Sovereign Practice
An Opportunity Seized
No history of White & Case would be complete without reference to the enormous significance of the mandate won in 1975 from the government of Indonesia on a major debt rescheduling. This opportunity arose a few months after Jim Hurlock had returned to the New York office and was important in several ways. It was the first rescheduling of sovereign debt in recent history; it was the first sovereign debt rescheduling undertaken by the Firm; it was the Firm’s first significant foray into Asia; and, perhaps most important of all, it provided a launchpad for other sovereign work around the world.
The roots of the Indonesian debt problem lay in commitments that Pertamina, the Indonesian state oil company, had made to charter oil tankers. Pertamina borrowed billions of dollars to finance the commitments in what later transpired to be a fraudulent arrangement between an Indonesian general and a discredited trader. When the tanker market collapsed, Pertamina was saddled with huge debts, mostly to foreign banks, which it could not repay. That resulted in a cross-default under credit agreements of the Republic with various banks and other lending institutions.
The Indonesian government called on three investment banking houses—Kuhn, Loeb & Co., Lazard Frères & Co. and S.G. Warburg & Co.—for urgent advice on how to deal with the crisis. The “troika” of investment banks, which were well known to the Firm, recommended that White & Case pitch for the business. The Firm won, in part because Indonesia was looking for a firm that was not closely aligned with the creditor banks. Bankers Trust, with which White & Case had a longstanding relationship, was not a major player in the Indonesian rescheduling and so did not object to the representation.
The White & Case team was led by Jim Hurlock. The rescheduling involved several credit agreements and faced huge opposition from the creditor banks. George Crozer, one of the members of the team along with Duane Wall
(see profile)
, continues to believe it was a defining moment for the Firm: “The rescheduling was make-or-break for Indonesia. By helping them find a way out of the crisis, we won their respect and, furthermore, got ourselves noticed by governments with potential debt problems around the world. It became an area of practice for which we became famous. You cannot overstate how important that deal was for us.”
One of those governments that took note was Turkey. When in 1978 it encountered an external debt problem, caused when the Turkish lira fell in value against Western currencies, the Turkish government turned to White & Case.
That, in turn, was followed by an instruction from the government of Peru in 1983, which, as with other Latin American economies, was suffering from the perfect storm of excessive debt, spiraling oil prices and devaluing currencies. Led by Hurlock and Wall, the team included then junior associate Wendell Maddrey, who was given the task of establishing a “war room” at the Firm’s offices at 280 Park Avenue. Negotiations to restructure Peru’s debt took the best part of 18 months, involving new loan arrangements with some 350 banks to which Peru owed money. The Firm was also first hired by Costa Rica in 1983, commencing a series of reschedulings that continued throughout the 1980s.
“The debt rescheduling was make-or-break for Indonesia. By helping them find a way out of the crisis, we won their respect and got ourselves noticed by governments with potential debt problems around the world.”
George Crozer

Bank Indonesia Governor Rachmat Saleh (near left) with Jim Hurlock (center) and Kuhn Loeb’s David Stein (near right), Jakarta, 1975
The Firm’s groundbreaking work for the Indonesian government provided a launchpad for other sovereign work around the world.

