Helping a Chinese client enforce a treaty award against Nigeria
|People in Future Leaders
|Pending cases as counsel
|Value of pending counsel work
|Treaty cases as counsel
|Third-party funded cases
|Current arbitrator appointments
|1 (1 as chair or sole)
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator
Founded in 1896, Withers has long been known for its work for high-net-worth individuals. It was less well known for international arbitration before 2014, when it established a dedicated group in this area for the first time.
Two partners in London lead the group: Hussein Haeri and Eleni Polycarpou. Haeri joined in 2014, having previously worked at Eversheds and Latham & Watkins, bringing experience in public international law and investment arbitration.
Polycarpou has been at Withers for over 18 years and often acts for high-net-worth individuals in joint venture disputes. She also has a specialist art disputes practice, having acted in an LCIA case over the ownership of a Monet painting.
Other partners to know in London are Tatiana Menshenina, who joined in 2015 after leading the CIS practice at Simmons & Simmons; Peter Wood, the firm’s global head of disputes, whose practice spans commercial arbitration and insolvency; and Roberto Moruzzi.
Indian practitioner Aniruddha Rajput, a member of the UN International Law Commission, joined in London as a consultant in 2018, and former UK attorney general Geoffrey Cox KC followed as consultant global counsel in 2020.
In New York, partner Emma Lindsay leads the international arbitration and public international law teams in the US. She joined in 2018 from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.
In Singapore, the team includes partners Deborah Barker SC and Ushan Premaratne.
The Hong Kong office is home to Sherlin Tung, a former ICC deputy counsel who joined in 2020 from CMS as well as partners Joseph Chu and Michael Chik.
There is also a Milan team featuring partner Cristina Pagni.
The arbitration group has people in London, Milan, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore. The wider firm has offices in various locations, including Geneva, San Francisco, Los Angeles, the British Virgin Islands and Tokyo.
Who uses it?
The firm’s private clients include various prominent individuals and investors in the arts. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Samsung and Qatar National Bank have used it.
Governments that have turned to the firm for advice include Ukraine, Jersey and the British Virgin Islands.
The firm secured the first known investment treaty award by a mainland Chinese investor against an African state in 2021 – worth US$70 million in favour of Zhongshan Fucheng Industrial Investment over a project to establish a free trade zone.
For German client Frazer Solar, Withers won €50 million in a Johannesburg-seated arbitration against Lesotho, which concerned a deal to supply solar energy equipment. While Withers has helped the client bring global enforcement proceedings, a court in Lesotho has declared the underlying contract and its arbitration clause void.
The firm helped Juventus footballer Paulo Dybala settle an ICC arbitration worth around €35 million with his former agent over image rights, a dispute that reportedly scuppered potential moves to English clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.
It won a €6 million award for Italian construction company Gemmo in a commercial arbitration over a Libyan hospital project disrupted by the country’s civil war. The firm successfully applied to a court in Benghazi for the default appointment of an arbitrator.
Withers continues to help Zhongshan Fucheng pursue enforcement of its award against Nigeria. A US court dismissed Nigeria’s sovereign immunity defence in early 2023 and proceedings have been stayed while the state appeals.
The firm advised German metal recycling investor Scholz Holding in an ICSID claim against Morocco that ended in August 2022. It was not an entirely happy outcome for the client – the tribunal found that a de facto ban on exports of shredded scrap metal would amount to a treaty breach, but there was no direct causation of loss to Scholz.
At ICSID, Withers continues to act for Italian waste management firm Gesenu in a case against Egypt; and for Qatar National Bank in a contractual claim against South Sudan.
Lindsay is leading a Withers team providing pro bono advice to Ukraine as part of a legal task force set up to support accountability for crimes committed during Russia’s invasion. Other members of the task force include Amal Clooney and Lord Neuberger.
Conor McNaughton of Kingsway Capital lauds the firm’s “excellent” work, calling Tung “singularly brilliant.”
Another client says Tung and her team “cut through the chaos and delivered incredibly decisive action” that put the counterparty “back on their heels”.
A state client says Lindsay in New York is “a remarkable professional”.
Withers has a dedicated global arbitration practice, with over 25 lawyers based across London, New York, Milan, Singapore, Hong Kong and the BVI. We work with clients around the world to resolve complex commercial, investor-State and State-State disputes under all the major arbitration rules, as well as in ad hoc arbitrations.
Our multilingual team – fluent in Arabic, French, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, Mandarin, Chinese, and Turkish - serve as advocates, counsel and arbitrators, and cover the entirety of arbitration cases from initial case analysis through to successful enforcement of arbitral awards. Our lawyers are qualified in both common and civil law jurisdictions, with extensive experience working in international organisations and emerging markets.
In addition to our commercial arbitration practice, we have an established investor-state arbitration practice with numerous investment treaty arbitration cases, representing both international investors and sovereign states. We also have a leading specialist practice advising governments on State-State disputes, as well as drafting investment treaties and investment legislation.
Clients include multinational companies, investors and governments across a wide range of sectors and the team has been praised as being 'one of the top acts for international arbitration worldwide', delivering 'excellent service' and the ability to 'cut through the chaos and deliver incredibly decisive action'.
Our international expertise enables us to advise clients in the context of sensitive disputes involving regions all over the world, including in Europe, Anglophone and Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, the CIS, Asia Pacific and the Americas.