GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Astigarraga Davis

Professional notice

The Miami boutique is bringing in work relating to the Petrobras scandal

People in Who’s Who Legal1

Founded in Miami in 2000 by lawyers with a background in commercial litigation, Astigarraga Davis has capitalised on the growth in arbitration across Latin America. The firm has worked on numerous high-value arbitrations and litigations in the region, often with little or no Florida law component. Most of its 18-strong team speak English and Spanish. GAR’s sister publication, Latin Lawyer, notes the firm’s “excellent reputation” and says it is “more than able to hold its own among renowned global firms, with which it often finds itself in competition.”

The arbitration practice is led by Cuban-born José I Astigarraga, an active figure in the international arbitration community. Astigarraga has served as vice president of the LCIA and vice chair of the International Bar Association’s international arbitration committee. He is also member of the ICC commission on arbitration and ADR.

Astigarraga was recently appointed vice chair of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration and has worked closely with that body’s “Americas initiative”, which aims to promote arbitration in the region. He is a founder director of the Latin American Arbitration Association.

Other names to know are Edward Mullins, Cristina Cárdenas and Eduardo de la Peña, a Mexican practitioner who was promoted to partner in 2015.

The practice’s focus is on commercial arbitration, often under ICC or ICDR rules, and it is often brought in to assist on arbitration-related litigation, particularly US discovery proceedings.

Who uses it?

The firm is coy about trading on its clients’ names, but they are known to include some significant US manufacturers, as well as investors in the banking, construction, electricity, telecoms and agrochemical sectors – General Motors, GE Medical Systems and Citibank have all used it. Ukrainian oligarchs Igor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov have used the firm in US discovery actions. The firm was also instructed in disputes relating to the Ponzi scheme run by Allen Stanford, representing banks that were accused by investors of not properly investigating the Texas businessman.

Track record

The firm succeeded in enforcing a multimillion-dollar ICC award in favour of its client, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (acting as receiver of a US bank) against investment firm IIG Capital in the Florida courts in 2011. An appeal court affirmed the decision two years later.

The firm has also won some landmark victories in applications under section 1782 of the United States Code, which allows courts to order discovery in support of international proceedings. In 2012, an appeal court in Miami allowed the firm’s client, Conecel, to obtain documents in support of an arbitration in Ecuador against air freight carrier JASE.

Astigarraga Davis went on to obtain three similar orders in favour of US renewable energy provider Mesa Power in support of a NAFTA claim it is pursuing against Canada. The orders, against US companies NextEra and Pattern Energy and South Korea’s Samsung C&T, allowed Mesa to obtain documents and witness statements from executives concerning their dealings with Ontario’s electricity authority. A final award in the NAFTA case is expected soon.

In the mid-2000s, Florida-based Alon International turned to it for a bet-the-company dispute with Nike subsidiary Converse over a distribution and licensing agreement for the Mercosur region. As well as an ICDR arbitration in Boston, the matter generated parallel litigation in Brazil, Argentina and the United States. Ultimately, the arbitral tribunal awarded Alon US$52 million.

On another occasion, after a falling out between GE’s medical technology division and its Brazilian distributor, Astigarraga Davis handled an arbitration at the Inter-American Commercial Arbitration Commission and parallel litigation in the US and Brazil. It won the arbitration and also persuaded a New York court to enjoin the Brazilian proceedings. When the distributor refused to comply, Astigarraga Davis obtained a civil contempt judgment against the company and its president.

Recent events

In the past year the firm has been representing a European-owned utility provider in a US$50 million ICC case against a regulatory authority in an Andean state over tariffs; a Latin American mass urban transit planner in a claim against a state in the region; and a South American construction consortium in a US$400 million claim against a global energy company.

There has also been a rise in Brazil-related work arising from the Petrobras corruption scandal. But the firm notes that a healthy amount of work is coming from outside Latin America, with some eight disputes on its books relating to southern Europe.

Client comment

A US company was happy with the firm’s work on a number of cases, including one that involved criminal charges overseas. The company’s general counsel says the firm handled the matter with “incredible discretion” and helped the client to prevail on all counts. “We received very good value for our money,” he concludes.

Astigarraga Davis is a firm of advocates with a focused practice: the representation of clients involved in significant international disputes. It has a strong concentration of cases emanating from Latin America and the Caribbean, but its cross-border practice spans the globe. Its clients include multinational companies, financial institutions, other public and non-public companies, as well as sovereign states and their instrumentalities. The firm’s strengths are international arbitration, international litigation, financial fraud and asset recovery, and financial services litigation, including creditors’ rights and bankruptcy.

The firm has an extensive international arbitration practice handling cases before the major international arbitral institutions. The firm’s work was recognised when it was awarded the worldwide prize by Global Arbitration Review for "Niche or Regional Practice that Impressed" in 2012. Astigarraga Davis is routinely engaged in international arbitrations arising out of Latin America. The firm’s cases often have little or no connection to the United States. Many of the firm’s engagements deal exclusively with foreign law, and the firm handles cases in both English and Spanish. Its lawyers are also active in arbitration initiatives. José Astigarraga, for example, was one of ten delegates appointed by the US government to advise the NAFTA Commission on the development and use of international arbitration and dispute resolution. He is a former vice-president of the London Court of International Arbitration, and is a member of the ICC Commission on Arbitration.

Astigarraga Davis litigates in US federal and state courts at the trial and appellate levels. The firm is well versed in all aspects of international litigation including issues involving personal jurisdiction, forum non conveniens, and choice of law issues. The firm often represents foreign litigants in obtaining or opposing discovery assistance from US courts pursuant to 28 USC § 1782, which authorises discovery in the US to obtain evidence for use in foreign proceedings.

Using its extensive international experience, multilingual capabilities, multicultural background and broad network of regional contacts, the firm manages substantial disputes in Latin America having administrative, criminal, or other complicating dimensions and supervises litigation in courts there.

The firm’s work includes asset recovery and fraud prosecution. Working with an international network of contacts developed over the years, the firm seeks to preserve and recover fraudulently obtained assets transferred and concealed around the globe. In 2013, practice head Edward H Davis, Jr. was awarded the global "Lawyer of the Year" award for asset recovery from Who’s Who Legal, its first award ever in that field. He received the global award again in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The firm also received the Who’s Who Legal Asset Recovery Firm of the Year award in 2015 and again in 2016. Among its engagements in this field, Astigarraga Davis acts as co-general counsel to the joint liquidators of Stanford International Bank, in connection with the liquidation of the Antigua-based bank at the centre of a multibillion fraud affecting more than 20,000 victims. The firm has also handled significant corruption-related asset recovery engagements on behalf of foreign sovereigns and their instrumentalities.

Astigarraga Davis has extensive litigation experience representing lenders, creditors, banks and other financial institutions in disputes in the United States and abroad. The firm represents lenders and creditors domestically in courts in Florida and other states, and internationally in Latin America, including in multi-jurisdictional insolvencies. Experienced in prosecutions of chapter 15 petitions under the US Bankruptcy Code, the firm regularly represents foreign officeholders seeking to enlist the aid of US bankruptcy courts to recover and protect estate assets in the United States. Practice head Gregory Grossman has broad bankruptcy experience. The World Bank engaged José Astigarraga as a consultant to assess the insolvency systems of Latin America and published the resulting study.

The firm’s commercial litigation work includes significant experience in breach of contract cases, FDUTPA, class action litigation and in intellectual property disputes. Edward M Mullins has represented media and non-media clients in lawsuits involving libel, slander, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference, trademark infringement trade secrets and copyright infringement.

Get unlimited access to all Global Arbitration Review content