George Crozer joined White & Case in 1968, after obtaining a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. He joined the corporate practice and advised on a range of major transactions during the acquisition boom of the early 1970s. His focus of work switched to Asia in 1978, particularly advising the Indonesian government.
Crozer moved to Jakarta in 1985, remaining in the Indonesian capital for five years before moving to Hong Kong, first to head the office and then to become executive regional partner for Asia. He served on the management board of the Firm for six years and led the White & Case negotiating team in the Firm’s successful merger in 2000 with the German firm Feddersen Laule Ewerwahn Scherzberg Finkelnburg Clemm. He stayed in Hong Kong for 15 years before moving to the Washington, D.C. office.
George Crozer
George Crozer joined White & Case in 1968, after obtaining a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. He joined the corporate practice and advised on a range of major transactions during the acquisition boom of the early 1970s. His focus of work switched to Asia in 1978, particularly advising the Indonesian government.
The early and successful representations of Indonesia, Turkey, Peru and Costa Rica established the Firm’s reputation in the sovereign debt area. More than a dozen other nations later called upon White & Case to help them reschedule their external debt, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Gabon, Honduras, Morocco, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Vietnam and Zaire. Many of these assignments arose at transformative moments in that country’s history. Croatia’s bank debt was renegotiated after the country achieved independence from Yugoslavia, and Vietnam’s debt was restructured following the country’s normalization of relations with the United States and its reentry into the international financial community. Although Hurlock came under fire from some commercial bankers for wresting large concessions on behalf of debtor nations, he was absolutely clear that the Firm did what was necessary to protect its clients’ interests and allow them to revive their national economies to the benefit of themselves and the Western financial system. “These beleaguered governments were essentially bankrupt,” he recalled, “so we went to war on their behalf. We got the reputation for being fairly tough because we said that most of these nations couldn’t pay the money back—ever. However, I felt it wasn’t going to benefit the world’s banks or anybody else to hold these nations to the wall until all their blood had drained from their bodies.” Hurlock became a powerful advocate on behalf of debtor nations, supporting his view with articles in the press, in speeches and, notably, in testimony at U.S. Congressional hearings. Over time, the Firm’s vigorous approach helped debtor countries achieve rescheduling terms that provided more balanced and sustainable solutions to their economic challenges. The Firm helped several countries implement restructurings by adopting the “Brady Plan” approach (named after U.S. Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady) that included debt reduction, extended repayment periods and support from the World Bank as key components. The Firm helped Costa Rica negotiate a 1990 debt restructuring that resulted in substantial levels of debt relief, including the repurchase of a significant portion of its external debt for 16 cents on the dollar. An editorial in
The New York Times
stated that this deal “breaks the mold and gives beleaguered nations cause for hope.” The 1991 agreement between Poland and its Paris Club creditors reduced Poland’s external debt by approximately 45 percent and included several innovative features, such as limiting the amount of past due interest payable. Wall, who succeeded Hurlock as head of the Firm in 2000, believes strongly that the Firm generally, and Hurlock specifically, made an enormous contribution toward defusing a potential global crisis: “Jim dedicated himself to finding long-term solutions for those countries and remained at the forefront of the sovereign debt crisis as it unfolded.” Maddrey concurs: “This was enormously rewarding work that required a coordinated legal, financial and diplomatic effort. Our role was more than that of legal advisers; we participated in shaping policy and advocating the interests of the debtor countries.” The Firm’s success in helping sovereigns reschedule their external debt led, in many cases, to the development of enduring relationships with these clients that, in turn, led to the expansion of the number of sovereign clients and the range of services the Firm has provided to governments. Since the initial work for Indonesia in 1975, the Firm has helped more than 60 sovereigns and state-owned enterprises resolve complex and often unique legal challenges across a broad range of other activities, including capital markets financings, litigation and arbitration, international trade issues, privatizations, project finance and infrastructure development, public-private partnerships and legal matters arising from the management of sovereign wealth funds.
The leading example of this broadening process was in Indonesia. Following the successful rescheduling of the Pertamina-related debt, the central bank (Bank Indonesia) and the Ministry of Finance instructed the Firm on new loans. Pertamina set up a contracts team to deal with procurement to avoid any similar situations that had resulted in the debt rescheduling, and was also advised by White & Case. The work broadened to include Garuda, the state airline, and Krakatau Steel. Oil and gas deals, arbitration work, construction contracts and several LNG, oil refinery and petrochemical projects all followed in quick succession. Philip Stopford, one of the first two lawyers to move to Jakarta for the Firm, advised on an insurance claim arising from the failure of an Indonesian satellite to reach its correct orbit.
Broadening the practice

Hong Kong office
The Firm opened an office in Hong Kong in 1978, putting members of its Indonesia team closer to Jakarta.

In effect, White & Case became the outside counsel for the government of Indonesia, a role that carried with it great responsibility but also a certain amount of power. A representative of one of two Japanese banks arranging a loan to Indonesia made the mistake during negotiations of telling Jim Hurlock to “shut up,” to the amazement of everyone in the meeting. “That was probably the only time that had ever happened to Jim,” Crozer recalls. “Later on, we found out that the entire Indonesian team from that bank had been reassigned, so Jim had the last laugh!” Closer relationships with governments provided a sound rationale for opening offices. At the time the Firm began representing Indonesia, non-Indonesian law firms were not permitted to open offices there. When the volume of the Firm’s work for Indonesia reached the level that made it impractical to handle all the work from New York, the Firm opened an office in Hong Kong in 1978, in part to put members of its Indonesia team closer to Jakarta. The office it opened in Singapore in 1983 put its lawyers even nearer to Jakarta. The Firm was able to get nearer still by posting lawyers to Jakarta, working from the offices of Bank Indonesia, that same year. The first two lawyers sent to Jakarta were Stopford and John Provine, who were joined in 1985 by Crozer and Hugh Verrier
(see profile)
, the current head of the Firm. Other lawyers posted to Jakarta during the 1980s and 1990s included Troy Alexander, Haywood Blakemore, Ken Ellis, Peter Finlay and Maddrey, many of whom would grow into leadership positions at the Firm. As Crozer remembers, the Bank Indonesia offices arrangement was acceptable to the Indonesian authorities on the basis that the Firm could only work from those offices for Bank Indonesia and the Indonesian government, that it could not open a bank account and that the authorities could ask its lawyers to leave on half an hour’s notice.

oil booster plant, sumatra, Indonesia, 1971


fall of the berlin wall, 1989
White & Case responded to the fall of the Wall by opening offices in Central and Eastern Europe and expanding its sovereign and emerging markets practices.

