Secured a US$3 billion award for an agribusiness client against Venezuela and is acting in a huge Brazilian oilfield dispute
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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 Iran-US 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 Galvis in Bogotá, the first woman to hold the position.
The steering committee features Maria Eugenia Salazar-Furiati in Caracas, who leads the Latin America team; Ashish Chugh in Singapore, who heads the Asia-Pacific team; and Heiko Haller in Düsseldorf, who oversees the EMEA region. The North America group is co-chaired by Christina Doria in Toronto and Andrew Riccio in New York.
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.
Few practices have the same global reach as Baker McKenzie, with its network of 74 offices in 45 countries. The firm says it has over 275 practitioners globally with experience of international arbitration, covering the main financial and arbitration centres and emerging markets. Collectively, the group is fluent in more than 20 languages, including Kazakh and Vietnamese.
Along with the traditional hubs, 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 through its associated firms.
Baker McKenzie, along with many other international law firms, wound down its Russia operations following the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Who uses it?
Air Liquide, AnsaldoBreda, Bombardier, Dow Chemical, FedEx, GlaxoSmithKline, Hyundai, KPMG, Marriott, Rio Tinto, Samsung, Shell, Siemens, Toshiba, Verizon, Walmart and 3M have all used the firm.
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, KazTransGas and Kyrgyzstan’s national mining company Kyrgyzaltyn.
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, which ended with Siemens’s consortium partner Areva paying €450 million to Finnish power company TVO.
The firm helped a Dutch coffee investor win a US$53 million ICSID award against Venezuela in 2017. An annulment committee upheld the award in 2022.
For Canada, the firm saw off 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.
Working with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the Caracas office helped Spanish conglomerate Agroinsumos Ibero-Americanos land a nearly US$3 billion award against Venezuela in 2022 over the expropriation of its agriculture assets. The firm is now helping to defend the award against an annulment bid.
Lawyers in the New York office helped Armenia defeat a US$326 million ICSID claim by a Dubai company and its American CEO concerning concessions to build road and rail links to transport commodities from Iran. The state was awarded costs.
In another ICSID case, the London office defended Kuwait against a claim by an Egyptian family over a delayed project to build a heritage site. The case was discontinued once the parties reached a settlement.
Baker McKenzie continues to act for a consortium made up of Brazil’s Petrobras, Royal Dutch Shell and Portugal’s Petrogal in a US$10 billion arbitration with Brazilian state oil and gas agency ANP. The dispute concerns calculation of royalties owed to the Brazilian government. The case is being handled by the New York office and Baker McKenzie’s Brazilian associate firm Trench Rossi Watanabe.
The firm obtained a net win for Texas-based construction group Fluor in an ICC case over deliveries for a Belt and Road Initiative refinery project in Kuwait. The firm is now helping the client to enforce a costs award in the US.
For Taiwanese client PharmaEssentia, a team from the Frankfurt office persuaded the German Federal Court of Justice to overturn a €140 million damages award won by an Austrian pharma company.
The firm continues to act for Anaklia Development Consortium and one of its investors, Bob Meijer, in parallel ICC and ICSID claims against Georgia worth over US$2 billion concerning a deepwater port project. It is also helping investors pursue ICSID claims against Moldova, Peru and Senegal.
The Hong Kong office welcomed partner Ronald Sum and a team from Addleshaw Goddard. Sum had led Addleshaw’s arbitration practice in Asia.
There were promotions to the partnership for Chugh in Singapore, Janice Tay in Kuala Lumpur, Karim Boulmelh in Paris, Sally Kotb in Dubai, Tobias Höfling in Frankfurt and Juan Francisco Vázquez Lavista in Mexico City.
In September 2022, Baker McKenzie announced it would be cutting ties with Emirati partner Habib Al Mulla and his UAE firm over comments he posted on social media condemning homosexuality. Al Mulla’s firm has been part of the Baker McKenzie network since 2013. It appears the separation process is still ongoing.
Baker McKenzie’s former Russia operations relaunched in October 2022 as an independent firm called Melling Voitishkin & Partners, with offices in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. This followed the departure of Baker McKenzie’s head of CIS disputes, Vladimir Khvalei, for Mansors in Moscow.
A client that has used the firm for an ICC case over oil and gas equipment praises a “highly skilled, hardworking, committed team”, commending Brazil-based lawyers Joaquim de Paiva Muniz, Frederico Weingartner and Patricia Manta Roberto, and New York partners Laura Zimmerman and David Zaslowsky.
Another oil and gas client used the firm for a high-exposure case over LNG contracts in the hundred-million-dollar range. They provided “excellent client service and expertise in the substance of the applicable law and in the dynamics of the relevant market”. Mexico City based partner Benjamín Torres-Barrón and associates Francisco Franco and Emilio Gonzalez-Guzman are “very impressive lawyers, with in-depth expertise in the energy industry and relentless dedication”.
A sovereign client that used the firm on an ICSID matter says the team in London showed “promptness” and “professionalism”. Partners Poulton and Steve Abraham and senior associate Katia Finkel are described as “strategic thinkers” who provided “excellent case management”.
Our International Arbitration practice is one of the largest, busiest and most ranked arbitration teams in the world. With arbitration practitioners in major financial and arbitration centers worldwide, as well as key emerging markets, 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 - We act in some of the largest investment arbitration matters with enormous political and economic ramifications, as well as setting the standard on significant procedural and legal issues in this field. Our team has significant expertise and experience assisting in treaty structuring at the time of investment, leveraging treaties when the state contemplates expropriatory measures and acting in proceedings if a treaty has been violated. We pride ourselves in giving our clients straightforward strategic advice in difficult and complex situations.
Construction - Some of the most significant international arbitrations involve 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 contracts. 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" provisions and solar, wind, photovoltaic and other renewable energies. 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 practice. Because we understand both the legal framework of corporate transactions and the wider commercial context, we are able 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.