CPR Delegation Participates in the 69th Session of the UNCITRAL Working Group II on Expedited Arbitration

un2

In the picture (from left to right): Franco Gevaerd, Olivier P. André, and Piotr S. Wójtowicz.

By Franco Gevaerd

From Feb. 4-8, 2019, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Working Group II held its 69th session at the United Nations headquarters in New York. At this session, as set forth by the UNCITRAL during its 51st session, Working Group II commenced its deliberations on issues relating to expedited arbitration (see the Report of the UNCITRAL on the 51st session).

Given the CPR Institute’s international experience and expertise in international arbitration, the UNCITRAL Secretariat invited CPR to participate in the session as an observer delegation representing its views on expedited arbitration to facilitate Working Group II’s deliberations.

CPR sent a five-member delegation: Noah J. Hanft, President & CEO; Olivier P. André, Senior Vice President, International; Anna M. Hershenberg, Vice President, Programs and Public Policy & Corporate Counsel; Franco Gevaerd, International Consultant/Legal Intern; and Piotr S. Wójtowicz, Legal Intern.

Established in 1966 by the U.N. General Assembly, UNCITRAL plays an important role in developing an improved legal framework for international trade and investment, and in harmonizing and modernizing the law of these fields. The substantive preparatory work involved in doing that is typically assigned to UNCITRAL’s working groups (see the U.N.’s “A Guide to UNCITRAL”).

The UNCITRAL Working Group II is composed of UNCITRAL’s 60 member States and has been developing work focused on arbitration, conciliation and mediation, and dispute settlement. The group’s most recent project is the Singapore Convention. A signing ceremony for the convention is scheduled for Aug. 7, 2019.  Now, as mentioned above, the group’s attention has turned to the topic of expedited arbitration.

Expedited arbitration aims to streamline the process to reduce its time and cost. This topic has long been discussed by the international arbitration community and explored by arbitration institutions, mostly due to concerns with the length, cost and undue formality in the process, especially in less complex cases.

At the beginning of the group’s deliberations, it was generally agreed that this session’s work should “focus on establishing an international framework on expedited arbitration, without prejudice to the form that such work might take.” After that, the work should then proceed to analyze aspects relating to emergency arbitrators, adjudication, early dismissal of claims, and preliminary determinations by arbitral tribunals.

During the session, Working Group II participants discussed in depth many issues related to key aspects of expedited arbitration, including how to foster efficiency while preserving quality, due process and fairness; enforcement of awards resulting from expedited arbitration; application of the expedited procedure, and management of the proceedings.

CPR’s contributed substantially to the discussion throughout the week. In the Working Group II session’s first day, Anna Hershenberg pointed out that since its foundation, CPR has focused on creating rules that aim at efficient dispute resolution and users’ autonomy. She noted that in order to foster efficiency, CPR has built into its domestic and international arbitration rules quick time frames. Consequently, CPR’s international and domestic arbitration cases historically take an average of slightly more than 11 months from commencement of the proceedings to the arbitral award.

annahun

Anna M. Hershenberg making her remarks during the session.

Later in the week, addressing the Working Group’s request to arbitral institutions to provide input on their experiences handling expedited arbitration proceedings, Olivier André pointed out:

CPR administered and non-administered arbitration rules already provide for time requirements which limit the length of proceedings. Users of CPR arbitration often customize their arbitration clauses to further limit these time requirements. In 2006, CPR also promulgated a fast-track procedure to supplement the non-administered arbitration rules. Parties can agree to this procedure to shorten the time requirements provided for under the rules and limit certain other procedural aspects, such as disclosure and the number of arbitrators, to expedite their proceeding.

oatun

Olivier P. André making his remarks during the session.

Besides the CPR’s Fast Track Arbitration Rules, CPR also offers to users two other set of rules that provide for expedited arbitration procedures: The CPR Rules for Expedited Arbitration of Construction Disputes, and the CPR’s Global Rules for Accelerated Commercial Arbitration. In addition, CPR’s committees, which are composed of representatives from different stakeholders involved in the arbitration process, often discuss ways to improve the arbitration process in general and in specific industries.