White & Case dominated the privatization league tables for years in terms of the number and value of privatizations completed. And as the era of privatizations began to end, White & Case turned its focus to the private sector, which opened up new avenues of work. The sovereign debt work also expanded to the former Soviet countries. In 1999, for example, the Firm advised Ukraine, which involved negotiations with the IMF and private sector lenders and subsequent Paris Club negotiations involving bond restructurings. The Firm’s reputation was such that 10 years later, in Kazakhstan, White & Case was brought in to help draft a new law that facilitated the restructuring of two banks, BTA Bank and Alliance Bank. The evolution of its sovereign practice symbolizes and summarizes some of the abiding strengths of White & Case: the value of the initial contacts that opened the door; the vision to recognize the potential scope of the work; the skill to take on a huge challenge and the ability to come up with innovative answers to seemingly intractable problems; the willingness of the Firm’s lawyers to enter new countries and put to one side preconceptions; and the marketing prowess to export those skills to new markets. The dedication to building strong, broad-based relationships with the Firm’s sovereign clients resulted in the Firm establishing a preeminent sovereign practice, a position that is maintained to this day.
The dedication to building strong, broad-based relationships with the Firm’s sovereign clients resulted in White & Case establishing a preeminent sovereign practice.
Many of the early mandates in Central and Eastern Europe centered around the privatization of state industries. The Firm was perfectly placed to assist. The governments of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Russia were each looking for a law firm to help them with their privatization programs, and each of them selected White & Case. Among many other matters, the Firm advised on Russia’s first privatization, of the Bolshevik Biscuit Factory, in 1992; on the privatization of Unipetrol in the Czech Republic, following the separation of the Czech Republic from Slovakia in 1993; and on the privatization of Russia’s phone system in 1997. The sterling reputation of the Firm’s sovereign practice was one of the factors that worked in the Firm’s favor. Another was the fact that by the time the Berlin Wall fell, the Firm had helped Turkey develop its privatization law and handled the first privatization under that law. The key factors, however, were the Firm’s global resources, its commitment and ability to put its lawyers on the ground as and where necessary to achieve its clients’ objectives, and the dedication, persistence and entrepreneurial spirit of its lawyers in the region. This is best summed up by Harder, who had been in Beijing at the time of the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989 and was keen to move to Europe once the Berlin Wall had come down. “A group of us said, ‘Let’s go and build the new Europe.’ And we did, just a little bit.”
Opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe
The fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 provided more opportunities to expand the Firm’s sovereign and emerging markets practices. Under Hurlock’s leadership, the Firm responded quickly to explore the potential for legal work that he felt sure would arise from the change in the economies of Central and Eastern Europe as they cast off the yoke of communism and began to interact with the Western economies. The most effective way to identify and seize opportunities as they arose would be to have people on the ground. Fortuitously, the Firm was in the process of opening an office in Brussels as part of a joint venture with the German firm Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund. Hank Amon was sent to Brussels both to develop the joint venture and to direct from there the Firm’s efforts to win business in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, giving particular consideration to whether and where it should open offices. Amon was joined in Brussels by associates Dan Arbess and Steve Harder, and the three of them began traveling extensively in the three targeted countries. They soon recommended that the Firm should establish offices in the region. In 1991, offices were opened in Prague, Budapest and Warsaw. Arbess moved to Prague, Harder to Warsaw, and, after a period of temporary staffing, David Eisenberg went to Budapest. Through their efforts and the contacts they made throughout Central and Eastern Europe, the Firm was retained in a number of major matters, including the representation of Czechoslovakia in its $6.4 billion joint venture with Volkswagen. Russia was another target market with huge potential. In 1991, White & Case became one of the first international firms to open an office there. In fact, the Firm got going even before it had the use of an office in Moscow, at times with meetings taking place by the side of the road, with participants resting notepads on their laps to take instructions. It was a testing environment in other ways, not least because the country was unused to the rule of law and how lawyers operated.
The offices themselves left something to be desired, as Stopford recalls: “The office comprised one large room and, after 1986 when we moved one floor up, an adjoining conference room, with no air conditioning. It was mosquito- and rat-infested, but none of us cared about that. It was fun, and there was a tremendous esprit de corps both within the lawyers and the support staff.” Crozer recollects: “We were in a privileged position and doing fantastic work. The amount of work we could do was only limited by the number of lawyers we had available.”
Increasing work in Turkey also required a presence on the ground. After the successful Turkish debt rescheduling, Turkey’s prime minister, Turgut Özal, “suggested” to Hurlock that the Firm should establish a presence in Turkey if it wished to expand the scope of its work for the government. The Firm acted on this suggestion by opening offices in Ankara and Istanbul in 1985.
Jim Hurlock
Jim Hurlock was born in Chicago but raised in Cleveland. He graduated in 1955 from Princeton University, where he received the Pyne Prize, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University for the next two years. He then attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1959, and joined White & Case the same year. As someone with evident international interests, Hurlock was given responsibility for a major project in India as a young associate, and then sent to the Paris office as an associate in 1963.
He returned to New York in 1965, became a partner in 1967 and moved to Brussels that same year to head the office there, then returned to Paris in 1969 to run that office.

