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Mediation for Catalonia and Spain?

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

In the past two days, the international news media following the Catalonia independence movement crisis have reported that the independence leader and deposed Catalonia President Carlos Puidgemont has arrived in Brussels, possibly eventually to seek asylum, conceivably to form a “government in exile,” perhaps only, and ostensibly, to secure assurances of fair judicial process for his potential criminal prosecution in Spain.  The New York Times reports that “Belgium is virtually the only national government in Europe that has been even remotely sympathetic to Mr. Puidgemont’s pleas for mediation, not least perhaps because the country has faced separatist tensions of its own led by Flemish hard-liners.”

Those readers who take an interest in the elements of successful mediation of international disputes have perhaps been giving thought recently to how mediation might play a role in bringing about a solution to the Catalonia crisis. I have done so over the past several days, and here present some of my own thoughts. (My motivation of course is not to solve the crisis, but to derive lessons that those who act as mediators might apply to the successful resolution of complex disputes both international and domestic, commercial and political).

  1. Why mediation has not happened: It appears that the Catalan leader Puidgemont began advocating mediation quite immediately after the independence referendum held on October 1. The invitation was renewed several times in October, was rejected each time by Spain, and Puidgemont’s advocacy for EU intervention as a mediator was rejected by the EU.  The EU’s refusal to act as mediator may be seen as an admission that it could not be an independent and impartial neutral, as its interest (and the interest of its members) in the unity of EU member states is evident. As to Spain’s rejection of mediation, it appears as a classic case of a disputant considering that any form of engagement is a legitimation of the other side’s position. But here it seems possible that Spain had options short of refusing negotiations to declare publicly its non-negotiable positions: the illegality of the referendum, the absence of a Catalan mandate for independence, the unacceptability of secession under any circumstance.  Spain evidently concluded that it had a better alternative to any imaginable negotiated agreement: the dismantling of Catalonia’s regional government under Art. 155 of the Spanish Constitution, and the criminal prosecution of Puidgemont and other Catalan leaders. That is what is unfolding, but whether it is a good solution remains to be seen.
  2. Defining an agenda for mediation: Mounting a confidential mediation that allows the participants flexibility without pressure from their constituencies is extremely difficult in such a transparent, media-saturated environment. But if such a confidential channel could be established, an initial mediation session might be devoted to defining an agenda for further mediated discussions within the period preceding the new regional election in Catalonia scheduled for December 21.  What would a possible confidential agenda items be? Adjournment of criminal proceedings in Madrid against the deposed Catalan leaders pending the December 21 elections? Security arrangements for the December 21 elections and methods for tabulating the ballots? Terms and conditions for campaigning and debates ahead of those elections? A commitment to a moratorium on unilateral action and to engagement in discussions for a minimum period of time following the December 21 elections?
  3. The Mediator’s preparation:  There are many effective mediators who refrain from actively seeking opportunity for separate discussions with each disputant prior to the first mediation “session”. There are also many effective mediators, I believe a smaller group, who seek leave from the parties to treat the mediation as underway as soon as the mediator’s engagement is established, such that the mediator may (and actually does) conduct separate telephonic or in-person discussions before bringing the parties together for a joint session. Would the latter approach be advisable for this dispute, assuming it can be accepted by Spain and the representatives of Catalonia? While this is a dispute about sovereignty, autonomy, and culture, among other things, from a mediation perspective its shares many of the attributes of complex inter-corporate disputes: e.g., personal motivations and idiosyncrasies of the leaders, dynamics between the leaders and their constituencies, highly-evolved narratives of each side’s position that may operate at least early on as barriers to creativity in the negotiation process.   Consensual separate sessions before any joint session is convened might begin to overcome these potential barriers to progress.
  4. Defining success in the mediation: Sometimes success in a mediation needs to be defined incrementally, and this is as true of civil and geopolitical conflicts as it is for commercial disputes. In a difficult mediation that promises no immediate final status solution, an initial measure of success can be that the mediation does not fail, that the parties agree to return for another session, and that the parties to commit to refrain from or at least not to expand upon efforts to bring about a final status change by other means. In a conflict like this one involving the very fabric of civil society and how the “rule of law” and “democracy” are defined and understood, an agreement to continue  discussions and to refrain from certain pressure tactics outside the mediation might well be an interim measure defining success in the mediation. (Possible voluntary restraint measures for Catalonia: no civil service strikes? no establishment of a government-in-exile? No Catalan efforts to establish international diplomatic recognition?  For Spain: no violent action by police against non-violent protest? suspension of the prosecution of Catalan secession leaders? restraint from seizing control of news media in Catalonia?).

 

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As the question of Catalonia’s political autonomy moves forward in this post-Declaration, post-Dismantlement, pre-Election phase, it will be interesting to see if initiatives for mediation are forthcoming from any source other than the advocates for Catalan independence. It seems evident that much can be gained from effective mediation. If the initiative were to come from another source such that Spain might embrace mediation without the embrace being seen as a capitulation, perhaps some progress or at least a deferral of a seriously destabilized civil and political environment can be achieved.

 

Do Arbitrators Know the Law? Or Find It?

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Here in common law America we do not have much direct and systematic discussion about when and under what conditions international arbitrators may or should conduct their own legal research to ascertain or clarify the applicable law that they should apply. We have a passing familiarity, from contacts with our civil law colleagues, with the civil law term iura novit curia (literal translation, “the judge knows the law”). But the reality is that some American international arbitrators consider the law to be what is found in bound volumes of submissions (briefs and authorities) presented by the parties, while others consider those submissions to be the point of departure for inquiry into the applicable law, especially when the law is our “own,” notably, the common law of a State of the United States. Some of the passivity of the former group is not necessarily borne of rigorous analysis of the issue, but rather of some combination of lassitude and resignation, percolating at the conclusion of a long career as an advocate, at a time when the arbitrator, now dis-affiliated from any law firm and spending more time in the quiet confines of a family residence, may find himself or herself not only without the skills needed to conduct legal research in an online database but without the most basic tool needed: a database subscription. (This is not a description that fits your commentator, or many of his peers, but the ranks of the disconnected are nevertheless substantial. Arbitrators who could not gain access to legal authorities in an online database, and so insist on having paper supplied to them, create significant copying, printing, copy-checking, and shipping costs for the parties – sometimes for sending “bankers box”-sized Express packages over a net distance of a few city blocks. This is something parties seem to accept, possibly with pursed lips and tight grimaces, rather than insist that their arbitrators conform to modern norms).

