Latvia's prime minister is under attack from his opposition over the size of a Clifford Chance bill.
Andris Berzins has insisted that he will not allow the argument about the firm's fees to destabilise the government, but a row is raging in the country. It centres on Clifford Chance's work for the government in arbitration against Tilts Communications (TC). The dispute concerns TC's compensation demand for Latvia's decision to cut short telecom group Lattelekom's monopoly period, in which TC is a major shareholder. Latvia claims TC did not comply with the conditions of the umbrella agreement. The local press reported that Clifford Chance billed the government $9m (£6.3m), although sources say that is probably too high. The bill has been described as "shocking" and "inappropriately large" by the opposition. Head of the Latvian Privatisation Agency Janis Naglis, who agreed to pay the bill, has now had his right to sign financial documents suspended by the opposition's minister of the economy, Aigars Kalvitis. Latvia has a coalition government, with the prime minister and Naglis both members of Latvia's Way Party and the minister of the economy a member of the People's Party. Clifford Chance was unable to comment, with the case being handled by a team of arbitration partners from London. White & Case is representing TC. The prime minister defended the bill, saying that good lawyers are expensive and that TC had engaged top-notch lawyers, so Latvia had to do the same. Naglis said he agreed the bill because the claim and counterclaim are worth $1bn (£700.2m), so the bill would not be small.