Hogan Lovells obtains multimillion final arbitration award against the Dominican Republic, involving issues of first impression

Hogan Lovells obtains multimillion final arbitration award against the Dominican Republic, involving issues of first impression

Press releases | 10 October 2023

Miami, 10 October 2023 – Global law firm Hogan Lovells has obtained a Final Award from an UNCITRAL Arbitral Tribunal in a case that involved issues of first impression under the CARICOM-DR Free Trade Agreement (Treaty). This follows Hogan Lovells’ initial success in this matter after having obtained a Partial Award on Jurisdiction in favor of our client in July 2020. 

Our client, Michael Anthony Lee-Chin, brought a claim under the Treaty against the Dominican Republic involving an investment he made in a Dominican company.  Lee-Chin’s investment consisted of 90% of the shares in Lajun Corporation S.A., a Dominican company which held a concession contract to manage a landfill in Santo Domingo. The concession was performed under the supervision of Lee-Chin’s son, Adrian Christopher Lee-Chin, who served as Lajun’s General Manager. 

In 2017, the Dominican Republic took military control of the landfill, as well as brought local actions to nullify and terminate the concession agreement based on an alleged environmental emergency.  Lee-Chin initiated an investment arbitration against the Dominican Republic as a result of the State’s multiple violations of the Treaty, which included various arbitrary acts intended to force Mr. Lee-Chin to operate the landfill without receiving a fair tipping fee. 

After more than five years of arbitral proceedings, multiple rounds of substantive briefs (jurisdictional and merits), two document production phases, a two-day jurisdictional hearing, an arduous six-day final hearing on the merits, and significant post-hearing briefs, on 6 October 2023, the Arbitral Tribunal issued its Final Award in favor of Lee-Chin.  

In the Final Award, the Tribunal found that the Dominican Republic violated its obligations under the Treaty regarding expropriation and fair and equitable treatment, as well as breached the Treaty’s umbrella clause. In reparation for these violations, the Arbitral Tribunal ordered the Dominican Republic to pay Mr. Lee-Chin a sum in excess of US$43.59 million, plus interest (roughly calculated to be approximately US$14 million).

Agreeing with the arguments made by Hogan Lovells, the Tribunal rejected all remaining jurisdictional and admissibility objections filed by the Dominican Republic, and held that “the termination of the Concession Agreement was part of a larger effort by the State to actually eject Claimant from the operation of the investment.” The Tribunal further determined that “no pattern of reasonableness or plausible justifications may be discerned in [the Dominican Republic’s] changing attitudes throughout the investment.”  

Consequently, the Arbitral Tribunal concluded that the Dominican Republic “must compensate Claimant for the damages it actually caused as a result of violating its obligations under the terms of the Treaty.” 

The Hogan Lovells team was led by Regional Managing Partner - Americas Richard C. Lorenzo and partner Maria Eugenia Ramirez, with the support of partner Mark Cheskin, senior associate Juliana de Valdenebro, foreign law clerk Maria Lucia Echandia, and paralegal Marta Urra, all in the firm’s Miami office. The team was also supported by senior counsel Gonzalo Rodríguez-Matos (New York), senior associate Orlando Federico Cabrera (Mexico City), attorney Poopak Nourafchan (Los Angeles), and former associates Gabriella Morello, Javier Peral and William Homer, also from the Miami office.

Further details on the 2020 Partial Award can be found here