GIR Awards 2021 – The Winners

GIR unveiled the top 30 investigations practices, announced this year’s Most Impressive Investigations Practice and presented the Outstanding Career Award 2021 during a black-tie dinner at the Four Seasons in Washington, DC.

The Most Impressive Investigations Practice of the Year Award was claimed by Paul Hastings, for its impressive track record of results over the past year. The firm was part of a team representing Goldman Sachs on its record-breaking $2.9 billion 1MDB resolution with 10 authorities; it successfully completed an FCPA monitorship of Panasonic Avionics; helped two other companies finish their monitorships; and guided German software company SAP to an $8 million settlement over US trade violations in the first of its kind under the National Security Division’s revamped voluntary self-disclosure programme. 

The Goldman Sachs resolution meanwhile, has been recognised as the Most Important Development of the Year. The case – which saw criminal charges brought against a Goldman Sachs subsidiary – and surprised many with the sheer volume of countries involved, including authorities in the US, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. The settlement demonstrated great strides in international cooperation and set a new bar for corporate FCPA settlements – it included the largest penalty imposed under the foreign bribery statute. 

Karen Seymour and Nicolas Bourtin at Sullivan & Cromwell received the inaugural Investigations Professional of the Year award for their leading roles on the Goldman Sachs settlement. Bourtin took charge of the defence along an army of defence counsel, while Seymour went in-house at Goldman to take the reins from within the bank. The bank’s CEO described Seymour, now back at Sullivan & Cromwell, as being key in negotiating the 1MDB settlement, which didn’t include a monitor.

The Most Important Court Case of the Year Award was handed to the German Supreme Court upholding the first cum-ex convictions, a practice that allows shareholders to claim multiple tax credits on a dividend that was paid and taxed only once. The country’s highest court made a splash in July when it upheld the convictions of UK nationals Martin Shields and Nicholas Diable for the practice. Local practitioners say the decision is a huge win for prosecutors in Germany, and sets the stage for increased cum-ex enforcement in the coming years.

SNC-Lavalin’s chief integrity officer, Hentie Dirker, won the Outstanding In-House Counsel award for his work at the Canadian engineering company throughout a World Bank monitorship. In April the World Bank decided to end SNC’s debarment two years early after it successfully completed the monitorship and revamped its compliance programme. The bank had debarred SNC for 10 years in 2013 after the company was found to have paid bribes in Bangladesh and committed further misconduct in Cambodia.

The Investigations Consultancy of the Year award went to StoneTurn. The firm is recognised for its impressive work supporting Volkswagen’s monitor Larry Thompson. Last year, the German carmaker successfully completed a three-year monitorship as part of a US settlement resolving conduct that it cheated emissions tests. StoneTurn played an integral role in seeing the monitorship to fruition by providing forensic and project management expertise. 

The Geneva Public Prosecutor’s Office took home the award for Enforcement Agency or Prosecutor of the Year over its significant victory in January when it obtained the conviction of mining magnate Beny Steinmetz. A court found Steinmetz guilty of bribing a public official in Guinea to secure a lucrative iron-ore mining licence – a project that has been the subject of corruption probes across the globe. 

Brazilian boutique FeldensMadruga won the Boutique or Regional Investigations Practice of the Year award for helping two multinational clients wrap up global foreign bribery settlements over the past year. The firm acted for Scottish energy company Wood Group in the Brazilian portion of a $177 million global corruption settlement. It also acted for European energy trading company Vitol, alongside US firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, in a $164 million bribery settlement the company reached in December with authorities in the US and Brazil. 

The winner of the GIR Award for Services to Diversity is Joydeep Sengupta at Mayer Brown. Sengupta set up an LGBT+ network at the firm in Paris last year and frequently speaks out about creating a more inclusive work environment in the legal profession, including in the white-collar space. Sengupta has also filed a case to recognise same-sex marriage in India for overseas Indian citizens.

The final presentation of the night was dedicated to Tim Dickinson, senior counsel at Paul Hastings, the recipient of GIR’s Outstanding Career Award 2021. Dickinson is a towering figure in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act world, having served as an FCPA monitor several times over, and having defended a plethora of companies in US-led foreign bribery investigations. He has also helped businesses such as Universal Corporation develop their compliance programmes and is a frequent adviser on World Bank matters. Beyond that, he’s played an invaluable role in helping to shape anti-corruption efforts at home and abroad, and passed on his experiences to many new generations of lawyers, at Michigan Law and elsewhere. 

In a testament to his impact on the anti-corruption and investigations communities, Dickinson was honoured at the ceremony with a video tribute featuring his friends and colleagues, which included former senior officials from the DOJ, the World Bank and the OECD. He was also lauded by three current or former general counsel, a chief compliance officer, as well as a former president of the American Bar Association.

At the start of the night, GIR unveiled the GIR 30, an overview of the firms with the strongest international investigations practices. The list is based on firms’ GIR 100 submissions detailing their work over the past two years. For more information on how the list is compiled please see the methodology

The GIR 30

1Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
2Debevoise & Plimpton
3Covington & Burling
4Kirkland & Ellis
5WilmerHale
6Paul Hastings
7Sidley Austin
8Hogan Lovells
9Clifford Chance
10Latham & Watkins
11Baker McKenzie
12Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
13Sullivan & Cromwell
14Mayer Brown
15Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
16Morrison Foerster
17King & Spalding
18Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
19Ropes & Gray
20Herbert Smith Freehills
21Dechert
22Allen & Overy
23Steptoe & Johnson
24Davis Polk & Wardwell
25Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison
26Miller & Chevalier
27Willkie Farr & Gallagher
28White & Case
29Arnold & Porter
30DLA Piper

Get unlimited access to all Global Investigations Review content