20 February 2024

Yukos shareholders secure victory in $50 Billion arbitration dispute

Tobias Cohen JehoramRenate Keijser+ 5 other team members

In the legal battle that has drawn attention worldwide for over a decade, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal today upheld the $50 billion arbitration awards in favour of the former majority shareholders of Yukos Oil Company, effectively dismissing the Russian Federation's last-standing challenge against the decision. This ruling is a decisive step in one of the most significant legal disputes in the realm of international arbitration. It also underscores the inviolability of international law and treaties.

Back in 2014, an independent tribunal in The Hague found the Russian Federation responsible for the unlawful expropriation of Yukos, once Russia's largest oil producer. The arbitral awards, demanding Russia to compensate the shareholders with over $50 billion, were based on violations of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT). The Russian Federation has raised a claim to set aside the awards before the Dutch courts. After the rulings of The Hague Court of Appeal and the Dutch Supreme Court in 2020 and 2021, all but one setting aside ground were rejected.

The remaining setting aside ground that was now dealt with by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal, was the allegation that the former majority shareholders of Yukos had committed fraud during the arbitrations. In an extensively reasoned judgment the Amsterdam Court of Appeal found these allegations to be introduced at too late a stage, and also irrelevant to the original decision or insufficient to alter its outcome. The court's finding effectively reaffirms the integrity of the arbitration process and the finality of its awards.

With the dismissal of the Russian Federation's last ground for setting aside, the focus of the Yukos shareholders now shifts to the enforcement of the $50 billion judgment. This entails initiating proceedings against Russian state assets across the globe, an effort that is already underway with significant legal victories in England and the United States. These jurisdictions have recently rejected Russia's attempts to claim state immunity, thereby advancing the shareholders' efforts to secure recognition and enforcement of the arbitration awards.

De Brauw represented the former majority shareholders in all proceedings before the Dutch courts, including the Supreme Court.