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Sovereign Litigation, Arbitration and Workouts

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Quinn Emanuel is a global leader in sovereign disputes and restructuring matters.  We represent clients in the most complex, high stakes and high-profile disputes and workouts against sovereign states and instrumentalities.  The deep and unparalleled experience we bring to these matters, together with our creativity in devising unique solutions, delivers consistently successful results to our clients.

Our sovereign disputes practice covers any kind of dispute involving a sovereign state or instrumentality—regardless of forum.  We have represented bondholder groups, individual investors and companies all over the world in contested matters involving:

  • Distressed and/or defaulted sovereign debt
  • Judgment enforcement and collection
  • Compensation for expropriated assets
  • Investment treaty arbitration
  • International arbitrations between sovereign states

While we are known for our stellar results in litigation, not all our work involves formal legal proceedings. We have a track record of successfully engaging with stakeholders to reach agreed upon resolutions without the need for court filings and litigation.  We also regularly provide pre-investment counseling to clients seeking to understand and evaluate the cost, timetable, strategy and potential outcomes in disputes that may arise in connection with the proposed investment. 

We are usually free of conflicts because we primarily represent clients in cases against sovereigns rather than on their behalf. As the largest litigation firm in the world, the absence of any corporate practice leaves us free to utilize powerful strategies against sovereign issuers and money center financial institutions without conflicts and without any fear of losing opportunities for future transactional matters.  For example, we are one of the very few global firms that is free to pursue discovery from money center banks — a form of discovery that provides an exceptionally powerful tool in insolvency and collections cases. 

We are an international firm with truly global reach.  In addition to our offices in the United States, we have offices in London, Tokyo, Mannheim, Hamburg, Paris, Hong Kong, Munich, Sydney, Brussels, Zurich, Shanghai, Stuttgart, and Perth.  Our extensive global footprint allows us draw upon expertise to pursue claims and recoveries in courts and tribunals around the world.   We work together across cultures and time zones, on different continents and in different languages, to offer coordinated, multi-jurisdictional strategies.

The Head of our Sovereign Litigation practice, Dennis Hranitzky is a leading practitioner in sovereign disputes.  Described by clients as “bright, very sharp, very strategic,” “creative and proactive,” Mr. Hranitzky is one of only five individuals recognized by Legal 500 as “Leading Lawyers” in International Litigation every year since the category’s inception in 2016.  Mr. Hranitzky was co-lead of the legal team awarded the Grand Prize for Global Dispute of the year (2016) by The American Lawyer for the Argentina debt default litigation and settlement on behalf of NML Capital, Ltd.  In a matter marked by “firsts,” the team led by Mr. Hranitzky obtained the first ruling from a U.S. court that a central bank is the alter ego of its parent state, the first attachment of assets at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel Switzerland, the arrest of the Argentine Naval frigate ARA Libertad in Ghana, an injunction prohibiting Argentina from paying its restricted bonds without making ratable payments to holders of its defaulted bonds, and an order piercing the corporate veil between the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca (of Panama Papers fame) and its Nevada affiliate.  Mr. Hranitzky was also a leading member of the litigation team recognized by the Financial Times as one of the Top U.S. Innovative Law Firms in 2013 for its “standout” work for creditors in the cross-border insolvency of Vitro S.A.B. de C.V.  Often called “the case that saved the emerging markets,” this precedent-setting dispute marked the first time the U.S. courts refused to enforce a foreign plan of reorganization. Mr. Hranitzky frequently writes and lectures on sovereign litigation, international litigation and cross-border insolvency, and has been a visiting lecturer on sovereign litigation and insolvency at Stanford Law School and Georgetown University Law School.  He is proficient in both Spanish and Portuguese.

