Gibson Dunn & Crutcher might not be the sort of firm to shout it from the rooftops, but the past year has seen its energy practice steadily pick up momentum with key deals and office expansions.
Along with a string of strategic hires in its Dallas, New York and London bases, the firm’s litigation work for Chevron Corporation in the longrunning Lago Agrio environmental case in Ecuador continues to grab headlines.
The firm has acted for the US oil giant since 2009 on the case, in which Chevron was originally ordered by an Ecuadorian court to pay $18bn for environmental damage dating back to the 1960s.
Lead partners Randy Mastro, Theodore Bourtrous and Andrea Neuman have already scored some victories, including filing a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act (Rico) suit early this year and obtaining a preliminary injunction barring the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their counsel from enforcing the $18bn judgement that was handed down by the Ecuadorian court.
Energy partner Rob Walters, who joined Gibson Dunn’s Dallas office in January, believes the firm is under-selling itself about its presence in the energy arena.
“Gibson Dunn finds itself in a disproportionate number of these sorts of disputes,” he claims. “Chevron is only one example of that.”
Washington-based partner Bill Hollaway is also making a name for the firm in the current rush of transmission projects springing up in the US, including representing the Neptune Regional Transmission System in the development, construction and operation of a transmission project linking New Jersey to Long Island. He is also leading on the $850m Hudson Transmission Project, advising the developer and owner of the 660MW project linking power generated in New Jersey to Manhattan via a cable running under the Hudson River.
Co-chair of the firm’s energy practice Bill Campbell says: “It’s the first time something like this has happened in terms of coming up with creative solutions to get power into New York. It will secure the city’s energy for years to some.”
Energy has also been a driving force behind Gibson Dunn’s recent office expansion and strategic hires in Dallas, New York and London. The firm significantly expanded its Dallas office by hiring five new litigation and corporate partners in January. The arrivals included litigator Walters, formerly a partner at Vinson & Elkins before taking up a general counsel role at Energy Future Holdings (a Gibson Dunn client). The firm raided V&E directly for the other four hires, including litigation partners William Dawson and Michael Raiff and corporate partners Jeffrey Chapman and Robert Little.
In the same month the firm added corporate partner Peter Hanlon, from Willkie Farr & Gallagher, to its New York office, strengthening its energy-related M&A and capital markets capability and raking in new work from Hanlon’s former client MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company.
It also bolstered its London-based energy team last year with the hire of corporate partner Jeff Roberts from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
In addition to strategic hires, Gibson Dunn is also focusing on energy opportunities in Asia and Latin America. The firm opened an office in Sao Paulo in December 2009 to expand on its long-term work in Brazil’s energy and infrastructure market, which dates back 20 years.
Energy practice co-chair Steve Buffone says the firm has “a long history” of handling energy projects in Latin America and Sao Paulo so this is not exactly a new presence for the firm, but being present on the ground is paying off as the volume of work tends to increase.
Gibson Dunn is eyeing up China as a prime candidate for future office openings. It also reopened its Hong Kong office last August, tapping into lucrative energy deals from its Singapore office.
“We’re also doing a lot of work in Mongolia,” Campbell adds. “There have been efforts there to develop natural resources and we have lawyers working on different transactions.”
Rob Walters, Peter Hanlon, Bill Hollaway, John Viverito
Top three sectors
Electricity and power
Oil and gas
Top three geographical regions
Chevron Corporation’s ongoing $18bn environmental litigation in Ecuador
Lead partners: Randy Mastro, Andrea Neuman, Theodore Boutrous
Energy Future Holdings’ $17.7bn restructuring of its debt
Client: Energy Future Holdings
Lead partner: Robert Little
$850m Hudson Transmission Project in New York
Client: Neptune Regional Transmission System
Lead partner: Bill Hollaway