GAR 100 - 14th Edition

Clifford Chance

Professional notice

Secured a triple win for Azerbaijan’s national oil company and picked up a set of multibillion-dollar mining cases against Congo

People in Who’s Who Legal11
People in Future Leaders13
Pending cases as counsel200
Value of pending counsel workUS$80 billion
Treaty cases as counsel15
Third-party funded cases3
Current arbitrator appointments44 (26 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator19

Clifford Chance was one of the first law firms originating in a common law jurisdiction to take international arbitration seriously. In the mid-1980s, it decided to create a separate department at around the same time as Freshfields.

The new department was led by John Beechey, who went on to serve as president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration. Over 15 years, the group became a major international arbitration brand – strong in London, New York and Paris. It also became a training ground for lawyers seeking to get a start in the field. But a tough financial crisis and the departure of Beechey and another key partner, Jason Fry, for the ICC left the group looking a little lean.

The group was reinvigorated under the leadership of Audley Sheppard, chair of the LCIA Board, and Fry – who returned to the firm in 2012 after five years with the ICC. Both are now QCs. Fry’s deputy at the ICC, Simon Greenberg, also joined in Paris and was rapidly promoted to partner.

Other names to know in London are Rob Lambert, Alex Panayides, Marie Berard, Janet Whittaker and Jessica Gladstone. Romesh Weeramantry in Hong Kong specialises in investment treaty arbitration, as do Ben Luscombe and Sam Luttrell in Perth, who have brought in lots of work for mining companies. 

The firm has expertise on the Energy Charter Treaty and its relationship with EU law and was one of the first to fight cases on this.

Network

Clifford Chance operates from 26 countries. For international arbitration, the most important offices are London, Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore. Other practitioners are stationed in Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Warsaw, Dubai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Perth and Sydney.

In Singapore, the firm formed an alliance with local boutique Cavanagh Law in 2012 and it was one of the first international law firms to obtain approval to open an office in Seoul.

Who uses it?

The wider firm has a great name in banking and finance, leading to some exciting banking-related arbitrations involving institutions such as Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Crédit Agricole, Standard Chartered Bank and Standard Bank of South Africa.

Otherwise, it’s a pretty mixed bag. Energy clients include Abengoa, BG Group, E.ON, GE, Iberdrola, Shell, Sinopec and Statoil. It’s also advised Airbus, Glencore, L'Oréal, Hyundai Heavy Industries, US defence contractor Raytheon Systems and the French Football Federation. Former French football star Michel Platini has used the firm.

In the Middle East, it has represented Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund IPIC (now Mubadala).

Clients in investment treaty work have included EDF; Italian power company Enel; and mining companies Churchill, Kingsgate and Cortec.

Some rare examples of state clients include Taiwan, as respondent in a treaty claim relating to the banking sector; France, in a €300 million dispute over a rail link; and São Tomé and Príncipe, in a law-of-the-sea arbitration filed by Malta over the detention of an oil tanker.

Track record

In 2013, the team won a US$1.4 billion partial award for Shell and its consortium partners in an Abuja-seated arbitration against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. A Nigerian court later enjoined the arbitration from continuing. A US court petition to enforce the award was stayed pending a challenge to the Nigerian injunction.

In the same year, the firm secured an award of over US$100 million for French bank BNP Paribas in a long-running dispute with Basic Element Group, owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

For Raytheon, it won a £224 million LCIA award against the UK government in 2014 in a dispute over a failed plan to implement an electronic border control system. The award was later overturned in the English courts but the UK settled the dispute with a payout of £150 million in the following year.

On the investment treaty side, it won US$45 million for Abengoa in an ICSID claim against Mexico; and settled Enel Green Power’s dispute with El Salvador, securing a US$280 million payout for the claimant.

There have been some noteworthy settlements. Lawyers in the Singapore office helped a group of private equity investors including SBI Macquarie, Standard Chartered and JM Financial-Old Lane settle a US$1.3 billion dispute with Indian airport infrastructure group GMR in 2018.

The Paris, Amsterdam and London offices helped Swiss billionaire Margarita Louis-Dreyfus settle an ICC dispute by completing a US$900 million buyout of other family members’ minority interests in agricultural commodities trader Louis Dreyfus. 

Recent events

Clifford Chance secured a trio of wins for Azerbaijan’s national oil company in parallel UNCITRAL, LCIA and London Maritime Arbitrators Association disputes with a Turkish shipping group and its founder, securing US$240 million in compensation.

