GAR 100 - 15th Edition

Derains & Gharavi

Derains & Gharavi

Professional notice

People in Who’s Who Legal4
Pending cases as counsel18
Value of pending counsel workUS$22 billion+
Treaty cases as counsel11
Current arbitrator appointments78 (35 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator5

The firm won a significant victory for Iranian banking clients over a “political” expropriation in Bahrain

This Paris-based boutique was launched in 2009 by two leading French arbitrators, Yves Derains and the late Serge Lazareff, with two younger partners, French–Iranian Hamid Gharavi (formerly of Salans) and Derains’ son Bertrand Derains.

Although Lazareff left not long afterwards, the partnership expanded in 2011 with the arrival of Dutch lawyer Mélanie van Leeuwen from Loyens & Loeff. The firm also has an office in Beirut run by Nada Sader, who was promoted to the partnership in 2015.

Other names to know are Sophie von Dewall and Emmanuel Foy, who have been with the firm for a decade and were both promoted to the partnership with effect from 2022.

Several members of the firm sit as arbitrators. Yves Derains, a former secretary general of the ICC Court of International Arbitration, also chairs the ICC Institute of World Business Law and is an ICCA board member. Van Leeuwen was also recently appointed chair of the ICC commission on arbitration and ADR.

Who uses it?

Gharavi and his team have lately been doing a lot of investment treaty work for Iranian clients, including the Central Bank of Iran and state-owned banks Melli and Saderat. Much of the work relates to the impact of sanctions.

Governments that have turned to the firm include Albania, Qatar, Sudan, Egypt, Romania, Turkey and Togo. It also does arbitration work for the United Nations.

Its private clients include the UAE’s Trasta Energy, Oxus Gold, Airbus, Alcatel, Invista, Thales, Vinci and Veolia, as well as various Greek companies in construction and M&A disputes.

Track record

The firm’s greatest hits include winning the first ever investment treaty award against South Korea in 2018 – a US$68 million award for the Dayyani family, owners of an Iranian consumer electronics business.

There have also been a series of ICSID awards for investors against Kazakhstan, including US$39 million for oil company Caratube and US$25 million for Turkey’s Aktau Petrol. For Desert Line Projects, it won US$22 million in a set of ICC cases against Oman.

On the government side, it has helped Turkey to defeat one of the biggest cases in ICSID’s history (a US$19 billion claim by Dutch–Jordanian national Saba Fakes).

There have also been various wins for Albania, including defeating a €45 million claim by a Greek fuel distributor and an US$18 million claim by investors in the country’s scratch card market.

Recent events

Gharavi’s team brought home a stellar win in 2021 for Iranian banks Melli and Saderat, obtaining an award for more than €200 million in damages over Bahrain’s unlawful expropriation of its banking venture in Manama. The tribunal found that it was an act of “political retribution” for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Bahrain has disputed the value of the award.

There was also good news for the Dayyanis, with the US Office of Foreign Assets Control authorising South Korea to pay their treaty award. The dispute had seen enforcement attempts in various jurisdictions and the filing of a fresh treaty claim over Korea’s delay in paying.

Gharavi is also representing the Central Bank of Iran in two politically charged treaty disputes with Bahrain and South Korea over their failure to release Iranian funds held in their banks. The central bank has already launched arbitration against Bahrain seeking US$1.7 billion and has threatened a US$7 billion claim against Korea.

The leading provider of insurance in Iran is also using the firm for an UNCITRAL claim against Bahrain.

The firm has been counselling Trasta Energy, part of Dubai’s Al Ghurair Group, in a series of disputes concerning a refinery venture in Libya. An ICC panel in one case ruled that Libya’s national oil company can buy Trasta out of the venture. Trasta’s US$330 million claim against Libya under the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) investment agreement is pending.

Two Turkish construction clients have also retained the firm for a US$160 million treaty claim against Libya. 

Having previously defended Albania at ICSID, the firm is now advising investors on a US$100 million claim against the Balkan state. It’s also acting for a Turkish businessman in a €400 million claim against Turkmenistan, and defending Romania and Egypt in other cases.

Client comment

A client using the firm in an investment dispute praises it for being “professional, hard-working, honest, prompt and loyal”. Gharavi is dedicated and a “friendly character”.

Samer Amro, vice president of Al-Ghurair Group, says: “The performance of the team has been outstanding.” The “lean and mean” team provide a “clear strategy” and perfect execution. “I cannot recommend this firm enough,” he adds.

Airbus vice president Karl Hennessee says the “exceptional sensitivity of the team to what truly matters and the ability to focus efforts on decisive arguments is rare and effective”.

Yves Derains manages the “mighty feat of exceeding his already impressive reputation,” says Hennessee. “He masters both the detail and the big picture at once, and his advocacy is second to none.” 

Derains & Gharavi International is a boutique law firm handling exclusively international arbitrations and arbitration-related litigations. Since its inception in 2008, the firm has consistently been recognised for the high quality of its work, the expertise of its lawyers, and its successful track record in high profile cases. Derains & Gharavi has handled a broad spectrum of investment and commercial arbitrations as well as arbitration-related litigation, including in actions aimed at obtaining injunctive relief, interim measures, annulment and enforcement of arbitral awards, notably before the French and Dutch courts.

Derains & Gharavi’s partners have acted as counsel for States, companies and investors, and served as arbitrator in hundreds of arbitrations, conducted under the rules of all major arbitral institutions, including the ICC, LCIA, DIFC/LCIA, PCA, AAA/ICDR, SCC, CAM, CRCICA, NAI, DIAC, SIAC, Swiss Chambers (SCAI), CAS, ADCCAC and ICSID (including annulments before ad hoc committees), as well as in UNCITRAL and ad hoc arbitrations. The firm’s partners also regularly serve as experts in arbitration law or public international law matters before courts, national and international arbitral tribunals.

Derains & Gharavi’s team brings together specialised expertise and experienced and talented lawyers from numerous jurisdictions, who are internationally recognized as leading professionals. The firm handles cases all over the world and in a variety of different languages (working languages include Arabic, Dutch, English, Farsi, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish). In case particular local law expertise is required, Derains & Gharavi teams up with long-standing local partners around the globe, allowing the firm to select and work only with the best in the business.


Email: [email protected]

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