The American Lawyer named partner Henry Weisburg (New York-International Arbitration) its “Litigator of the Week” for successfully arguing to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that client Abengoa Bioenergia Agricola Ltda.’s $120 million arbitration awards against a Brazilian sugar cane magnate should not be vacated and that the chairman of the arbitral tribunal was not tainted by conflicts of interest. The article notes that after Abengoa had received two arbitration awards as a result of misrepresentations that had been made to Abengoa, lawyers for the opposing party sued to get the awards overturned, arguing that there were conflicts of interest because the tribunal chairman worked at a law firm that was handling major transactions in which Abengoa was involved at the same time that the arbitration was underway. The tribunal chairman (David Rivkin of Debevoise & Plimpton) testified that he was unaware of these representations. The Second Circuit upheld the US District Court’s decision not to vacate the awards, finding that any carelessness on the part of the arbitrator in evaluating the conflicts did not rise to the level of willful blindness.
Coincidentally, both Weisburg and Rivkin had been named The American Lawyer’s “Global Lawyers of the Year” in December 2012, Weisburg for his victory for The Dow Chemical Company and Rivkin for work for Occidental Petroleum.