The International Chamber of Commerce Commission recently published an update to its report on construction industry arbitration, focusing on recommended tools and techniques for effective management. The report is a helpful reminder for practitioners and arbitrators of the procedural mechanisms available which are particularly relevant to the conduct of arbitration in the construction sector.
In construction disputes, a significant amount of legal time (and therefore expense) is often spent simply locating and trying to understand the relevance of key documents because of poor document management practices throughout the project lifecycle. Establishing clear guidelines for document management and information collection is critical and will assist contractors and suppliers in making and evidencing claims in arbitration.
The expert phase is often the most critical, and sometimes costly, part of the arbitration process. Thus, choosing the right expert is crucial. This means ensuring not only that the expert has the appropriate qualifications, technical expertise and reputation in the relevant field, but also (if possible) suitable experience of the dispute process and of writing expert reports and giving evidence in adversarial proceedings. This article offers some practical tips for managing party-appointed experts in arbitrations.
Construction contracts are often part of a wider suite of project contracts, involving multiple, overlapping parties. This intertwined suite of contracts means that when a dispute arises, it arises under multiple project contracts, which can be difficult to deal with. Choosing arbitration as the dispute resolution procedure for each project contract – and ensuring that the arbitration agreement in each project contract is consistent – will help parties to achieve consolidation of future disputes under different project contracts.
The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) Administered Arbitration Rules 2018 have significantly amended the 2013 rules. In particular, the amendments have considerably reduced the time required to appoint an emergency arbitrator, which will also save parties money. By standardising its procedures and making them more efficient, the HKIAC has made itself an attractive international forum for settling disputes.
The New York Convention and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law differentiate between the one-shot principle and the choice of remedies principle. Under the choice of remedies principle, award debtors may choose both active and passive remedies. Therefore, even if an award debtor does not use or pursue active remedies to challenge a preliminary ruling or set aside an award, it may resist the award's enforcement by passive means.
Gambia recently became the fifth nation to ratify the United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-Based Investor-State Arbitration (Mauritius Convention). Eighteen other countries have signed the Mauritius Convention but have not yet ratified it. While no arbitrations subject to the convention have yet been initiated, if the current signatories were to ratify it, at least an additional 39 bilateral and multilateral treaties would become subject to the convention, unless expressly reserved.
It should be anticipated that new types of energy arbitration will emerge in 2018 and beyond, whereas others may decline. As always in the energy sector, an uncertain political landscape combined with cross-border investment in energy projects and fluctuating prices creates the model ecosystem for a whole spectrum of energy disputes to emerge globally, with arbitration remaining a key method of dispute resolution.
The public policy exception to the recognition and enforcement of international arbitral awards creates uncertainty with respect to the enforcement of these awards – particularly because contracting states have diverse approaches to issues of public policy. While some jurisdictions still maintain a parochial approach, recent trends invite cautious optimism that major jurisdictions are converging in the practice of adopting a narrow interpretation of the public policy exception.
A disgruntled party on the losing end of an award will sometimes seek to have the award annulled or set aside at the seat of arbitration. However, even if such a challenge at the seat is successful, that is not necessarily the end of the matter. Awards that are seemingly 'dead and buried' can sometimes be resurrected or haunt the losing party in other jurisdictions where enforcement of the award is sought.
In recent years, many of the leading arbitral institutions have amended their rules in order to make arbitration more responsive to users' needs. A key development has been the introduction of emergency arbitrator procedures, which enable parties to obtain urgent relief before the substantive tribunal is formed. These new developments are attracting significant attention from parties and arbitrators – but have enforcement mechanisms kept pace?
Although institutional rules arguably empower arbitral tribunals to streamline procedure and summarily dispose of claims or defences as part of their general case management authority, the trend is for institutional rules to expressly recognise such powers. But do these procedural innovations aimed at cheaper and quicker arbitrations come at the price of a binding and enforceable award?
While there are cases that involve claims for declaratory relief or specific performance, disputes are most often about payment. A claimant goes into battle – spending time and money to develop strong arguments and clever case theories – only if it expects the proceedings to result in a payout. There are several strategic steps that in‑house counsel can take throughout the process to maximise their chances of securing payment.
In most jurisdictions, when it comes to enforcing an arbitral award against a non-paying or recalcitrant state or a state-owned entity, the road can be long and full of obstacles. Enforcing parties should be mindful of the jurisdiction-specific nuances of enforcing awards in different countries, as well as the tactics commonly used by recalcitrant parties to obstruct or delay enforcement.
There are two principal treaties which govern the enforcement of international arbitral awards in foreign jurisdictions: the New York Convention and the Washington Convention. The success of international arbitration (both commercial and investment treaty arbitration) can be attributed in large part to the global enforcement regimes created under these treaties. While the New York Convention is broader in scope, it contains more grounds for resisting enforcement than the Washington Convention.
In 2018 the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (known as the New York Convention) will celebrate its 60th anniversary. The New York Convention governs two fundamental aspects of international arbitration – namely, how states will treat arbitration agreements and arbitral awards that were made in other jurisdictions. There are 157 contracting states to the convention, which creates an almost universal regime governing these two important issues.
Broadly speaking, the cost of a dispute includes parties' expenses in relation to attorney fees, procedural costs (court or arbitration fees) and additional expenses (eg, transport and food costs). In terms of these costs, on a superficial analysis, arbitration appears costlier than litigation, as the parties must pay arbitrators' fees, while judges are paid by the government of the countries where the dispute occurs. However, on a more careful analysis, it is evident that the inverse conclusion is true.
Various innovative procedural features (eg, emergency arbitrators, expedited arbitration and summary procedures) have been introduced in recently adopted institutional arbitration rules in order to increase the efficiency of arbitral proceedings. It is not yet clear how extensively these provisions will be used, nor how resulting decisions and orders will be recognised and enforced. However, the idea of granting tribunals powers to dispose of certain issues by way of summary procedure should be welcomed.
One of arbitration's cornerstone principles is that parties can agree on how to resolve their disputes. However, parties commonly agree on asymmetric, rather than symmetric, rights. The classic case is where only one party has the right to refer disputes to arbitration, but the other must litigate. Parties wishing to include asymmetric arbitration clauses are advised to consider carefully the courts' approaches to such clauses in all relevant jurisdictions.
Smart contracts are a hot topic in almost every industry sector. There is a misconception that, because they perform automatically and their performance cannot be stopped, they remove the potential for disputes. At least for the moment, this is wishful thinking. Although smart contracts provide huge potential benefits in terms of reducing transaction costs and increasing security, disputes can and will arise.