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Sovereign Litigation, Arbitration and Workouts

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Quinn Emanuel is a global leader in sovereign disputes.  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 and arbitral award recognition and enforcement
  • Compensation for expropriated assets
  • Investment treaty arbitration
  • International arbitrations between sovereign states

While we are known for our stellar results in litigation and arbitration, 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 contested proceedings.  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, and is also regularly recognized by Lawdragon, Who’s Who in Asset Recovery and LatinLawyer.  He  has been lead counsel in many of the largest and most complex sovereign disputes over the last two decades, most recently including Cairn Energy’s $1.8 billion collection effort against India and collection of a $2.8 billion arbitral award against the National Iranian Oil Company for Crescent Petroleum.  Mr. Hranitzky co-led 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.  He is proficient in both Spanish and Portuguese.

Among the key members of the team are partners Daniel Salinas-Serrano, Aidan O’Rourke, Dawn Yamane Hewett, 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. Hewett is partner in our Washington, DC office and is affiliated with our Tokyo office as well.  Fluent in English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese, Ms. Hewett leads complex international arbitrations on behalf of investors of all types.  Ms. Hewett is a former U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy General Counsel, and in that role, took the lead on international legal issues for the Department and represented the interests of both the U.S. business community and the U.S. government abroad.  Ms. Hewett has been recognized by Lawdragon 500 for International Litigation, Washington DC Super Lawyers for International Law, and Best Under 40 (2014) by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

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 were 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 debt.

The Sovereign Litigation team works closely with the U.S. International Arbitration Practice led by David Orta, supported by Mr. Salinas-Serrano and Ms. Hewett.  Mr. Orta and his team 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, Mr. Orta was named a Top 100 Lawyer for Arbitration & Litigation by Latinvex for 2020.  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.

Finally, the Sovereign Litigation team works closely with the newly-formed Russia Disputes Practice.  Currently, Mr. Hrantizky and London Partners Liesl Fichardt and Epaminontas Triantafilou act for several groups of holders of Russian bonds who are exploring their rights under the documentation governing Russian bonds.  Mr. Hranitzky has emerged as a leading authority in the area and has been quoted in leading legal and financial publications including   Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, and is the co-author of an article published in the Harvard Bankruptcy Roundtable (https://blogs.harvard.edu/bankruptcyroundtable/2022/04/19/a-russian-sovereign-debt-default-no-longer-improbable/)


Recent Representations

The following are some of the notable public sovereign litigation, arbitration and restructuring engagements handled by members of our team.

Litigation

  • Lead counsel representing Cairn Energy, PLC and Cairn UK Holdings Limited in connection with efforts in the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, France, Mauritius, Cayman Islands and elsewhere to enforce an arbitration award in Cairn’s favor against the Republic of India. As an important and novel part of its enforcement strategy, Quinn Emanuel conceived and initiated a separate proceeding against India’s state-owned airline, Air India, seeking to have Air India declared to be an alter ego of India and therefore responsible for the arbitration award.    
  • Lead counsel to plaintiffs in litigation to collect claims and judgments for $414.4 million arising out of Argentina’s sovereign default in 2001.
  • Lead counsel for Crescent Petroleum Company International, Ltd. and Crescent Gas Corporation, Ltd. in multinational proceedings to enforce a $2.5 billion award against the National Iranian Oil Company.
  • Lead counsel to Iraq Telecom Ltd.—a joint venture of Kuwaiti logistics contractor Agility Public Warehousing Co. and French telecom giant Orange SA—to confirm and enforce a foreign arbitral award against a Lebanese bank and attach assets in furtherance of a second arbitral action.
  • Lead counsel in a long-running engagement on behalf of Ukraine (through its Ministry of Finance) in which the firm is defending Ukraine against a claim brought before the English courts by Law Debenture, the trustee under the USD $3 billion Eurobonds purportedly issued by Ukraine in December 2013 and taken up as to 100% by the Russian Federation.  The claimant, Law Debenture, acting on the instructions and for the benefit of the Russian Federation, is seeking to obtain payment of all principal and accrued interest allegedly due by Ukraine under these bonds.  The case is presently pending a decision of the UK Supreme Court on Law Debenture’s summary judgment motion.
  • Lead counsel of a team appointed by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine to pursue claims before the European Court of Human Rights to hold Russia accountable for breach of the most fundamental rules of international law resulting from the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. To learn more about this representation, refer to John Quinn’s interview of Alex Gerbi in the Law, Disrupted podcast available at https://www.law-disrupted.fm/quinn-emanuel-representation-of-ukraine-in-proceedings-against-russia-in-european-court-of-human-rights/
  • Counsel acting on behalf of various international investors whose multi-billion dollar investments have been severely impacted and damaged by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Lead Counsel acting on behalf of DP World to recognize and enforce a $485 million arbitral award issued by the London Court of International Arbitration against the Republic of Djibouti.
  • Lead Counsel in London-based proceeding on behalf of holders of Argentine securities in a EUR 640 million claim arising from Argentina’s failure to make payments under the securities following a re-basing of its national accounts.
  • Counsel to a Delaware LLC seeking to enforce an arbitral award against the Democratic Republic of Congo for approximately $278 million.
  • 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 Plaintiffs Themis and Des Moines in litigation against of the Democratic Republic of Congo and its central bank to recover US $100 million in defaulted sovereign debt.
  • 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.

Arbitration

  • 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 JSC Oschadbank in a landmark bilateral investment treaty arbitration claim against the Russian Federation arising out Russia’s illegal invasion and purported annexation of the Ukrainian sovereign territory of Crimea in early 2014 which led to the loss the bank’s investments in that territory. 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 $450 million 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.

Restructuring

  • Lead counsel to an ad hoc group of Argentina bondholders with claims totaling over $4 billion in connection with Argentina’s sovereign debt restructuring in 2020.
  • Lead counsel to an ad hoc group of Province of La Rioja bondholders in connection with a successful restructuring of 8.750% notes due 2025.
  • Lead counsel to an ad hoc group of Province of Entre Ríos bondholders in connection with its restructuring negotiations in 2021.
  • Lead counsel to an ad hoc group of Ecuador bondholders in in connection with its restructuring negotiations in 2020.
  • 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.
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