The New York boutique landed a big award against Petrobras
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Based in New York, this boutique was founded in 2009 when Peter Chaffetz, global head of litigation at Clifford Chance, and David Lindsey, co-head of that firm’s Americas arbitration group, decided to break away. Their boutique was named “Small Firm of the Year” at the 2011 GAR Awards.
Today, Lindsey and partner James Hosking spearhead the international arbitration work, while Chaffetz and others focus more on insurance and securities disputes. Both Lindsey and Hosking have featured in GAR’s “45 under 45” list.
A series of promotions and lateral hires has seen the partnership rapidly expand in the past few years. These include Caline Mouawad, a Lebanese-US national who joined in 2019 after 10 years at King & Spalding, where she specialised in Latin America-related arbitrations. Andrew Poplinger, who primarily focuses on commercial arbitration, was promoted to partner in 2020.
Other partners to know include Swiss-US national Andreas Frischknecht; and Yasmine Lahlou, who has a Franco-Moroccan background and is fluent in French and Italian. Spanish partner Aníbal Sabater joined the firm in 2015 from Norton Rose Fulbright and has investment treaty expertise.
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.
Who uses it?
It has acted for governments including Iran, the Czech Republic, Moldova and Liberia; and for state entities such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
But most of the firm’s clients come from the private sector, including Enron spin-off Ashmore Energy International (AEI), French defence contractor Safran, Italy’s Enel Green Power, insurers AIG and Tokio Marine HCC, Brazil’s Vale, South Korea’s Samwhan, the Miss Universe Organization, and the Cartesian Capital Group. Turkey’s Çukurova Holding used the firm in a billion-dollar dispute over a Turkish mobile operator.
Much of the firm’s work is focused on Latin America, involving clients or projects in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru – mostly relating to oil and gas, power and infrastructure, construction, and project finance. Clients in this regard include Peru’s Graña y Montero and Panama’s QGI Oil & Gas.
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.”
One of the firm’s most striking results was helping AEI subsidiary Jaguar Energy prevail in a billion-dollar ICC dispute with a Chinese contractor over a coal-fired power plant in Guatemala. Chaffetz Lindsey secured a final award in 2015 for US$129 million in damages and US$20 million in costs, also knocking out a counterclaim of around US$800 million. The award was upheld at the seat in Singapore.
In 2016, the firm helped Liberia settle a US$750 million ICSID claim lodged by a Canadian mining company, following negotiations that had been stalled by an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the country.
In the US courts, it has helped the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to defeat attempts to enforce a US$2.7 billion award in favour of ExxonMobil and Shell. The award had been set aside by the Nigerian courts. A team led by Andreas Frischknecht has also helped Turkish roadbuilder Entes to enforce a US$25 million UNCITRAL award against the Kyrgyz ministry of transport.
In late 2020, the team helped Brazilian contractor IESA Óleo & Gás win US$107 million in an ICC claim against Petrobras relating to an offshore oil and gas project, also defeating counterclaims worth US$423 million.
The firm helped the South Pacific nation of the Cook Islands to defeat a US$20 million ICC claim brought by a Florida-based businessman relating to the registration of a medical training facility. It is now trying to enforce a costs award for the nation in the US courts.
Caline Mouwad led a team acting for US cleaning products group Clorox in a US$185 million claim against Venezuela. The case was dismissed at the jurisdictional phase in 2019 but that ruling was overturned in the following year – the first ever set-aside of an investment treaty award in Switzerland.
As arbitrator, James Hosking presided over a dispute between Chinese state-linked oil venture Andes Petroleum and Houston’s Occidental Petroleum concerning the division of the proceeds of a billion-dollar ICSID settlement with the government of Ecuador. In March 2021, the tribunal ordered Occidental to pay US$540 million to Andes.
Maureen Ryan, general counsel at US renewable energy company Altas, says she has been using Chaffetz Lindsey since its inception and the firm “provides outstanding value and service”.
“It is one of the best firms I have worked with,” she notes, “and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone needing practical, business-minded advice.” She also says she has “complete trust” in James Hosking.
A government client says Chaffetz Lindsey has “the advantages a boutique firm can offer in terms of fee arrangements, but it is still fully capable of providing excellent legal representation; we particularly appreciate the relatively high partner-involvement.”
Chaffetz Lindsey is the leading US boutique providing top-tier advocacy and advice on complex international disputes, encompassing both commercial and investment arbitration. Based in New York, the firm was formed in 2009 by five partners from Clifford Chance—including David Lindsey and James Hosking who led the Americas International Arbitration Group. The firm is structured to handle the same high-end dispute resolution matters but from a specialized, client-friendly (and conflict-free) boutique platform. Chaffetz Lindsey has since grown to more than 30 lawyers who have trained in civil and common law systems, have practiced at elite firms around the globe, and are collectively fluent in eight languages.
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, JV/shareholder disputes, 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.
The strength of the firm’s 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 the arbitration community. Several members of the team also regularly sit as arbitrators, and have appeared as experts on US law and international arbitration practice. The firm and its International Arbitration team are highly ranked by all the leading industry guides. Partners James Hosking, Aníbal Sabater, Yasmine Lahlou, Caline Mouawad and David Lindsey are widely recognized as leaders in the field, and Partners Andreas Frischknecht and Drew Poplinger, as well as Counsel Gretta Walters, have all been identified as rising stars. Previously Global Arbitration Review’s Small Firm of the Year, Chaffetz Lindsey—despite being a boutique—is consistently ranked together with the top global firms, against which it regularly appears.
Chaffetz Lindsey also has an active state, federal, and bankruptcy court practice. The firm’s experience covers all aspects of general commercial litigation, with a particular expertise in finance/securities, insurance and reinsurance, bankruptcy, cross-border disputes and sovereign immunity issues. The team has authored the leading text on award and judgment enforcement in New York.