The Mexican firm is often visible on energy and construction disputes
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Von Wobeser y Sierra’s international arbitration practice is one of the go-to choices in Mexico – owing in part to the impressive international profile of the firm’s founder, Claus von Wobeser.
On top of multiple bar association roles, von Wobeser is a former vice president of the ICC Court and is regularly seen arbitrating commercial and investor-state disputes.
The arbitration and litigation practice was co-led by Marco Tulio Venegas until he left the firm in 2019. Von Wobeser now co-chairs the practice with Adrian Magallanes who joined in 2002.
Partners Adrian Magallanes, Fernando Moreno, Diego Sierra, Montserrat Manzano and newly promoted Raymundo Soberanis along with of counsel Guillermo Ortiz Mayagoitia are other names to know.
In 2020, the firm hired Margarita Luna Ramos, a former justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court, as of counsel. She focuses on arbitration counsel work and will also accept arbitrator appointments.
Who uses it?
Around 70% of its clients are from the US, Germany and Asia (especially Japan). Foreign companies often retain the firm as counsel or Mexican law experts in major disputes involving Mexico’s national oil company Pemex, electricity utility CFE and other state entities.
It has advised ICA, KBR, BMW, Siemens, Mitsui Group, Mitsubishi and the Coca-Cola Company. British American Tobacco instructed the firm for a US$300 million dispute with a Japanese joint venture partner. Anheuser-Busch InBev used it in a substantial case brought by Mexico’s Grupo Modelo.
The firm secured a win for Mexican client ICA in a multimillion-dollar claim regarding the construction of a hydroelectric project. It also helped ICA to settle an ICC arbitration worth US$450 million over the construction of a port terminal on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
In 2015, the firm helped Siemens and South Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction settle a bitter dispute with Pemex over a refinery upgrade, with the state entity agreeing to pay US$295 million.
Claus von Wobeser provided expert testimony on Mexican law on behalf of KBR in another long-running dispute with Pemex over two offshore gas platforms. He gave evidence in the arbitration, which ended in a US$300 million award in KBR’s favour in 2009, and in New York enforcement proceedings – generating a precedent on the ability of US courts to enforce annulled awards. Pemex finally paid US$435 million to satisfy the award in 2017.
The firm obtained a favourable award in ICC proceedings for an independent energy producer in a dispute with CFE over the termination of a power purchase agreement. The client obtained 88% of the amount claimed in damages and lost profits, and the termination was revoked.
In another ICC case, involving a claim of over US$100 million, it helped IEnova (a joint venture between California’s Sempra Energy and Pemex) settle a dispute with Italian-Argentine engineering group Techint over the construction of a 220-kilometre ethane pipeline in southern Mexico.
The firm is advising IEnova, alongside Sullivan and Cromwell, in ICC proceedings lodged by Shell that includes claims of force majeure and breach of an LNG storage service agreement.
Alongside Alston & Bird, it is representing a US tile manufacturer in a NAFTA claim against Mexico over an alleged denial of justice, after a local court enjoined it from pursuing a Houston-seated ICC arbitration against its Mexican joint venture partner.
The firm promoted oil and gas-focused Raymundo Soberanis to partner and Pablo Fautsch and Jessika Rocha to counsel.
Montserrat Manzano was elected chair of the Americas Initiative at the Institute for Transnational Arbitration (ITA).
Von Wobeser was one of several leading practitioners appointed by The Latin American Arbitration Association in 2020 when it established an observatory to monitor the impact of covid-19 on dispute resolution in the region.
Mark Lowes, litigation vice president at Houston-based at KBR, praised von Wobeser as “a very good and reliable counsel and expert.”
“They were 100% involved in the case,” a senior executive at one of Mexico’s largest infrastructure companies says of the firm. “They rapidly absorbed key information, such as dates, the actors involved and even technical aspects related to civil engineering and ports operation. My impression is that they were totally committed.”
Offering excellence and integrity, Von Wobeser y Sierra, S.C. (“VWyS”) is a full service law firm founded in 1986.
In the arbitration field, law firm ranking agencies confirm that VWyS is the leading firm for dispute resolution services in Mexico and one of the most prominent in the field in the Latin American region. VWyS is the only firm in Mexico ranked by Global Arbitration Review among the best 100 law firms worldwide and Chambers & Partners as well as Legal 500 have ranked its dispute resolution team in the top tier.
The dispute resolution practice of VWyS is domestic and international, and its clients include many Fortune 500 companies. For more than 30 years, the firm has successfully represented several companies and foreign governments in a wide variety of disputes of different sizes and complexities, ranging from a fully successful defense of a 2.5 billion dollar commercial arbitration claim between two shareholders of a beer company, to a 130 million dollar judicial claim involving the malfunctioning of a satellite in outer space, just to mention some representative examples.
The firm has been particularly active in the energy and construction industries, representing clients in complex arbitration disputes against Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (“SCT”), and other state entities. The firm is a go-to reference for all disputes against the Mexican government agencies or state-owned companies, particularly in contract based disputes. They have represented many different foreign clients in disputes involving oil and gas issues, energy and electricity, infrastructure, maritime ports, government procurement, etc.
The arbitration practice group of the firm is integrated by partners Claus von Wobeser, Adrián Magallanes, Diego Sierra (both admitted in Mexico and New York) Montserrat Manzano, and new partner Raymundo Soberanis. Also, Justice Ortiz Mayagoitia, former President of the Mexican Supreme Court, is of counsel of the firm. His experience is unparalleled and his advice is very valuable to the firm, particularly in judicial proceedings related to arbitration disputes. Alexandra von Wobeser is also of counsel of the firm and Margarita Luna Ramos, ex-member of the Supreme Court, offers counsel to the firm.
The team includes more than 25 lawyers, all graduates with honors from the top law schools in Mexico, U.S. and Europe, and many of them trained in New York, Washington D.C., Paris and Beijing. The level of sophistication of this practice group is unparalleled in Mexico and highly competitive worldwide.
Finally, the excellent reputation of VWyS in this field is confirmed and understood by analyzing its track record. The firm has succeeded in representing its clients in close to 90% of the arbitration disputes they have been involved in, either through a favorable award or through settlements. This percentage is very impressive and speaks for itself.