Denton Nichols

Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP

United States
T:+1 713 651 8304
United States
T:+1 713 651 8304
Denton Nichols

Denton Nichols

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Denton Nichols is a partner in Norton Rose Fulbright's Houston office. Focusing on complex and high-value disputes, Denton regularly handles international arbitrations, investor-state disputes, and international litigation in US courts.

Denton is best known for his representation of clients in the energy, petrochemical, manufacturing, and mining industries. His extensive experience encompasses disputes arising from energy contracts, joint operating agreements, merger and acquisitions, sales of goods, and investment agreements. Being a Spanish and Portuguese speaker, Denton devotes a significant portion of his practice to Latin America.

Denton has been admitted as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), an elite international society of arbitration practitioners.  The Best Lawyers in America has recognized Denton for his expertise in international commercial arbitration (2024). Lawdragon recognized Denton twice in 2023, first in its exclusive 500 Leading Global Litigators list, and second as a Next Generation leader, being only one of five globally and the only one in Texas so recognized in the International Arbitration field.  In addition, the Legal 500 has recommended him for International Arbitration (2023).  He has been honored as a Rising Star (2022) by the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) and for Alternative Dispute Resolution in the inaugural edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch (2021).

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), a Director of the Houston International Arbitration Club (HIAC), and he regularly serves as an instructor to prospective registrants of the Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association (HMAA).

Denton currently serves as Co-Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright's US Pride Network, which aims to foster an inclusive and engaging environment for LGBTQ+ attorneys within the firm as well as to develop relationships with client networks and the wider LGBTQ+ community.

Professional experience

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  • 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.

At Rice University, Denton was inducted as a lifetime member of the Phi Beta Kappa (ΦBK) society and received the Cervantes Award for outstanding scholarship in the Department of Hispanic Studies.

  • Texas State Bar

Energy – Latin America

  • Defended Argentinean oilfield operator as respondent in arbitration in Peru under ICC Rules commenced by South Korean joint venture partners.  The arbitration concerned the allocation under the parties' joint operating agreement of tens of millions of dollars in environmental remediation costs assessed by the Peruvian government.
  • Represented Brazilian 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 Spanish 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 Spanish 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 Spain and Brazil.  The US trial court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims on our client's motion for summary judgment.
  • Advised US midstream company in dispute with Latin American state-owned utility over validity of cross-border gas sale contract.
  • Advised major international consulting firm seeking recovery through AAA arbitration on unpaid invoices for services rendered to Mexican state-owned energy company.


Energy – US and Global

  • Represented multinational energy firm against a MENA State-owned enterprise asserting breaches of an oilfield concession agreement in connection with the firm's divestiture from the in-country project.
  • Represented Asian State-owned energy trading firm through final hearing in ICDR-administered arbitration arising from a long-term contract for crude oil storage at an offshore tank farm in the Carribean.
  • Advised Japanese energy conglomerate in connection with multiple ICDR-governed disputes with business counterparts at a major US liquefied natural gas facility.
  • Defended Australian-based energy producer in AAA arbitration with the owner of a Gulf of Mexico pipeline system who asserted claims exceeding US$ 170 million, which arbitration resulted in a take-nothing award in favor of the claimant.
  • Defended two international energy majors against more than US$ 1 billion in claims asserted in CPR non-administered arbitration.  The dispute arose from the sale of a proprietary gasification technology and related assets.  The case was settled immediately prior to the final hearing for a miniscule fraction of the claimant's total demand.
  • Defended US energy company from multimillion-dollar contractual indemnity claims in AAA arbitration 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 a Chinese 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 had demanded more than US$ 100 million in alleged royalties.
  • Represented Saudi oilfield services company seeking confirmation in Texas of a multimillion-dollar arbitral award rendered in Saudi Arabia.  Over vigorous 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 additionally awarded our client's attorney's fees.
  • Advised West African state-owned energy company regarding its investigation of 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.
  • Represented a US manufacturer of offshore riser buoyancy modules against US$ 60 million of breach-of-warranty and products liability claims asserted by a South Korean customer.  The claims were amicably settled before commencement of ICC and LCIA arbitrations.


