Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP
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Denton Nichols is a Senior Associate in Norton Rose Fulbright's Houston office. Focusing on complex and high-value disputes, Denton regularly handles international arbitrations, international litigation in US courts, and investor-state disputes. He has been recognized for Alternative Dispute Resolution in the inaugural edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch (2021) and is recommended for International Arbitration by The Legal 500 (2019). Denton has also been admitted as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), an elite international society of arbitration practitioners.
Denton is best known for his representation of clients in the energy, petrochemical, manufacturing, and mining industries. His extensive experience encompasses disputes arising from purchase and sale agreements, energy contracts, joint operating agreements, sales of goods, and investment agreements. Being a Spanish and Portuguese speaker, Denton devotes a significant percentage of his practice to Latin America.
Denton completed both his Juris Doctor in law (with honors) and his Master of Arts in Latin American Studies (4.0 GPA) at the University of Texas, where he also served on the Texas Law Review. Before these studies, Denton was awarded his Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude) from Rice University.
Denton is admitted to practice in the State of Texas and before the US Courts of the Southern District of Texas, Northern District of Texas and Eastern District of Texas. Denton is an Advisory Board Member of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration (ITA), and he regularly serves as an instructor to prospective registrants of the Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association (HMAA).
JD, with honors, The University of Texas School of Law, 2011
MA, Latin American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, 2011
BA, summa cum laude, Sociology and Hispanic Studies, Rice University, 2006
During law school, Denton interned at the Panama Canal Authority, studied civil law at the University of Buenos Aires, and served as a judicial intern to Justice Dale Wainwright of the Texas Supreme Court. After law school, he served as a law clerk to Justice Michael Massengale of the Texas First Court of Appeals in Houston and as a staff attorney to Justice Harvey Brown of the same court.
- Texas State Bar
Energy – Latin America
- Defending Latin American oilfield operator as respondent in ongoing arbitration in Peru under ICC Rules commenced by East Asian joint venture partners. The arbitration concerns the allocation under the parties' joint operating agreement of tens of millions of dollars in environmental remediation costs assessed by the Peruvian government.
- Representing Latin American steel manufacturer as claimant in ICC-governed dispute with US trade broker concerning the contested cancellation of a multimillion-dollar international sale of steel slab.
- Represented European alternative energy developer in complex construction dispute with its EPC contractor. The dispute arose from delays in the construction of an over 300 MW solar power facility in Mexico. The claims and counterclaims of over US$ 50 million were subject to ICC arbitration in Spain.
- Defended European manufacturer of offshore steel chains in high profile, US$ 500 million federal lawsuit brought by the US subsidiary of a Latin American state-owned energy company. The lawsuit spawned parallel proceedings in Europe and Latin America. On our client's motion for summary judgment, the US trial court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims.
- Advised US midstream company in dispute with Latin American state-owned utility over validity of international gas sale contract.
- Advised major international consulting firm seeking recovery through AAA arbitration on unpaid invoices for services rendered to Latin American state-owned energy company.
Energy – US and Global
- Advising East Asian energy conglomerate in connection with multiple ICDR-governed disputes with business counterparts at a major US liquefied natural gas facility.
- Advising international energy producer in AAA-governed contract disputes with the owner of an offshore pipeline system who has asserted claims exceeding US$ 70 million.
- Defended two international energy majors against more than US$ 1 billion in claims asserted in CPR non-administered arbitration. The dispute centred on the sale of a proprietary gasification technology and related assets. The case was settled immediately prior to the final hearing for an extremely small fraction of the claimant's total demand.
- Defended US energy company from multimillion-dollar contractual indemnity claims arising from the purchase and sale of a portfolio of Gulf of Mexico offshore assets. After a full evidentiary hearing, the tribunal rendered a take-nothing award in favour of our client.
- Represented an East Asian owner and operator of an African onshore oil field in successfully compelling arbitration of contract and tort claims filed in Texas federal court. The claimant, a former co-owner of the field, had demanded more than US$ 100 million in alleged royalties.
- Represented MENA oilfield services company seeking confirmation in the US of a multimillion-dollar arbitral award rendered in Middle Eastern country. Despite vigorous opposition that included allegations of impropriety in the underlying arbitration, the US federal court granted our client's motion to recognize and enforce the foreign arbitral award, and the court additionally awarded our client's attorney's fees.
- Advised West African state-owned energy company regarding its investigation into suspicious transactions with US counterparts that had been approved by former company executives.
- Defended a US bank serving as trustee against alleged breaches of fiduciary duty asserted by trust beneficiaries in multiple actions simultaneously asserted in AAA arbitration, in Texas state court, and in Texas federal court. On our client's motions, the trust beneficiaries' claims for approximately US$ 60 million in alleged damages were dismissed in each of these fora.
