GAR 100 - 16th Edition

Derains & Gharavi

Derains & Gharavi

Professional notice

The Paris boutique is home to some distinguished arbitrators and has a fearsome reputation as counsel in investment disputes

People in Who’s Who Legal4
Pending cases as counsel21
Value of pending counsel workUS$33 billion
Treaty cases as counsel12
Third-party funded cases1
Current arbitrator appointments57 (25 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator5

The firm was launched in Paris 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’s son Bertrand Derains.

Although Lazareff left not long afterwards, the partnership expanded in 2011 with the arrival of Dutch lawyer Mélanie van Leeuwen. 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 Sophia von Dewall and Emmanuel Foy, who have been with the firm for a decade and became partners in 2022.

Several members of the firm sit as arbitrators. Yves Derains, a former secretary general of the ICC Court of International Arbitration, is also honorary chair of the ICC Institute of World Business Law and is an ICCA board member. Van Leeuwen is 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, India, Qatar, Sudan, Egypt, Romania, Turkey and Togo. It also does arbitration work for the United Nations.

It has also done work for 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. South Korea announced in 2022 that it had received clearance from US sanctions authorities to pay the award.

In 2021, Gharavi’s team landed Melli and Saderat an award for more than €200 million in damages over Bahrain’s unlawful expropriation of their 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 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

Derains & Gharavi helped client Egypt settle an ICSID claim brought by a Dubai-owned pipe manufacturer over its right to bid for work in a new city southeast of Cairo.

The firm continues to advise 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 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. One of those is a US$1.5 billion treaty claim Trasta is pursuing against Libya under the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation investment agreement. The firm is bringing another US$160 million treaty claim against Libya on behalf of two Turkish construction clients.

Having previously defended Albania at ICSID, the firm is now advising investors on a US$100 million claim against the Balkan state concerning the alleged expropriation of investments in a shipping terminal.

The firm is defending Romania in several cases at ICSID, including Energy Charter Treaty claims arising out of changes to its incentive scheme for renewable energy investors.

Gharavi chaired a tribunal that found former partners at Geneva’s oldest private bank had breached good faith obligations by failing to inform descendants of the bank’s founder of their dynastic right to join the partnership. Gharavi was appointed following the death of the original chair, Emmanuel Gaillard.

Cambodia redesignated Gharavi to the ICSID panel of arbitrators and also added him to the institution’s panel of conciliators.

Thomas Bevilacqua, who joined the firm as senior counsel in 2020 from Foley Hoag, left in July 2022.

Client comment

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 litigation chief 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”.

Derains & Gharavi is a Paris based boutique law firm, specialized in the field of commercial arbitration, investment arbitration and public international law, handling exclusively international arbitrations and arbitration-related litigations. Since its inception in 2008, the firm has consistently been recognized 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. At present, the partners of Derains & Gharavi act as counsel and serve as arbitrator in over 100 active arbitrations, conducted under the rules of all major arbitral institutions, such as the ICC, LCIA, DIFC/LCIA, PCA, AAA/ICDR, SCC, CAM, CRCICA, NAI, DIAC, SIAC, Swiss Arbitration Centre, CAS, ADCCAC, KCAB, and ICSID (including annulments before ad hoc committees), as well as in UNCITRAL and ad hoc arbitrations. In addition, the firm’s partners serve in institutional roles at leading arbitral institutions worldwide, widely publish and speak at conferences each year.

Derains & Gharavi also handles a large number of cases as counsel in arbitration-related litigations, including in actions aimed at obtaining injunctive relief, interim measures, annulment, and the enforcement of arbitral awards before local courts, particularly before French and Dutch courts.

The Derains & Gharavi team comprises lawyers from diverse legal, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, allowing it to tailor the teams to the specific needs of each individual case. Within the firm, English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Farsi, Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Turkish are used on a daily basis. 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.

As counsel in investment and commercial cases, Derains & Gharavi has represented and represents a variety of States, such as the Arab Republic of Egypt, Qatar, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Hellenic Republic, the Republic of India, the Republic of the Sudan, Romania; international organizations; multinational corporations, such as Airbus, Alcatel/Nokia, IMAL, Invista, the RTL Group, Thales, TRASTA Energy Limited (a UAE company of the Al-Ghurair Group), Veolia, the Vinci Group, WeBuild S.p.A. (previously Salini Impregilo S.p.A.); and high-net worth individuals, such as Messrs. Devincci Hourani and Issam Hourani, Sheikh Ahmed Farid, Sheikh Al Jaber, and Mr. Alghanim, among others.


Email: [email protected]

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