The CPR European Advisory Board presents: “Meet CPR Distinguished Neutrals Based in Europe: Bernardo M. Cremades Sanz-Pastor”

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Bernardo M. Cremades Sanz-Pastor

The CPR European Advisory Board (EAB) is proud to introduce its new CPR Speaks blog series: “Meet CPR’s Distinguished Neutrals in Europe.”  CPR’s panel of neutrals contains many experienced and skilled Neutrals, acting as arbitrator and/or mediators in dispute resolution around the globe.  Through a Q&A, covering some of the main and hot topics discussed in the world of international disputes resolution, this new blog posts series offers you an insight into the views of some of Europe’s leaders in the field. 

Bernardo M. Cremades Sanz-Pastor is the first Europe-based CPR Distinguished Neutral to have answered our Q&A. Enjoy the read and please feel free to reach out to the featured Distinguished Neutral or the authors of these posts for any questions.

By Kathleen Fadden (consultant with AMGEN) and Vanessa Alarcon Duvanel (King & Spalding LLP)

Bernardo Cremades is the founding partner of Spanish law firm B Cremades y Asociados based in Madrid.  He is without doubt a pioneer in the field of international arbitration and enjoys world-wide recognition.  His experience includes international commercial and investment arbitration.  He regularly acts as arbitrator in Spanish domestic and international disputes relating to commercial contracts and investment protection.  In addition, Bernardo regularly speaks at conferences on topics of international arbitration around the world.  As a commercial lawyer was involved in some of Spain’s most important M&A transactions.

Bernardo kindly agreed to grant us an interview for the CPR EAB blog series profiling CPR Neutrals in Europe.  His insights are a must read for anyone regardless of the level you find yourself in your career. We thank Bernardo Cremades for his honesty and the time he has dedicated to sharing his experience and insights.

  1. How did you get your start as a neutral?

When I was young, I lived a very quiet life dedicated exclusively to university teaching and research.  Despite my youth, the Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce nominated me to preside over an arbitral tribunal in Vienna, in the proceeding known by its Parties NORSOLOR v. PABALK.  It was a commercial dispute regarding a purchase-sale and technical assistance contract between a Turkish and a French company.  As the arbitration was taking place in the city of Vienna, and no contractual provision gave the arbitral tribunal further powers, we had to arbitrate in law. The contract did not specify the applicable law, so the option of applying French or Turkish law was not possible as we would have reached diametrically different conclusions depending on which one was selected. This was not satisfactory. We thought the best solution would be to apply the general principles of law, invoking the Lex Mercatoria. Once the arbitration award was issued, one of the parties appealed for the annulment of the award before the Austrian courts, eventually reaching the Supreme Court. The argument in support of the annulment was that a tribunal, which was obliged to render a decision in accordance with the law, had used the general principles of law. In the challenging party’s opinion, this converted an arbitration in law into an equity decision. The Supreme Court understood that, in international law, the general principles are a source of law and, therefore, considered that our arbitration decision was correct. When one of the parties subsequently attempted to execute the award in Paris, the same problem arose: the argument was that our decision converting the arbitration into one in equity violated public order. It reached the Court of Cassation, which reiterated the doctrine admitted by the Austrian Supreme Court: the application of the Lex Mercatoria did not transform the arbitration; it remained de jure due to the legal nature of the general principles of International Law [Soc. Pabalk Ticaret Ltd Sirketi v. Soc. anon. Norsolor, Cour de Cassation (1re Ch. Civ.), 3 October 1984′, Journal of International Arbitration, (© Kluwer Law International; Kluwer Law International 1985, Volume 2 Issue 2) pp. 67 – 76]. Our decision sparked numerous doctrinal opinions and generated a lively debate. My quiet, academic life transformed into an active professional life dedicated to the world of arbitration.

  1. Who is your dispute resolution hero/heroine?

In an arbitration between the company FIAT and the Government of Spain in which the future of the SEAT car factory was discussed, I was fortunate to work with a co-arbitrator who would mark my arbitration conduct in the future. I am referring to Berthold Goldman, who can undoubtedly be considered the father of modern international arbitration. After the different hearings we held with the parties, the tribunal deliberated at length. Berthold Goldman defended with passion the claims of the FIAT company until the President tipped the balance in favour of my views. From that moment, Professor Goldman’s enthusiasm became an example of chivalry as he took me by the arm through one of the halls where we were deliberating and told me: “you have won, and you can rest assured that the arbitration award is going to be issued by unanimity.” This is an example that I have always remembered when faced with the temptation to issue a dissenting opinion.

