The Miami boutique has made a name for itself as a defender of states facing hefty awards
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GST was set up in 2009, when Florida-based lawyer Quinn Smith joined forces with Brazilian practitioner Mauricio Gomm Santos – then a consultant at US firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and law professor at the University of Miami.
Starting life as Smith International Legal Services, the firm wanted to carve a niche as an adviser to Brazilian individuals and businesses expanding internationally, as well as US companies doing business in Latin America. Its early work saw it involved in an ICC dispute and litigation between the United States’ Bechtel and a Brazilian state power company.
The practice really began to take off in 2012 with the arrival of Diego Gosis, an Argentine lawyer who has acted as external counsel to his government in more than 20 investment arbitrations since 2006. Gosis also sits as arbitrator.
In 2013, Gomm Santos became a full partner of the firm, leading to a rebrand as Gomm & Smith. An additional partner came on board in 2016 – Ignacio Torterola, the Argentine government’s former ICSID liaison officer. That hire led to the firm’s latest rebrand as GST, also giving it a presence in Washington, DC for the first time.
Torterola spent nine years at Argentina’s treasury attorney general’s office defending the state against investment treaty claims, and has also worked at Foley Hoag and Brown Rudnick.
Smith, who lectures on arbitration at a Brazilian university, holds roles in various young practitioners’ groups at the ICDR and ICC, while Gomm Santos is a founding member and former director of the Brazilian Arbitration Committee and sits on its advisory council.
GST used to collaborate with Argentine firm Guglielmino & Asociados on certain investor-state matters but the two firms have now parted ways.
In addition to its Miami office, the boutique has addresses in London and Washington, DC.
Who uses it?
Pakistan, Venezuela, Bolivia and Guatemala have instructed the firm on a number of treaty and commercial matters. Governments often bring the firm in at a late stage in cases that haven’t been going their way. In one ICSID matter, Bolivia retained it as replacement counsel only five weeks before the final hearing.
Other engagements have come from a sovereign instrumentality of Argentina, several Brazilian manufacturers and families, and an investment bank in Africa. A South American state-owned bank instructed the firm to assist in recouping US$60 million in funds stolen by a bank official. It has also acted for US investors in a US court challenge to a DR-CAFTA award in favour of Costa Rica.
In their former roles advising the Argentine government, Gosis and Torterola had a hand in some landmark defence wins at ICSID, including the annulment of awards in the Vivendi I, Enron and CMS cases.
Gosis has won some great results for Venezuela at ICSID in collaboration with Argentine firm Guglielmino & Asociados. The team defeated a billion-dollar claim by subsidiaries of a US bottlemaker, and a US$400 million claim relating to a hotel and cable car investment.
GST also helped Venezuela to defeat a US$185 million treaty claim brought by US cleaning products group Clorox in 2019, though a set-aside decision by the Swiss courts last year has paved the way for Clorox to refile its claim.
Even where the state client has been on the losing side, the team has succeeded in significantly reducing the size of the damages. Its defence of Venezuela in a US$150 million claim over a Caribbean island airport led to a final award against the state worth US$34 million.
For Bolivia, GST reduced a US$285 million ICSID claim by Chilean mining company Quiborax to an award of US$48 million. the firm also helped Bolivian state mining entity Empresa Siderúrgica del Mutún overturn a US$22.5 million award in favour of India’s Jindal Steel in the Bolivian courts in 2015.
Pakistan has turned to GST for annulment proceedings concerning a US$6 billion ICSID award in favour of Australian mining venture Tethyan.
It is advising Guatemala as it seeks to annul a US$55 million ICSID award in favour of a Florida energy company on the ground that an arbitrator failed to disclose ties with an expert witness.
The firm is also defending Guatemala in a DR-CAFTA case worth US$350 million brought by mining investors backed by third-party funders. GST has helped the state to lodge a counterclaim for alleged misrepresentation and failure to meet environmental commitments.
The Venezuelan ministry of defence is using the firm to challenge a Mississippi court’s decision to enforce a US$129 million award in favour of US shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls, in a two-decade dispute over the upgrade of two navy frigates.
The firm continues to defend Venezuela against an ICSID claim brought by Spanish businessman Luis García Armas and members of his family over the alleged expropriation of their food distribution business, having failed to knock the case out on jurisdictional grounds. A parallel ICSID case brought by other members of the García Armas family was declined on the basis of their dual nationality in 2019.
Katherine Sanoja and Pablo Mori were promoted to counsel.
Re-launched in June 2016, GST LLP adds Ignacio Torterola to the team at Gomm & Smith to continue building an international dispute practice that is nimble, efficient, and highly experienced. The firm represents sovereigns and private parties in varied complex matters in different languages and under many arbitration rules. GST is active in both investment and commercial arbitration, and its practitioners act as lead or co-counsel in disputes applying the rules of ICSID, ICSID Additional Facility, ICC, ICDR, UNCITRAL, and other regional institutions’ rules. It also handles significant litigations throughout the United States and manages litigation strategy across different countries.
In addition to counsel work, members of the GST LLP team frequently serve as arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators, including both institutional and party appointments by ICC, ICDR, and the PCA.
GST practitioners are active in the development of international arbitration in a variety of ways. Members of the team have served on the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association; the ICC’s Commission on Arbitration and ADR and its World Business Law Institute; the ICC’s Latin American Arbitration Group; and leadership positions with ICDR Y&I and ICC YAF. GST professionals have completed or are finishing advanced degrees in international arbitration from leading institutions, such as Oxford, Queen Mary, Cornell, and others. In addition, Mr. Torterola has extensive experience in the negotiation of treaties and international conventions, having represented Argentina in discussions within UNCTAD, the OECD, UNCITRAL, the WTO, and the ICC.