Defending Albania, the firm defeated the bulk of a third-party funded ICC claim worth US$90 million brought by a US-based company concerning three oilfields.

The firm also helped an Australian construction company win damages – although much less than it had sought – in a billion-dollar ICC dispute with Chevron over the construction of a jetty for one of the world’s largest natural gas projects. The matter has now settled.

A Dominican state entity agreed to pay just under US$400 million to settle a dispute with an Odebrecht-led consortium the firm was representing that had sought almost US$1 billion in damages, following ICC mediation proceedings in New York.   

And the firm helped French construction company secure a €50 million payout from Swiss energy company Alpiq to settle a €300 million Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution dispute over the sale of an engineering services business.

At ICSID, it is advising a German solar investor in a claim against Spain that has cleared the liability phase; Australian mining investors in a claim against Egypt, an Odebrecht subsidiary in a billion dollar claim against Peru, and Italy’s Enel in a claim against Panama.

The firm is representing a number of mining companies in disputes with the Republic of the Congo and Cameroon concerning the revocation of licences for an iron ore project that straddles the two countries’ border. These include Avima Iron Ore in a US$27 billion claim against Congo; and Sundance Resources in a US$9 billion claim against Congo and another claim against Cameroon – both of which are being funded by Burford Capital. A third company, Equatorial Resources, has threatened Congo with an investment treaty arbitration. 

A UK government entity has been using the firm to resist enforcement of a £128 million ICC award in favour of Iran’s ministry of defence, relating to military sales contracts terminated in the wake of the Iranian revolution of 1979.

There have been several high-profile departures. An eight-lawyer disputes team in Moscow led by partner Timur Aitkulov left to launch a disputes boutique in the Russian capital. In Washington, DC, well-known investment treaty specialist Ignacio Suarez Anzorena left to go solo as an arbitrator. And Madrid partner José Antonio Caínzos left after two decades to open a boutique in the Spanish capital.

One notable hire came in Singapore, where the firm’s local affiliate Cavenagh Law snagged Paul Tan, who has appeared in many arbitration-related cases in the local courts, as partner from Rajah & Tann.  

And the firm promoted Fernando Irurzun to head of disputes in Spain to fill the void left by the departure of Caínzos.

Client comment

The head of dispute resolution at a major international oil company that retained the firm for drilling-related disputes in Iraq says he sees it as an “extension” of his in-house team and praises the quality of its advice, which prioritises business sense and commercial objective over “esoteric legal argument”.

He describes partner Alex Panayides as “on the ball” and adds: “Whether he’s on a plane or in a meeting halfway around the world, a response to your question is guaranteed.” The client also praises Paul Coates, whose “measured and calming approach” will make him “a worthy partner someday soon”.

Wherever in the world, whatever the industry, our global arbitration practice has the expertise and experience to assist.

Commerciality

We work with clients to help to resolve their complex disputes effectively and efficiently. Our approach is pragmatic and commercial. We draw upon a decades-long track record with international arbitration to provide a variety of options that address current and future commercial risks, in addition to solving legal issues. We aim to develop and maintain long term relationships with our clients.

Global

For global corporations, disputes can arise in many jurisdictions. We have built a global structure across 32 offices to match our clients' international scope. Our worldwide arbitration experts sit in offices across all of the major arbitration centres – including the UK, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas and work together as one cross border team, drawing upon our varied experience and resources across our offices.

Sector knowledge

Arbitrations are increasingly more customized to specific industry sectors. Clients come to our team for the additional knowledge provided by our sector-specific experts that specialise in construction, infrastructure, pharmaceutical, aerospace & defence, banking & finance, insurance & reinsurance, shipping & transport and telecommunications disputes. These experts bring a deep understanding of the industries in which our clients do business. We also act for governments and we appreciate the political dimension.

Leadership in the arbitration community

Arbitrators and clients expect participants to be familiar with the applicable rules and procedures. We conduct arbitrations pursuant to the rules of all the leading arbitral institutions, and ad hoc arbitrations under UNCITRAL and other rules. Our lawyers have leadership positions in many arbitral organisations, and they regularly write and speak on arbitration issues. They also sit as arbitrators.

We are there with local knowledge and industry experience, and arbitral expertise, wherever and whenever clients need us.

Website: www.cliffordchance.com

Get unlimited access to all Global Arbitration Review content