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Stern, Karl
Direct Tel: +1 713-221-7171
Tel: +1 713 221 7000 Fax: +1 713 221 7100
Tel: (469) 902-3600 Fax: (469) 902-3610

Karl Stern leads the firm’s Energy Practice and manages the firm’s Houston office.  For over 35 years he has tried sophisticated commercial cases to juries, courts, and arbitrators in state and federal courts throughout the U.S. and before domestic and international arbitral tribunals. Many of his cases deal with complex transactions in the energy industry, including disputes relating to joint ventures, international energy investments, gas and power trading and marketing, and the development, acquisition, sale and ownership of oil, gas, renewable energy, and power assets. Karl’s cases also involve mergers and acquisitions as well as governance (corporate, LLC, and partnership), shareholder rights, and claims related to insolvency.  Karl has received consistent recognition as among the top in his field by Chambers, The Best Lawyers in America, Benchmark Litigation, Legal 500 U.S., Lawdragon 500, and Thomson Reuters. Most recently in 2022,  Chambers USA notes, "he's not only energetic and sharp, but also very calm, deliberate and presents as someone with real excellent judgment. He's a wise counselor."  Chambers USA further states, "he is fantastic in the courtroom, has a presence where he can explain complex matters succinctly for a jury and gets the best results for the client."

Energy Industry Disputes (Domestic & International)

  • Recovered $640,000,000 (net of fees) from Petrobras on behalf of Vantage Drilling Company in an ICDR arbitration arising out of the wrongful termination of a deepwater rig charter
  • Successfully defended a state owned oil company in an ICC arbitration of a $1 billion dispute over a net profits interest in an oil field development project in Chad
  • Prosecuting a nine-figure claim on behalf of a midstream company in a CPR arbitration arising out of an oil and gas producer’s failure to comply with its obligation to dedicate NGLs in an area of mutual interest to the midstream company’s NGL pipeline
  • Prosecuting $700 million fraudulent transfer claim in Montana state court on behalf of creditors of an unregulated power company based on distributions the defendant took out of  the company prior to spinning off the unregulated power business; defending competing litigation in Delaware Chancery Court
  • Representing various wind power producers in litigation arising out Winter Storm Ure in 2020.
  • Defending petrochemical terminal in an ICDR arbitration of business interruption claims arising out of a catastrophic fire at the facility
  • Representing several clients in disputes involving rights and obligations under joint operating agreements relating to offshore drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Obtained take-nothing award in the defense of an ICDR arbitration of a $1.3 billion claim against client arising out of the ownership and operation of an international gas and power trading and marketing company
  • Defended an oil trading company in class action claims for violations of the Commodities Exchange Act based on alleged manipulation of Brent Crude pricing
  • Defended a master limited partnership, its general partner, and the directors of the general partner in a state court fraud action arising out of $1.5 billion acquisition of oil and gas properties
  • Obtained a liability finding in favor of the claimant in the Canadian arbitration of a claim against a major oil producer for wrongful termination of a gas supply contract, which settled as the parties awaited a “baseball” style decision on damages
  • Defended energy company in state court action and related arbitration involving claims by joint venturers in distributions from a Russian oil and gas venture
  • Defended investment banking firm in jury trial of state court claims of alleged tortious interference with an off-take agreement between a bio-diesel producer and distillate trading company
  • Prevailed in a fast-track arbitration initiated by pipeline company client against minority owner of a jointly owned pipeline to resolve governance disputes that the minority owner was using to effectively block a $585 million recapitalization of the pipeline joint venture
  • Represented Lloyd’s of London and other international insurers in state court trial of $850 million in insurance coverage claims arising out of the EXXON VALDEZ oil spill
  • Defended $500 million claim against oil field services firm for alleged misappropriation of confidential information in connection with the development of an oil and gas field in Kazakhstan
  • Defended company in state court and related arbitration over claim arising out of a tax sharing agreement in effect while client was a subsidiary of the defendant
  • Defended joint venture in AAA arbitration of $55 million claim arising out of the construction of a petrochemical facility