Sovereign Disputes

  • Representing multinational energy firm in Paris-seated ICC arbitration against a Sub-Sharan State claiming breach of oilfield and transportation concession agreements, operational deficiencies, and environmental damage.
  • Advised 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.
  • Advised international exploration and production company concerning its international rights as investor against a MENA state 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 Japanese 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.


Product Liability

  • 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.  The case, which included parallel proceedings in France, was settled for a small fraction of the EPC firm's claimed damages.
  • Defended a German manufacturer of offshore umbilical cables for remotely operated vehicles used in Gulf of Mexico energy exploration.  The lawsuit, which had been proceeding in US federal court in Louisiana, settled favourably shortly before trial.
  • 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

  • Representing family office holding companies in New York-seated ICDR arbitraration arising from dissolution of a business relationship intended to acquire and manage a portfolio of museum-quality artworks exceeding US$ 100 million in value.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, jury trials for the City of Houston.
  • The Best Lawyers in America, International Arbitration - Commercial, Best Lawyers, 2024
  • Lawdragon 500 Leading Global Litigators, International Arbitration and Litigation, Lawdragon, 2023
  • Lawdragon 500 X – The Next Generation, International Arbitration and Disputes, Lawdragon, 2023
  • Legal 500 Latin America, Recommended Lawyer, International Arbitration, The Legal 500, 2023
  • International Institute of Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR), Rising Star, 2022
  • 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, "2023 Arbitration and ADR year-in-review," International Law Office (Lexology), January 2024
  • Co-author, "Notices of arbitration: getting off on the right foot," International Arbitration Report, Norton Rose Fulbright, November 2022
  • Co-author, "Recovering costs of enforcement and interest," International Arbitration Report, Norton Rose Fulbright, June 2021
  • Co-author, "Certain Automotive Sales Exempt from Value-Added Tax," Latin American Legal Developments, ABA Section of International Law, June 2005
  • Presenter, Revised Arbitration Rules of the Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association, 32nd Annual David W. Robertson Admiralty and Maritime Law Conference, February 2024
  • Moderator, How Energy Companies Choose to Resolve Disputes Around the World, CPR Institute’s Energy, Oil and Gas Alliance's 7th annual Houston Regional Meeting, January 2024
  • Panelist, Development of the Proceeding Before the Arbitral Tribunal, 2nd International Congress of Arbitration & Mediation (ICC México, Cancún), November 2023
  • Presenter, Key Takeaways from the Norton Rose Fulbright 2023 Annual Litigation Trends Survey (Mexican Institute of Mediation, Mexico City), February 2023
  • Co-Speaker, Whether Naming Mexican Arbitrators Should Be Preferred In Disputes Under Mexican Law (ICC México, Mexico City), February 2023
  • Co-Moderator, Forum, ITA-IEL-ICC Joint Conference on International Energy Arbitration (Houston), January 2023
  • Panelist, Energy Security in a Changing World, Duke International Arbitration Society, November 2022
  • Presenter, Arbitrator Selection in International Arbitration, Client In-House Education and Training Seminar, April 2022
  • Presenter, Role of Courts in International Arbitrations in Texas, ICC México (Comité de Arbitraje Nuevo Léon), February 2022
  • 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
  • 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
  • Director, Houston International Arbitration Club
  • Member, Steering Committe of CPR Young Leaders in Alternative Dispute Resolution (Y-ADR)
  • Member, International Bar Association: Arbitration Committee
  • Member, Young Arbitration & ADR Forum (YAAF), International Chamber of Commerce
  • Member, CPR Arbitration Clause Drafting Manual Committee
  • Member, CPR Challenges and Procedures Task Force
  • Co-Chair, Rules Revision Committee, Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association
  • Member, Houston Bar Association
  • Member, Houston Young Lawyers Association
  • Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish