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The firm remains a name in Brazilian arbitration despite the departure of the co-chair of its practice to form her own boutique
Based in São Paulo, LO Baptista Advogados has long been highly regarded for its two core practice areas of arbitration, and corporate and M&A. The arbitration practice acquired its reputation under the leadership of Luiz Olavo Baptista, a former chairman of the World Trade Organization’s appellate body and one of Brazil’s most famous arbitrators. He left the firm in 2015 to concentrate on his practice as arbitrator and sadly died in 2019.
In 2011, LO Baptista merged with Schmidt Valois Miranda Ferreira & Agel, a Rio de Janeiro firm best known for its work in energy, natural resources and infrastructure. The merger – an unheard-of proposition in Brazil at that time – was initially successful. But growing conflicts of interest between the energy and disputes practices led to the unravelling of the merger in 2016. The two firms continue to collaborate on certain cases.
Until recently the practice was co-led by Maurício Almeida Prado and Adriana Braghetta, a former vice president of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration and chair of the Brazilian Arbitration Committee. Braghetta has now left the firm to set up her own boutique in in São Paulo, where she will mostly take on arbitrator appointments.
This leaves Prado in sole charge of the practice. He too sits as an arbitrator, as do partners Fernando Marcondes, who specialises in construction disputes, and Paulo Macedo Garcia Neto, who is admitted to several regional Brazilian arbitration councils.
Though the firm lost its office in Rio after the split, it retains its membership of ALFA International, a network of 145 law firms across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Who uses it?
The firm has acted for Angola and its national diamond company, Endiama, in an investment dispute; and Brazilian retail company Via Varejo used the firm in a shareholder dispute between its parent group CBD and Brazilian billionaire socialite Lily Safra.
A large number of its clients come from the energy, construction, telecoms, banking and mining sectors, and include government entities.
The firm helped Brazil’s national development bank BNDES defeat a US$250 million claim brought by Ecuador’s state power utility Hidropastaza, which concerned a loan for a hydropower plant.
It won a US$200 million ICC arbitration that pitched two Brazilian construction companies against a European energy company.
The firm helped a client win US$80 million in a dispute over an electricity supply contract involving a party under judicial reorganisation. A final award was rendered in 2015 granting the client most of its claims.
The death of Luiz Olavo Baptista in October 2019 led to an outpouring of admiration and affection from the arbitration community in Brazil and across the world.
The firm is tight-lipped about the cases it has worked on. It is currently working on an arbitration involving a public-private partnership contract related to the construction and operation of a major infrastructure project, where the state’s alleged contractual defaults led to a significant imbalance of the contract.
There is also a pending case involving several agreements regarding the construction and operation of biomass power plants, where the dispute relates to the respondent’s multiple contractual defaults.
It says it secured a final award in favour of its client in a dispute on contractual liabilities arising out of an insurance contract.