GAR 100 - 15th Edition



Professional notice

Continues acting in a real estate dispute with the Czech Republic

People in Who’s Who Legal5
People in Future Leaders1
Pending cases as counsel23
Value of pending counsel workUS$6 billion+
Treaty cases as counsel1
Third-party funded cases1
Current arbitrator appointments20 (12 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator5

Founded in 1957, Homburger was once the Zurich arm of Baker & McKenzie, breaking away to become an independent firm in 1991. The modern arbitration group emerged seven years later from a reorganisation overseen by partners Markus Wirth and Thomas Müller. Wirth, a former president of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA), is now special counsel at the firm. Müller retired in 2014.

Partner Felix Dasser (the current ASA president) led the disputes practice from 2010 to 2017, when Balz Gross took over. The arbitration practice is headed by Mariella Orelli, who has been with the firm since 2007.

Partner Gabrielle Nater-Bass is an in-demand arbitrator. A former president of the Arbitration Court of the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution, she helped with its transformation into the Swiss Arbitration Centre, with ASA as majority shareholder. Dasser and another Homburger partner, Stefanie Pfisterer, also played a role in that transformation.

Other names to know at the firm include partner Claudio Bazzani and counsel Roman Richers. The firm is also home to senior counsel Georg Naegeli, a former partner at the firm who was once a state court judge and who specialises in restructuring and insolvency.

Though present only in Zurich, the team comprises lawyers from civil and common law backgrounds, including some US-qualified lawyers. As with many firms in Switzerland – a country that encompasses German, French and Italian culture, and recognises four national languages – it regards itself as especially prepared to argue cases in all Swiss national languages and, of course, in English, as well as offering a multicultural approach to cases.

Who uses it?

Although the firm is unable to disclose many of its clients, it can tell us that it represents most of the companies listed on the premium segment of the Swiss Stock Exchange.

These are known to include Swiss household names Kraft Foods, Nestlé, Novartis, Roche and Alpiq (formerly Altel), as well as international names such as Sony Ericsson, IKEA, Eutelsat, Vivendi, Sky, Andritz Oy, Generali, Takeda and Malaysian Airline System Berhad.

In recent years, the firm has reported an increase in telecoms and pharmaceuticals clients.

It has also acted for governments in the Middle East such as Jordan, and for the Palestinian Authority’s investment fund.

Track record

One of the firm’s biggest recent successes was helping to defeat a US$1.6 billion claim brought against the Palestinian Investment Fund under a partnership agreement with a Liechtenstein company. The defence required an analysis of the past 25 years of the Arab–Israeli conflict, with 11 days of hearings and 40 witnesses presented. Orelli led the team.

In 2015, a team headed by Gross helped a Jordanian state-owned investment fund to defeat a US$130 million LCIA claim by a company owned by Qatari investor Ali Alyafei – persuading a sole arbitrator that a purported deal to acquire a stake in a bank relied on a forged signature.

Homburger ensured that that award was upheld in the Swiss courts in the following year, and helped Jordan secure the discontinuance of related treaty claims worth US$500 million that Alyafei had brought.

As part of a group of law firms, Homburger achieved remarkable results in the MegaFon proceedings concerning ownership of a Russian telecoms company. The team turned the arbitration around by producing evidence of money laundering and corruption in Russia. It overturned an unfavourable award in what was the first successful revision of an award before the Swiss Federal Tribunal on such grounds, before winning the main dispute.

Other highlights include a win for Swiss power utility Alpiq against Italy’s Enel in a dispute over long-term electricity supply contracts. It has also helped Alpiq win €43 million in a VIAC claim against Polish energy group PGE.

Recent events

There was a mixed result for two entities owned by a Swiss housing investor in his ICSID claim against the Czech Republic. The tribunal held the state liable for actions taken by the mayor of a rural village over a thwarted housing development, but refused to award any of the US$235 million in damages sought. The entities have now retained Homburger to try to annul the damages findings in that award.

Alpiq continues to use the firm in ICSID annulment proceedings where the company hopes to revive a US$450 million Energy Charter Treaty claim against Romania. The firm acted in the underlying arbitration and is now working on the annulment bid with Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes.

The firm continues to act for the Palestinian Investment Fund in a separate arbitration that is part of the same aforementioned dispute with the Liechtenstein company, with the fund now acting as claimant.

Counsel Kirstin Dodge left the firm for third-party funder Nivalion.

Client comment

Mark Forsyth, CEO of Zurich consultancy Cliveden Trading, has used Homburger, and Nater-Bass in particular, for many years. “We have been very happy,” he says. “They work well as a team and support each other – this has been critical during the covid-19 period.”

Sezen Ergen Breitegger, founding partner of Turkish firm Develioğlu, which acted as co-counsel with Homburger in a Swiss-seated arbitration, says the firm is “very responsive, reachable and deeply experienced in international arbitration”. Dasser “excels at cross-examination and is a great attorney”.

Homburger is a full service Swiss business law firm. Since 1957, Homburger has been advising and representing companies, entrepreneurs, boards and executives in transactions as well as in complex cases, both domestically and globally. The firm, including its dispute resolution practice, is top-ranked and has worked with clients from all around the world.

Homburger's dispute resolution team consists of more than 50 specialists. The arbitration team has extensive experience representing clients in the field of international commercial and investment arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution expecially in complex and/or high value matters. Our lawyers are highly qualified and have experience in multiple jurisdictions; they bring a wealth of know-how, practical experience and language skills with them, enabling Homburger to offer first rate, actionable legal advice from the moment a dispute arises to its final resolution and beyond.

We regulary represent clients in commercial arbitration proceedings, whether ad hoc or under institutional rules (DIS, ICC, LCIA, NAI, Swiss Rules, UNCITRAL, VIAC etc.) and in investment arbitration proceedings (administered by ICSID or other centers and based on BITs or other multinational instruments, including the Energy Charter). We also regularly represent clients in parallel or related Swiss state court proceedings, including interim relief, enforcement and challenge proceedings, or related criminal proceedings. In addition to advising and representing clients in arbitration and other ADR matters, several members of Homburger's arbitration team act also as arbitrators and / or mediators or appear before arbitral tribunals as legal experts.


Unlock unlimited access to all Global Arbitration Review content