By the end of the week’s discussion, Working Group II was able to find a consensus in many of the key aspects of expedited arbitration discussed, such as reasoned vs. unreasoned awards, monetary thresholds, and number of arbitrators for expedited arbitration.

Several questions, however, are still open to discussion for the next Working Group II session. For example, what will be the form of the group’s work? And will this international framework be applied to arbitration in general, or specific to international commercial arbitration?

The next session of the UNCITRAL Working Group II is preliminarily scheduled to take place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, 2019, at the United Nations in Vienna. CPR is looking forward to continuing to contribute to the efforts.

* * *

The author is CPR’s International Consultant/Legal Intern. He holds a LL.B. from Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (Brazil) and a LL.M. in International Commercial Law and Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine Law/Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.

International Commercial Mediation Update: UNCITRAL Finalizes Convention and Model Law Drafts on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation

By Erin Gleason Alvarez

erinEarlier this year, we reported on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group II’s progress towards finalizing a convention on the enforcement of international commercial settlement agreements resulting from mediation. On June 25, 2018, UNCITRAL finalized the draft Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, to be known as the Singapore Convention, as well as finalizing the draft Model Law.

By way of background, Working Group II was initiated by UNCITRAL in 2014 in order to explore whether it might be feasible to develop mechanisms for the enforcement of mediated agreements in international commercial disputes. The need for this Working Group grew out of concern that parties to mediated agreements may not be afforded the same protections as those available in international commercial arbitration.

The achievements of Working Group II were extolled at an UNCITRAL conference at the United Nations on June 27, held in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the New York Convention. Representatives from Israel and Australia, who participated in the Working Group, led a discussion on the drafting process. Consideration over an international mediation convention lasted nearly four years, and it seems that a few mediations took place in finalizing the documents.

The Convention and Model Law drafts outline the requirements for a settlement agreement, process for enforcing an agreement and grounds for refusing to grant relief.  The documents are seen as completing the ADR framework for international disputes.

States that have participated in this process include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czechia, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of). The session was also attended by observers from Algeria, Belgium, Benin, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Finland, Iraq, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic and Viet Nam, in addition to observers from the European Union and the Holy See.

From here the Convention and Model Law must be approved by the General Assembly, which will likely happen later this year. In August 2019, a signing ceremony will be held for the Convention in Singapore and thus the Convention will be known as the “Singapore Convention.”

At the June 27 United Nations event, hope was expressed that the Singapore Convention would do for mediation what the New York Convention has done for arbitration.

 

Erin Gleason Alvarez serves as mediator and arbitrator in commercial and insurance disputes.  She is a member of the CPR Institute Panel of Distinguished Neutrals and co-chairs the CPR Institute Mediation Committee.  Erin may be reached at erin@gleasonadr.com

International Commercial Mediation Update: UNCITRAL Working Group II Moves Forward on Convention and Model Law

erinBy Erin Gleason Alvarez

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group II met at its 68th session in New York from February 5 through 9 to finalize draft convention and model law documents. The focus of these instruments is on the enforcement of international commercial settlement agreements resulting from mediation.

Working Group II was initiated by UNCITRAL in 2014 in order to explore whether it is feasible to develop mechanisms for the enforcement of mediated agreements in international commercial disputes.  Since then, there have been several sessions to explore the most appropriate path forward.

The need for this Working Group grew out of concern that parties to mediated agreements may not be afforded the same protections as those available in international commercial arbitration. The United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention), entered into force in 1959, obligates States to recognize and enforce arbitral awards made in other contracting States.

To accommodate parties’ desire to mediate international commercial disputes, practices have emerged to try to transform a mediated settlement agreement into an arbitral award. In addition to practical concerns over enforceability, these steps add significant process to mediation, which parties tend to like because it is simpler than arbitration (among other reasons). Other recourse for enforcement of mediated settlements in international commercial disputes can include pursuing claims for enforcement of the agreement under contract law. But this may also be difficult in the international context, depending upon the jurisdiction where enforcement is sought. Protracted cross-border litigation to enforce a mediated settlement is counterintuitive at best.