But we do have a legal issue in regard to arbitrator initiatives to conduct legal research, and it is one that to my knowledge has not often if at all been decided in the federal courts under the FAA: does an arbitrator perhaps exceed her powers by conducting such research, or in some circumstances deny a party a fair hearing by not inviting comments on the fruits of such research? The relevant FAA case law tells us in general terms that a party is denied a fair arbitral hearing when it has been deprived of the opportunity to present relevant evidence and arguments. (See, e.g., Rogers v. Ausdahl Financial Partners, Inc., 168 F. Supp. 3d 378, 389 (D. Mass. 2016), citing First Circuit authorities). When might there be denial of opportunity to present arguments, such as to justify vacatur of the award, if the parties were allowed to submit two or more rounds of briefs, but the arbitrators cited and discussed in their award some cases that were not cited by either side?

The circumstance of the arbitrator invoking legal authorities not presented by the parties is to be distinguished, in the first instance, from the arbitrator resolving the case by applying a legal or equitable remedy that neither party requested. The latter situation was famously examined by the Quebec Superior Court in Louis Dreyfus s.a.s. v. Holding Tusculum B.V. [2008 QCCS 5903, Dec. 8, 2008], where the Court annulled an ICC Award rendered by a Tribunal seated in Montréal on the basis that the Tribunal had exceeded its jurisdiction and denied a fair hearing (the civil law rule audi alteram partem, literal translation “let the other side be heard as well”) when  neither the legal theory adopted by the Tribunal nor the remedy applied had been presented by either party and the parties had not been invited by the Tribunal to comment on whether that theory and remedy should be invoked. The Dreyfus judgment however did not deal with the sua sponte identification of the dispositive theory and remedy by the Tribunal as misconduct separate from the Tribunal’s failure to give the parties notice and an opportunity to be heard. Indeed the judgment may fairly be read as focused on the latter, and does not hold or particularly clearly suggest that a Tribunal exceeds its jurisdiction if it interjects a legal theory and potential remedy — grounded in the applicable law — into the case, but does no upon proper notice to the parties and with adequate opportunity for the parties to be heard concerning the Tribunal’s premises.

For American arbitrators this question of sua sponte interjection is often considered under the rubric of impartiality of the Tribunal (and the appearance thereof throughout the proceedings). The open suggestion to the parties, in the middle of the case, that the case might be resolved on a theory that neither party has raised, threatens to foster the impression that at least the arbitrator making the suggestion, if not the full Tribunal, is predisposed toward the position of the party advantaged by the new theory thus advanced. And whereas this will be a large risk even if the arbitrator(s) making the suggestion have serious reservations about the novel solution, American arbitrators will be reluctant to advance such proposals. We sometimes display such reluctance by invoking the bromide that the Tribunal should receive the case as the parties present it, under the party autonomy principle, but probably the root concern is about the perception of prejudgment of the case.

Is that a concern that should impel arbitrators to refrain from any independent research into the applicable law? Suppose a party has made a general reference to an equitable principle that it says should be applied in its favor, but the argument is not embellished by case law or other authorities.

The Tribunal — clearly charged with deciding whether the application of that principle is justified under the substantive law it is required to apply — might call on the proponent of the theory to provide additional authority, or the Tribunal might do its own research, or do nothing. To resolve the issue for or against the proponent without any further inquiry into applicable authorities may seem to disregard the Tribunal’s duty to apply the applicable law. The fact that a party has failed to bring the applicable law to the Tribunal’s attention does not mean that no such law exists. To ask the party for further authority, on the other hand, risks the appearance of predisposition toward that party – favoring the party with a second chance to shore up its case. If the Tribunal does the research, and then shares at least the nature of its inquiry if not all the specifics with the parties in such a way that they have a fair opportunity to replicate the Tribunal’s research work and present their conclusions, perhaps the interwoven causes of fair process, perceived impartiality, and fidelity to the applicable law, are well-served.

What support can be found for this position? (I daresay more than I present here, as this is a commentary not a journal article! But see the excerpt from the 2010 ILA Report cited at the end of the commentary). Consider that in an arbitration seated in the UK, the 1996 Arbitration Act provides in Section 34 that it is for the Tribunal to decide subject to any agreement of the parties “whether and to what extent the tribunal should itself take the initiative in ascertaining the facts and the law.” Of course an initial and critical factor in the exercise of this discretion is whether the arbitrator is educated in and an experienced practitioner at the Bar of a jurisdiction where the applicable law is in force. I may not hesitate to take research initiatives in New York and other US state and federal law. In regard to the law of Romania, or even the law of Canada or the UK, I might well defer to counsel from the relevant jurisdiction or the proffered party-appointed expert of the applicable law, often a leading academic or advocate in the relevant jurisdiction. No less formidable an authority as Professor Gabrielle Kaufman Kohler supports both this practical instinct to do one’s own research, and the practical/prudential constraints. (See G. Kaufman-Kohler, The Arbitrator and the Law: Does He/She Know It? Apply It? And a Few More Questions, Vol. 21(4) Arb. Int’l 631, 635 (2005)). For purposes of this commentary, we focus on the “easy” case — in which the Tribunal or at least the presiding arbitrator is applying their/her “own” law.

Without acceptance as a norm that arbitrators may conduct their own research in the applicable law, at least in this “easy” case, perhaps there is a certain hollowness to the promises made by arbitration centers that the stability and predictability of local commercial law should attract parties to select both the venue and its law. Is it not indeed the promise held out by such centers that the local commercial law will the best version of it, as understood by wise arbitrators standing as proxies for wise judges? Or is the promise merely that arbitrators will dutifully apply whatever distillation or representation of that law is produced by the participating counsel?

Iura Novit Curia is a civil law concept with no exact common law counterpart. So when one reads the hesitations of civil law-oriented commentators about arbitrator initiatives concerning the applicable law, the civilian jurist’s methods for legal research, compared to those of the common law Judge, must be taken into account. With disclaimers for my limited exposure to civil law, it may be said generally that civil law in the commercial field has two frequently occurring elements:(1) a detailed legislatively-enacted code of contract law in the relevant State, and (2) a considerable body of commentary from academic writers. For the civilian jurist or arbitrator, then, a prominent part of the exercise of “finding” the applicable legal principle is to determine which code provision best corresponds to the facts of the case. This entails that if the civil law arbitrator considers the application of code provisions other than those identified by the parties, she is arguably considering both an interpretation of the evidence and an applicable legal theory not advanced by either party. It is also the métier of the civilian jurist or arbitrator to shape her view of the law from the commentaries written by leading academic scholars (who in some nations may also be leading advocates). But there is no official hierarchy of such commentators, and no sovereign sanction of their positions except to the extent that as a position once stated only in the commentaries might eventually have become codified. Accordingly the civil law arbitrator who examines the commentaries of a scholar who has not been cited by either party may be doing so because of a personal preference for the opinions of that commentator or she may be seeking out a position that has been considered and rejected by both parties as a basis for the Tribunal’s resolution of the case. These elements of departure from the norm of party autonomy, in a civil law setting, do not seem to have direct parallels in common law systems — or at least in the systems with which I am most familiar, the federal and state judiciaries of the United States.