Among the key members of the team are partners Daniel Salinas-Serrano and Aidan O'Rourke, and of counsel Debra O’Gorman.  Mr. Salinas-Serrano, a native Spanish speaker, is a leading international litigator and arbitration advocate with 15 years of experience successfully representing clients in complex investment treaty and commercial international arbitrations, complex commercial litigations, and complex restructurings.  Praised by clients and peers for his “outstanding expertise in commercial and investment treaty arbitration as well as his excellent advocacy skills.”  Mr. Salinas-Serrano has been recognized by top legal publications such as Chambers, Legal 500, Who's Who Legal and Latinvex for his work as an arbitration advocate.  Most recently, Mr. Salinas-Serrano was selected as a Law360 Rising Star, a list that highlights the top legal talent under 40, comprising “top litigators and dealmakers practicing at a level usually seen from veteran attorneys.”  

Mr. O’Rourke is an experienced litigator based in London who previously worked at one of New Zealand’s premier commercial law firms.  In 2019 and 2020, Legal 500 named him as a “Next Generation” commercial litigation partner in London.  Mr. O’Rourke’s public representations include acting for a group of security holders against Argentina in a EUR 640m claim arising from Argentina's failure to make payments under the securities following a re-basing of its national accounts.

Ms. O’Gorman has extensive experience in sovereign litigation, handling complex and contentious multinational litigation and has been recognized by Legal 500 as a “Recommended Lawyer” in International Litigation.  She was an integral member of the team representing Argentina's largest creditor with claims for over US$3 billion–in multinational litigation and judgment enforcement proceedings that was recognized as “highly commended” by the Financial Times in 2014 and awarded the Grand Prize for Global Dispute of the Year (2016) by The American Lawyer.  She presented the sole witness in a trial that resulted in an US$105 million judgment on behalf of creditors of the Democratic Republic of Congo in a lawsuit to recover on defaulted sovereign.

The Sovereign Litigation team works closely with the U.S. International Arbitration Practice led by David Orta.  Mr. Orta and his teammates, including Mr. Salinas-Serrano, have significant experience handling investor-state arbitration claims against sovereigns.  Mr. Orta has received various accolades for his work, including being named consistently as a Leading International Arbitration Advocate by Chambers Global, Chambers Latin America, Legal 500, Euromoney’s Expert’s Guide to the World’s Leading Commercial Arbitration and being named consistently as “one of the world’s leading commercial arbitrators” by the International Who’s Who Legal.  Most recently, David was named a Top 100 Lawyer for Arbitration & Litigation by Latinvex for 2019. He also has been named on two separate occasions (once by the National Law Journal and once by Washingtonian Magazine) as one of the Top 40 Lawyers under 40 in Washington, DC; selected numerous times for inclusion in Super Lawyers—Washington, D.C. for international arbitration, named to the 2014 Lawyers of Color Hotlist, named one of the world’s leading practitioners in The International Who’s Who of Asset Recovery Lawyers 2012, elected as Member of The American Law Institute, included in Global Arbitration Review 100 (2010 Edition) “Names to Know,” and named in Lawdragon 500 “New Stars, New Worlds” in 2006.  He regularly lectures on topics of international arbitration and public and private international law all around the world and has published numerous articles on topics of interest within the international arbitration community. 

The team also works hand in hand with the Bankruptcy & Restructuring Practice, a group known for its depth and creativity.  Our bankruptcy lawyers include partners who served as counsel in such historic “never seen this before” situations as Enron Corporation, Lehman Brothers, the Bernard L. Madoff SIPC proceeding, and numerous cases emanating from the 2008-2009 financial crisis.  Most recently, we led the creditors’ side of litigating and restructuring the largest bond issuer in Puerto Rico and successfully developed, navigated, and implemented an exchange of $17 billion of sales-tax bonds under new bankruptcy legislation designed to address the unique needs of the U.S. territories.  The chairperson of our practice has twice won Law360’s Bankruptcy MVP Award, the American Lawyer’s “Dealmaker of the Year,” and numerous other recognitions.  In total, five of our Bankruptcy & Restructuring partners are ranked by peers and clients in Chambers for their abilities, and two have been admitted to the American College of Bankruptcy and the National Bankruptcy Conference.  