Thus the proposed model law and convention seek to alleviate these concerns, recognizing the increased use of mediation in the international commercial context and the benefits that the mediation process affords parties. The instruments, as they are currently drafted, address both enforcement concerns and the possibility for a party to invoke a settlement agreement as a defense. To date, changes have not yet been uploaded to the UNCITRAL website that would show the most recent revisions to the draft model law and convention. The most recent drafts are available here.

By way of background, a “model law” is a template of sorts, for States to consider adopting locally. A “convention” on the other hand is an instrument that is binding on States and other entities (so long as they are signatory to the document).

What does all of this mean for parties to mediation? For now, it means waiting for further developments. UNCITRAL must ultimately approve the instruments before any adoption or ratification processes may commence. The Commission will commence review this summer.


Erin Gleason Alvarez is Principal at Gleason Alvarez ADR, LLC.  She serves on the CPR Institute Panel of Distinguished Neutrals and co-chairs the CPR Institute Mediation Committee.  Erin previously acted as the former Global Head of ADR Programs for AIG. 

Erin now serves as mediator and arbitrator in commercial and insurance disputes and may be reached at erin@gleasonadr.com

UN Commission on Int’l Trade Law Adopts Text on Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)

Today, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) announced its adoption of Technical Notes on Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).  The Technical Notes, which were formally adopted at UNCITRAL’s meeting in New York on July 5, 2016, are the first formal international text recognizing and supporting the use of ODR as a new method of dispute resolution. The formal press release from the United Nations Information Service can be accessed here.

The CPR Institute has been actively involved in the development and drafting of this innovative UNCITRAL text. In response to the need to develop more cost-effective approach to resolving B2B and B2C disputes in the Internet age, CPR became an official NGO Observer to UNCITRAL in the Spring of 2011.

Beth Trent, CPR’s Senior Vice President, Public Policy, Programs and Resources, was invited to serve as a member of the U.S. Delegation to UNCITRAL Working Group III (ODR) and provided an expert perspective on how to best achieve the objective of designing a system that enables parties to resolve disputes in a fast, flexible and secure manner, without the need for physical presence at a meeting or hearing.

The Technical Notes are expected to contribute significantly to development of systems that will enable this objective.  Following UNCITRAL’s approach of issuing texts of universal application, the Technical Notes are designed to ensure that ODR systems are accessible to buyers and sellers in both developed and developing countries.

 

Interview: Users Respond to CPR’s New International Rules – Most surprising and valued reported features

InternationalRulesSlimJimCPR recently launched a new set of Rules for Administered Arbitration of International Disputes for use in cross-border business transactions. These new Rules reflect best practices, including the arbitration work of UNCITRAL, and address current issues in international arbitration, such as arbitrator impartiality, lengthy time frames to reach resolution, burdensome and unpredictable administrative costs and requirements. To celebrate their release, and introduce them across the globe, CPR held a series of well-attended launch events in London, Paris, Miami, Geneva, Madrid, Brazil and Washington, DC.

CPR’s newest event takes a deeper dive into one of the Rules’ most buzzed-about aspects, the Screened Selection Process for Party-Appointed Arbitrators ™. Responding to the need to both preserve the right of the parties to appoint their arbitrators and guarantee the fairness and impartiality of arbitration, the Screened Selection Process ™ is available under the new CPR Arbitration Rules, and will be discussed from the perspectives of the users, outside counsel and arbitrators on July 30, 2015 at Jenner & Block in Chicago and via live webcast.

Olivier P. AndreToday, we sat down with CPR’s Olivier André, Vice President, International and Dispute Resolution Services, for a recap of the launch events and a preview into our upcoming event.

To begin, could you provide a quick recap of CPR’s recent launch events celebrating the new rules? 