If the arbitrator’s charge is to resolve the case under New York law, because that is the applicable substantive law agreed in the contract, the parties’ choice of law would seem to include certain jurisprudential rules about the ascertainment of that law. First, where the law of a State (of the US) governs – and, mostly, contract law is State law — the definitive and controlling legal rule is one that has been pronounced and not overruled by the highest court of the State. In New York State, this is the New York Court of Appeals. Second, within the federal system, decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States are the supreme law of the land, prevailing over conflicting decisions of all subordinate federal courts, and decisions of the US Circuit Courts of Appeals prevail over, and effectively overrule, prior conflicting decisions of US District Courts within that Circuit on the same point of law. While the arbitrator has no geographic forum absent an agreement of the parties, and thus when considering US federal court authorities that apply State law such as New York law, she faces a very definite hierarchy: (1) none of the federal authorities cited is authoritative as to State law if it is conflict with a ruling on that point of law from the highest court of the State, (2) the federal authorities concerning state law are equally unauthoritative if the lower appellate courts of the State have uniformly pronounced on the same point of law,  (3) if there is lack of uniformity in the pronouncements of those intermediate appellate courts, the federal court authorities are persuasive but not controlling, and (4) however, a federal circuit appellate decision that rejects the pronouncement of State law by a district court within that circuit renders the district court precedent effectively null and void.

There are peculiar risks to the arbitration if the arbitrator who must apply the contract law of a State of the United States relies only upon the cases identified by the parties. Have both parties perhaps overlooked a controlling statement of the law by the highest court of the State, leading the non-researching Tribunal to apply a version of the applicable law that does not correspond to reality but is only a law applicable to this arbitration, adapted from overruled judicial decisions? Have the parties neglected to cite a pending application for review by the Supreme Court of the United States, on the basis that a pronouncement of State law is pre-empted by federal law, such that the Tribunal might render an award based on State law that ceases to be valid law shortly after the award is issued? Have the parties relied mainly on federal court precedents from circuits that ordinarily do not deal in the law of the relevant State (for example, the Seventh Circuit, which embraces several midwestern States, but occasionally must decide issues of New York law) — decisions that further research might reveal to be completely at odds with the federal court decisions of the Circuit that decides questions of New York law every day and is mainly populated by judges who are experienced practitioners of that law and admitted to the Bar of the State (the Second Circuit)? Has one of the parties relied upon a State law precedent from an intermediate State appellate court that has in fact been directly reversed by the highest court of the State — without the opposing party having detected this omission?

Whereas in New York, as in many US States, appearance as an advocate in an arbitration is not considered to be the practice of law in New York State that may only be conducted by members of the Bar of the State, parties frequently appear in international arbitrations governed by New York substantive law with legal representation only by counsel from outside the United States, or by counsel admitted in States of the US other than New York.  Legal errors of the type described here occur for such reasons. They also occur, sadly, because overzealous advocates sometimes omit negative news, like appellate reversals of lower court cases that help their clients.

What are the reasonable expectations of the parties who have selected New York arbitrators to decide an international case under New York law? Does their agreement that New York law is the governing substantive law reasonably mean only “the representation of New York law emerging from the authorities presented to the Tribunal by the parties?” Or is it more reasonable to construe that choice-of-law clause to mean “New York law as it would be applied by a State or federal court, enforcing the same choice-of-law clause, if the parties had not agreed to arbitrate?”  If the latter, should it not be assumed by the parties that the arbitrators will do what judges (directly or through their law clerks) do, i.e. take reasonable initiatives to be assured that the parties have presented the appropriate authorities, and that those reasonable initiatives may be assumed to entail research on one of the recognized electronic databases (WestLaw, Lexis) that contain all published decisions of the federal and state trial and appellate courts and applications permitted verification as to whether an appeal has been taken, whether the authority has been reversed or overruled or questioned, etc.?

Perhaps this is a way of raising the question: Is it not the common law counterpart of the principle iura novit curia that, in common law systems, the judge is expected to find (rather than presumed to know) the law, and to do so within a recognized hierarchy of sources and according to well-understood and accepted research methods?

And, in international arbitrations where the arbitrators are required to apply common law such as the contract law of New York, is it more or less problematic, more or less a problem for the integrity and efficacy of the arbitration, if the arbitrators merely apply a version of that law emerging from the authorities presented by parties — treating it as a risk assumed by the parties that there could be a disparity between the law as it actually is and the law as the parties have presented it?

If it has not been clear up to now, I reiterate that the foregoing analysis pertains mainly when the applicable law is the law of a common law jurisdiction, and when at least the sole or presiding arbitrator, and more ideally all three arbitrators, is/are admitted to the Bar of the jurisdiction whose law applies. If these limiting conditions are not present, the endorsement made or implied here for legal research initiatives by arbitral tribunals would become more equivocal as the variance between this norm and the realities of the case grows larger.  Which is to say, for instance, that as Chair in a case governed by Argentine law, I would not propose to conduct research in that law even if this could be done in English, nor would I embrace the conducting of such research on behalf of the Tribunal by the Argentine arbitrator(s) appointed by one or both parties.

In conclusion, I offer the reader a benchmark for testing whether the views expressed here are radical, reactionary, mainstream, or somewhere in between. That benchmark is the general recommendation made on this subject made by a committee of the International Law Association in 2010:

 

“Arbitrators should primarily rely on the parties to articulate legal issues and to present the law, and disputed legal issues. They should give appropriate weight to information so obtained. Arbitrators must through the proceeding develop a sufficient understanding of the applicable law that they can fulfill their mandate to decide the dispute according to law. Arbitrators who attempt to develop legal issues in a strict application of iura novit curia approach risk taking the arbitration from the parties and appearing partial. Yet arbitrators who completely fail to seek clarification of legal issues in a strictly laissez faire approach risk not having sufficient guidance when they go to render an award, or risk making an award that is incorrect on the legal issue in question. Accordingly, arbitrators should inquire about the applicable law within the general parameters of the arbitration defined by the parties and, considering costs, time and relevance of issues, may conduct their own research, provided the parties are given an opportunity to be heard on material that goes meaningfully beyond the parties’ submissions.”

