International Arbitration Newsletter - October 2021 | Regional Overview: The Americas
The most relevant updates of The Americas from the global International Arbitration and ADR practice group at Garrigues.
Italian company seeks to enforce 7-year old award
Italian construction company, Webuild, has recently applied to the US District Court for the District of Columbia to enforce an ICSID award against Argentina valued at US$21.3 million. The award in question was issued in 2014, when the arbitral tribunal found that in 2006 Argentina had indirectly expropriated Webuild’s investment, at the time known as Salini Impregilo.
In the early 2000s, Argentina underwent a severe economic recession, which drove the country to unpeg its currency, the Argentinian peso, from the US dollar, and freeze its tariff rates. Salini Impregilo was at the time a majority stakeholder in Aguas del Gran Buenos Aires, which had been awarded a water service concession for the province of Buenos Aires. The “pesofication” policy prevented Aguas del Gran Buenos Aires from billing its charges to its customers, resulting in the company suspending its water provision service, which drove the government to withdraw the concession. Salini Impregilo successfully alleged that Argentina’s actions had significantly altered the economic operations of Aguas del Gran Buenos Aires and amounted to a breach of the Fair and Equitable Treatment (FET) protectionunder the Argentina-Italy BIT. Argentina has since failed to pay the damages under the award. Salini Impregilo, and later Webuild, have apparently been attempting for years to negotiate with Argentina to settle the damages, with reportedly very little success, which has resulted in the Italian company trying to enforce the award in the US.
Canadian mining company threatens ICSID arbitration
Petaquilla Minerals, a Canada-registered mining Company, has threatened to file an ICSID arbitration against Panama for allegedly breaching its investment protection obligations under the Canada-Panama BIT. Petaquilla Minerals, which acts in Panama under its local subsidiary, Petaquilla Gold, was granted a gold-mining concession in 2005. The operation of the mine has been plagued with controversy. The company has been accused of severely damaging the local environment as well as failing to pay its royalties and having over US$11 million due in workers’ salaries over their work in the mine.
The Panamanian government cancelled the mining concession in 2015, an action that Petaquilla Minerals claims is unjustified and tantamount to a breach of FET under the Canada-Panama BIT.