Initially known for its Latin American work, the US boutique these days serves state clients as diverse as Pakistan, Moldova and Zimbabwe
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GST launched in Miami in 2009, when Quinn Smith joined forces with Brazilian practitioner Mauricio Gomm Santos – then a consultant at US firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and law professor at the University of Miami.
Starting life as Smith International Legal Services, the firm wanted to carve a niche as an adviser to Brazilian individuals and businesses expanding internationally, as well as US companies doing business in Latin America. Its early work saw it involved in an ICC dispute and litigation between the United States’ Bechtel and a Brazilian state power company.
The practice really began to take off in 2012 with the arrival of Diego Gosis, an Argentine lawyer who has acted as external counsel to his government in more than 20 investment arbitrations since 2006.
In 2013, Gomm Santos became a full partner of the firm, leading to a rebrand as Gomm & Smith. An additional partner came on board in 2016 – Ignacio Torterola, the Argentine government’s former ICSID liaison officer. That hire led to the firm’s latest rebrand as GST, also giving it a presence in Washington, DC for the first time.
Torterola spent nine years at Argentina’s treasury attorney general’s office defending the state against investment treaty claims, and has also worked at Foley Hoag and Brown Rudnick.
Smith, who lectures on arbitration at a Brazilian university, holds roles in various young practitioners’ groups at the ICDR and ICC. Gomm Santos is a founding member and former director of the Brazilian Arbitration Committee and sits on its advisory council.
The boutique is primarily based in Miami and Washington, DC. Domenico Di Pietro, who joined in 2021, splits his time between London and Miami.
Who uses it?
Pakistan, Bolivia and Guatemala have instructed the firm on treaty and commercial matters, as did Venezuela before US sanctions made that more difficult.
Governments often bring the firm in at a late stage in cases that haven’t been going their way. In one ICSID matter, Bolivia retained it as replacement counsel only five weeks before the final hearing.
Other engagements have come from a sovereign instrumentality of Argentina, several Brazilian manufacturers and families, and an investment bank in Africa. A South American state-owned bank instructed the firm to assist in recouping US$60 million in funds stolen by a bank official. It has also acted for US investors in a US court challenge to a DR-CAFTA award in favour of Costa Rica.
In their former roles advising the Argentine government, Gosis and Torterola had a hand in some landmark defence wins at ICSID, including the annulment of awards in the Vivendi I, Enron and CMS cases.
Gosis has won some great results for Venezuela at ICSID in collaboration with Argentine firm Guglielmino & Asociados. The team defeated a billion-dollar claim by subsidiaries of a US bottlemaker, and a US$400 million claim relating to a hotel and cable car investment.
GST also helped Venezuela to defeat a US$185 million treaty claim brought by US cleaning products group Clorox in 2019.
Even when the state client has been on the losing side, the team has succeeded in significantly reducing the size of the damages. Its defence of Venezuela in a US$150 million claim over a Caribbean island airport led to a final award against the state worth US$34 million.
The firm has been acting for Pakistan in its efforts to revise or annul a US$6 billion ICSID award in favour of Tethyan Copper Company. The government of Imran Khan announced an agreement in principle with Tethyan in early 2022 to settle the dispute.
GST continues to pick up new state clients, including Moldova, which is using the boutique to resist enforcement of a US$58 million UNCITRAL award in the US courts.
Another new user is Zimbabwe, which has also instructed the firm in the US as it seeks to escape enforcement of a US$200 million ICSID award brought by the von Pezold family.
Guatemala has retained GST for a new US$100 million ICSID claim brought by a Panamanian hydroelectric investor. The firm is also helping the Central American state defend a US$350 million DR-CAFTA claim by mining investors, and seeking annulment of a US$55 million ICSID award won by a Florida energy company.
Carmine Pascuzzo joined as of counsel in GST’s DC office.
Re-launched in June 2016, GST LLP adds Ignacio Torterola to the team at Gomm & Smith to continue building an international dispute practice that is nimble, efficient, and highly experienced. The firm represents sovereigns and private parties in varied complex matters in different languages and under many arbitration rules. GST is active in both investment and commercial arbitration, and its practitioners act as lead or co-counsel in disputes applying the rules of ICSID, ICSID Additional Facility, ICC, ICDR, UNCITRAL, and other regional institutions’ rules. It also handles significant litigations throughout the United States and manages litigation strategy across different countries.
In addition to counsel work, members of the GST LLP team frequently serve as arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators, including both institutional and party appointments by ICC, ICDR, and the PCA.
GST practitioners are active in the development of international arbitration in a variety of ways. Members of the team have served on the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association; the ICC’s Commission on Arbitration and ADR and its World Business Law Institute; the ICC’s Latin American Arbitration Group; and leadership positions with ICDR Y&I and ICC YAF. GST professionals have completed or are finishing advanced degrees in international arbitration from leading institutions, such as Oxford, Queen Mary, Cornell, and others. In addition, Mr. Torterola has extensive experience in the negotiation of treaties and international conventions, having represented Argentina in discussions within UNCTAD, the OECD, UNCITRAL, the WTO, and the ICC.