To reduce the risk of either pernicious or precarious arbitrators, those who establish the standards for arbitral comportment walk a tightrope between two competing goals: one seeks to promote arbitral integrity, while the other aims to discourage sabotage of proceedings.
Arbitrator ethics implicate, first of all, what might be called problematic relationships between party and arbitrator, in the form of inappropriate links of an emotional, financial or social nature. Someone with a dog in the fight should not judge the competition.
A second key element of arbitrator fitness relates to prejudgment. An umpire should not be someone who has decided in advance which team will win. Not only do independence and impartiality lie at the center of arbitrator integrity, these two notions serve as the underpinnings for the raison d’être for arbitration on an international level, which aims to enhance political and procedural neutrality in dispute resolution proceedings.
Extremes of arbitrator bias are not difficult to identify. There is a wonderful 1939 English case on prejudgment, in which a distinguished English barrister charged with deciding a case between Portuguese and Norwegian ship owners, announced during hearings, “You know, the Portuguese are all liars.” The arbitrator forgot that a managing director of the Portuguese owners had studied at Columbia University and spoke excellent English. In response to a request for his removal, the arbitrator argued that he would have decided against the Portuguese on the merits, not just because of their dishonest nature.