Acting in a high-profile challenge to an ICC award that has divided the French and English courts
|People in Who’s Who Legal||2|
|Pending cases as counsel||7|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$4 billion|
|Treaty cases as counsel||0|
|Third-party funded cases||0|
|Current arbitrator appointments||20 (9 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||3|
The firm launched its arbitration practice in 1995 by bringing in the well-regarded Matthieu de Boisséson and Pierre Duprey from Gide Loyrette Nouel, where they had worked on several large cases, including TML v Eurotunnel.
In 2014, French arbitrator and academic Laurent Aynès was brought in to lead the practice following the departures of de Boisséson and Duprey. Three years later, he was joined by Carine Dupeyron, who also sits as arbitrator and had previously worked at international firms in New York and Singapore.
The firm boasts a lean partner-to-associate ratio, with over half of its lawyers being equity partners.
Who uses it?
Although Darrois Villey handles a variety of complex civil and commercial disputes, it has a primary focus on the M&A, securities and capital markets sectors.
It is used by a host of elite French corporations, including a subsidiary of telecoms group Orange, which it has represented in disputes worth several billion dollars. Other French customers include defence contractor Naval Group; luxury fashion company Lanvin; and state-owned company ODAS, which develops exports in defence, security and technology.
Darrois Villey has been involved in arbitrations relating to major infrastructure projects, including the Channel Tunnel, the Athens Metro and the Stade de France.
It defended a defunct subsidiary of French energy group Total against a US$22.4 billion UNCITRAL claim brought by two Russian provinces. Working with Linklaters, the firm secured a complete dismissal of the claim in 2017.
Once again working with Linklaters, the firm represented Matra Défense – a French national defence company and a subsidiary of Airbus Group – in a high-profile ICC dispute with Taiwan relating to a contract for the sale of missiles. Taiwan won damages and the firm continued to represent the Airbus subsidiary in enforcement proceedings before the French courts.
French food products multinational Danone used the firm in an UNCITRAL claim against New Zealand dairy co-op Fonterra in a dispute over the costs of recalling baby formula after a false botulism scare. Danone won €105 million.
Darrois Villey has been advising Kuwait-based Kout Food Group in a French court challenge to an ICC award in favour of Lebanese food company Kabab-Ji. In France, the matter is awaiting appeal before the Court of Cassation after the Paris Court of Appeal rejected Kout’s bid to annul the award. However, the case has caused a confrontation with the UK courts after its Supreme Court refused to enforce the award after ruling that English law applied to the arbitration agreement providing for Paris-seated arbitration.
The firm is currently acting in ICC arbitrations for a French telecoms client in a dispute over the development of a horizontal optic fibre network, and for a Swiss corporation and its Cameroonian subsidiary over the exercise of pre-emptive rights for shares during bankruptcy proceedings.
For a Dutch entertainment content creator, it is acting in a SIAC dispute with a Mauritian corporation over the execution of a share purchase agreement, which has also seen an emergency arbitration proceeding.
Darrois Villey is also representing a Swiss aerospace firm for which it has initiated attachment and enforcement proceedings against aircraft located in France in support of an ICC arbitration.
Meanwhile, Aynès continues to be active as an arbitrator. He is part of a tribunal hearing a claim against Libya over the closure of a refinery following the country’s revolution, filed by an Emirati company under the investment agreement of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Counsel François de Berard departed the firm in 2021 to join Paris-based Lacourte Raquin Tatar.
Alban Lo Gatto, a general counsel at Orange, has used the firm in two arbitrations concerning the company’s business in Indonesia and Francophone Africa. He says Dupeyron “was constantly able to balance the legal and business issues to the benefit of Orange”.
Our international arbitration team is involved in high profile international arbitration cases, a number of which involve both private and public parties as well as State entities. Our practice’s private clients are mostly blue-chip companies listed on the CAC 40, the benchmark French stock market index.
We have extensive experience in arbitration proceedings relating to complex international corporate transactions and joint ventures, including disputes over valuation and closing accounts, claims under contractual guarantees, change of control disputes, earn out clauses, disputes concerning exercises of put/call options and shareholders’ disputes.
In addition to this practice, we appear before French courts in matters related to international arbitration, including proceedings to enforce or set aside arbitral awards, disputes relating to the constitution of arbitral tribunals, requests for provisional measures and enforcement of awards.
We also assist our clients with third-party funding of their proceedings and our practice has recently led us to also assist them with the monetization of their awards, once awards are rendered but also before their issuance.
Areas of practice
Our cases relate to the defense industry, telecom sector, the aviation and aerospace industries, waste management, the electricity market, oil & gaz, entertainment, construction, chemical industry matters and the advertising and communications industries.
Most of these involve international disputes under the auspices of arbitration institutions such as the ICC, LCIA, SCC, NAI, SIAC etc., while others are ICSID, CCJA, ad hoc and UNCITRAL proceedings. Our team has an in-depth knowledge of the ICC, particularly due to Carine Dupeyron, current member of the ICC Court, and Amany Chamieh, former ICC Deputy Counsel.
Outstanding characteristics of the team
We approach our clients’ legal issues with a combination of technical excellence, innovation and a commercial understanding of our clients’ business and financial objectives.
The diversity of the educational and cultural backgrounds of our partners and associates is one key to the firm’s success and reputation. The arbitration team is led by Professor Laurent Aynès, who has a distinguished academic law career and one of the most distinguished French contract law specialists, and by Carine Dupeyron, who has extensive international experience in New York and Paris. To date, our team counts lawyers with expertise in multiple foreign jurisdictions such as U.S.A, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Greece and Lebanon. They are fluent in French, English, Arabic, Spanish, Italian and Greek and have experience in conducting international arbitration proceedings in these languages. Moreover, as a result of attending business schools in France and abroad, our team-members are strong business-oriented lawyers.
Not only our team actively promotes diversity due to the different nationalities and backgrounds of its members but also gender equality: 75% of the team is composed of women and 1 partner out of the 2 heading the international arbitration practice is a woman.
Efficiency & proficiency in the conduct of our cases
We concentrate on matters that require the attention, expertise and experience of our partners, on which the client will benefit from a close-knit team of experienced lawyers, for tailor-made, and often innovative, solutions adapted to the circumstances. In order to maintain this partner-intensive service, our firm operates with a high partner-to-associate ratio.
The firm’s flexible organization structure allows for the creation of ad hoc teams that almost systematically include corporate partners in order to most efficiently meet clients’ needs in particular in arbitration proceedings.
As to cost-saving techniques for our clients, on a general basis, Darrois does not operate by hourly rate but proposes flat fees, which we estimate on the basis of the work to be done. This way of operating is highly appreciated by our clients who can foresee and budget their legal fees.
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