 

(International Law Association International Arbitration Committee’s Report and Recommendations on ‘Ascertaining the Contents of the Applicable Law in International Commercial Arbitration,” Vol. 26(2) Arb. Int’l 193, 217-218 (2010)).

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Monday in October

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

By law, since 1917, the Supreme Court has opened its single annual term on the first Monday in October. This came about by an act of Congress, modifying the federal Judicial Code, on September 6, 1916 (see article at www.constitutioncenter.org). Sixty-five years later, in 1981, Paramount Pictures released a film feature entitled First Monday in October, starring Jill Clayburgh as the Court’s first woman Justice, a conservative, who enters into a romantic relationship with her liberal colleague and mentor played by Walter Matthau.

Fast forward 36 years.

On the first Monday in October 2017, at 10:00 a.m., the Supreme Court of the United States opened the new Term of the Court with oral argument in a much-anticipated and discussed case at intersection of federal arbitration law and employment law. Following the oral argument on Monday October 2 in National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil Co. and two consolidated cases, we have opportunity to consider the mood of the Court, at full strength with the seating of Justice Neil Gorsuch, on another aspect of a provocative law-and-social policy issue of the last decade: the ability of American businesses to use arbitration agreements to inhibit prosecution of claims by imposing unacceptable costs of prosecution. In the cases argued October 2, that issue arises in the context of employers contracting for arbitration directly with employees who are not represented by unions. The contracts require arbitration, and require the employee to bring any claim individually and not jointly or on behalf of any others. In short, they provide for a collective action waiver.

From the oral argument (the transcript of which is now widely available on the Internet) one can say with confidence that the position of the four “liberal” Justices on the Court (Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, Breyer) is clear:  Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) guarantees to employees the right to engage in “concerted activity for … mutual aid or protection”; that the prosecution of claims against employers concerning working conditions by employees on a joint or collective basis is such concerted activity; that an employment contract by which the employer insists that the employee relinquish the right to engage in such concerted activity by arbitrating working conditions claims individually is an “unfair labor practice” under Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA; that Sections 7 and 8(a)(1) in combination render the arbitration clause containing a collective action waiver unlawful under federal labor law; and the illegality of this arbitration agreement under federal labor law disqualifies the agreement from enforcement under Section 2 of the FAA because the illegality is a “ground that exist[s] at law … for the revocation of any contract.”

So a question to ponder while the decision is awaited is whether this framework can be accepted by one of the five “conservative” Justices on the Court (Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch), and if not, on which branch[es] of the analysis will the liberals’ view falter for all five conservative Justices?

From the oral argument we can discern that the conservative Justices (at least the three of the five conservative Justices who were active in the interchange with counsel) offered little resistance to the conclusion that an arbitration agreement that is rendered unlawful by the NLRA is unenforceable under the FAA, such that any purported conflict of federal statutory commands is illusory. The conservative Justices active in the argument – Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito and Kennedy – appeared to be focused on the question of whether there is indeed illegality under the NLRA.

We can also discern that not one of the three actively-participating conservative Justices warmed openly to the employers’ argument that the concerted activity protected by the NLRA is limited to activity taking place, physically or otherwise, within the workplace.

Chief Justice Roberts posed a question that engaged considerable discussion: Suppose an arbitral institution has a rule that collective action may only be brought by a group of at least 50 persons, failing which the matter must proceed individually. Does Section 7 of the NLRA create a right to collective adjudication that includes the right to be free of such limitations in arbitration forum rules—or indeed to be free from FRCP 23’s requirement of numerosity for class certification?  And if the employer insists on arbitration under the rules of that arbitral forum, has the employer committed an unfair labor practice such that the contract is unenforceable? The employees’ counsel answered as follows: The right to engage in concerted activity under NLRA Section 7 is, by necessary implication, subject to other generally applicable laws and rules – a point driven home by Justice Kagan’s remark that employees who elect to riot in support of higher wages are subject to prosecution and punishment under anti-riot laws.  Thus if the employees, under their employment agreements, are permitted a choice of adjudicative forums, they are subject to the rules of the forum they select that regulate collective (or class) adjudication. But if the employer excludes any judicial forum because all or most of them permit multi-Plaintiff and class actions, and the employer instead insists on an arbitral forum whose rules embody Justice Roberts’ 50-or-One equation, then the employer-imposed interference with concerted activity violates the NLRA.

It is interesting that neither Chief Justice Roberts nor any of the other conservative Justices insisted that this response was insufficient or stated reasons to reject it. There are many possibilities. One is that one or more of the conservative Justices, perhaps the Chief Justice himself, is seeking to carve out a limitation on an envisioned pro-employee holding of the Court in these cases: that the holding pertains only to the categorical collective action waiver at issue, and leaves open for another day whether the adoption in an arbitration agreement between employer and employee – directly, or by reference to the rules of an arbitral forum – of rules regulating the procedure in collective or class actions, would result in illegality under the NLRA.

 

 

Funder, Thy Name Is …

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

I learned from reading the draft ICCA-Queen Mary Report on third-party funding in international arbitration a significant industry fact that perhaps is already well-known to many of you: that prominent third-party funders now engage prominent international arbitrators to work with (or perhaps indeed for) them to assist in the screening of cases for potential investment. I did not find in the draft report, however, any specific discussion of how this development in the market might affect the arbitration community’s views on the precise contours of disclosure of third party funding in international arbitration, now that a consensus appears to have evolved that there should be some form of disclosure at the beginning of a case for the purpose of allowing arbitrators to check for conflicts and make any appropriate disclosures.

Under one of the two alternative formulations of a disclosure protocol that are set forth in the ICCA-Queen Mary draft, a funded party would have a duty to disclose the existence of the funding agreement and the identity of the funder to the other party, the Tribunal and the institution that is administering the case. Under the second alternative, an arbitral tribunal would have discretion to require a party to disclose the existence of a funding arrangement and the identity of the funder.

The concern addressed in this Commentary is that disclosure of the identity of the funder to the Tribunal comes at a price: The Tribunal may form preliminary impressions about the merits of the case based on the fact that an identified funder has (or has not) decided to provide funding for a party. I suggest that this risk may be avoided by a disclosure protocol that shields the arbitrators from knowledge of the identity of the funder, albeit also at a cost — that arbitrators in law firms may need to search more broadly for funding relationships and disclose the relationships more broadly to the administering institution in order to effectuate an “identity-blind” conflict check.

