GAR 100 - 16th Edition

Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes

The boutique is helping Philippine nationals defend a US$15 billion award against Malaysia

People in Who’s Who Legal4
People in Future Leaders3
Pending cases as counsel35
Value of pending counsel workUS$63.9 billion
Treaty cases as counsel9
Third-party funded cases1
Current arbitrator appointments19 (11 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator5

Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes (or GBS Disputes) was launched in 2021 by a breakaway team from Shearman & Sterling including the formidable Paris-based co-heads of its international arbitration practice, Emmanuel Gaillard and Yas Banifatemi.

Less than two months after launch, tragedy struck when Gaillard took ill during a hearing and died suddenly, aged 69, depriving the international arbitration community of one of its few outright superstars.

While the team still mourns his loss, the firm has not lost any momentum. It picked up a GAR Award in 2022 for the international arbitration practice that impressed.

Banifatemi was talent-spotted by Gaillard in the 1990s and the pair worked together on most of the major cases of his career, including the claim by the former majority shareholders of Yukos that resulted in awards now worth US$58 billion against Russia – still the largest recorded win in international arbitration.

The third name partner, Mohamed Shelbaya, worked with Gaillard and Banifatemi on a host of multibillion-dollar cases for Egypt and its state entities.

Five other former Shearman lawyers also joined GBS Disputes as founding partners: Benjamin Siino, Coralie Darrigade and Maude Lebois in Paris; Ximena Herrera-Bernal in London; and Daniel Reich in New York. After two years of operation, it now has around 50 lawyers across those three arbitral hubs. 


The bulk of the team is based in Paris, with the rest in London and New York.

Who uses it?

Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Lithuania, Georgia and Colombia are among the states already using the new boutique in investment disputes. Government-owned entities such as Angola’s Sonangol, Algeria’s Sonatrach, France’s EDF, QatarEnergy and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company are also clients.

Other clients of note include Huawei, France’s Bolloré Group, Sanofi, aerospace companies Thales and Dassault Aviation, Emirates Telecommunication Group, SPORTFIVE EMEA (formerly Lagardère Sports) and Swiss energy company Alpiq.

Track record

In a case they carried over from Shearman, the team helped Sonangol win a Netherlands arbitration against an entity owned by embattled Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, requiring the return of €650 million in shares that had been acquired illegally.

The firm also helped EDF settle a dispute with Exelon Generation, clearing the way for the client’s sale of US nuclear assets to Exelon for US$885 million.

Besides the Yukos win already mentioned, the team’s greatest hits at their old firm include securing awards worth US$2.5 billion for Dow Chemical against a Kuwaiti state entity; and US$1.2 billion for Cairn Energy (now Capricorn Energy) in a treaty claim against India over a tax bill.

They also achieved defence wins for Algeria in a US$4 billion ICSID claim; for an Egyptian state-owned gas supplier in a US$3 billion case seated in Madrid; and for EDF in a €4.6 billion ICC claim brought the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

Recent events

GBS Disputes is advising a group of Philippine nationals who obtained a US$15 billion award against Malaysia under a 19th-century agreement relating to exploitation rights on the island of Borneo. The firm is helping the claimants to defend the award against a challenge in the French courts. It has also helped them to attach Luxembourg assets belonging to Malaysia’s national oil and gas company Petronas.

The defence of the Yukos awards continues in the Netherlands, where GBS Disputes is providing support to local counsel De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek. All but one of Russia’s grounds of appeal were dismissed by the Dutch Supreme Court. The case is now before the Amsterdam Court of Appeal.

Chinese telecoms group Huawei is using the firm for the first-known treaty claim against Sweden, concerning its exclusion from the rollout of 5G network technology amid national security concerns.

The firm is doing more work for Egypt in related ICSID and UNCITRAL claims over a gas distribution network. Algeria continues to use the firm in investment disputes worth billions of dollars.

It is representing SPORTFIVE EMEA in an ICC dispute with the Confederation of African Football over a US$1 billion media rights agreement. Spanish construction group OHL is using GBS Disputes and Shearman in a US$3.7 billion ICC dispute with the Qatar Foundation over the construction of a medical facility in Doha.

The team helped a subsidiary of the Bolloré Group win an ICC award against a Cameroonian port authority while at Shearman, only to see the award set aside by the Paris Court of Appeal in 2023 on the basis of a eulogy to Gaillard published by the tribunal chair. An appeal is pending.

There were setbacks in a couple of other cases. The firm advised economist Bedri Selmani in a €65 million ICC claim against Kosovo over petrol station assets, which was dismissed. Another client, Czech gambling investor SLOT Group, saw its intra-EU BIT award against Poland set aside by the French courts based on the European Court of Justice’s ruling in Achmea.

Thomas Parigot was promoted to the partnership in Paris in 2023, a year after André Marini and Anders Junker-Nilsson were named counsel in the same office. In London, partner Tsegaye Laurendeau left to join Signature Litigation.

Client comment

Michael Hill, general counsel for North America at EDF, says the “favourable outcome” obtained by GBS Disputes in the above-mentioned ICC dispute with Exelon was a “key factor in EDF’s ability to reach a negotiated settlement”.

Reich is a “great legal and strategic adviser” and Marini is an “intellectual workhorse who quickly analysed and distilled large volumes of complex facts and produced high-quality written work that consistently hit the mark”.

Claire Terrazas of French healthcare group Sanofi praises Banifatemi for her “high experience, acute knowledge of the arbitration world and ability to ‘read’ situations”. She says Reich has “strong client focus” and is a creative thinker. “They’re both faithfully carrying on the legacy of Professor Emmanuel Gaillard.”

Sonangol’s general counsel Gentil Bragança Pimenta says GBS Disputes team members are “very effective and competent, with extensive experience on complex transnational disputes”. He also praises their “loyalty and accuracy”.

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