From Paris, he lobbied the Firm’s management to establish an office in London, arguing that the Firm needed a presence in Europe’s principal financial center, and was sent to London in 1971. The office there, which initially comprised “three of us around the dining room table in the house we rented,” grew quickly, spurred by the opening up of the Eurodollar market in the wake of the Interest Equalization Tax of 1963. Hurlock again returned to New York in 1975.

letter from vernon munroe to jim hurlock
Requesting his confirmation of the Firm’s offer, December 31, 1958.

An extraordinary opportunity, both for Hurlock and for the Firm, presented itself in 1975 when the “troika” of investment banks hired by the Indonesian government to advise on a huge debt problem the country was facing recommended that White & Case be retained as the government’s counsel. Hurlock’s unerring ability to offer practical solutions and fight in his client’s corner won the instant respect of the Indonesian government. The successful rescheduling of the government debt marked the start of the Firm’s sovereign practice—in which it became one of the world’s foremost authorities on the rescheduling of sovereign debt—and provided a platform from which other practice areas globalized and generated years of work in Indonesia and globally. Hurlock himself represented Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Gabon, Morocco, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Poland, Turkey and Zaire. For his work in helping Poland out of an external debt crisis, Hurlock was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.

Hurlock was elected Chair of the Firm and its four-partner management committee in late 1979. After taking office on January 1, 1980, Hurlock remained as Chair for the next 20 years. Having spent 10 of his first 15 years in the Firm’s Paris, Brussels and London offices, Hurlock set the Firm on an irrevocable international course during his early years as Chair. “The term ‘global’ was never on my mind, as such,” he noted. “Rather, when we opened an office, it was not because it fitted into a global pattern, it was because we needed to be there, for a particular transaction, problem or client. If the opportunity was there, I felt we should grab it. Our clients were not only in New York, they were in the world at large.”

snapshots of the paris office kept in a notebook, 1963

Hurlock also recognized early on the value of having offices with strong local capability in core jurisdictions, providing clients with a complete service for their cross-border requirements, rather than having to use a variety of local law firms. In the early days of his leadership, Hurlock was instrumental in three domestic initiatives to modernize the Firm: scrapping an unfunded pension plan and setting up a properly funded scheme; changing the basis on which partners were compensated from a lockstep to a performance-based structure; and bringing the New York offices into one building in 1984 at 1155 Avenue of the Americas in midtown Manhattan.

announcement of the opening of the london office, 1971

A commanding figure, Hurlock certainly had his detractors within the Firm, particularly those who did not agree with the international direction in which he was leading the Firm. “If you don’t like it,” he would respond, “you can always vote me out.” They never did. After his retirement from Firm management in 2000, Hurlock was interim CEO of Stolt-Nielsen Transportation Group from 2003 to 2004, was director and chairman of Orient-Express Hotels and served as deputy chairman of Acergy.
Like his predecessors, Hurlock had a strong sense of civic duty. He was named a trustee of the Presbyterian Hospital of the City of New York in 1986 and a trustee of the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in 1988. He was a founding board member of the International Development Law Organization, the only intergovernmental development organization whose sole focus is the rule of law, and served as chairman between 2001 and 2004. He was also a trustee and chairman of The Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law, affiliated with Columbia University. He was a life trustee of the Corporation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In 2010, the New York State Bar Association bestowed upon him its Root/Stimson Award for exemplary commitment to community service. He died on April 27, 2016 at age 82.