Major third-party funders are understood to have constructed their businesses upon a model analogous to that of a venture capital firm.  Having raised capital from investors on the premise of their ability to generate very attractive rates of return in comparison to investments of comparable risk, the third-party funders then seek to optimize the risk-reward ratio and projected rate of return, doing so by a process of intensive evaluation of the law, facts, predilections of the arbitrators if they have already been selected, and any other factors in the environment of the case that bear upon the likelihood of a favorable award (or settlement) and its satisfaction (voluntarily or through enforcement) and the expected costs. Already staffed with skilled lawyers to make such assessments, certain well-capitalized funders in the high-value sector of dispute funding market have taken their due diligence strategies to an arguably higher level of refinement and predictability by adding renowned arbitrators to their case assessment teams. There can be little doubt that the funders seek to give assurance to potential investors that their selection of cases for investment is exceptionally rigorous. Further, it cannot have been overlooked by the funders, as funding disclosure regimes begin to be implemented in key arbitration markets (such as Hong Kong and Singapore), that if disclosure of the identity of the funder is required, the funder in order to make a favorable impression on the Tribunal that will receive the disclosure should have branded itself as an impeccable selector of meritorious cases.

This phenomenon creates a disquieting prospect. If disclosure of the identity of the funder to the Tribunal is made mandatory and automatic under applicable arbitration law or provider rules, just imagine how this might play out — after conflict issues are resolved — when the arbitrators first convene to discuss the case at the pleading/preliminary conference stage.  “Claimant is backed by one of the really first-rate funders, and they are exceptionally selective, and they use Arbitrator X (who is on their “Investment Advisory Board”) as the team leader to vet all their big cases. So we can have confidence that Claimant has quite a strong case here.” Or maybe the prudent arbitrator will not say this — but only think it.

Now suppose instead that the funder is a new entrant in the field, or is expanding to international arbitration from its established business of funding auto accident cases in the US domestic market. The spoken or unspoken reaction of the arbitrator might be “We have to have some concerns about the merit of this case. Chances are this funder is involved because the case was turned down by the better-established players.”  Also, knowing the identity of the funder might cause the Tribunal to draw inferences about the funder’s ongoing involvement in the legal strategy and tactics. A first-tier funder might be assumed to exert substantial and continuous influence, a new player perhaps not as much. Many arbitrators will insist that they are immune from such influences and will in all events decide the case strictly on the basis of the evidence and the law. But when we spend so much time worrying about so-called “unconscious bias,” can we afford to look away from this very real source of potential influence on the arbitrator’s judgment?

So it seems fair to ask whether a mandatory disclosure scheme for provider rules might be designed to mitigate this concern. Could the rule for instance require disclosure in the first instance of the identity of the funder only to the administrating institution, with the understanding that the identity of the funder will not be revealed to the arbitrators unless this becomes necessary for a determination of whether an arbitrator needs to make a disclosure? Perhaps the rule could also impose upon the party a duty to disclose its funder’s known relationships with the arbitrators. But on the basis that such disclosure might not be complete – as the funder may not fully disclose to the funded party – the administrator could then call upon the arbitrator to disclose her (or her firm’s) relationships with any funder in the funder category of the identified funder. If this disclosure reveals no relationship with the party’s identified funder, the administrator would either so advise the parties, or from the absence of a communication and confirmation of the arbitrators’ nominations it would be assumed that no arbitrator relationship with the funder exists that could be relevant to the arbitrator’s impartiality and independence.

Granted this makes the conflict checking more difficult for the arbitrator, especially one who is affiliated with a large law firm. Conflict checking for funder relationships could not under this protocol be done through the law firm’s automated system without an entity name. But would arbitrators be able by other means to determine if their clients in pending or recent cases have used funding, or if a funder was a client of the firm? Would the challenge of defining “funder” for these purposes be adequately resolved if the administrator, based on the party’s disclosure, is able to inform the arbitrator of an adequate generic classification of funder involved?

The specific concerns discussed here about the downside of mandatory disclosure are not discussed in the Task Force draft. But there was division within the Task Force about whether to make disclosure of the identity of the funder mandatory, and the advocates of such mandatory disclosure believed, according to the draft, that this is necessary in order for arbitrators to conduct reasonable investigation for potential conflicts. I leave you with these questions, which have not been analyzed in the draft ICCA-Queen Mary Report, and with the notion that there is considerably more work to be done before the notion of mandatory disclosure of the identity of the funder becomes enshrined in the rules of major arbitration provider organizations.

If Only These Conflicts Could Be Mediated …

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

The past week was a challenging week for all of us, including those of us who consider ourselves to be mediators. What does the mediation profession have to offer toward resolution of national and international disputes that have not been submitted to mediation (so far as we know)? Some of the attributes that an effective mediator might bring to the table if such disputes were mediated, and in turn might bring to the discussion of these disputes even if they are not mediated, include: (1) an interest in identifying the fundamental interests of both sides, (2) an ability to understand the significance of language and its nuances, in the rhetoric of the parties, and in the mediator’s own rhetoric, which will be calculated to transform a contentious matter into a joint effort directed toward a solution, and (3) to understand the audiences and constituencies to which each of the disputing parties must report upon and justify any agreed solution.

In this post, I posit hypothetical mediations of two significant sources of conflict in recent days: the  killing of three Israeli soldiers by a Palestinian man who in turn was killed, while still armed and shooting, by Israeli forces (“Jerusalem Mediation,” below) and the protests by National Football League teams in response to comments by President Trump about NFL players (“Anthem Mediation,” below). They are many differences between these disputes. Notably, the first of them is in its general contours merely a new instance of a perennial problem in the Israel-Palestine conflict, i.e. random acts of violence regarded as terrorism, whereas the latter is a new stage of a dispute that has been percolating for more than a year over NFL player protests during the National Anthem, but has entered a new phase because of the entry of the President of the United States into the controversy.

 

  1. Jerusalem Mediation

 

Suppose that the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) had a valid and binding agreement to mediate disputes concerning retaliation measures against the families and neighbors and property of perpetrators of violence, before such retaliatory measures are undertaken. Obviously this is contrary to fact, and Israel’s practices in this regard are a source of controversy at many levels — within Israel, in Palestinian communities, in past negotiations between Israel and the PA or its predecessor, and in the international human rights community.   Below I present what might be imagined to be the pre-mediation or opening statements of the parties, followed by the mediator’s summary and some suggestions for how the mediation might be resolved successfully.

