Counsel of choice for French defence contractors
|People in Who’s Who Legal||2|
|Pending cases as counsel||7|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$4 billion|
|Treaty cases as counsel||1|
|Third-party funded cases||0|
|Current arbitrator appointments||20 (8 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||3|
The firm launched its arbitration practice in 1995 by bringing in the well-regarded Matthieu de Boisséson and Pierre Duprey from Gide Loyrette Nouel, where they had worked on several large cases, including TML v Eurotunnel. The pair left for Linklaters in 2013. (De Boisséson has since gone solo, while Duprey launched boutique firm ADF Avocats in 2021.)
In 2014, French arbitrator and academic Laurent Aynès was brought in to lead the practice. Three years later, he was joined by Carine Dupeyron, who also sits as arbitrator and had previously worked at international firms in New York and Singapore.
The firm boasts a lean partner-to-associate ratio, with over half of its lawyers being equity partners.
Who uses it?
While Darrois Villey handles a variety of complex civil and commercial disputes, it has a primary focus on the M&A, securities and capital markets sectors.
It is used by a host of elite French corporations including a subsidiary of telecoms group Orange, which it has represented in disputes worth several billion dollars. Other French customers include defence contractor Naval Group; luxury fashion company Lanvin; and state-owned company ODAS, which develops exports in defence, security and technology.
Darrois Villey has been involved in arbitrations relating to major infrastructure projects, including the Channel Tunnel, the Athens Metro and the Stade de France.
It defended a defunct subsidiary of French energy group Total against a US$22.4 billion UNCITRAL claim brought by two Russian provinces. Working with Linklaters, the firm secured a complete dismissal of the claim in 2017.
Once again working with Linklaters, the firm represented Matra Défense – a French national defence company and a subsidiary of Airbus Group – in a high-profile ICC dispute with Taiwan relating to a contract for the sale of missiles. Taiwan won damages and the firm continued to represent the Airbus subsidiary in enforcement proceedings before the French courts.
French food-products multinational Danone used the firm in an UNCITRAL claim against New Zealand dairy co-op Fonterra in a dispute over the costs of recalling baby formula after a false botulism scare. Danone won €105 million.
Darrois Villey has been advising Kuwait-based Kout Food Group in a French court challenge to an ICC award in favour of Lebanese food company Kabab-Ji. The case has led to a confrontation between the French and UK courts over which country’s law governs an arbitration agreement providing for Paris-seated arbitration.
Nigerian energy company Sunrise Power retained the firm for a US$2.5 billion ICC claim against Nigeria and Chinese state-owned Sinohydro over a hydroelectric power project in eastern Nigeria. The case was supposedly settled in 2020 though a new arbitration has reportedly erupted after Nigeria failed to make a US$200 million payment.
The firm acted for French waste-to-energy company CNIM in a €180 million ICC claim against Bahrain relating to the construction of a waste plant. A tribunal threw out the client’s claim in 2020. Three Crowns acted for Bahrain.
Another French waste-to-energy company, Veolia Environnement, is using the firm in a €300 million ICSID claim against Italy.
Darrois Villey has been instructed by French companies in separate ICC claims concerning a licence distribution contract and fibre optic network.
Meanwhile, Aynès continues to be active as an arbitrator. He chaired an ICC tribunal which rejected claims worth over US$4 billion brought by a mining company against Burkina Faso. He is also chairing an UNCITRAL panel hearing a second claim brought by UAE-based Crescent Petroleum against Iran’s national oil company – over a gas supply deal that is already the subject of an arbitration worth US$15 billion.
Bernard Huet, a senior adviser at Naval Group, says the defence contractor used Dupeyron in a sensitive case over the sale of two warships worth US$1 billion to Russia. The company was impressed with her “pragmatism”, her proximity to the issues at hand and her “original and efficient thinking process to reach the most appropriate solution”.
Alban Lo Gatto, a general counsel at Orange, has used the firm in two arbitrations concerning the company’s business in Indonesia and Francophone Africa. He says Carine Dupeyron “was constantly able to balance the legal and business issues to the benefit of Orange.”