GAR 100 - 15th Edition

Baker McKenzie

Baker McKenzie

Professional notice

Advising a Petrobras–Shell consortium in one of Brazil’s biggest arbitrations

People in Who’s Who Legal13
People in Future Leaders12
Pending cases as counsel282
Value of pending counsel workUS$65 billion
Treaty cases as counsel12
Current arbitrator appointments65 (24 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator26

Baker McKenzie was one of the first US law firms to develop international arbitration expertise thanks to its work for US companies in numerous cases at the IranUS Claims Tribunal in The Hague. It went on to advise claimants against Iraq at the United Nations Compensation Commission after the first Gulf War.

Ed Poulton in London is global chair of the international arbitration practice, which he runs with support from a steering committee. The wider dispute resolution practice is chaired since 2019 by Claudia Benavides in Bogotá, the first woman to hold the position.

Other names to know are María del Carmen Tovar in Lima, who has ICSID experience; Nandakumar Ponniya in Singapore, who leads the Asia-Pacific team; and North America arbitration group chair Brendan Cook in Houston.

Vladimir Khvalei in Moscow heads the firm’s CIS disputes practice and also serves as a vice president of the ICC Court and chair of the Russian Arbitration Association. Habib Al Mulla in the UAE is a former chair of the board of the Dubai International Arbitration Centre.

Construction, energy and M&A disputes make up a significant part of the firm’s commercial arbitration work, but it is increasingly visible in big-ticket investment treaty cases too.

Network

Few practices have the same global reach as Baker McKenzie, with its network of 77 offices in 46 countries. The firm says it has over 300 practitioners globally with experience of international arbitration, encompassing the main financial and arbitration centres and emerging markets. Collectively, the group is fluent in more than 20 languages, including Haitian, Creole, Kazakh and Vietnamese.

Alongside the traditional centres, the practice has outposts in Almaty, Caracas, Ho Chi Minh City, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Lima, Manila and Mexico City, and it is often the first port of call for clients with cross-border disputes in emerging jurisdictions, including using its associated firms.

Who uses it?

Air Liquide, AnsaldoBreda, Bombardier, Dow Chemical, FedEx, GlaxoSmithKline, Hyundai, Gazprom, Lukoil, KPMG, Marriott, Rio Tinto, Samsung, Shell, Siemens, Toshiba, Verizon, VTB Bank, Walmart and 3M have all used the firm. Other clients include the British Olympic Association, FC Barcelona and Texan drilling contractor Weatherford.

The firm’s state clients have included Canada, Armenia, Papua New Guinea, Hungary, Kuwait, Mongolia, Turkey and Uzbekistan, as well as state-owned entities such as Pemex, Petrobras, KazTransGaz and Kyrgyzstan’s national mining company Kyrgyzaltyn.

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Baker McKenzie announced it was “reviewing” its Russia-related operations and client work to comply with sanctions. It declined to comment on specific clients but said that this “will mean in some cases exiting client relationships completely”.

Track record

For Siemens, the firm helped to settle a decade-long ICC case worth €6.2 billion over a nuclear power plant in Finland in 2018, with Siemens’ consortium partner Areva paying €450 million to Finnish power company TVO.

It helped a Dutch coffee investor win a US$53 million ICSID award against Venezuela in 2017 and came to Canada’s aid by thwarting a bid to revive a US$600 million NAFTA claim by Mesa Energy in the US courts. It has also defeated claims against state clients, including Uzbekistan, Turkey and Papua New Guinea.

For Gazprom Export, the firm secured a US$105 million award in a Zurich-seated ICC case against Bulgarian gas venture Overgas and then defended the award in the Swiss courts. Overgas agreed to pay US$120 million to settle the dispute.

In Prague, Martin Hrodek led a team that obtained an US$85 million ICC award for Czech bank CSOB in 2011 against the Czech Republic. It was one of the first arbitrations to consider the application of state aid laws to a bank bailout.

Recent events

Before the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, Gazprom Export turned to the firm to advise on a new gas price review arbitration against Polish state utility PGNiG under a long-term gas sale agreement.