  1. PA Mediation Statement: On the morning of September 26, a 37-year old father of four who lived peacefully with his family decided to become a martyr in the ongoing crusade for the liberation of Palestine by giving his life in an armed struggle with military occupation forces at the gates of an illegal Jewish settlement on Palestinian land 15 kilometers north and west of Jerusalem. The military occupation forces now insist upon the right to destroy the family home of the martyr, to revoke the work permits held by members of his family, and to prevent any entry to or exit from their village by any of its residents except in cases of clear emergency.  The occupation forces propose to take these measures, which constitute collective punishment in violation of international law, despite there being no evidence or even suspicion that members of the family of the martyr, or his neighbors, or the leaders of the community, had any involvement in or gave any encouragement to, the act of martyrdom in which he alone decided to engage.   Such measures are not a deterrent to future violence, but rather they are a cause of the hatred and anger that justifiably provoke such acts, and the contentions of the Jewish occupiers that they are necessary to prevent such acts in the future are contradicted by the history of such internationally unlawful activity over the many decades in which it has been practiced as well as by systematic research that has been done by creditable scholars.

 

  1. Israel Mediation Statement:  On the morning of September 26, a ruthless PA Arab terrorist, posing as a worker going to his job in a Jewish Israeli town, a Jerusalem suburb, drew his concealed pistol at a security checkpoint and opened fire, killing three young Israeli soldiers (two of them Jewish, one Arab), and seriously wounding another person, before Israeli military police prevented an even greater massacre by taking the life of the terrorist. The incitement of this murderous assault by the PA is obvious, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad have hailed this murderer as a hero and a martyr, as the PA has now done in its mediation statement today. It is primarily because of the forceful response to such unprovoked violence that the State of Israel has been able to protect itself and its people, to keep such terrorism from overwhelming and destroying our State. We cannot continue to have a program that allows Arabs living in West Bank villages to work inside Israel, a program that benefitted this assailant and his family and his community for many years, if we cannot assure the security of our people and our communities. We accomplish that security through deterrence, and the deterrence that has proved effective for decades has been swift retribution against the families and homes and communities of the terrorists. To deny Israel the ability to act in this fashion, in lawful self-defense under international law, and in accordance with a practice that dates back at least to the Mandatory period under British control pre-dating the formation of the Jewish State, is to deny Israel’s right to secure borders and in turn its right to exist,

3. The Mediator’s Summary: On the morning of September 26, a 37 year old man, appearing to be on his way to work in the community of Har Adar where he had worked for many years, opened fire and killed three security guards and wounded another at a checkpoint adjoining the town. The man was killed by military police. Har Adar is a Jewish town lying mainly just beyond the so-called Green Line, i.e. the pre-1967 geopolitical boundary, and the assailant’s home town in the West Bank was only a few hundred meters to the east of Har Adar. Israel contends that this act was incited by the Palestinian Authority, not in a direct sense but by its policies giving encouragement to individual acts of violence against Jewish Israelis. The PA contends that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its policies toward the people living in that territory have provoked and continue to provoke individual acts of violence. Those policies include, the PA contends, the proposed measures in dispute here, which the PA contends do not serve to deter future violence but instead to foment it. Israel, for its part, contends that the proposed measures have been effective as deterrents to violence, that credible and objective research has proven this to be the case, that the courts of Israel have repeatedly ruled that the practices are lawful, and that they are not violations of international law. Further Israel contends that this policy has been employed to the mutual benefit of Jewish and Arab residents, that is to say that they have functioned as an effective deterrent to violence which causes death and injury to Jews and Arabs, but also have materially contributed to the system of economic interchange that allows non-Jewish West Bank residents to lead relatively normal lives and to travel to and from their jobs in Israel without this system being seen by the Jewish populace as a threat to their security.

 

A Mediator’s Solution?? – As a preliminary comment, I note that the statements set forth above are constructed to illustrate how each party’s narrative is built around its fundamental beliefs, and that the mediator’s version of the statement avoids the rhetorical devices and buzz words that are critical to each side’s narrative. Moreover, many if not all of the disagreements reflected in the narratives are peripheral to the issue that needs an immediate solution in this hypothetical: whether there can be some substitute for the retaliatory action that Palestinians, with broad international support, regard as collective punishment in violation of international law. Thus, the parties are unlikely to agree in the near term, but need not agree in order to resolve the dispute, on whether: (1) the killer is a “terrorist” or a “martyr”; (2) Har Adar is a lawful community; (3) the West Bank is part of Israel; (4) Israeli administration of the West Bank is an “occupation”; or (5) the PA bears any responsibility for the incitement or encouragement of the actions of this or other Palestinian perpetrators of violence against Israelis.

Moreover, the PA and Israel are unlikely ever to agree on the legality under international law of what the PA regards as “Collective Punishment,” or to come even close to a mutual position on the effectiveness of such measures as a deterrent to violence. From the Israeli press one may discern that officers in the Israeli Defense Forces doubt the effectiveness of retaliation against families and communities, especially since such measures (according to press reports) tend to be temporary save for the destruction of the perpetrator’s home (and also, it is reported, destruction of the mourner’s tent as part of the planning for the demolition of the home). One also discerns from the press reports that communities like Har Adar benefit from having a Palestinian Arab labor force and yearn for a return to the status quo of relatively peaceful employer-employee relations. But the taking of retaliatory measures such as revocation of work permits in and/or quarantine of the perpetrator’s village apparently has considerable political value, as a demonstration of “strength” in regard to the security of Jewish communities in the West Bank.

What is the adequate substitute politically for the Prime Minister of Israel, acceptable to the PA, in exchange for a commitment by Israel to take no such retaliatory measures in this instance?  A PA pronouncement condemning that Act? – Not politically possible for the PA in all likelihood. A protocol for the diversion of Palestinian tax revenues, collected by Israel and otherwise payable to the PA, into a fund to compensate the Israeli victims and their survivors, not only in this instance but in future instances, with an initial stated agreed amount of funds to be diverted with regard to this instance, coupled with a statement of sympathy for the personal losses sustained by the loved ones of the victims? … I rather like this solution, as it is a form of economic sanction that from an Israeli perspective penalizes the PA for what is perceived to be its incitement of such violence and creates an economic incentive for the PA to inhibit it.  The main difficulty with the solution is its optics on the Palestinian side, which raises the question of how and even whether the accord would be reported publicly. Possibly such an agreement could be effective without reporting of details of the diversion of taxes. The PA could announce a “victory” in having negotiated a commitment from Israel not to take retaliatory measures and to restore immediately the rights of Palestinian workers from the perpetrator’s village and family. Israel for its part could report in a general way having secured strong assurances from the PA of efforts to deter violence. And the parties could each state that non-disclosure of the details was an essential element of the agreement.

I invite your views and your suggestions for alternatives.

