GAR 100 - 14th Edition

Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick

Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick

Professional notice

Has appeared on some of Belgium’s biggest enforcement matters in recent years

Pending cases as counsel12
Value of pending counsel workUS$367 million (excluding set-aside proceedings)
Treaty cases as counsel1
Third-party funded cases0
Current arbitrator appointments2 (1 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator2

Founded in Brussels in 1965, Liedekerke was one of the few players in the Belgian market to resist the trend of integration with Anglo-American law firms in the early 2000s. It has remained independent ever since, making the disputes team less hampered by conflicts of interest than some of their competitors.

Liedekerke got into international disputes at an early stage. In 1970, two of the founding partners, John Kirkpatrick and Michel Waelbroeck, represented Belgium before the International Court of Justice in the landmark Barcelona Traction case concerning protection of foreign shareholders.

The firm has developed a strong focus on francophone Africa and handles arbitrations for various companies and governments in the region. It’s also been involved in some of the biggest enforcement proceedings in the Belgian courts of recent years, including the Yukos case against Russia. Liedekerke is one of the few Belgian firms that also acts in foreign court proceedings including in France, Canada and the UK.

In 2019, there was major upheaval at the firm. Head of litigation and arbitration Hakim Boularbah left with a team of associates to join Loyens & Loeff; and the head of public international law, Nicolas Angelet, decided to set up his own independent practice.

The arbitration and dispute resolution practice is now led by Arnaud Nuyts, who has been at the firm for almost three decades. He works alongside partners Aimery De Schoutheete and Roel Francis in the arbitration team.

Network

While the arbitration team is based in Brussels, Liedekerke has an office in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which opened in 2015; and another in London.

Although it has no base in the Middle East, the firm is also involved in various disputes involving parties across the region.

Who uses it?

The firm’s state clients include Belgium, Burundi and the DRC, whose national mining company Gécamines regularly uses it for commercial arbitrations. Kazakhstan is another high-profile client.

Besides the Yukos shareholders, its private clients include Lebanon’s Consolidated Contractors Company, and Belgian export credit agency Credendo.

Track record

The firm succeeded in lifting attachments on more than US$22 billion in assets owned by a Kazakhstan sovereign wealth fund in 2018. The assets had been frozen at the request of Moldovan investors seeking to enforce a US$520 million Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) award.  

Together with Foley Hoag, the firm helped Belgium see off a €1 billion ICSID claim brought by a Chinese shareholder in financial services group Fortis, in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. The case was thrown out on jurisdictional grounds in 2015.

It has had several wins for the DRC. In one case, it defeated a US$150 million claim by the Congolese subsidiary of a US grain dealer in a Zurich-seated arbitration at the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution. Liedekerke also knocked out the vast majority of a US$750 million ICC claim by another US investor.

Defending Burundi, the firm reduced a US$14 million ICSID claim to an award of just US$209,000 plus interest against the state in 2016 – half of what the claimant spent in bringing the case.

Liedekerke helped Gécamines settle an ICC claim worth US$150 million that it brought against subsidiaries of China’s Jinchuan Group over a copper and cobalt mining venture. Although it did not identify Gécamines by name, Jinchuan revealed in a stock exchange filing that its subsidiaries had agreed to pay US$25 million to a minority shareholder in the venture.

Recent events

Liedekerke is helping Poland challenge a US$10 million treaty award won by a subsidiary of US hedge fund manager Elliott Management in the Brussels Court of First Instance.

At the ICC, the firm is acting for an international construction company in an arbitration related to a major project in Qatar; and a UAE-based pharmaceutical distribution company in its dispute with a Russian pharmaceutical manufacturer.

It continues representing regular client Gécamines in several matters – including an arbitration concerning the mining company’s role as a minority shareholder in a joint venture with a foreign investor to operate ore and cobalt deposits in the DRC.

Client comment

Viki Topalidou, counsel at Qatari group Lysys, says that while Brussels is “not necessarily the first place you would think of to find international arbitration practitioners,” Liedekerke is a “gem” and the firm has “nothing to envy” about practices in more established arbitral hubs.  

She says Nuyts is “absolutely outstanding with strategy” and that he and associate Bruno Hardy “go the extra-mile for their client.”

A state client says Liedekerke presented a “perfectly coordinated team of exceptionally qualified partners and associates” in a recent matter. “They impressed us with their engagement, availability, and great communication and case-management skills. We found them remarkably scrupulous, even when working under time pressure. They also provided us with exceptional transparency in billing, and value for the services offered.”

Liedekerke is one of the largest independent law firms in Belgium. The firm has offices in Brussels and London, as well as in Kinshasa, DRC and in Kigali, Rwanda.

Dedication to International Disputes

Our International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Practice focuses on high-stake, multi-jurisdictional disputes.

The team represents clients in international arbitration proceedings governed by a wide range of applicable laws, both civil law and common law.

Our lawyers have also been involved in some of the largest multi-jurisdiction enforcement proceedings in Belgium and abroad. They regularly provide assistance in foreign court proceedings, including in the UK, France, Canada, Greece and Lebanon. The team is recognized for its expertise in the coordination of cross-border proceedings.

Our clients are national, foreign and multinational companies, active in various sectors including distribution, manufacturing, logistics, agribusiness, mining, oil and gas, food, and the media industry. We also regularly represent international organisations and sovereign States.

Regional Expertise: Francophone Africa and the Middle East

Beyond Europe, Liedekerke has an in-depth knowledge of francophone Africa and the Great Lakes Region as well as of the Middle East and handles arbitrations for various companies and governments in these regions. Our lawyers have expertise in the local laws, including OHADA, the laws of the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, and the civil laws of Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE.

The team specifically handles mining arbitrations in francophone Africa and assists clients in large construction disputes in the Middle East. We also represent clients in distribution contracts, equipment and engineering and post-acquisition disputes.

Website: www.liedekerke.com

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