A recent spate of hires in DC and Doha reflects US firm’s increasing focus on Middle East infrastructure disputes
|People in Who’s Who Legal||1|
|Pending cases as counsel||12|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$17.7 billion|
|Treaty cases as counsel||1|
|Third-party funded cases||1|
|Current arbitrator appointments||4 (1 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||1|
Crowell & Moring was founded in 1979 by a group of more than 50 lawyers who broke away from Jones Day. Its international arbitration practice was established in 2005 as an offshoot of its litigation practice. The group really took off two years later with the hire of a ready-made team from Fulbright & Jaworski, including Arif Hyder Ali, who became practice chair. It rapidly took on some weighty ICSID and commercial matters and earned its first appearance in the GAR 100 in 2008.
Ali and three other partners left for Weil Gotshal & Manges in 2012. Ian Laird – a Canadian with NAFTA experience who was part of Ali’s ex-Fulbright team – and a stalwart of the firm, George Ruttinger, began co-chairing the group after that. Former Greenberg Traurig partner David Baron arrived in 2017, bringing 20 years’ experience in investor-state work.
In 2019, Crowell hired the head of the UK litigation group at Squire Patton Boggs, Laurence Winston, in its London office. He represented Cambridge Analytica in its high-profile dispute over alleged data protection breaches and now co-chairs Crowell’s dispute resolution group alongside Laird.
A group of 13 lawyers joined the firm from Squire Patton Boggs in 2020, including partners Robert Hager, Michael Guiffré and Meagan Bachman in Washington, DC, and a nine-strong team in Doha led by partner Charbel Maakaron. The team has a focus on infrastructure projects and disputes in Qatar, including representing the Qatari government in contentious work linked to the development of the US$15 billion Hamad International Airport.
Most of the international arbitration team is based in Washington, DC, with others in New York, and London and now Doha.
Who uses it?
Mining companies regularly turn to the firm for investor-state claims, including Canada’s Khan Resources and Pacific Rim. Other investors have used it in claims against Egypt, Turkey and Lithuania.
Booking.com and Vistaprint have used the firm in domain disputes before the ICDR and the California-based internet regulator, ICANN. Bank of America and the US’s Duke Energy have turned to the firm for ICSID-related enforcement matters.
Other big-name clients are AT&T, Dana Holding Corporation and General Motors.
The firm secured a US$500 million award for DIPCO, a consortium led by Kuwaiti logistics group KGL, in an ICC claim against Egypt’s Damietta Port Authority. The dispute concerned a terminated concession for a container terminal facility at the port. KGL has since instructed the firm for an ICSID claim against Egypt over the same project.
Crowell helped Khan Resources win a US$100 million Energy Charter Treaty award against Mongolia in 2015 over the cancellation of uranium mining licences. After Khan launched enforcement proceedings in the US, Mongolia paid US$70 million in 2016 to settle the case.
A team led by Stuart Newberger secured an award worth more than US$28 million against Pakistan in 2018 on behalf of an asset recovery firm the state hired two decades ago to track down the assets of Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The award was paid in 2020 after the client succeeded in attaching funds in a London bank account held by the Pakistan High Commission.
Crowell & Moring persuaded the US courts to recognise an ICSID award worth US$133 million against Argentina in 2013.
A team led by Ian Laird continues to represent Russian businesswoman Marsha Lazareva in a US$100 million investment treaty claim against Kuwait over her prolonged imprisonment on what she says are erroneous charges of embezzlement. Lazareva has been released from prison but remains subject to a travel ban and has gone into hiding in the Russian embassy in Kuwait.
George Ruttinger led a team that acted for Vento Motorcycles in a NAFTA claim against Mexico worth US$3 billion, which concerned the state’s imposition of a customs duty on imported bikes. An UNCITRAL tribunal dismissed the case on the merits in 2020.
Crowell has been representing Ireland and South Africa-based aviation group Starlite in an AAA dispute over the leasing of helicopters used to support US military operations in Afghanistan.
A US-based in-house lawyer says Ian Laird’s mastery of the ICC rules in action has been “very impressive to see”. Another client says Laird is a “talented individual”, and that the “thoroughness displayed by Crowell & Moring in all aspects of the case paid off in the end.”
Another client worked with multiple firms before hiring Crowell: “None of them reached the legal solutions that [Crowell] did.” He praises the Crowell lawyers’ “persistence and conviction”, “long-term commitment” and “warm, personal and empathetic treatment of the circumstances involved in the case.”
Crowell & Moring’s International Dispute Resolution (IDR) Group delivers end-to-end advice on the full range of business and governmental disputes worldwide. Together with its affiliate firm, C&M International (CMI) – an international policy and regulatory affairs consulting firm – and the firm’s International Trade Group, the IDR Group provides pre-dispute counseling on investment decisions and dispute resolution clauses, pre-arbitration assistance on potential geopolitical approaches to resolving disputes, representation in international commercial and investment arbitrations and in court litigation, and enforcement of international arbitral awards and court judgments.
With dozens of lawyers practicing from our offices in Washington, D.C., New York, London, and Brussels we represent clients from a wide range of industries and geographic regions in disputes under international and bilateral trade agreements and treaties. Last year, we increased our footprint in Doha expanding the firm’s global infrastructure, international dispute resolution and litigation capabilities.
We have handled commercial and geopolitical disputes involving business operations, transactions, projects and strategic alliances across the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and Asia. Lawyers in our IDR practice work in a diverse range of languages such as Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew and Spanish. We regularly represent private parties, publicly held companies, sovereign governments and state‐owned enterprises.