GC Powerlist > GC Powerlist: Russia


For 28 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist (formerly the Corporate Counsel 100) is the latest publication from The Legal 500, turning its attention to the in-house function, and recognising those corporate counsel who are driving the legal business forward. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: Russia, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region ...read more


GC Powerlist: Russia

(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)

   Russia: An Overview

T‌he sanctions imposed on Russia by the US, the European Union, Japan and a number of other states in response to Russia’s role in the Ukrainian crisis have had a significant impact on the legal market and have added to the uncertainty surrounding the Russian economy. This factor combined with the sanctions against a number of Russian financial institutions has sparked a collapse in inbound foreign investment and triggered a flight of capital out of Russia. The corporate, commercial and capital markets practices of a number of law firms have consequently seen a significant fall in new instructions. A number of UK and US firms have also opted to stop acting for sanctioned entities and individuals, leaving a gap that Russian law firms have been only too keen to fill. The increasing role of state-owned firms in the Russian economy, and their willingness to adopt Russian law when engaging in transactions, has added impetus to this movement.

Foreign investors that are already embedded in Russia remain active and continue to provide a steady flow of instructions for law firms, notably in real estate and domestic M&A. Dispute resolution, where international and Russian firms compete on an equal footing, remains an active area. The country’s two former highest courts were merged into one Supreme Court located in St Petersburg, although the impact of this remains to be seen.

Few sanctions-related disputes have hit the courts yet, but contentious and non-contentious advice is top of the agenda for international advisers in Russia.

While their transactional colleagues in Moscow are suffering, the current sanctions on Russia have been a boon to trade and sanctions lawyers, who are fielding countless enquiries from Russian and international clients. The fact that the sanctions are so multi-layered, leaving plenty of scope for interpretation, has increased the demand, particularly when it comes to deciding what constitutes a controlling stake in a company, something that was relevant to the designated Russian individuals who were named in the first few rounds of sanctions and who owned stakes in many different companies. This uncertainty has, in many respects, been more damaging to Russian business than the sanctions themselves, something that the US authorities were fully aware of when they rolled them out.

This is very different from the more wide-ranging sanctions that have previously been imposed on countries such as Iran, Libya or Cuba, but the fact that the US and EU economies have far stronger ties to Russia has meant that the demands for advice have increased significantly.

As to whether the Ukraine crisis and the resultant sanctions will lead to full-blown disputes, most agree that it isn’t a case of if but when. Nothing concrete has hit the courts yet, although companies are already starting to put together challenges to the sanctions, particularly in the EU.

A precedent has already been set by Iran’s central bank that successfully had an EU asset freeze lifted following challenges in the EU courts, and the hope is that certain Russian businesses will be able to do the same.

In the US, Gazprombank has also instructed a team of lobbyists to lobby against the debt financing restrictions that were imposed by the US Treasury. On top of breach of contract claims arising from companies affected by the sanctions, another likely source of disputes will be related to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, particularly in regard to businesses that had assets in the region. In these cases, the disputes will probably fall under investment treaty rules, although even here it is unclear how one could shape a claim because Crimea is still disputed territory.

The challenge of finding legal representation works both ways and certain Russian individuals and institutions on the sanctions list have been dropped by their law firms during a dispute. This is a fact that many lawyers find deeply troubling, particularly since those on the sanctions list haven’t necessarily done anything wrong, but the sanctions, particularly from the US, are limiting their access to legal representation.

‘There are areas, such as international arbitration, and particularly highly specialised areas such as investor-treaty arbitration,’ says Alex Gerbi at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, ‘where if international firms are precluded from working for certain Russian clients, and those are the only firms that have serious capability in the area, this could prejudice the position of those clients quite significantly if they are faced with material disputes in those areas.’

Our partners

The Moscow office limits its practice to business disputes both in Russian courts at all levels and in all regions, and in international arbitrations in all major arbitral centers around the world. The Moscow office is also active in conducting internal investigations for foreign companies facing both criminal investigations and civil lawsuits in their home countries. For example, it has performed many investigations under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and its UK counterpart.

Our 10-lawyer Moscow team is led by partners Ivan Marisin and Vasily Kuznetsov, both of whom are highly ranked by all legal publications that cover the Moscow market.

Ivan Marisin is the Managing Partner of the Moscow office and European Chair of the firm’s International Arbitration Practice. He has represented hundreds of domestic Russian and international clients in major litigations and arbitrations for over 20 years. These include many cases involving the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments and awards in Russia. He is a member of the Moscow Bar and an accredited arbitrator at the International Commercial Arbitration Court at the Chamber of Industry of the Russian Federation (ICAC), the International Arbitral Center in Vienna, and other leading arbitration forums. He is ranked in the top-tier of practitioners for dispute resolution by Chambers Global, Chambers Europe, and Legal 500 EMEA.

Vasily Kuznetsov also specializes in business dispute resolution. He has worked with Ivan Marisin for more than 10 years. He has represented domestic and international clients in major litigation and arbitration, including in commercial cases involving the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments and awards in Russia. He has been described as a “rising star” and “dynamic practitioner” by Chambers Global.

Complex financial disputes are at the core of the QE Moscow practice. Our Moscow partners are highly experienced in complex cross-border corporate disputes. They work in tandem with the firm’s market-leading complex financial products practice in London and New York to give the companies we represent seamless transatlantic service.

The firm’s Moscow partners have deep experience arbitrating complex international cases in virtually every business sector. These include disputes under the auspices of the ICC, LCIA, UNCITRAL, CIETAC, ICSID, ICDR, the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, English Arbitration Act, and their counterparts in Vienna, Warsaw, and Moscow. They were also successful in enforcement cases and in other arbitration-related proceedings in Russia and other countries.

The firm’s Moscow partners also have extensive experience conducting internal investigations for foreign companies doing business in Russia.


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