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Watson, Duncan

Duncan Watson QC

Hong Kong Direct: +852 3464 5604, Perth Direct: +61 8 6382 3020
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3464 5600 Fax: +852 3464 5700

Duncan is a partner in Quinn Emanuel’s Hong Kong and Perth offices (having also practiced in our London and Sydney offices). Duncan specialises in international arbitration, and is qualified in both Australia and England & Wales. Who’s Who Legal (2021) listed him as one of the nine “most highly regarded” young arbitration partners in the Asia Pacific, and quoted peers who described as “an exceptional adviser and advocate” and “certainly among the very best of his generation”.  Duncan was appointed Queen’s Counsel (England & Wales) in March 2021 at the age of 37.

Duncan has acted as counsel in international commercial and investment treaty arbitrations under most arbitral institutions and rules, including the UNCITRAL, ICSID, ICC, HKIAC, LCIA, ICDR, SCC, CAA, and SCAI.

Duncan has acted for multinational corporations and high net worth individuals based in Korea, Indonesia, China, India, Russia, Denmark, South Africa, the Middle East, Australia, the US and the UK. He represents clients in a broad array of industries, including private equity and financial services, energy and resources, manufacturing, infrastructure, and intellectual property.  

In 2018, Chambers & Partners noted Duncan’s “meticulous, detail-oriented approach”, and quoted a client as saying that, as an advocate, Duncan “commanded the stage and was a real star”. In 2019, it quoted interviewees as describing him as “very bright, hard-working and personable”, “quick, reactive and co-operative” and appreciates that “he always grasps the key issues”. In 2021, it noted his “very sharp legal mind” and described him as “a pleasure to work with”, and in 2022 it said "Duncan is a real master in quantum, excellent in cross-examination, and an expert in  damages calculations. He has a lot of case work - a great guy who is a good advocate as well."

Duncan also sits as arbitrator; and is a Fellow of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA), a member of the HKIAC’s List of Arbitrators, and a member of the KCAB’s Panel of International Arbitrators. He also regularly publishes and lectures on topical issues in commercial and investment treaty arbitration around the region, including advocacy.

  • NuCoal Resources Limited
  • Viva Energy Australia Ltd
  • Lend Lease
  • Core Carbon Group ApS
  • GS Engineering & Construction

Disputes Involving Sovereign States

  • Acting for Schindler Holding AG in an investment treaty arbitration against the Republic of Korea (Paris seat, UNCITRAL Rules).
  • Acting for a Chinese digital media company in a $200 million claim against the Government of a West African sovereign State (London seat, ICC Rules).
  • Acting for a Singaporean shipping conglomerate in an investment treaty dispute with Mexico (UNCITRAL Rules).
  • Acting for NuCoal Resources Ltd and its shareholders in respect of actions taken by the Government of New South Wales regarding a valuable coal exploration licence, including preparations for an arbitration against the Commonwealth of Australia under the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
  • Acted for a Jordanian investor in three bilateral investment treaty arbitrations against Egypt in respect of political interference and frustration of a nation-wide integrated customs and shipping monitoring system (ICSID).

Commercial Disputes

  • Acting for a major shareholder of one of the largest life insurance companies in Korea in a US$1.5 billion shareholders dispute (Seoul seat, ICC Rules).
  • Acted for an American electric vehicles manufacturer in a $2 billion breach of contract claim, including two emergency arbitrations (Hong Kong law and seat, HKIAC Rules).
  • Acting for a Korean private equity firm in a $200 million breach of warranty claim with respect to the purchase of a major insurance provider (Hong Kong seat, ICC Rules).
  • Acting for a Korean private equity firm in a $1.1 billion breach of warranty claim with respect to the purchase of a major retail chain (London seat, ICC Rules).
  • Acting for a private equity firm in a $1.5 billion dispute concerning the ownership and control of two investment targets (Hong Kong law and seat, ICC Rules).
  • Acting for a Chinese investment vehicle in a $100 million breach of contract claim (Hong Kong seat, HKIAC Rules).
  • Acting for a European bank and its Hong Kong branch in a $200+ million breach of contract dispute (Taipei seat, CAA Rules).
  • Acting for a Korean heavy industries conglomerate in a $400+ million breach of warranty and misrepresentation dispute (Boston seat, ICDR Rules).
  • Acting for a Chinese electronics manufacturer in a patent licensing dispute (Hong Kong seat, HKIAC Rules).
  • Acted for an Australian natural gas purchaser in a price review arbitration (Perth seat, ad hoc).
  • Acted for Korean steel company in a $200+ million ICC arbitration against its Australian joint venture partner concerning payments made under long term offtake contracts (Perth seat, ICC Rules).
  • Acted for a Chinese trading company in a $50 million dispute concerning the sale of an alleged defective machine for the production of newsprint (Hong Kong seat, UNCITRAL Rules).
  • Acted for a Fortune 500 beverages company in a dispute against its Indian distributor (Hong Kong law and seat, HKIAC Rules).
  • Acted for a Korean construction conglomerate in a subcontractor dispute arising out of a gas refinery project in Kuwait (London seat, ICC Rules).
  • Acted for Korean ship-building company in a multi-party dispute concerning allegedly faulty components in a number of deepwater drillships.
  • Acted for a Chinese electronics manufacturer in a dispute concerning the sale of defective machinery for the production of solar cells (Hong Kong seat, HKIAC Rules).
  • Acted for several wealthy Russian individuals, defending a US$3 billion dispute in respect of a high-profile commercial property development brought by a former business partner (London seat, LCIA Rules).
  • Acted for Russian businessman and entrepreneur Oleg Deripaska in his High Court proceedings against Michael Cherney, one of the largest and most complex commercial disputes ever to come to trial in the High Court.
  • Acted for Core Carbon Group in a dispute relating to investments in carbon credit projects in Russia. Succeeded in obtaining an award for the client in excess of US$150 million, together with the full costs of the arbitration (Stockholm seat, SCC Rules).
  • Acted for Viva Energy Australia Ltd in its successful defence of urgent injunction proceedings brought by its alliance partner, Eureka Operations Pty Ltd (part of the Coles Group), to prevent Viva from proceeding with a planned $2.1 billion listed real estate investment trust.
  • Acted for an Indonesian State-owned bank, defending a $50 million Arbitration in respect of allegedly fraudulent repo transactions (London seat, LCIA Rules).
  • Acted for GS Engineering & Construction in English High Court litigation in respect of its purchase of two Algerian water treatment plants.
  • Acted for a South African mining company, defending US$1 billion Swiss Chambers and ICC arbitrations brought by a Russian resources company in respect of a failed mine construction project.
  • University of Oxford
    (Bachelor of Civil Law, Distinction, 2010; Sir Rupert Cross Memorial Prize for Evidence)
  • University of Queensland
    (Bachelor of Laws, First Class Honours, 2005; Bachelor of Arts, International Relations and Psychology, 2004)

Admitted as a Legal Practitioner of the

  • Queen's Counsel (2021)
  • Supreme Court of Queensland
  • The High Court of Australia
  • England & Wales
  • New South Wales
  • Allens Arthur Robinson:
    • Lawyer, 2008-2009
  • Associate to the Honourable Justice M. Wilson:
    • Supreme Court of Queensland, 2006-2007