Recent Representations

Some of the recent sovereign litigation, arbitration and restructuring engagements handled by members of our team include:

  • Lead counsel to an ad hoc group of Argentina bondholders.
  • Counsel in London-based proceeding on behalf of holders of Argentine securities in a EUR 640m claim arising from Argentina’s failure to make payments under the securities following a re-basing of its national accounts.
  • Lead counsel to an ad hoc group of Lebanon bondholders.
  • Lead counsel to an ad hoc group of Province of Buenos Aires bondholders.
  • Lead counsel to the COFINA Senior Bondholders Coalition, a group of institutional investors holding in excess of $5 billion in sales-tax backed bonds of Puerto Rico
    • During the pre-default planning phase, we developed a comprehensive strategy to restructure the largest debt issuer of Puerto Rico.
    • This strategy included drafting and successfully supporting passage of new legislation in both Washington, D.C. and San Juan.
    • We also helped craft the protocol for resolving the dispute over ownership of tax revenues between the central government and its special-purpose entity
    • Following several years of litigation, COFINA became the first sovereign issuer restructured under the bankruptcy title of PROMESA—the financial oversight and management law for U.S. territories.
    • Puerto Rico reduced its outstanding sales-tax-backed liabilities from approximately $18 billion to $12 billion, with our clients recovering over 93% of their claims.
  • Current lead counsel to the Lawful Constitutional Debt Coalition, a group of institutional holders of Puerto Rico’s General Obligation and Public Buildings Authority bonds issued prior to March of 2012 in the largest municipal restructuring in history.
  • Lead counsel to Gater Assets in multinational judgment enforcement proceedings against Moldova and Moldovan instrumentalities AO Moldovagaz and AO Gaznabtranzit.
  • Co-lead of the international team representing Argentina’s largest creditor, NML Capital, Ltd., in litigation and judgment enforcement proceedings spanning 11 countries on four continents.
  • Lead counsel for creditors of the Democratic Republic of Congo in an US$100 million lawsuit to recover on defaulted sovereign debt.
  • Lead counsel for U.S. investors in a pending UNCITRAL arbitration against Bolivia involving mining rights.
  • Counsel for Captain Ossama Al Sharif in three investment treaty arbitrations against The Arab Republic of Egypt.
  • Lead counsel for Progas Energy Holdings et al. against the Republic of Pakistan in an investment treaty UNCITRAL arbitration claiming hundreds of millions of dollars arising from an energy and infrastructure project.
  • Lead counsel for Dr. Ali Allawi against the Republic of Pakistan in an investment treaty UNCITRAL arbitration claiming hundreds of millions of dollars arising from an energy and infrastructure project.
  • Lead counsel for various claimants in two investment treaty disputes against the Republic of Venezuela.
  • Lead counsel for a European claimant in an investment treaty dispute against the Republic of Peru.
  • Lead counsel for various U.S. investors in a US$700 million investment treaty arbitration under NAFTA against the United Mexican States regarding their investment in the Mexican oilfield services industry.
  • Lead counsel for various U.S. investors in a US$125 million investment treaty arbitration under NAFTA against the United Mexican States regarding their investment in the Mexican gaming industry.
  • Lead counsel for Spentex Netherlands B.V. in its multimillion dollar investment treaty claims against the Republic of Uzbekistan.
  • Represent Churchill Mining Plc and Planet Mining Pty Ltd. in their multibillion dollar investment treaty claims against the Republic of Indonesia.
  • Lead counsel to a group of creditors in a US$450m dispute against the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of France in relation to the construction and operation of a high speed international railway between France and Spain.  
  • Counsel for Austrian and Greek investors in an ICSID arbitration filed against the Republic of Serbia regarding the gaming industry.
  • Counsel to a U.S. mining company and its U.S. investor in section 1782 discovery applications in the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia to obtain discovery for a pending arbitration against the Republic of Bolivia.
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