Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes is pleased to announce the election in January 2024 of its ninth partner to the global partnership. James Herbert, a New Zealand national, focuses on common law matters as well as disputes involving corruption and fraud issues. He is recognized by professional directories as one of the rising leaders of his generation of international arbitration practitioners.
James joined Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes as counsel when the firm was founded in February 2021. Previously, he was a member of Shearman & Sterling’s international arbitration team, where he practiced for eight years. Prior to that, he practiced as the assistant of Sir David A.R. Williams KC for four years.
Since joining Emmanuel Gaillard and Yas Banifatemi in 2013, James has been involved in a string of high-profile victories secured by the team, many of which have generated precedents on novel issues in arbitration law.
He was part of the team representing Angola’s national oil and gas company, Sonangol, together with Emmanuel Gaillard and Yas Banifatemi in a series of four arbitrations against entities beneficially owned by Angolan billionaire, Isabel dos Santos, who gained infamy following the 2020 Luanda Leaks.
Sonangol secured a clean sweep in all four cases, including a landmark award finding that a 2006 share purchase transaction was the product of “grand corruption” and ordering the return to Sonangol of an indirect shareholding in the Portuguese oil and gas firm, Galp S.A., worth over EUR 650 million. The award is understood to have been the first merits decision in civil proceedings directed to the legality of Isabel dos Santos’ business dealings in Angola and records the second known anti-arbitration injunction issued by an arbitral tribunal. In the same suite of cases, the team also helped a subsidiary of Sonangol defeat more than USD 220 million worth of claims related to an upstream gas exploration project.
While at Shearman & Sterling, James worked with Emmanuel Gaillard and Mohamed Shelbaya on a group of commercial arbitrations brought against Egypt’s State-owned natural gas supplier, EGAS, concerning the operation of the Damietta LNG Plant following the Arab Spring. EGAS successfully defended all of the claims brought against it—worth more than USD 4 billion in total—relying on a series of novel legal arguments put forward by the team.
One of the cases turned on the proper construction of English law project financing arrangements entered into by the operator of the plant. Accepting EGAS’s analysis, the tribunal found that the operator had assigned its rights absolutely to an offshore security trustee acting on behalf of a large consortium of banks and, as a consequence, could not seek to recover any amounts under the contract. In another case, EGAS successfully relied on Article 26 of the ICSID Convention to block the pursuit of parallel ICSID and commercial claims in relation to the same loss—the first time Article 26 had been successfully relied on to block a contractual claim.
James has also been involved in substantial work in the Asia region. Together with Emmanuel Gaillard, he helped nine Pakistani power producers secure a USD 130 million claim against the Pakistani State-owned electricity company, including a rare order for security for claim during the course of the arbitration. James was also part of the team led by Emmanuel Gaillard and Yas Banifatemi that helped PetroVietnam defeat a USD 100 million tax claim brought against it by a consortium of international oil companies under a production sharing agreement. He also acted alongside Emmanuel Gaillard and Yas Banifatemi in an unreported HKIAC trust arbitration emanating from a billion-dollar multi-jurisdictional private equity dispute.
In addition to his counsel work, James has extensive experience on the arbitrator side having assisted Emmanuel Gaillard and David Williams as arbitrators on over 50 major international arbitrations, including State-State, investment and commercial disputes under the rules of all major institutions.
Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes prides itself on providing innovative and effective representation in the most complex, sensitive and high-profile international arbitrations around the world. James’s election to the partnership is further testament to the strength and breadth of our team’s expertise, which enables us to provide seamless representation in disputes involving multiple legal systems, languages and jurisdictions.
Please click here to read the GAR Article, 9 February 2024.