  1. What is the one advice you want to give to the younger generation looking for a first appointment as neutral?

Join a team and learn the profession of arbitrator, acting as secretary to the tribunal, or as counsel under the direction of an experienced arbitrator. Time will make you an arbitration expert, able to consider flying solo.

  1. Were you ever the first in doing something?

 The award mentioned above in response to the first question where we invoked the Lex Mercatoria as the applicable law opened a wide discussion and generated controversial points, especially in the debate between arbitration experts of Anglo-Saxon and continental law.

In the ABBOTT vs. BAXTER dispute, under CPR administration, we based our decision on good faith when the applicable law was that of Ontario (USA) [Baxter Int’l Inc. v. Abbott Labs., 540 U.S. 963 (2003)]. This is what we understood from an international litigation on trademark law and the award was ratified by the US Supreme Court.

In the HESHAM TM AL WARRAQ arbitration against the Republic of Indonesia [Hesham T. M. Al Warraq v. Republic of Indonesia, UNCITRAL, Final Award, 15 December 2014], we used as a basis to accept jurisdiction, the ICO (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) Treaty, the second largest intergovernmental organization. Our decision set a precedent for numerous subsequent arbitrations.

In the world of investment arbitration, the LANCO case against the Argentine Republic opened the door to investment protection arbitration in cases where the arbitration agreement consisted of the public offer for submission to arbitration by the receiving State of the investment, and for the legitimate investor to initiate an arbitration proceeding for the alleged breach of the treaty by the receiver of the investment [Lanco International Inc. v. The Argentine Republic, ICSID Case No. ARB/97/6]. In this arbitration, different issues were raised that will later be the subject of numerous awards, such as the principle of attribution of responsibilities to the State regarding breaches of intra-State public entities.

The SALINI arbitration against the Kingdom of Morocco extended the concept of investment to administrative concessions [Salini Costruttori S.p.A. and Italstrade S.p.A. v. Kingdom of Morocco, ICSID Case No. ARB/00/4]. Investment protection arbitration had been specially designed with a view to litigation derived from investments related to natural resources. After SALINI, the concept of investment protected by arbitration grew.

In the LUCCHETTI arbitration against the Republic of Peru [Empresas Lucchetti, S.A. and Lucchetti Peru, S.A. v. The Republic of Peru, ICSID Case No. ARB/03/4], arbitration protection was questioned when corruption was involved in making the investment, on the grounds that those whose hands are stained should not be subject to any international protection, including arbitration.

  1. What makes your conflict resolution style unique?

As in any profession, I believe that it is most important to be well educated and then to devote many hours to preparation. The arbitrator must read all the submitted documents carefully and be able to respond to the parties’ requests. There is nothing worse than storing the documentation and only dealing with it when the time comes for the hearing. Many arbitrations are unnecessarily lengthy because the arbitrators do not know the substance of the matter sufficiently well to make decisions as proceedings progress.

  1. What was the most difficult challenge you faced as a neutral?

The main challenge of the arbitrator today is to expedite the proceeding.  Today arbitration has ceased to be the artisanal activity it was many decades ago. We are facing a large arbitration industry.  To prevent that the proceedings be excessively long, the arbitrator must coordinate the agendas of the parties and their lawyers; respond promptly to excessively large document discovery requests; and try to minimize the duration of the hearings. The theatricality of certain “cross-examinations” should also be interrupted when deemed unnecessary and the abundance of witnesses and experts is sometimes unnecessary.

  1. What is the most important mistake you see counsel make?

In the written phase, counsel can write excessively long and repetitive documents, when they should perhaps concentrate their efforts more on writing an executive summary for ease of reading. In the oral phase, counsel often forgets that his or her main mission is to convince the arbitrators and not to be so aware of the transcript or the client present in the meeting room.

  1. If you could change one thing about commercial Arbitration, what would it be?

Every effort should be made to reduce the duration and the excessive costs (that can sometimes be scandalous) of arbitration proceedings.

  1. Some specific topics:

    a) What is your approach to cybersecurity and data protection in international dispute resolution?

