Stephenson Harwood seeks extra money for Petroleos de Venezuela

Stephenson Harwood is looking to double the costs awarded to Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) after the High Court lifted a freezing order sought by ExxonMobil against the state-owned oil company.

The US oil group is seeking billions in compensation from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s government following last year’s nationalisation of a series of major energy projects in the Orinoco oil basin.

Initially the projects ran in conjunction with non-Venezuelan companies. Chavez reached settlement with all the oil companies involved apart from Exxon, which was later granted a $12bn (£6bn) freezing order.

However, because Exxon “failed to surmount several legal hurdles” the Queen’s Bench Division lifted the injunction, which would have blocked the sale and movement of PDVSA assets.

Acting for PDVSA, commercial litigation chief John Fordham of Stephenson Harwood said the ruling meant Venezuela would now seek to overturn freezing orders in other jurisdictions pending?arbitration proceedings in New York.

He added: “The court ordered ExxonMobil to pay £380,000 to cover legal fees, but we’re seeking to double that and gain damages for PDVSA suffering financially as a result of the freeze.”

Fordham?instructed Gordon Pollock QC of Essex Court?Chambers?for PDVSA, while London-based partner Thomas Sprange of US firm Steptoe & Johnson instructed and advocated with Catharine Otton-Goulder QC of Brick Court Chambers for Exxon.