Over the past few months, we have organized eight events to celebrate the launch of the new CPR Rules for Administered Arbitration of International Disputes.  At each of these events, panelists discussed the key benefits and innovations of the rules from different perspectives – the corporate counsel, arbitration practitioner, arbitrator, and institutional perspectives.   The events were well attended and, whether they were held in the US, Europe or Brazil, they triggered a lot of interest.

What were some of the most memorable responses you received about the rules, either at the launch events or otherwise. What are people most surprised about, thrilled about, etc.?  

The new rules triggered a lot of interest because attendees felt that they really address many of the criticisms we currently hear about arbitration, such as high costs, lengthy timeframes, and bureaucratic administration of the proceedings.   With the new rules, CPR provides only the services that are necessary from an administering institution, and no more.  Thus, CPR gets involved at the very beginning – at the commencement and arbitrator appointment stages – and at the end – to provide a “light” review of the awards and to issue them.

In between, CPR handles all billing aspects, but lets the tribunal interface directly with the parties on all other matters.  All pleadings and filings to CPR are in electronic format only.  As a result of this “lean administration,” CPR is able to offer a very competitive schedule of administrative costs.  Administrative costs are capped at US$34,000 for disputes over US$500 million.   At a time when all companies are trying to contain the costs of dispute resolution – and where smaller companies simply cannot afford an expensive dispute resolution process – that was particularly appealing.

Another feature which triggered a lot interest is the provision under the rules for the issuing of the award within 12 months of the constitution of the tribunal.  Very often, users of arbitration have had terrible experiences of proceedings that lasted longer than court proceedings, when arbitration is supposed to offer a fast dispute resolution process.  The CPR rules require all actors of an arbitration to use their best efforts to comply with this time requirement.  Any scheduling order or extension from the tribunal that would result in extending this timeline must be approved by CPR.  Such extension requests are not new, but what was interesting to the attendees of these events was the fact that these approvals are not automatic.  Whenever such an approval is requested, CPR can convene all involved in the arbitration to discuss the factors that have led to the extension request.  This mechanism increases the accountability of all actors of the arbitral process while asking them to comply with a reasonable timeframe.   I say reasonable because historically the average length of CPR cases is a little over 11 months.

Finally, there was a lot of interest – particularly from the corporate counsel – for the provision in the rules which encourages the arbitral tribunal to propose settlement and assist the parties in initiating mediation at any stage of the arbitration proceedings.

CPR’s event in Chicago delves deeper into one of the most unique and valued features of the rules—the screened selection process. What were the challenges that necessitated this specific Rules feature? How did we address those challenges? What have responses from users of the new rules been like on this point in particular?  

Arbitrator selection is a key phase of any arbitration and getting qualified arbitrators appointed for a particular dispute is critical to ensure smooth proceedings.  The ability for the parties to choose their decision makers is also one of the main advantages of arbitration.  The CPR rules offer many options that arbitration users can choose from in their arbitration clause depending on the specific nature of the disputes they anticipate.  The bottom line is that they have the ability – and are encouraged – to really control the arbitrator selection process.

One of the options provided is called the CPR Screened Selection Process ™ for party-appointed arbitrators.  That process – which is unique to CPR arbitration rules – enables each party to choose their “party-appointed” arbitrators without them knowing which party has designated them.  CPR acts as a screen between the parties and their candidates.  This is an interesting process because, even though all arbitrators under CPR Rules must be impartial and independent, there can be some degree of ambiguity around the role that a party-appointed arbitrator is supposed to play.  This selection offers the parties the ability to choose their arbitrators while, at the same time, removing that ambiguity and changing the working dynamics among the members of a tribunal.

Olivier André is CPR’s Vice President, International and Dispute Resolution Services. In this capacity, Mr. André is responsible for CPR’s international activities, as well as international arbitration and mediation matters which are brought before CPR pursuant to its rules. He can be reached at oandre@cpradr.org. For Mr. André’s full bio, click here.

ADR Around the World: Mexico

This article is the second in a four-part CPR summer series that examines the state of dispute resolution in a number of rapidly changing locales around the world. 