 

  1. Anthem Mediation

Suppose that in this fourth week of the National Football League’s 17-week season, an individual team’s owner and its players agree to mediation, on an as needed basis, of the question of what position the Team and the players, collectively or individually, should take with respect to comportment on the playing field during the playing of the National Anthem. You have been engaged as the mediator. The ongoing nature of the engagement reflects to prospect that the contours of the issue will change from week to week, and also that approaches may vary based on whether the Team is playing in its home stadium or is the visiting team.

This week, the Team (Atlanta Falcons) is playing at home on Sunday, October 1, and the Team’s owner calls for a mediation session on Friday September 29 (by which date one game has been played, on Thursday night in Green Bay, Wisconsin).  The mediation begins with opening statements from both sides.

Owner’s Mediation Opening Statement: I would like to see our organization take a unified position at this week’s game. As the owner of this team I am completely supportive of the causes that originally inspired some individual players to engage in kneel-down protests during the National Anthem as a way to express their views on racially sensitive issues like disparate police treatment of suspects in African-American communities. But the President’s remarks portray protesting players as unpatriotic, ungrateful, disrespectful of our American flag and our country and especially of people who have served our country in the armed forces and given their lives to protect our freedom. I am concerned that this message resonates with a large segment of our fan base and that if we don’t conform our behavior to be sensitive to that, we do harm to our Team in the community and we do harm to the underlying causes that inspired some players to protest, before the President became involved.  The solution I propose for this week is this: (1) We will all stand together, owners, coaches, players, with arms linked and hands over our hearts during the playing of the national anthem, (2) the anthem will be sung by an African-American recording artist of international renown, and (3) the color guard will be presented by a four-person contingent of US Marines from Fort Benning GA, two African-Americans and two Caucasians, and in the pre-game ceremony just prior to the Anthem we will honor two recently-returned veterans, Marines who have served in Afghanistan, both women, one African-American and one Caucasian.

Players’ Mediation Opening Statement: The difficulty now is that we do not know what the President might say between now and the time of the National Anthem. Last week the President stood up on Friday night in Alabama and called us all SOBs who should be fired. We had to decide on Saturday what to do on Sunday. This week he has already said that he thinks the Team owners are afraid of the players. It sounds like he is prodding the Team owners to show that they can assert control over their uppity African American workers, like strong plantation owners would. And who knows what he might say on Saturday night or Sunday morning. Our right to choose how to act during the National Anthem, one by one, is a deal-breaker for us. The race of the Anthem singer looks like a token gesture. And the color guard and honoring of veterans, while worthy things to do in another context, in the context of your proposal look like answers to the President’s contentions that African American protesting players are unpatriotic, and we think we should not have to answer, because the President’s assertions that kneeling players are being disrespectful or unpatriotic are absurd — even if they are believed by some of his supporters — and these statements should not be dignified with a direct answer. Answering this President glorifies this President and makes the issue about him and his narrative.  It is not about him, and we should not allow him to alter and direct the terms of discussion.

The Mediator’s Proposal:  [which ensues after an exploration of various alternatives, including ways to return the focus of the protest to its original message of concern about unequal treatment of African Americans, solutions to express unity that do not entail conformity, and the pros and cons of engaging in a debate with the President on his terms]. Here is a proposal for each side to consider, and from my private sessions with each side I have some degree of confidence that you will be able to reach agreement on most of what I propose: (1) When the Anthem is played, the Team’s owner, the coaches, and the players, will arrange themselves in a single horizontal line on the on-the-field side of the sideline with the owner at the center of the line, and everyone is free to stand, kneel, or sit, but we will all be linked by contact with the persons adjacent – whether by linking arms or touching shoulders, etc.; (2) the auxiliary scoreboards will display this message: “Our Team, Our Community, Our Nation”, (3) prior to the singing of the Anthem, the public address announcer will state “Please join the Atlanta Falcons as we honor America with our National Anthem” and there will be no direction or request to the fans to stand or remove hats,  and (4) at the conclusion of the Anthem, there will be an announcement that the Atlanta Falcons have made a donation in the amount of $__ million to the Urban League of Greater Atlanta to support its ongoing work in the area of police reform and accountability.

I invite your views and your suggestions for alternatives.

 

 

 

Salvation of the Baby-Splitters

Monday, August 7th, 2017

Perhaps one should have a valid excuse, in the company of intended readers of Arbitration Commentaries, to re-open the well-worn subject of compromise outcomes on damages in international arbitration – “triangulation,” in the parlance of some eloquent and perceptive commentators (e.g., M. Kantor, Avoiding Triangulations and Chimeras Alike, Global Arbitration Review (July 31, 2012))*; but here identified by its colloquial name: “baby-splitting.”  I claim to have such an excuse, having recently been permitted to participate as a speaker in a program about damages before a knowledgeable audience, and for that purpose having tried to compose some thoughts on the matter. A few of those thoughts, falling short (as these essays usually do) of being a definitive treatment, are set forth here:

  1. “Institutional/environmental” factors often weigh against baby-splitting (at least overt forms of it). Let’s first consider investor-State arbitration. Investment arbitration awards, unless made confidential by agreement or order, are published in accessible online sources. They are studied and discussed by practitioners in the field and scholars in academia. The transparency factor is one element that should encourage investment arbitrators to be thorough and objective in their approach to damages. The relatively concentrated nature of the investment arbitration bar, and its well-developed communication networks, also serve to place investment arbitrators under a microscope. The prospect of annulment proceedings in ICSID cases is perhaps a factor – but high professionalism may be the best explanation – that motivates investment law arbitrators to display in their awards painstakingly detailed and thorough exposition of the parties’ contentions and equally painstaking Tribunal analysis on both liability and quantum. This would seem to be not particularly out of fear of an actual annulment, but for two reasons: first, to inhibit the prospects of and the costs associated with annulment proceedings, and second, to avoid the negative peer review (with full transparency to the investment arbitration community) that could appear in an annulment committee’s decision even if the award is sustained. Let’s now consider commercial arbitrations, with lesser degree of institutionalized transparency. In ICC arbitrations and others where there is similar “peer review” of draft awards (members of the ICC Court who scrutinize awards being viewed as peers of the arbitrators for this purpose), the incentives to resolve quantum issues analytically are also present. Many arbitrators approach damages analytically mainly because this is what arbitrators consider that they are duty-bound to do. Whether subjective choices of damages amounts are more prevalent where the awards are less scrutinized and less transparent is difficult to say. I know many arbitrators who consider themselves duty-bound to tackle difficult quantum issues as objectively and thoroughly as the evidence and circumstances permit, without regard to transparency factors. At the same time, we know that wrestling with complex quantum issues demands great discipline, stamina, and time, and presiding arbitrators are sometimes selected for reasons having little to do with their willingness or ability or availability to make the required effort. Some of them will compensate by delegation, whether to another member of the Tribunal, or to a Tribunal assistant, who claims to have quantitative skills and a consequent ability to decipher and analyze the evidence about damages.
  2. Are Disappointed Parties Propagators of the Myth of Baby-Splitting?: I have no survey data to support this hypothesis. But is seems entirely plausible to suppose that some of what is perceived as “baby-splitting” by arbitration participants is a speculative attempt to ascribe a subjective motive to the arbitrators’ rejection or partial rejection of the party’s position on damages. When arbitrators have latitude to omit detailed statements of their reasons – as they do in many settings other than investment law cases, the arbitrators may have specific reasons for omitting their reasons. For example, an award that is highly critical of the analysis or the credibility of an expert to whom a party has presumably paid considerable sums in professional fees may strain relationships. Arbitrators may prefer to leave a gap in the reasoning, seeing reticence as the lesser evil. In such a case, the perception of baby-splitting may be justified, but the reality may be otherwise. Conversely, arbitrators may state detailed reasons for having adopted particular assumptions or discredited particular elements of the Claimant’s position on damages. And yet the Claimant and its counsel may remain convinced that this rejection was subjectively not analytically motivated, the award’s stated reasons being seen to operate as an arbitrary tool to make a subjective outcome appear rational. These kinds of reactions are understandable byproducts of an adversary process that entails substantial financial and emotional investments by the parties and their professionals. Consider this example. In a recent investment arbitration case, Claimant claimed that the expropriated assets had a 40-year expected life, while the Respondent State contended for 25 years. Each party submitted extensive expert evidence on this specific question. Opting for the 25-year term, the Tribunal provided detailed assessments of the reliability and credibility of each expert’s submissions. This choice had a 35 percent reduction impact on valuation under the discounted cash flow (DCF) methodology. Will the Claimant or its professionals admit, in any public forum or private survey, that Respondent had the better of the argument? Perhaps not. But if the award is the objective evidence, and the arbitrators’ motives and stated conclusions are presumed to be sincere, the case for baby-splitting is difficult to make.
  3. Survey Evidence Disputes Baby-Splitting as Mostly Myth: Evidence that arbitrators do not systematically gravitate toward moderation in damages outcomes comes from some sources even more authoritative than your Commentator. A 2015 study by the American Arbitration Association covering 2,384 AAA domestic and international commercial arbitration awards in cases where monetary relief was claimed found that 41 percent of the cases resulted in awards of 80 percent or more of the amount claimed, 31 percent resulted in claims denied, and only 28 percent resulted in awards of less than 80 percent of the amount claimed. (“AAA/ICDR Awards Do Not Split the Baby: Countering Counsel Perception in Commercial B2B Arbitration Cases,” a 2016 AAA report that may be found at www.sacarbitration.com; for apparently technical reasons owing to changes in the AAA’s website, this AAA whitepaper is not currently posted there). A broader study in 2014 that canvassed multiple empirical analyses concluded: “Practically all the research under consideration came to the conclusion that arbitral tribunals very often grant claimant or respondent the full or almost the full amount claimed; awards in the mid-range are the exception and not the rule.” (A.C. Weber, C.A. Pascuzzo & G. De Siqueria Pastore, Challenging the “Splitting the Baby” Myth in International Arbitration, 31(6) Journal of International Arbitration 719-734 at 733 (2014)). Such surveys have their own limitations of course. A survey of all AAA/ICDR awards in a given year may include a large number of cases where the amount of the award, if there is liability, is relatively well-defined by contract. A more selective sampling of business valuation and lost profits cases would probably yield different results.
  4. Salvation of the Baby-Splitters?: Even if there is no consensus about how prevalent baby-splitting may be, we may all agree that it would be desirable to take concrete steps to reduce the arbitrator’s temptation. Here there is shared responsibility of advocates and arbitrators. Suppose, as is wont to happen in some cases, the Claimant submits a thorough DCF analysis with a specific outcome, and Respondent’s expert submits an “attack” report that questions Claimant’s experts’ assumptions, methodology, data accuracy, etc., but does not make a counter valuation or even a sensitivity analysis on key variables (or, mainly for rhetorical purposes, opines that there are no damages, that the value of the property taken is zero or negative, etc). Responses of arbitrators in such situations may in part be cultural. For American arbitrators, especially in a case with American counsel, the norm of party autonomy translates into a strong momentum toward allowing the parties to present their cases as they wish. If this leaves the Tribunal at the deliberation stage with less guidance on quantum than might be desirable, at least the dysfunction is a byproduct of the parties’ choices. But even American arbitrators do find ways to manage the problem. One approach, suitable for a case where quantum stands to be a complex valuation or lost profits endeavor with foreseeably conflicting expert testimony and substantial potential variations based on data and assumption choices, is to encourage the Respondent, even at the preliminary conference stage, to respond to Claimant’s quantum evidence with a quantified counter-position. Another possibility is to await receipt of both sides’ expert submissions, and if Respondent has made an attack report only, to invite this to be supplemented with a counter-calculation. (More commonly, but perhaps less effectively, the Claimant submits a reply expert report purporting to show that Respondent’s criticisms have been taken into account, resulting in modest adjustments).  Another strategy is for the parties’ experts to share their damages models with the Tribunal, or to develop jointly a serviceable model for the Tribunal’s own use. (This phenomenon can be observed in the reading of a recent investment arbitration award, see Burlington Resources v. Republic of Ecuador, ICSID Case No. ARB/08/5, Decision on Reconsideration and Award dated Feb. 7, 2017, published on italaw.com)). This solution raises further issues about the Tribunal’s ability to manipulate the model, the possible need for a Tribunal-appointed expert, and the possibility of ongoing dialogue with the party experts beyond the confines of a merits hearing.

 

*“Triangulation” in social science terminology refers to the use of multiple methods in a study in order the cross-check the validity of the results. In the arbitration context the term initially had reference to an arbitral tribunal’s examination of possibly three different quantum outcomes based on possibly three different valuation methods  — income-based (DCF), market-based (comparables) and asset-based (net asset value).  See C. Amirfar, The Role of Damages Calculations in the Legitimacy of International Investment Arbitration, in A. Rovine, ed., CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION AND MEDIATION: THE FORDHAM PAPERS 2015, Chapter 7 at 108, 110 & nn. 10, 11, citing to M. Kantor, supra.)