The Dubai office has been acting for FedEx in a US$100 million dispute with a Saudi logistics company that played out in two arbitrations at the DIFC-LCIA in Dubai and in Saudi Arabia.

Teams in the US and Russia helped Marriott win awards in 2021 over management of the former W Hotel in St Petersburg.

On the investor-state side, the firm secured a US$19 million award for Russian client Manolium Processing in the first known investment treaty claim against Belarus.

It continues to act for Anaklia Development Consortium and one of its investors, Bob Meijer, in parallel ICC and ICSID claims against Georgia relating to a deepwater port project. The claims are collectively worth more than US$2 billion.

The firm is advising Mauritian investors in an ICSID claim against Senegal over a €1 billion power plant project. State clients in pending ICSID cases include Kuwait in a claim brought by a family of Egyptian real estate investors, and Armenia in a US$150 million claim brought by a Dubai investment company and its American CEO.

The Caracas office is acting for a Spanish farming conglomerate in an ICSID claim against Venezuela, and an Ohio insurer has retained the Santiago office for a potential treaty claim against Chile.

The Lima office is co-counselling investors in three ICSID cases against Peru relating to highway and metro concessions. For one case, it has teamed up with King & Spalding to advise France’s Vinci. In the other two, it is working with Cuatrecasas for a consortium led by Spanish construction groups FCC and ACS.

Stockholm disputes head Stefan Bessman left in 2021 to join Swedish boutique Westerberg & Partners and was replaced in that role by partner Erik Forsin.

The firm promoted Judith Mulholland in London, Santiago Maqueda in Buenos Aires and Pumma Doungrutana in Bangkok to the partnership.

Client comment

Eduard Avetisov, in-house counsel at Gazprom Export, says the company completely prevailed in an arbitration handled by the firm’s Moscow office. The team was “effective, devoted, client-oriented and extremely cost-efficient” and partner Vladimir Khvalei was “masterly” and “performed extremely well during cross-examination”.

Another Russian client says Baker McKenzie demonstrated “professionalism brought to perfection” in a treaty claim. He highlights the term’s “attention to detail” and “commitment to success”.

Our International Arbitration practice is one of the largest, busiest and most ranked arbitration teams in the world. We have acted in twice as many hearings as any other firm, in every major center. With arbitration practitioners in key emerging markets and major financial and arbitration centers worldwide, we are already on the ground when disputes arise, providing easy access and cost savings, backed by the strength and resources of a global law firm. We advise on a full range of arbitral matters, including:

Investor-State and Treaty - Our team has significant experience in investor-state arbitration, acting for claimants and sovereign states around the world, particularly in emerging markets where these types of disputes are common. We also have a strong enforcement practice, representing claimants in enforcing arbitral awards under the New York Convention before courts around the world, as well as advising states resisting enforcement. 

Construction - Some of the most significant international arbitrations involve disputes involving construction and infrastructure projects. We regularly advise on construction-related arbitrations around the world, including claims involving FIDIC and the other major standard forms of construction contract. Our presence in emerging markets where many of these large infrastructure projects are under construction enables us to provide local assistance without a learning curve. 

Energy and Natural Resources - We advise oil and gas clients on matters involving upstream, midstream and downstream disputes, including those arising out of construction projects, pipelines, "take or pay," and renewable energies, including solar, windfarms and photovoltaic plants. Given our strong presence in regions such as Africa, Latin America and Australia, we also represent clients in high-stakes mining disputes.

Post-M&A - Resolving corporate and M&A-related disputes is a key part of our dispute resolution practice.  We understand not only the legal framework of corporate transactions, but also the wider commercial context. That enables us to provide tailored practical advice that adds value. We advise on corporate disputes arising out of shareholder agreements, joint venture agreements, letters of intent and minority shareholder claims. We also represent clients in M&A disputes involving warranty and indemnity claims, completion and escrow account disputes, earn-out disputes and claims involving tag-along and drag-along rights.

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