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Paolo Di Rosa is a new partner in Arnold & Porter’s litigation group, where he heads the firm’s international arbitration practice. The firm scooped Di Rosa, along with partners Gaela Gehring Flores and Raul Herrera and 10 other lawyers and professionals, from the D.C. office of Winston & Strawn last month. Di Rosa sat down last week with Legal Times Alexia Garamfalvi to discuss the firm’s plans for its arbitration practice and the landscape for international arbitration.
LT: Why did you move to Arnold & Porter? Di Rosa: We felt that the platform that Arnold & Porter offered was particularly appealing for our group, both because of the firm’s already existing international arbitration capabilities, its presence and history in Latin America, and its representation of sovereigns, which is not something too many firms do. It’s a practice area that requires special handling skills. The firm’s been representing Central and South American governments for years on debt issuances and debt restructuring. It’s also handled a number of arbitrations for Latin American governments, including Chile, Venezuela, and El Salvador.
LT: Thomas Milch, the firm’s chairman, said a few months ago that the firm was targeting international arbitration as an area of growth for the firm. What are the plans for the practice group? Do you predict more growth? Di Rosa: We are looking to expand beyond our group. I’ve already been roped into a very active round of interviewing other arbitration specialists. We are trying to bring a dedicated group to our London office. In general, we are keeping our eyes open for talent that we can use to expand our existing capabilities. The firm already had one of the leading arbitration practices in the world and we are trying to build on that. The focus on the mandate is really to build to the extent we can on the Latin American work, but to also to build on the firm’s existing work in other parts of the world and other types of arbitration beyond investor-state disputes. The vast majority of arbitration is really commercial arbitration.
LT: Do you think arbitration as a field will continue to grow? Di Rosa: We see it as an area that is bound to grow for the foreseeable future. International transactions writ large are increasingly becoming referred to arbitration at the dispute phase. It’s becoming increasingly prevalent for parties to international transactions to agree to refer disputes that arise out of the contract to international arbitration. There are several reasons for that. There’s a concern with the perceived slowness of the judiciary in most countries to deal with disputes. There is the unpredictability factor. You never know how long it’s going to take or how fair the process will be. There’s always the specter of corruption. There’s a growing perception in the business world that arbitration, even though it’s not as swift or inexpensive as people would like, it’s still swifter and less expensive than a court proceeding almost anywhere. With globalization, there’s an increasing acceptance both by the business community and by the local authorities in different countries that historically were averse to arbitration. Ultimately, for arbitration to work it requires the acceptance of the authorities, including judicial authorities in different countries. Most of the Latin American states passed arbitration legislation in the 1990s that makes it easier to enforce arbitration clauses in contracts, makes it easier to enforce arbitral judgments, and generally creates to a legal framework that is more conducive to arbitration. And I think from a larger social perspective, there’s a perception that arbitration is relieving pressure on the judiciary. Most countries face an ever-growing caseload in their courts, which in turn makes them slower and less predictable than before. Before there was a sense that arbitration was an institution to be feared by the court system, maybe now there is a feeling that it does play a useful role in the administration of justice.
LT: You spent more than seven years at the State Department and headed the department’s Office of the Legal Adviser for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Could you discuss some of the highlights from your time at State? Di Rosa: I was very heavily involved in the transfer of the Panama Canal, not only in the transfer of the Panama Canal itself, but in the transfer of the related facilities. That was fascinating because it presented a lot of novel issues. It occupied a couple of years of my time preceding the transfer in 1999. There were all sorts of issues and lawsuits challenging the transfer of the canal, up until the day it was transferred. Another highlight was the negotiation of a sizable number of international treaties and agreements of various sorts. We did the very first multilateral treaty on corruption, the Inter-American Convention Against Cooperation, which was negotiated by all the states that are members of the [ Organization of American States]. That one was very interesting because there was no such treaty in existence anywhere. We essentially had to navigate in unchartered waters. I was also involved in the negotiation of an extensive network of law enforcement treaties — extradition treaties, mutual legal assistance treaties to facilitate prosecutions that involved international crime in one way or another.
LT: How does that experience relate to what you do now? Di Rosa: The treaty negotiation and treaty interpretation and implementation work, all the treaty related work I did at the State Department, is very valuable to me for my current practice, which involves bilateral investment treaties and other treaties like the Washington Convention that established the World Bank’s arbitration arm, the so-called ICSID [ International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes]. The arbitrations that arise under those instruments are very treaty-intensive and very public international law intensive, so the experience that I acquired in those areas essentially the bread and butter of what I do in these investor-state disputes. At the State Department, I dealt with foreign governments on almost a daily basis. For sovereign representation, representation of governments, you need this kind of background to understand how government decision-making is done.
LT: Can you talk about a few arbitrations you are currently working on? Di Rosa: We are representing the government of Venezuela in claim brought by a Canadian mining company against the government of Venezuela for over a billion dollars for a contract for the exploitation of a gold mine in eastern Venezuela. We also have several claims against the government of Argentina relating to the emergency legislation that was passed in early 2002 following the peso crisis. That legislation really changed the dynamic for a lot of foreign investors. We represent Electricite de France in two ICSID cases in the electrical distribution sector.
LT: Are you expecting an increase of arbitrations to result from the recent rounds of nationalizations in Venezuela? Di Rosa: There are a couple of arbitrations that are in the works, but they haven’t quite germinated yet. We don’t expect to see a huge wave of claims in Venezuela. When it comes down to the legal measures that they take a lot of is entirely consistent with established legal principles. The rhetoric is such that it gets played up a lot in the press and people tend to associate that rhetoric with legal measures that you expect to go along with that rhetoric, but that aren’t in fact materializing. The reality on the ground from a legal perspective is fairly different from what you might expect. They are much more savvy about what they are doing in terms of foreign investors than people might expect.
LT: You are a native Spanish speaker? Di Rosa: Yes, my parents are from Paraguay. I lived there for 10 years as a child.
Working Lunch appears every other week in Legal Times .

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