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Commodities and Derivatives

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Quinn Emanuel has a world-class commodities and derivatives practice. Lawyers in our practice group represent clients in litigation and enforcement matters relating to the trading, delivery, and management of commodities and derivatives. We counsel clients on spot, futures, forwards, exchange for related position (EFRP), and options trading and related disputes, and we advise on compliance best practices aimed at minimizing risk. We routinely defend clients in criminal and regulatory investigations and in enforcement actions brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and other U.S. government agencies, as well as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). Our global litigation expertise allows us to represent clients in civil and criminal commodities and derivatives matters spanning a wide range of jurisdictions, including Australia, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East and involving regulators around the world. As part of our global reach, we have represented parties before arbitral bodies including the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

Our clients include the world’s largest mining and trading companies, market makers, proprietary trading firms, energy producers, and private funds. We have deep experience in traditional and emerging markets, including the market for digital assets. We understand and advise on market structure, complex financial instruments, hedging practices, trade surveillance systems, and applicable laws, regulations, and exchange rules. Our work has covered complex legal issues such as the valuation of derivatives following bankruptcy, conflicting environmental regulations, and cross-product manipulation. 

Our commodities and derivatives partners have extensive trial, regulatory, and white-collar experience, including decades as senior leaders at the DOJ and other government agencies. As seasoned trial lawyers, we have won high-stakes commodities trials and billion-dollar settlements and are ready to litigate any issues our clients face. We have tried many of the largest commodities and derivatives cases in recent years, and we regularly achieve favorable outcomes for clients in the United States and around the world. Organizations including Chambers Global, Who’s Who Legal, and Legal 500 regularly recognize our commodities and derivatives lawyers’ unparalleled success. 

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, our lawyers played a central role in unwinding various swaps, credit protection schemes, and derivatives that underpinned the economic collapse. All told, we recovered over $40 billion from global financial institutions on behalf of taxpayers and clients alike, including $22 billion for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in various structured finance litigations. 

Our commodities and derivatives practice is co-chaired by Robert Zink, a former head of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, Fraud Section. Mr. Zink led the DOJ’s prosecution of criminal commodities offenses and has both tried and supervised commodities cases. Co-chair Avi Perry served for nine years as a federal prosecutor at the DOJ, most recently as Chief of the Market Integrity and Major Frauds Unit in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Mr. Perry led the DOJ’s most significant commodities and derivatives prosecutions involving spoofing, benchmark price manipulation, insider trading, and market manipulation, including high-profile trial wins against Director-level traders at the world’s most sophisticated financial institutions. Mr. Perry is a recipient of the CFTC Chairman’s Award for Regulatory Excellence and an award from the U.S. Attorney General for innovation in using trading data to prosecute commodities cases.

Quinn Emanuel’s talented commodities and derivatives practice also includes Ted Greeno, a Band 1 leading practitioner by Chambers U.K. who has focused much of his career on the oil, gas, and power sectors, and Karl Stern, a trial lawyer with 35 years of experience dealing with complex transactions in the energy industry including the development, acquisition, sale, and ownership of oil, gas, renewable energy, and power assets.


