The firm begins a new chapter following the departure of its world-renowned practice heads and Paris team
|People in Who’s Who Legal||6|
|People in Future Leaders||11|
|Pending cases as counsel||97|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$48 billion|
|Treaty cases as counsel||17|
|Third-party funded cases||1|
|Current arbitrator appointments||21 (14 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||8|
|All figures pre-date the departure of Emmanuel Gaillard and his team for GBS Disputes|
Shearman & Sterling’s huge renown for international arbitration grew after its 2014 win against Russia for the former majority shareholders in Yukos Oil Company. The US$50 billion award remains the largest recorded win in an investment treaty dispute. The firm also won a record US$2.5 billion commercial award for Dow Chemical against a Kuwaiti state entity in 2012.
Its work in this field started in the mid-1980s, when Emmanuel Gaillard joined from Bredin Prat. Originally hired for litigation, Gaillard opted instead to focus on international arbitration. And so Shearman became one of the first firms with a bespoke international arbitration team (along with Gide Loyrette Nouel, Coudert Brothers and, soon, Freshfields).
The gamble paid off. In 1992, Gaillard landed two huge cases – a billion-dollar construction dispute and a set of eight arbitrations for the same energy firm. The burgeoning team then appeared on a series of seminal cases in the mid-to-late 1990s in the energy and construction areas and a (then new) discipline called investment arbitration.
Over the years, other members of the team apart from Gaillard gained recognition in their own right. Prominent among them was Yas Banifatemi, who joined Shearman in 1997, co-developed the firm’s investment arbitration practice and led its public international law work.
In 2021, Gaillard and five other partners in the Paris office – including Banifatemi – left to open a new disputes boutique, Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes. Tragically, Gaillard died unexpectedly just months later.
The Shearman arbitration team is now led by partner Alex Bevan, who is based Abu Dhabi. Recognised as a thought leader in international arbitration by Who’s Who Legal, Bevan joined the firm in 2000 and specialises in disputes arising from construction and development projects, acquisitions and joint ventures.
Under his leadership, the practice is pitching itself as having shifted away from the Paris focus to being more integrated and global – operating as a single team spread over seven jurisdictions.
While the firm continues to do the investor-state work the departed partners were renowned for, Bevan is building a new practice whose engine room will be high-value commercial work. There will be an increased focus on alignment with the firm’s project finance and M&A teams and on geographical spread.
Rather than trying to recreate the departed Paris team, it is expected that the firm will expand in the Middle East, US and London.
Not all the Paris team left. The remaining partner in that office is Jennifer Younan, who specialises in investment disputes and public international law.
The London team is now led by Garreth Wong, who joined in 2020 after several years as partner at Bird & Bird.
The New York practice is run by Henry Weisburg and boosted its profile thanks to the Dow Chemical win. There is also a team in Washington, DC led by partner Christopher Ryan, who is taking a lead on the firm’s Latin America work.
The firm began expanding its offering in Asia in 2015, recruiting Nils Eliasson, a Who’s Who Legal Global Leader, to head a China disputes-focused practice from Hong Kong. In Beijing, the firm has French-trained lawyer Emmanuel Jacomy, who is fluent in Mandarin, while Daryl Chew heads the Singapore office.
Who uses it?
Members of the firm have advised Dow Chemical, Spanish construction group OHL, Turkish construction firm Enka, Chevron, and Oil Search. State-owned clients include ADNOC, Mubadala and others in the UAE; China’s Sinopec; Office Chérifien des Phosphates in Morocco, and Staatsolie in Suriname.
State clients in the investment treaty arena include China, Ukraine and Panama.
Shearman’s more noteworthy international arbitration successes have been mentioned in the history of the practice’s development above. Even more than Freshfields, the firm earned a reputation as the place to go when defeat would be intolerable: the proverbial bet-the-company case.
While most of the firm’s biggest wins are closely associated with Gaillard and Banifatemi, in many cases practitioners who remain at Shearman also had a hand in securing them.
