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Watson Farley & Williams has won the role of legal counsel to the Indian government on the high-profile Dabhol arbitration following an urgent search which saw more than 35 firms turn it down for conflict reasons. It is understood that Watson Farley won the work late last month over four other shortlisted firms.
India’s previous adviser DLA saw its appointment cancelled last month following a change in government.
There followed a frantic search for new advisers, which saw more than 35 UK firms and US firms with a significant arbitration presence in London approached. However, all but five were conflicted or required a waiver from clients in order to accept an instruction on the multibillion-pound arbitration.
Eversheds turned down the chance to act after its client General Electric (GE) declined to grant a waiver.
Surprisingly, energy specialist Vinson & Elkins was shortlisted despite its status as longstanding counsel to Enron, the promoter of the defunct project. One source close to the selection process said it was “a non-starter”.
It is understood that Simmons & Simmons was also shortlisted. Further complicating the matter was the fact that many commercial lending banks had a role on Dabhol. These include ABN Amro, ANZ Investment Bank, Bank of America, Bank of Singapore, Citibank, Credit Lyonnais and Credit Suisse First Boston.
Last month the government obtained a 60-day time extension for the filing of its statement of defence, memorial and witness statements, which were previously due on 30 September.
Litigation head David Kavanagh is leading the Watson Farley team. Eminent international law jurist Sir Arthur Watts QC of 20 Essex Street is appearing for the government alongside Khawar Qureshi of Serle Court, while Simpson Thacher & Bartlett arbitration partner Jack Kerr is leading the team for claimants GE and Bechtel.