The ever-popular Commercial Arbitration Symposium attracted a diverse range of participants as usual, and they submitted a no less diverse range of topics for discussion. This year’s symposium was kindly sponsored by third-party funder, Profile Investment, and litigation support service provider, Law In Order.
The Chatham House rule allowed for a spirited discussion, starting with the first session moderated by co-chairs Ben Giaretta (Mishcon de Reya) and Tan Ai Leen (TE Connectivity). Delegates discussed the impact of technology on arbitration before moving onto the growth of arbitral institutions. What was the practical effect of MOUs between institutions? How far should governments go in supporting new institutions?
The recent addition of early dismissal procedures to a number of arbitral rules provoked several questions, but the discussion focused on whether early dismissal rules should apply where arbitration is proceeding under an expedited procedure. If so, where arbitrators have a discretion as to whether to hear an application for early dismissal, should they approach it in a different way where the case is expedited?
The second session, chaired by Sarah Grimmer (HKIAC) and Siraj Omar SC (Drew & Napier) focused on questions relating to the tribunal. Delegates revisited the merits of party-nomination of arbitrators versus leaving it to an arbitral institution. Diversity of appointments, in all senses, has been a hot topic in recent times, and received considerable attention, before discussion turned to a wide range of procedural matters, including the Prague Rules, an arbitrator’s ability to act as a conciliator under the International Arbitration Act, conflicts of interest and enforcement of confidentiality obligations.
Shaneen Parikh (Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas) and Chan Leng Sun SC (Essex Court Chambers Duxton) chaired the final session, on the role of the courts, which kicked off with a discussion of case law. Did Fiona Trust require reconsideration? What did delegates make of Marty v Hualon?
Interim measures also garnered attention, before delegates turned to series of questions focusing on challenges to award. Recent proposals to introduce a right of appeal on a point of law under the IAA were considered, as was the alternative of narrowing the existing grounds by allowing parties to waive their rights of challenge. Would a right or appeal or, conversely, a right to waive challenges make arbitration more or less attractive to parties? Would it affect third party funders’ assessment of cases?
In the final question, delegates were challenged to look beyond the many attractions of Singapore as an arbitral seat, and think critically as to what could be improved.
Following the formal sessions, delegates were treated to a fantastic cocktail reception, courtesy of Pernaud Ricard. An array of luxury whiskies, champagnes and other refreshments were on offer at the bar, ably and hospitably manned by the full Pernod Ricard team.
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Andrew Pullen - Fountain Court Chambers