Christopher Seppälä

Partner Of Counsel, Paris

Biography

“Phenomenal on construction cases”
Chambers Global 2017 (France)

Overview

Mr. Seppälä's main areas of practice are international commercial arbitration and international construction. He also has had substantial experience in commercial and financial matters generally, in common law, civil law and Islamic law jurisdictions.

He founded the international arbitration practice of the Paris office of White & Case in 1988 and has represented or counseled parties in relation to disputes under the principal rules of international arbitration.  He has represented multi-national corporations and banks, as well as sovereign States or their State-owned entities (Algeria, Bulgaria, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Iran, Kuwait, Peru and Qatar), in international arbitrations, and served as chairman of the tribunal or co-arbitrator in numerous such cases.

He specializes in international construction claims and disputes in relation to civil engineering, industrial (including nuclear) and building projects, as well as claims under contracts in the oil and gas industry. He was Legal Advisor (and Member) of FIDIC's Update Task Group which prepared the three FIDIC conditions of contract for major works (the "Red", "Yellow" and "Silver" Books), published in 1999 and advised FIDIC in relation to the latest (2017) edition of the Red, Yellow and Silver Books as well as FIDIC's new conditions of contract for underground works, published in 2019 (the "Emerald" Book).  He has been Legal Advisor to the FIDIC Contracts Committee continuously since 2000.

Mr. Seppälä is a former Vice-President Emeritus of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC, and currently serves as FIDIC's official Observer on the ICC International Court of Arbitration. He was a member of the working group which prepared the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts 2016 and co-chair of the committee which produced the 2019 update of the ICC Commission’s Report on Construction Industry Arbitrations: Recommended Tools and Techniques for Effective Management.

He is a lecturer on international construction contracts to post-graduates at Paris University (Panthéon-Assas).

Bars and Courts
New York State Bar
Paris Bar
Education
JD
Columbia Law School
BA
Harvard University
Languages
English
French