Recent Representations

  • We represent the defendants in a first-of-its-kind CFTC enforcement action against the operators of a foreign exchange (forex) trading simulator.
  • We represent a former Executive Director and bond trader at a global financial institution in a DOJ spoofing prosecution.
  • We represented Trafigura Beheer B.V., an international commodities trading company, in connection with a DOJ bribery investigation.
  • We represented a former oil and gas trader at Vitol, Inc. in a foreign bribery prosecution by the DOJ.
  • We represented Jane Street against the London Metal Exchange in judicial review proceedings concerning the cancellation of various nickel trades in March 2022.
  • We represented Solus Alternative Asset Management LP against GSO Capital Partners and Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. in a suit arising from GSO’s agreement with Hovnanian to trigger a credit event requiring Solus to pay millions of dollars in payments and yielding GSO millions of dollars in credit default swap (CDS) payments.
  • We represented CDS protection buyer in a dispute before the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s (ISDA) Determinations Committee concerning the price setting auction for CDS on Sears Roebuck Receiving Corp. and the appropriate procedures for conducting the auction. 
  • We represented CDS investors and bondholders in relation to refinancing transactions that allegedly were intended to orphan CDS written on The McClatchy Company and Nieman Marcus Group. 
  • We represented two dozen hedge funds, including international funds grouped under four management entities (Elliott, Davidson-Kempner, Appaloosa, and Angelo Gordon) as plaintiff-holders of Yosemite and Enron Credit-Linked Notes in the Enron MDL, and we successfully obtained a settlement in excess of $2.1 billion.
  • We represented Bright Foods Group of China in a case against Deutsche Bank regarding Bright Food’s purchase of FX Swaps from Deutsche Bank.
  • We represent Fiesta Hotels in a €500 million claim against Deutsche Bank arising out of the allegedly fraudulent sale of numerous exotic target redemption forward (TARF) transactions.
  • We represented Shell Oil in the U.S. Supreme Court in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway v. United States, which held that Shell could not be found liable as an arranger for shipping useful chemicals.
  • We represented Talen Montana in litigation to recover hundreds of millions of dollars Talen Montana’s former parent, PPL Corp., transferred to itself, leaving Talen Montana without assets sufficient to meet its large environmental and pension obligations. In December 2023, after more than five years of litigation, PPL paid $115 million to Talen Montana to settle the fraudulent transfer claims.
  • We represent a family office in a $100 million English High Court proceeding against Credit Suisse arising from an allegedly wrongful margin call made under complex prime brokerage arrangements, and against the backdrop of the large falls in global equity markets precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. Those prime brokerage arrangements involved a significant synthetic equity position held under an ISDA-governed total return swap.
  • We represented the FHFA in litigation against Nomura Holding Am., Inc. We achieved an across-the-board victory on appeal at the Second Circuit affirming our $800 million trial win for the Agency as Conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This key ruling came six years into our litigation against global banking giants in connection with securitization of nearly $200 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.
  • We represented the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LBHI) as lead counsel litigating LBHI’s objections to claims by Citibank and affiliates related to the close-out and valuation of tens of thousands of derivatives following Lehman’s bankruptcy in September 2008. Under governing ISDA Master Agreements, Lehman’s trading counterparties were directed to determine the value of their derivatives trades following Lehman’s bankruptcy. LBHI’s objections sought a significant reduction to the amounts claimed by Citibank, which totaled more than $2 billion, relating to approximately thirty thousand derivatives trades on a variety of grounds including that Citibank failed to act in a commercially reasonable manner when valuing the derivatives in question. LBHI reached a settlement with Citibank to return $1.74 billion to Lehman’s creditors.
  • We represented Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in litigation against JPMorgan concerning collateral JPMorgan obtained from Lehman pre-petition and the close-out of derivatives transactions between the two institutions post-petition, resulting in a settlement that included a cash payment by JPMorgan to the Lehman estate of over $1.4 billion.
  • We represent a Swiss company in the London Court of International Arbitration on a claim for non-delivery of ferronickel against a North Macedonian entity.
  • We represented a Brazilian energy company in arbitration against a major U.S. power company, resulting in $108 million settlement for our client.
  • We represented a major European energy company in a price review arbitration and expert determination proceeding against a competitor.
  • We represent a major international mining company in a dispute over a prospecting and mining option agreement relating to a certain mining area in the United Republic of Tanzania. 
  • A member of our arbitration team was counsel for a West African liquified natural gas (LNG) seller in an UNCITRAL arbitration in Geneva initiated by a European buyer in order to take into account major changes in the buyer’s market. The dispute arose from the revision of a price formula in two contracts for the sale of LNG. A settlement was achieved by the parties.
  • We represent a major Western Australia energy company in a Perth-seated gas price arbitration. 
  • We represent the claimant investor in a London-seated ICC arbitration involving a diamond mine exploration and development project in Zambia. The dispute, with a local business partner, concerns obligations to transfer precious jewels and reimburse certain advance payments. The claims seek in excess of $50 million. 
  • We are advising the Brazilian branch of one of the largest mining companies in the world in a $800 million dispute regarding a share option agreement.
  • We prevailed in a fast-track arbitration initiated by a pipeline company client against the minority owner of a jointly owned pipeline to resolve governance disputes that the minority owner was using to effectively block a $585 million recapitalization of the pipeline joint venture.
  • We are advising three major Middle Eastern oil companies in a dispute against the Republic of Iraq over the possible attempts to interfere with our clients’ contracts with the Kurdistan Regional Government.
  • We represent a Caribbean state-owned mid-stream gas aggregator in multiple London-seated arbitrations related to gas supply obligations.
  • We advise a global petroleum company in a dispute yet to be submitted to arbitration against oil and gas companies and state entities, regarding its withdrawal from an oil field in the Middle East.
  • We represented a Danish energy company in a $150 million SCC arbitration against its Russian business partners in a project to upgrade natural gas pipelines in Russia and generate carbon credits. The dispute resulted in a complete victory for our client. 
  • We represented a Korean company in an ICC arbitration governed by English law and seated in London in a dispute arising out of the construction of power and desalination plants.
  • We represented AngloGold Ashanti in an ICSID claim against the Republic of Ghana over a Obuasi gold mine in the Ashanti region of southern Ghana. We were able to secure a highly favorable settlement whereby the Ghanaian parliament agreed to invest $880 million to redevelop the gold mine and make it more mechanized, while also ratifying a number of regulatory and fiscal agreements that support that goal—including a tax concession agreement worth $259 million to our client.
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