Mexico: A Globally Integrated Economy Moving Towards Effective Commercial Dispute Resolution

By Boaz Cohon, CPR Student Intern

Notwithstanding meager economic growth in recent years, when looking at how Mexico is situated within the global economy it is clear why the country is slated to become the 8th largest economy in the world by 2050. Mexico is fortuitously located adjacent to the world’s largest economy in the United States, which its companies have relatively unfettered access to via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This proximity has made Mexico “an important node in the world trading system” and situated it well in a multitude of global value chains (GVCs). Furthermore, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s financial reforms have broken up telecom oligopolies and liberalized the energy sector, creating even more incentives for multinational enterprises (MNEs) to invest.

One strategy for insuring Mexico reaches its burgeoning economic potential is to improve the efficacy of mechanisms for resolving commercial disputes. Currently, commercial dispute resolution in Mexico offers a mix of problems and potential, with some encouraging, recent improvements but options that are still lacking by international standards. Absent these effective methods, Mexico can still be a challenging place to do business for both domestic firms and MNEs.

Procedural changes to commercial litigation have—auspiciously—already been passed and begun to be implemented. In 2011 the Mexican legislature passed a series of well-received reforms including an expedited process with oral hearings for smaller monetary claims, a reduction in procedural timeframes, and a decrease in the number of appeals (writs of amparo) a disputing party can make.

If implemented, these reforms, coupled with the much larger judicial reform of 2008, would undoubtedly have a positive impact on Mexico’s rule of law and judiciary. The World Justice Project ranked Mexico 79th out of 102 countries in the most recent iteration of its Rule of Law Index, and citizens continue to be skeptical of the judicial system as a whole with 54% of respondents in a recent survey saying that the court system has a bad influence on the Mexican state.

This apparent lack of trust in litigation, even in the face of reforms, has likely contributed to a rapid rise of arbitration as the go-to mechanism for resolving commercial disputes. Mexico has adopted the UNCITRAL model law for both domestic and international arbitrations with only minor modifications, and is a signatory of the New York Convention (1958). Over time the judiciary has also become increasingly accepting of arbitration and has remained appropriately aloof from outcomes, not intervening in decisions and enforcing awards unless a clear procedural issue has been demonstrated.

Interestingly, the same upbeat tone cannot be taken when describing other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in Mexico in the context of resolving commercial disputes. Even as the business population has warmly taken to arbitration, it has, at least comparatively speaking, shunned mediation — despite its cropping up in many other areas of disagreement, such as medical malpractice suits, juvenile justice cases, and labor dispute resolution. In commercial disputes a culture of Pyrrhic victory and notions of the need to ‘win’ legal battles may be obstructing widespread acceptance of mediation in the business community.

This has remained the case even in the face of powerful drivers of change. In 2001 the American Bar Association (ABA) and Freedom House in conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development in Mexico (USAID/Mexico) pursued a program establishing 28 mediation centers. The program increased use, but only to a limited degree.  A 2008 constitutional amendment that set out principles and procedures of mediation, obligations of participants and practitioners, and created Alternative Justice Centers across the country likewise did not immediately incentivize significantly more disputants to undertake mediation to resolve commercial disputes.

Perhaps change needs to come from inside the ADR community in Mexico, and, if so, two organizations look primed to help realize such a cultural shift. The Mediation and Arbitration Center of the National Chamber of Commerce of Mexico City (CANACO) has a broad focus including arbitration and mediation and is the most well-known mediation provider in the country, and The Arbitration Center of Mexico (CAM) primarily focuses on arbitration but is looking to expand into mediation.

In sum, as the complex economic machine that is Mexico continues to gain momentum, it would no doubt benefit from lubricating the gears with a diverse array of effective dispute resolution tools for domestic and international firms.

The CPR Institute would like to thank Boaz Cohon for this contribution. Boaz, a summer public policy/legal intern at CPR, is majoring in Political Science and History at Vanderbilt.