Experience

International Arbitration Experience

I. Experience as Counsel in International Arbitrations

  • Lead counsel for a European electrical utility in two ICC arbitrations relating to the design and construction of a nuclear power plant (2000 MWe).
  • Lead counsel for another European electrical utility in two ICC arbitrations relating to an EPC contract for the design and construction of a nuclear power plant (1630 MWe).
  • Lead counsel for a Middle Eastern developer in four related ICC arbitrations in Paris involving a dispute with a contractor concerning a major land remediation project, as well as ancillary court proceedings in the United States.
  • Lead counsel for a consortium of major European contractors in an LCIA arbitration in London relating to claims arising out of construction of one of the largest privately-financed (BOT) infrastructure projects in Europe. 
  • Lead counsel or co-counsel for the consortium of European contractors, mentioned in the previous paragraph, in two separate ICC arbitrations in London concerning disputes with subcontractors arising out of the same privately-financed infrastructure project.
  • Lead counsel for an African oil-producing State and an oil company in an ICC arbitration in Paris, brought by two Western oil companies concerning the interpretation of the State's standard form of production-sharing contract.
  • Lead counsel for an African State-owned entity in an ICC arbitration in Paris, governed by the African State's law relating to the construction of a major dam and hydro-electric plant in Africa.
  • Lead counsel for an Asian contractor in an ICC arbitration in Paris concerning technical and other disputes related to the supply and erection of a special steel plant in Egypt, and supervision of ancillary court litigation in Egypt and the United States relating to the call of our client's performance bond.
  • Lead counsel for a major European industrial company in an ICC arbitration in London relating to a real estate project in China, including supervision of ancillary court litigation in London, England, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Shanghai, China.
  • Lead counsel for a Middle Eastern contractor, a partner in a joint venture having a contract for the construction of a highway in an Arab State and a co-defendant with a second partner in such joint venture, in an ICC arbitration in Paris brought against them by the third partner in such joint venture for an accounting.
  • Lead counsel for an Arab contractor, the claimant, in an ICC arbitration against an Asian State relating to the construction of the main airport in such State.
  • Co-counsel for a Saudi individual in an ICC arbitration relating to a dispute among the members of a joint venture holding the exclusive contract for the freight-forwarding of arms from the United States to Saudi Arabia.
  • Co-counsel for a joint venture of European contractors in an ICC arbitration against an Arab State concerning a port project in that State.
  • Lead counsel for a syndicate of European and Arab banks, the claimant, under an insurance policy, in an ad hoc arbitration in Amman, Jordan against the issuer of such policy, The Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation in Kuwait, and in supervision of successful proceedings to enforce the award in the courts of Belgium, France, Jordan and Kuwait.
  • Lead counsel for a consortium of Asian contractors, the main contractor and a defendant in an ICC arbitration brought by its civil works subcontractor in relation to the construction of a hydroelectric project in the Middle East.
  • Lead counsel (appointed by an Arab State's minister of oil) for an Arab State-owned company, the defendant, in an UNCITRAL arbitration brought by a contractor in relation to the construction of works for a major gas project in the Arab Gulf.
  • Lead counsel for a Saudi cement manufacturer, the claimant, in an ICC arbitration in relation to a contract with a European cement buyer, the defendant.
  • Lead counsel for a European contractor, the claimant, in an ad hoc arbitration in Lesotho, Africa, against a Lesotho State-owned body relating to the construction of a road.
  • Lead counsel for Euro-Disney, the defendant, in relation to the first two ICC arbitrations that arose under contracts for the construction of the Euro-Disneyland theme park outside of Paris.
  • Lead counsel for an Arab State's ministry of public works, the defendant, in the defense of an ICC arbitration brought by a local contractor for the construction of a major public building in an Arab country. 
  • Lead counsel for an Asian contractor, the defendant in an UNCITRAL arbitration brought by the Arab owner of an LNG plant claiming the plant had been defectively constructed.
  • Lead counsel for owner of a Pakistani cement plant, the defendant, in an ICC arbitration brought by a European contractor whose contract had been terminated by the owner.
  • Lead counsel for a European contractor, the defendant, in an ICC arbitration brought by its European subcontractor based on a "pay-when-paid" clause in a subcontract to build a road in an African country.
  • Lead counsel for Telecommunications Company of Iran, the defendant, in an arbitration brought by American Bell International, Inc. before the Iran-US Claims Tribunal (The Hague) in relation to a major telecommunications project in Iran.
  • Lead counsel (appointed by Egypt's State Lawsuit Authority) for an Egyptian State-owned company in an ICC arbitration concerning the construction of a major power plant on the Nile.
  • Lead counsel for a US architectural firm, a co-defendant with a European contractor, in an ICC arbitration brought by an Arab hotel owner for alleged defects in the construction of a hotel in the Middle East.
  • Lead counsel for a French contractor in relation to five joined ICC arbitration cases against the Libyan State relating to the construction of a major housing project and related utilities near Benghazi, Libya.
  • Lead counsel for a Scandinavian contractor in relation to a dispute with an Iranian joint venture partner in relation to a housing project in Iran.
  • Lead counsel for a Scandinavian subcontractor in an ICC arbitration against a Dutch main contractor in relation to a housing project for a university in the Middle East.

II. Experience as Arbitrator in International Arbitrations

  • Chairman of ICC Arbitral Tribunal in relation to a claim by a European business agent against a European contractor who was awarded a "hook-up" contract for an off shore oil and gas project in the Middle East.
  • Chairman of an ICC Arbitral Tribunal in relation to a dispute under a subcontract involving an off shore oil project in the North Sea.
  • Co-arbitrator in an ICC arbitration relating to a claim by a Latin American sub-contractor against a European main contractor in relation to construction of a hydroelectric project in Latin America.
  • Co-arbitrator in an ICC arbitration relating to a claim under a gas supply contract by a US purchaser against a gas supplier owned by an Arab State.
  • Co-arbitrator in an ICC arbitration relating to construction claims by a European contractor against an Arab State.

