International Arbitration and Transparency

23 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2016  

Mark Feldman

Peking University School of Transnational Law

Date Written: September 25, 2016

Abstract

Over the past 15 years, a significant “transparency gap” has developed between the investment treaty arbitration and international commercial arbitration regimes. With increasing frequency in investment treaty cases, the public is provided with some form of access to documents and hearings as well as opportunities for participation through written amicus submissions; only to a very limited extent have such developments occurred within the international commercial arbitration regime.

This chapter examines whether the existing transparency gap between the two regimes should be maintained. To evaluate that transparency gap, this chapter analyzes the respective regimes in light of three factors: (i) the nature of the public interest; (ii) the role of confidentiality; and (iii) the role of party autonomy.

This chapter concludes that the existing transparency gap between the two regimes should — as a general matter — be maintained. Although the public interest in particular international commercial arbitration cases can be significant — most notably in cases involving State entities or statutory claims — on a systemic level the public interest in international commercial arbitration contrasts sharply with investment treaty arbitration, where cases consistently involve State entities and challenges to government measures. Equally important, two cornerstones of international commercial arbitration also support the existing transparency gap: (i) the availability of discreet and dispassionate dispute resolution, made possible by confidential proceedings, and (ii) the primacy of party autonomy.

But with respect to the particular issue of public availability of arbitral awards, this chapter concludes that the existing transparency gap should be narrowed significantly, given the compelling and multifaceted nature of the public interest in that context. The public interest in obtaining access to arbitral awards exceeds — both in strength and multiplicity — the public interest in obtaining access to other documents and hearings, or in participating in disputes as amicus curiae. With respect to the future development of international law, it is the awards — not other documents, hearing transcripts, and/or amicus submissions — that hold the greatest potential for significant impact.

With a view to increasing the public availability of commercial arbitration awards, this chapter proposes three alternative models for rulemaking: (i) a default rule model (which — absent party agreement to keep awards confidential — would require publication of redacted versions of awards), (ii) a modified mandatory rule model (which would track the ICSID approach of publishing, at a minimum, excerpts of the legal reasoning in each award), and (iii) a mandatory rule model (which would track recent investment treaty practice, requiring publication of awards subject to redaction of protected information).

Keywords: commercial arbitration, investment arbitration, investment treaty arbitration, transparency, confidentiality, amicus, party autonomy

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Feldman, Mark, International Arbitration and Transparency (September 25, 2016). Peking University School of Transnational Law Research Paper No. 16-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2843140

Mark Feldman (Contact Author)

Peking University School of Transnational Law ( email )

China

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