Global Arbitration Review launched new GAR 100
19 July 2021
We are honoured to be included in the newly published GAR 100 among the world’s elite firms for international arbitration. The criteria for the survey included reputation, experience and the amount of work.
A Houthoff summary from the GAR findingsThe 20-strong arbitration practice is led by Dirk Knottenbelt in Rotterdam, who is president of the supervisory board of the Netherlands Arbitration Institute and a board member of the Dutch Arbitration Association.
Two other names to know are partner Rob Meijer in Amsterdam and partner Thomas Stouten and counsel Isabelle van den Nieuwendijk in Rotterdam.
Partner Marielle Koppenol-Laforce, who took the lead on the Yukos matter, retired in May 2021 after 20 years with the firm.
Who uses it?
Besides Russia, a notable client on the public record is Brazilian state oil and gas company Petrobras, which has used it to resist enforcement of a US$700 million award. Other clients include Italian businessman Francisco Becchetti, Dutch bank Rabobank and Italian power company Eni. Going further back, it also represented an entity owned by the UK’s Ministry of Defence in a challenge to an ICC award favouring Iran.
The firm’s highest-profile success came in 2016 when it persuaded the Hague District Court to set aside three Energy Charter Treaty awards that had required Russia to pay US$50 billion to the former majority shareholders of Yukos Oil Company. However, the awards were reinstated on appeal in 2020. Russia’s appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court is pending. The firm helped IT company Bankswitch Ghana win a US$87 million UNCITRAL award against Ghana over a cancelled contract to design customs processing software.
Besides its work for Russia in the Yukos appeal, Houthoff helped the state lift attachments on two Russian vodka trademarks. A Dutch court had granted the attachments to the Yukos shareholders.
Houthoff continues to represent Russia in challenges to various investment treaty awards in favour of Ukrainian investors in Crimea who say their assets were seized following the territory’s 2014 annexation. The total amount at stake in the cases is around US$7 billion.
The firm has also teamed up with Russian firm Ivanyan & Partners to represent Russia in other pending Crimea-related cases under way at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
In addition, it is representing four Crimean museums in Dutch litigation to secure the return of some 500 Crimean cultural treasures that were loaned to the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam shortly before the annexation.
The firm has acted in a series of arbitrations against a subsidiary of Venezuela’s national oil and gas company PDVSA. It helped a Chinese state-owned company win a US$70 million ICC award over contracts for commercial vehicles and then defeated a challenge to the award in the Dutch courts.
It is also advising other companies in a US$108 million ICC claim against the same PDVSA entity. That case, which similarly involves allegations of corruption, has been suspended due to US sanctions against PDVSA.
It has also been acting for Italian energy company Eni in annulment proceedings related to a billion-euro arbitration with Dutch gas company GasTerra.
One user praises Houthoff’s “seamless” service as well as its practitioners’ ability to quickly learn the industry specifics in cases. Knottenbelt and Stouten are “easy to work with” and “gifted” regarding case management and preparation, as well as having impressive advocacy skills.
A client says he has relied on Houthoff to given “pragmatic advice” in various disputes. He says Stouten is a “razor sharp lawyer” and “highly persuasive” in hearings.