 

Speaking Engagements

"Contractors and Employers sharing their experiences of how the Egyptian market has dealt with flotation of the Egyptian pound in 2016 and delays due to economic unrest", November 20, 2017: SCL-ICC Conference, Cairo (Conference moderator)

"La liberté contractuelle d'organiser le règlement des différends dans les grands contrats internationaux", September 21, 2017: Training session on ADR, Bouygues' head office, Guyancourt

"Practice of International Construction Contracts in France" conference, May 31, 2017: Young Professionals of Construction in Paris (YPCP), Université II Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris (Opening speech)

"Practice of International Construction Contracts in France" conference, May 31, 2017: Young Professionals of Construction in Paris (YPCP), Université II Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris (Opening speech)

"Practice of International Construction Contracts in France" conference, May 31, 2017: Young Professionals of Construction in Paris (YPCP), Université II Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris (Opening speech)

"Multi-tier dispute resolution clauses – Dispute Boards", May 20, 2017: postgraduate diploma entitled Diplôme Universitaire International Construction Contracts (DUI2C), Paris Panthéon-Assas University, Paris (Lecture)

"Introduction to Dispute Resolution", May 20, 2017: postgraduate diploma entitled Diplôme Universitaire International Construction Contracts (DUI2C), Paris Panthéon-Assas University, Paris (Lecture)

"The statute of limitations in construction disputes under Romanian law", April 25, 2017: ICC, Paris

 

Publications

Mr. Seppälä has written more than eighty articles or book reviews on international arbitration or construction for various professional journals. These include:

"How More International Arbitrations can be Amicably Settled (Como Mais Arbitragens Internacionais podem ser Resolvidas Amigavelmente)", Revista de Arbitragem e Mediação (Brazil), Vol. 55 ano 14, 2017

"Recent Case Law on Dispute Boards", Dossier XV of the ICC Institute of World Business Law, 2017

"Why Finland Should Adopt the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration", Journal of International Arbitration, issue 34.4, 2017

"The New Assistance ICC Provides to Protect the Confidentiality of a ‘Sealed Offer’", ICC Dispute Resolution Bulletin, Issue 1, 2017 (co-author with Paul Brumpton and Mariele Coulet-Diaz)

"Commentary on Recent ICC Arbitral Awards Dealing with Dispute Adjudication Boards under FIDIC Contracts", The International Construction Law Review, Vol. 33, Part 3, 2016

"The Second Persero case before the Singapore Court of Appeal", Construction Law International, Vol. 10, Issue 4, 2015

"Sub-Clause 20.7 of the FIDIC Red Book Does Not Justify Denying Enforcement of a 'Binding' DAB decision", Construction Law International, Vol. 6, Issue 3, 2011

"Libyan Civil Unrest – Contractor's Remedies', White & Case Insight: Construction, March 20, 2011, (co-authored with Nicolas Bouchardie)

"Enforcement by an Arbitral Award of a Binding But Not Final Engineer's or DAB's Decision Under the FIDIC Conditions", The International Construction Law Review, Vol. 26, Part 4, 2009

"The Development of a Case Law in Construction Disputes Relating to FIDIC Contracts", Precedent in International Arbitration, edited by E. Gaillard and Y. Banifatemi, JurisNet, LLC, New York, 2008

"Obtaining The Right International Arbitral Tribunal: A Practitioner's View", The International Construction Law Review, Vol. 25, Part 2, 2008

Download Full List of Publications

 

Awards and Recognition

Ranked as the "Most Highly Regarded" lawyer in France for construction and as a "Global Elite Thought Leader" for construction in Europe by Who's Who Legal.

Listed as a leading lawyer in international arbitration in:
Chambers Global, The World's Leading Lawyers
Décideurs Juridiques et Financiers
Legal 500, Paris
Who's Who Legal

Louis Prangey Award, FIDIC's highest accolade for meritorious service.

Listed as a leading lawyer in international construction/real estate in:
Legal 500, Paris
Who's Who Legal