 The requirements of cybersecurity and data protection in arbitration require both lawyers and arbitrators to strengthen the technological infrastructure of their firms. Before, during and after the arbitration there are security and protection rules that must be firmly maintained as arbitration frequently deals with very sensitive topics requiring strong guarantees.

b) Taking of evidence in arbitration: are you IBA Rules or Prague Rules? And why?

The IBA Rules emerged – and I can testify to this since I was part of the drafting team of the first version – as a result of a real need to unify criteria between common law and continental law jurists. It is rare to see an arbitration proceeding today without, at least, a reference to the IBA Rules, which have become a true customary international procedural law. In fact, there is much talk about the Prague Rules in conferences and colloquiums, but I have never seen them applied or invoked in arbitration proceedings. The authors of the Prague Rules wanted to draw attention to the excessive costs and duration of the arbitration proceedings and they can serve as a wake-up call in the daily life of our arbitrations or even be taken into account when modifying the IBA Rules in the future, giving greater space to criteria from civil law legal systems. The message of the Prague Rules is very interesting, but in practice its application should be questioned, simply by analysing the fourth paragraph of its first article when it states that “At all stages of the arbitration and in implementing the Prague Rules, the arbitral tribunal shall ensure fair and equal treatment of the parties and provide them with a reasonable opportunity to present their respective cases.”  If the aim with these rules was to avoid the due process paranoia, different articles of these rules, such as the aforementioned article, question their effectiveness – which is why arbitrators are reluctant to use them. It cannot be forgotten that the purpose of the IBA Rules was limited to the taking of evidence, while the title of the Prague Rules is “Rules on the Efficient Conduct of Proceedings in International Arbitration”.

  1. What do you see as the next “big thing” in global dispute prevention and resolution?

An important event in the world of dispute prevention and resolution is the emergence of third-party funding. Many arbitration proceedings are initiated today because the claimant and possibly the defendant have funding to undertake costly arbitration proceedings and subsequent court proceedings. Third-party financing is acquiring a very important dimension and is introducing the system of syndicated foreign currency loans to the financing of large litigations. Litigation has become a financial asset, and funders monetize their financing activity with the outsourcing of parts of the financing. Litigation and especially arbitration awards are bought and sold. A true secondary market has been created for the financial assets that arbitrations have become.

  1. For which types of conflicts would you recommend ADR?

I consider that ADR is recommendable for particularly personalized disputes. In terms of investment protection, it is unthinkable to reach agreements with sovereign states, which would undoubtedly be analysed in the country in question under the inquisitorial magnifying glass of corruption. I believe that disputes with consumers or those that occur in family businesses are very suitable for resolution through ADR. Equally, agreements between companies whose directors have full powers are good ADR candidates, since the positive result of a conciliation or mediation is only possible when those acting on behalf of the companies have sufficient decision-making capacity to reach a negotiated agreement. In construction disputes and, in general, disputes in which many awards are discussed, dispute boards are highly recommended. The periodic presence of the dispute board members from the beginning of the construction solves many problems that are not intelligible over time.

  1. In your view, what makes CPR unique?

Its speed. Arbitration administration centres have become excessively bureaucratic institutions, with internal policies regarding the appointment of arbitrators which are not always in the best interests of the parties to the dispute. Arbitration administration centres are service companies and as such they must compete with others; their speed of action is probably the most attractive asset to their clientele.

  1. Do you have an anecdote you would like to share? 

There is much talk about the clash of cultures in international arbitration and it is undoubtedly greatly exaggerated. I remember many years ago at the meetings of the former ICCA, the representative of China, the famous and much-loved Professor Tang, insisted that I should participate in arbitrations in China to learn the difference between how arbitration proceedings are run in different cultures. I was appointed arbitrator under CIETAC to resolve a dispute between a French car company and its distributor in China. Professor Tang presided over the tribunal and from the first day he tried to get the parties to reach agreements under his mediation. On the third day, after seeing that the President’s attempts to mediate between the parties were unsuccessful, both parties formally told us that if they had gone to CIETAC it was precisely for us to resolve their differences in arbitration, and could we please set aside the conciliation and mediation attempts – which we did. It was a good lesson for me that maybe the much talked-about cultural differences are not so true in practice. A good and experienced president of the tribunal should know when he or she can help the parties to reach an agreement and when the limits of arbitration prevent it.

 

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