A Report on the CPR European Congress on Business Dispute Management (Part I)

EU flagBy Vanessa Alarcón Duvanel

This is the second post of a new CPR Speaks feature, “The European View,” offering valuable insights and perspectives from CPR’s European Advisory Board (EAB).

On 31 May 2018, CPR held its annual European Congress on Business Dispute Management in London. Organized by CPR’s European Advisory Board (the “EAB”) and kindly hosted by SwissRe in the incredible Gherkin building, the event convened European and American practitioners for a successful day of discussion led by four interesting panels. 

This blog piece reports on the exchanges and discussions heard at the European Congress.  Summarizing this full day and four panels into one blog article would have deprived the readers of too many insightful views and ideas shared at the Congress. Therefore, we have split this reporting in two parts: a Part I sharing the morning panel sessions, and a Part II covering the afternoon panels.

The event kicked off with welcoming remarks by Maurice Kuitems, (EAB Chair, Fluor Corporation) and Olivier André (CPR), following by Elena Jelmini Cellerini, (EAB Member, SwissRe), and Nicola Parton (Swiss Re). Ms. Parton offered an inspiring message on the role of ADR and the importance of sustainable dispute resolution mechanisms, a goal that requires full respect of transparency principles and responsiveness to issues raised by our counterparts.

Make ADR great again! The in-house counsel’s perspective

Kenneth B. Reisenfeld (BakerHostetler) moderated the first panel of the day, which was exclusively composed of in-house counsels: James Cowan (CPR EAB Member, Shell International Ltd); Noah J. Hanft (CPR); Isabelle Robinet-Muguet (EAB Vice-Chair, Orange); and Gill Mansfield (Media Law Services).

The first question put to the panelists was whether there was a past renaissance about ADR, or has the ADR process gotten off track. The industry has come a long way since its early years. Many concepts have developed and there are now growing concerns that arbitration is not fulfilling its promises of being fast, confidential and efficient. These criticisms are legitimate and impossible to ignore in light of the high costs and duration of certain arbitral proceedings or the inclusion of U.S.-style disclosures in arbitral proceedings.

There is consequently a real need to make ADR great again, and to find business solutions to business disputes. The panel shared the in-house perspective on some of the means to improve the ADR process:

  1. Involving the business people

All speakers agreed that involving their colleagues from the “business side” is certainly not an easy step, yet it is important and a critical task of the legal department. When a dispute arises, the company’s business does not freeze and the project team has little time to devote to a dispute. The business team’s approach to the dispute will be different from that of the litigators and their early involvement can help define the ADR process in a more business sensitive manner, as opposed to a pure litigation proceeding.

Achieving adequate collaboration from the business people in a dispute requires a cultural environment sensitive to ADR and its benefits. This is only possible with sufficient trainings and an overall commitment of the management to ADR.  As the panelists phrased it several times, the business people must be able to understand the “importance of taking ownership of the matter.”

  1. Early case assessment (ECA)

For the panel, an early case assessment (ECA) is a critical element to any dispute resolution mechanism. It should be the first step in any dispute and is fundamental to understanding the business needs. A good ECA will serve in many ways: it will help shape the ADR process; guide the relationship with outside counsel; and highlight the skills and expertise to look for in the designation of a mediator or arbitrator, or in the selection of experts.

  1. Mediation

According to the panel, using mediation and appointing a commercially minded neutral can improve the efficiency of the dispute resolution mechanism. The financial savings can be significant, particularly in cases where the appointment of a neutral with relevant skills allows the parties to negotiate entirely (or partially) without having to involve outside counsel.

  1. Multi-tier / Step dispute resolution clauses

The speakers briefly touched upon multi-tier dispute resolution clauses, whereby in case of a dispute the parties undertake to take certain steps prior to commencing arbitration in an attempt to amicably settle the dispute. Some of the panelists view such clauses as a thoughtful way of bringing mediation into the process early, and a means to facilitate the involvement of the business people. Other panelists do not consider mandatory mediation as an efficient tool. Every dispute is different and settlement negotiations and/or mediation may sometimes be more appropriate at a later stage. An ADR-friendly corporate culture should also render multi-tier clauses unnecessary.

  1. Diversity

All panelists concurred that a lot of work has been done but so much remains to be accomplished in order to bring more diversity to the ADR process—particularly with respect to age and geographical location. From the panel’s perspective, the in-house counsels have a central role to play in this issue. They can, for example, ask the lawyers to “dig deeper” and present new names on the list of arbitrators, to encourage new appointments, which in turn will contribute to broadening the existing pool of experienced arbitrators for large and complex commercial disputes and will consequently increase the efficiency of arbitral proceedings.

The Progress and impact of the European Directive on mediation: Where do we stand and what’s next?

The panel was composed of mediation experts from various European horizons: Alexander Oddy (EAB Member, Herbert Smith Freehills) who served as moderator; Vanja Bilić, PhD (Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Croatia); Professor Pablo Cortés (Leicester Law School, University of Leicester; Martin Brink, PhD (Van Benthem & Keulen); Ivana Gabrić (Končar – Electrical Industry, Inc.); and Tsisana Shamlikashvili (President, Russian National organization of Mediators, Founder of the Center for Mediation and Law, Head of Federal Institute of Mediation).

The European Union has enacted two “mediation” directives, namely: (1) the “European Directive 2005/52/EC on the facilitation and access to ADR and the promotion of amicable settlement” (the “EU Directive on mediation”), following which some member States have amended their domestic rules to impose mediation prior to litigation; and (2) the “Directive 2013/11/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes” (the “Consumer Directive on ADR”) which imposes mandatory mediation to all businesses with consumers.

The panelists extended the scope of their discussion beyond its title and the impact of the EU Directive on mediation to include private initiatives taken by corporations to impose mandatory mediation, independently from legislation.

Both the European Mediation Directive and the Consumer Directive on ADR have had a positive impact on ADR.  There is, however, still room for improvement. As with any major change, it will take time. All speakers agreed that improving the use of mediation requires increasing awareness of the benefits of mediation. The potential to save money and time and to salvage the business relationship is significant with mediation, and users need more knowledge of these advantages. One avenue mentioned by different speakers to raise awareness about mediation consists of allowing the management to witness a mediation proceeding in order to understand concretely how it works and how it deploys its benefits for the company.

Ivana Gabrić shared Končar’s success story of imposing mandatory mediation. In 2005, unrelated to any legislative action, the company decided to introduce a mandatory mediation policy for all of its contracts. Within a few years, the policy led to the elimination of all court litigation. Today, Končar has no pending litigations. In light of the success, the management extended the policy to labor disputes.

The EU Mediation Directive also triggered changes beyond the borders of the EU, such as in Russia where—Tsisana Shamlikashvili reported—mediation represents a big cultural change. In a country where courts are very busy and obtaining a judgment has become part of the ordinary business (regardless of the time it takes and any ability to enforce upon such judgement), introducing mediation is equivalent to changing mentalities and requires significant effort. But, the progress is on-going and the efforts deployed to convince the users of the benefits of mediation are starting to pay off.

Stay tuned for part II reporting on the panels discussing “Climate change and ADR” and “Complex financing of ADR.”

 

Vanessa Alarcon Duvanel is a member of White & Case’s international arbitration group and is based in the firm’s Geneva office. She is also the Secretary of CPR’s European Advisory Board. She can be reached at vanessa.alarcon@whitecase.com.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s