Financial, M&A, Governance, and Securities

  • Representing the Special Litigation Committee of the Baker Hughes Board of Directors in connection with a derivative action against GE pending in Delaware Chancery Court
  • Obtained nine figure settlement on behalf of toll road concession from a Spanish and a US infrastructure company in a suit for fraudulent transfers and breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with the defendants’ development of the concession
  • Defended numerous securities class actions, including current defense of a case arising out of a failed SPAC transaction
  • Defended companies and their directors in a number of cases challenging merger and acquisition transactions, including the Spectra/Enbridge merger, the Global Industries/Technip merger, the C&J Industries/Nabors Industry transaction, and the Statoil/Brigham acquisition, as well as a number of cases involving challenges to MLP transactions with affiliates (including dropdowns and reverse-dropdowns)
  • Represented three private equity firms in Texas shareholder litigation over the terms of a management buyout of Kinder Morgan, Inc
  • Prevailed in trial of mutual mistake claim against hedge fund relating to amendments of warrants resulting in rescission of issuance of  $35 million worth of shares to defendant
  • Obtained summary judgment on state court claims against an investment banking firm by creditors alleging fraud in the National Gypsum Company bankruptcy
  • Obtained favorable settlement on behalf of client in Texas and England to enforce the client’s right to a share of Aston Martin as a participant in the consortium that acquired Aston Martin from Ford Motor Company
  • Defended investment banking firm in a suit arising out of an unsuccessful effort to underwrite $200 million in tax exempt municipal bonds to finance an acquisition of several hospitals
  • Represented underwriter of securitized offering of sub-prime loans in jury trial on claim against company that issued “credit insurance” in connection with the offering
  • Successfully defended and prosecuted a number of cases involving claims by minority shareholders for breaches of fiduciary duty by majority shareholders
  • Successfully tried a breach of contract and fraud case arising out of valuation of shares in a closely held corporation
  • Prevailed in federal injunction action for a consortium of international construction companies, enjoining Venezuelan company from drawing $60 million letter of credit
  • Defended suits against directors of failed financial institutions


  • Defended large global steel distributor in six-week jury trial of claims that steel distributors and steel mills conspired to boycott new entrant in the market
  • Obtained dismissal class action against oil trading company involving claims that traders conspired to manipulate Brent Crude pricing in violation of the antitrust laws
  • Represented a building products distributor in an AAA arbitration in New York in connection with a price-fixing claim against the manufacturer
  • Defended a manufacturer of explosives in civil antitrust litigation
  • Defended a major airline in civil antitrust litigation
  • Provide advice to companies and trade associations in connection with antitrust issues
  • University of Texas
    (J.D., 1982)
  • Southern Methodist University
    (B.A./B.S., 1979)
  • The State Bar of Texas
  • United States Supreme Court
  • United States Courts of Appeals:
    • Fifth Circuit
  • United States District Courts:
    • Southern District of Texas
    • Western District of Texas
    • Northern District of Texas
  • Vinson & Elkins:
    • Managing Partner, Houston office, 2014
    • Firmwide Head of Litigation, 2011-14
    • Firmwide Head of Complex Commercial Litigation Practice Group, 2007-11
    • Management Committee, 2006-12
  • Named by Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America for Energy Litigation, 2024
  • Ranked by Who's Who Legal - Commercial Litigation, 2024
  • Recognized by Benchmark Litigation as a “Litigation Star”, 2024
  • Lawdragon 500 Leading Global Litigators Guide, International Arbitration & Disputes, esp. Energy, 2023
  • Legal 500 U.S. "Hall of Fame" in Energy Litigation: Oil and Gas, 2008 - 2023
  • Ranked in Legal 500 USA, Energy Litigation: Oil and Gas, “Recommended Lawyers”, 2023
  • Named Lawdragon 500 Leading Energy Lawyers, Energy Litigation, 2023
  • Named one of Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Financial Lawyers in Commercial Litigation, esp. Engergy, Securities Litigation, 2021-2023
  • Named The American Lawyer’s “Litigator of the Week” for his work in Vantage Deepwater Co. et al. v. Petrobras America Inc. et al.
  • Ranked in Chambers USA in the categories of Litigation: General Commercial (2015-2023) and Litigation: Energy & Natural Resources (2018-2019)
  • Named 2016 Houston Lawyer of the Year in Mergers & Acquisitions by Best Lawyers
  • Named as 2015 Houston Lawyer of the Year in Antitrust Law by Best Lawyers
  • Named to the 2015 Top 100 Lawyers in Texas by Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters)
  • The Best Lawyers in America® in commercial litigation, 2005 – 2024; alternative dispute resolution, 2006 -2021; antitrust law, 2006 – 2024; securities litigation, 2013 – 2024; arbitration, 2013 – 2024; mergers & acquisitions litigation, 2013 – 2024; antitrust litigation, 2023-2024 (Woodward White, Inc.)
  • Named by Euromoney's Benchmark Litigation as a “Local Litigation Star” in commercial litigation, international dispute resolution, oil and gas, and securities litigation, 2011 - 2022
  • "Partner to Know," Global Arbitration Review's GAR 100, 2009 (Law Business Research)
  • Selected to the Texas Super Lawyers list, Super Lawyers, 2003 – 2022 (Thomson Reuters)
  • Speaker for professional seminars on securities, antitrust, and trial/arbitration skills topics
  • Member, International Bar Association
  • Member, American Bar Association, Antritrust and Litigation Sections
  • Chair of Antitrust and Business Litigation Section of the State Bar of Texas (1999-2000)      
  • Member, Federal Bar Association
  • Co-Chair, CPR Energy
  • Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Chair (Former), Houston Bar Foundation