Benjamin Barrat specialises in international arbitration and public international law. Benjamin has broad experience in conducting international commercial and investment treaty arbitrations under the ICC, ICSID, LCIA and SIAC rules. He also has experience in the enforcement of and challenges to arbitral awards. Benjamin regularly advises on the structuring of investments.
The High Court recently confirmed that alleged non-compliance with the provisions of a multi-tiered dispute resolution clause is exclusively a matter of admissibility for the arbitral tribunal and cannot lead to a successful jurisdictional challenge under Section 67 of the Arbitration Act. English law is now clearly aligned with the prevailing position internationally that a tribunal should decide on the admissibility of all claims before it, with narrow grounds for interference by national courts.
The High Court recently granted an extension of time to bring challenges to arbitral awards made under the Arbitration Act. The applications were striking as it had been several years since the awards were made. While the extension granted by the court was exceptional, so too were the circumstances of the case. Here, the integrity of both the arbitration system and the court were threatened and this public policy concern outweighed the principle of finality.
The Supreme Court has clarified definitively the principles for ascertaining the law governing an arbitration agreement. In contrast to the Court of Appeal's earlier decision in the same case, the Supreme Court held that where the law governing an arbitration agreement is not expressly specified, a choice of main contract law (whether express or implied) will generally also apply to an arbitration agreement which forms part of that contract.
The High Court recently confirmed that the procedure for the registration and enforcement of an award made pursuant to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention does not require service of the claim form. The court upheld an order dispensing with service on a state of an order for the enforcement of an ICSID award. In addition, the court upheld an order for alternative service against the state.
In a recent case, the High Court upheld the claimants' challenge to an award made under Section 68 of the Arbitration Act. Uncertainty as to the identities of the parties to an arbitration agreement and underlying contract had led a Chinese court to refuse to enforce the award. The High Court determined that there was uncertainty or ambiguity as to the award's effect and remitted the award to the tribunal.
In a rare consideration of an investment treaty award, the High Court broadly interpreted the meaning of 'investor' and 'investment' in the bilateral investment treaty between the governments of South Korea and Iran. The decision is also interesting in its comment that the question of attribution is not a jurisdictional issue.
The Court of Appeal recently considered whether service of formal court documentation on a state party was a necessary requirement when seeking to enforce an arbitral award against it or whether service could be dispensed with in certain circumstances. The significant judgment will have implications for cases in which it may be very difficult to enact service of enforcement proceedings on a state through diplomatic channels.
The Court of Appeal has partly upheld, and partly dismissed, an injunction granted by the High Court to restrain an arbitration seated in Lebanon. In so doing, the Court of Appeal has confirmed the English court's power to grant anti-arbitration injunctions pursuant to Section 37(1) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 in respect of a foreign-seated arbitration where the dispute does not fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement and the proceedings are, or would therefore be, vexatious and oppressive.
The High Court recently granted an application for the adjournment of an arbitral award, pending the outcome of a challenge before the Paris Court of Appeal by a non-party to the arbitration agreement. The case provides a cautionary tale of the delays and additional costs that may be incurred if claimants fail to consider careful compliance with provisions on variations during the term of a contract and (at the outset of a dispute) which parties should be named as defendants.
The High Court recently found that a tribunal had jurisdiction over a dispute that arose from a settlement agreement lacking an express arbitration clause. The decision serves as a reminder of the delays and additional costs that may be incurred if an agreement is unclear as to the applicable dispute resolution mechanism. Parties can reduce the risks of such delays and costs by including an express dispute resolution clause in settlement agreements.
The High Court recently examined the process for the summary dismissal of a challenge to an arbitral award on the grounds of serious irregularity. Mr Justice Males held that the purpose of oral hearings on summary dismissal is to determine only whether there is a real prospect of the challenge succeeding. Going beyond that would frustrate the objective of the summary dismissal mechanism.
English arbitration law allows a party to arbitral proceedings to apply to the court to challenge an award on the grounds of serious irregularity affecting the tribunal, the proceedings or the award. The High Court recently reiterated the high threshold that must be met to establish a serious irregularity and the reluctance of the courts to set aside an award on such grounds.