Disclosure of Conflicts by Arbitrators - Part 5 Chapter 33 - The Practice of International Litigation - 2nd Edition
Lawrence W. Newman has been a partner in the New York office of Baker & McKenzie since 1971, when, together with the late Professor Henry deVries, he founded the litigation department in that office. He is the author/editor of 4 works on international litigation/arbitration.
Michael Burrows, Formerly, Of Counsel, Baker & McKenzie, New York.
International arbitrations often involve significant amounts of money. The stakes are high and the choice of the persons who will decide the disputed issues is therefore important. Indeed, there are lawyers who have ascribed to the selection of arbitrators a large percentage of what a party can do to influence the outcome of an international arbitration. But arbitrators, unlike judges, do not come from a cloistered world. Rather, they – with the exception of a small number of persons who only serve as arbitrators – usually come from the hurly burly worlds of business, commerce and investment and from law firms that advise the active participants in these worlds.
The two poles of bias and impartiality have always been concerns of the institution of international arbitration. The Federal Arbitration Act specifically refers to the possibility that an arbitrator may be biased in favor of one of the parties. It provides that an arbitral award may be vacated by a U.S. district court “when there was evident partiality or corruption in the arbitrators or either of them” (emphasis added), 9 USC §10(a) (2).
The universally expected response to the potential problem of arbitrator bias is disclosure, at the outset, by potential arbitrators of facts that might be regarded as bearing on their independence. A case recently decided by the Second Circuit, Applied Industrial Materials Corp. v. Ovalar Makine Ticaret Ve Sanayi, A.S., 492 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 2007), sheds some light on the extent to which information bearing on possible bias must not only be disclosed but also ferreted out by the arbitrator possessed of information suggesting possible conflicts of interest with either of the parties.