDCR, and CAS.

Vast Expertise

Members of our arbitration team regularly serve as party-appointed arbitrators, sole arbitrators, and chairpersons of arbitral tribunals, as well as mediators. Partners of the firm are also active members of executive bodies of arbitral institutions (such as the Swiss Chambers). In addition they lecture on arbitration in LL.M. programs and specialized programs.

The quality, size, and experience of our international arbitration team allow us to handle large and complex cases. We regularly act in cases involving international acquisitions, joint ventures, privatizations, R&D, technology transfers, financing, sales of goods, commodity trading, sports arbitration, oil and gas concessions, and access to networks.

  • Party representation as counsel in arbitration proceedings
  • Chairman, co-arbitrator or sole arbitrator
  • Counsel in the enforcement or challenging of arbitral awards and in preliminary measures supporting arbitration proceedings
  • Mediator or counsel in mediation

Recognized Team

Bär & Karrer was repeatedly awarded Switzerland Law Firm of the Year by the most important international legal ranking agencies in recent years.

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