In 2012, we wrote a chapter about the use of law secretaries in international arbitration titled, “The Fourth Arbitrator: Contrasting Guidelines on Use of Law Secretaries.” Recently, in the Yukos case, Veteran Petroleum Limited (Cyprus) v. the Russian Federation, in connection with the largest arbitration award ever issued, questions of the extent and influence of tribunal secretaries on arbitrators’ decisions have been brought to the fore.
A challenge to that award by the Russian Federation in the District Court in The Hague in the Netherlands describes circumstances of the involvement of a tribunal assistant that it contends should lead the court to vacate the award. That challenge provides a unique opportunity to look more closely, and practically, at some of the issues raised in our earlier column.
Extent of Involvement
The argument made by Russia—though not the leading argument in its extensive brief—was that an assistant appointed by the chairman exercised too much influence over the tribunal’s decision and that the award should therefore be set aside.