Bevan, Eliasson and Chew, for example, were all part of a team that helped to settle a monumental ICC arbitration worth €6.1 billion between Areva, Siemens and Finnish utility TVO in 2018. Shearman’s client Areva agreed to pay €450 million for delays in the construction of a nuclear power plant.
Jacomy helped nine power producers win a US$130 million LCIA award against a Pakistani state-owned electricity company after persuading a sole arbitrator that the respondent had colluded in third-party litigation to thwart compliance with an expert determination.
Bevan secured a landmark win in the UK Supreme Court in a dispute between Turkish client Enka and the Russian arm of the insurance company Chubb. In a case closely watched by practitioners, the court held that where there is no law chosen to govern the contract or the arbitration agreement, the law governing the latter is the law of the seat.
Bevan’s Abu Dhabi team continues to defend a consortium made up of OHL and Egypt’s Orascom Construction in a pair of ICC cases brought by a Qatari state-backed foundation over the construction of a medical facility in Doha, with billions in dispute. The consortium recently failed in an English court challenge to a partial award.
The firm represents another OHL consortium (this time including Samsung) in a billion-dollar dispute with a Qatari state-owned railway company over a terminated contract to build two metro stations in Doha.
Jacomy is representing a Pakistani power producer in an English-law ICC arbitration seated in Singapore against the Pakistan Power and Water Development Authority.
The New York office is representing Canada’s Stoneway Capital Corporation in a US$125 million ICC arbitration initiated by a Latin American construction contractor. That team also filed an amicus curiae brief before the US Supreme Court on whether US law permits discovery in aid of foreign commercial arbitrations.
Younan and Eliasson continue to defend Ukraine in an SCC treaty claim brought by Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank over the seizure of its local assets. Shearman is also defending Ukraine in an ICSID claim brought by subsidiaries of Russian aluminium giant Rusal.
Ukraine’s national nuclear energy company NNEGC Energoatom has instructed a Younan-led team for a threatened treaty claim against Russia over the expropriation of a wind farm in Crimea.
In London, Wong is representing Malaysian company KLS Energy Lanka in an ICSID claim against Sri Lanka concerning a US$150 million renewable energy project. And Shearman continues to defend China in an ICSID claim brought by German spice manufacturer Hela Schwarz over the alleged expropriation of its local subsidiary.
There were two other noteworthy departures for GBS Disputes not yet mentioned. Partner Daniel Reich made the switch in New York, while London counsel Tsegaye Laurendeau also moved to join the new boutique as partner.
Two other departures saw London partner Alexander Uff return to the bar to practise arbitration at Quadrant Chambers; and Paris counsel Ilija Mitrev Penushliski leave for Three Crowns.
Shearman & Sterling is a U.S. firm comprising approximately 850 lawyers in 25 offices around the world.
Shearman & Sterling has represented companies, States and State-owned companies in international arbitrations for over 40 years. Our multi-national multi-cultural international arbitration team includes lawyers fully dedicated to international arbitration in our Abu Dhabi, Austin, Beijing, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, Singapore and Washington, D.C. offices.
We appear as Counsel in investment and commercial arbitrations arising in a variety of industries including energy (oil & gas, power, renewables and nuclear), construction, technology, telecoms, healthcare, chemicals, petrochemicals, mining, financial and private equity, aviation, hospitality, and many other. Members of our team also serve as arbitrator and legal expert.
We offer assistance, representation and advice at all stages of the arbitration process. This includes pre-arbitral negotiations, the conduct of arbitral proceedings, advocacy at trial, and the challenge and enforcement of arbitral awards. We also appear before national courts to prosecute or defend applications for interim measures in support of arbitration, such as injunctions, attachments and orders preserving evidence.
Alex Bevan – [email protected]
Daryl Chew – [email protected]
Nils Eliasson – [email protected]
Emmanuel Jacomy – [email protected]
Christopher M. Ryan – [email protected]
Henry Weisburg – [email protected]
Garreth Wong – [email protected]
Jennifer Younan – [email protected]