- Advising international consortium of financial institutions regarding their international rights in connection with criminal investigation and attempted takeover by Latin American sovereign targeting the financial institutions' borrower, a privately held agricultural conglomerate.
- Advising international exploration and production company concerning its international rights as investor against MENA sovereign in connection with multibillion-dollar investments in offshore gas fields.
- Represented international energy major asserting over US$ 100 million in claims in NAFTA arbitration against the Government of Canada under ICSID Arbitration Rules. After the tribunal's post-hearing decision rejecting Canada's objections to jurisdiction and admissibility, the disputing parties reached a history-making settlement.
- Advised international energy major on its planned divestment from an onshore oil field in a high-risk MENA country, which risked triggering ad hoc arbitration with the host sovereign or its state-owned energy company.
- Advised CIS sovereign opposing recognition and enforcement in the US of a US$ 500 million-plus international arbitration award rendered in Sweden under SCC rules.
- Advised East Asian mining company regarding their international rights against a Latin American sovereign in connection with multiple tax and regulatory disputes arising from a major mining investment.
- Advised international energy major on optimal investment structure for preserving international rights in a multibillion-dollar investment in high-risk MENA country.
- Represented international maritime classification society in AAA arbitration seeking a no-liability declaration for over EUR 40 million in alleged damages claimed by major European EPC firm arising from failure of a certified offshore component. The case was settled for a small fraction of the EPC firm's claimed damages.
- Defended a European manufacturer of offshore umbilical cables for remotely operated vehicles used in offshore energy exploration. The lawsuit, which had been proceeding in US federal court in Louisiana, settled favourably shortly before trial.
- Represented a US manufacturer of offshore riser buoyancy modules against breach-of-warranty and products liability claims asserted by an East Asian customer. The claims were amicably settled before commencement of ICC and LCIA arbitrations.
- Represented a US automotive manufacturer in multiple appeals arising from accidental automobile deaths in which the plaintiffs alleged defective design or manufacture.
- Represented US manufacturer of industrial components in multiple personal injury actions alleging asbestos contamination.
Additional Highlighted Experience
- Defended a leading paper manufacturer in a high-profile environmental dispute with local Texas government. The government sought US$ 1.6 billion in penalties for alleged violations of various Texas environmental statutes based on alleged contamination of a public waterway. Following an eight-week jury trial in state court in Houston, the jury rendered a zero liability verdict. The judgment was later affirmed on appeal.
- Defended international security firm in CPR non-administered arbitration against claims by former business counterpart for alleged breach of contract and theft of trade secrets arising from operations in West Africa. The dispute was settled for a fraction of the claimant's initial demand.
- Advised major international EPC firm in connection with preparations to launch emergency ICC proceedings against East Asian project owner threatening to draw on performance bonds. The dispute was resolved on amicable terms shortly before commencement of ICC proceedings.
- Advised international petrochemical major in disputes arising from the purchase of petrochemical businesses in India. The dispute was settled amicably before commencement of arbitration under LCIA-India Arbitration Rules.
- Defended a US-based family foundation against breach-of-contract claims asserted by a European charity, which claims were subject to arbitration under SCC Rules. The claims were settled for a nominal amount.
- Represented US real estate owner in fast-track AAA arbitration against general contractor. The dispute was settled favourably shortly before the final hearing.
- Represented international industrial manufacturer against its insurer in action for bad faith refusal to indemnify and defend. The dispute was tried in federal court in Pennsylvania and was settled favourably before judgment was rendered.
- Advised Latin American firm under investigation by US government in connection with alleged wide-scale bribery scheme involving government officials in multiple Latin American and African jurisdictions.
- Tried, as first-chair prosecutor, multiple jury trials for the City of Houston.
- Legal 500 US, recommended lawyer, International Arbitration, The Legal 500, 2019-2021
- The Best Lawyers in America, Ones to Watch, Best Lawyers, 2021
- Co-author, "Certain Automotive Sales Exempt from Value-Added Tax," Latin American Legal Developments, ABA Section of International Law, June 2005
- Instructor, HMAA Arbitrator Training Seminar, Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association, January 2019 and January 2017
- Presenter, Recent Developments in International Arbitration, Second Annual Business Litigation Summit for In-House Counsel (Houston), November 2018
- Co-Presenter, Ten Developments You Need to Know in International Arbitration, Association of Corporate Counsel, July 2018
- Panelist, Third-Party Funding in International Arbitration, International Centre for Dispute Resolution's Young & International Group, June 2017
- Panelist, International Law Careers, South Texas College of Law Houston, February 2016
- Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
- Advisory Board Member, Institute for Transnational Arbitration
- Member, Houston International Arbitration Club
- Member, Houston Bar Association
- Member, Houston Young Lawyers Association
- Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation
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