The COVID-19 pandemic has severely curtailed court access in many jurisdictions. By virtue of its flexibility, arbitration has been offered up as a solution to commercial parties which nevertheless wish to progress the resolution of their dispute. Both institutional and ad hoc arbitrations have been accommodating in terms of virtual hearings and electronic documentation.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges to businesses globally. Amid the uncertainty and disruptions to all aspects of life and commerce, many companies are facing disputes with their counterparties. Claims can be preserved in many instances – even strengthened – by carefully considered but simple steps taken now. Companies should settle on an appropriate strategy, tailored to their business and jurisdiction, sooner rather than later.
States have taken urgent and extraordinary steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and address the public health and economic crises that it has caused. Some such measures are aimed directly at the need to treat those affected by the virus, while others aim to address the virus's unprecedented economic impact on the world economy. Inevitably, some of these measures will affect foreign investors and their investments in host states, triggering investor-state disputes.
Where insolvency involves cross-border investments, foreign investors may have additional rights under international investment treaties or agreements (IIAs). IIAs are agreements between states in which the state receiving investment from an investor from the other state commits to provide certain levels of protection to those foreign investors in respect of their investment. Foreign investors often have a direct right under an IIA to commence proceedings against the host state for a breach of such commitments.
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing businesses of all shapes and sizes to pursue alternate sources of funding to ensure the advancement of pending claims, bring new claims arising out of the pandemic and enhance cash flow where possible to survive. Understanding the range of dispute funding options available is critical to assess whether and, if so, how such funding can be leveraged to help a business weather the current COVID-19 environment and what is yet to come.
For a cross-border system of dispute resolution that frequently involves participants from different countries, the challenge posed by COVID-19 is acute. However, given that arbitration is a flexible and consensual process, it is well positioned to respond swiftly to these challenges. In a short time, the international arbitration community – led by the major arbitral institutions – has collaborated to find ways to maintain access to justice in a timely and efficient manner.
The resilience and innovation shown by the international arbitration community in recent months should be applauded. In the face of significant adversity, new and improved ways to resolve disputes and maintain access to efficient and effective justice have emerged. Notwithstanding the terrible circumstances that provided the impetus, recent months have disrupted the status quo and challenged normative beliefs around how disputes can and should be resolved.
The world is living through the most dynamic period in antitrust and competition policy for decades – with pressure for change coming from different directions and likely to generate concrete proposals and political controversy in 2020, plus the global COVID-19 pandemic adding unprecedented complexity and uncertainty. In this context, this article highlights a number of significant trends and developments of which businesses should be aware.
The US Supreme Court has unanimously held that the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards does not prohibit US courts from applying the domestic law doctrine of equitable estoppel when determining whether an international arbitration clause can be enforced by a non-signatory to compel arbitration. In doing so, the court effectively extended the holding in Arthur Andersen LLP to international arbitrations under Chapter 2 of the Federal Arbitration Act.
Existing proceedings in the national courts are inevitably experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Where possible, hearings have been delayed or relocated. However, with many lockdowns extended for the foreseeable future, hearings will still need to be held. As such, many national courts are looking into solutions to these issues, particularly technological ones.
Existing dispute resolution proceedings are inevitably experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Where possible, hearings have been delayed or relocated. However, with many lockdowns extended for the foreseeable future, some hearings will still need to be held. Notably, the American Arbitration Association acknowledges that these are appropriate times to permit (and indeed require) the use of viable alternatives to in-person hearings.
In the wake of COVID-19, public officials across the United States have expressed a willingness to prosecute price gougers and companies that facilitate sales of goods with inflated prices. In this video, Vic Domen, government antitrust investigations and prosecutions lawyer and partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, discusses various consumer protection issues that are arising in the United States as a result of COVID-19.
In the wake of COVID-19, some sellers of essential goods and services have tried to greatly increase the cost of their products to take advantage of increased demand. However, sellers should be aware that public officials across the United States have expressed a willingness to prosecute price gougers and companies that facilitate sales of goods with inflated prices. State attorneys general are at the forefront of investigating and prosecuting instances of price gouging.
As the United States reacts and adjusts to the developing COVID-19 situation, the two federal antitrust agencies – the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division – have revised certain rules and procedures relating to their civil merger investigation processes to address these new challenges. Although both agencies have shifted most of their personnel to remote working arrangements, agency staff have demonstrated a willingness to be reasonable and accommodating.
While antitrust and consumer protection laws provide flexibility for firms to respond to changing market conditions, such as those created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember that certain conduct will remain prohibited by antitrust and consumer protection laws no matter the circumstances.
Floating solar and wind farms are power production installations mounted on structures or platforms that float on a body of water. In a country such as Italy, where the targets to produce electricity from green sources are ambitious and must coexist with the need to safeguard agriculture and the landscape, floating solar and wind installations present a new but challenging opportunity.
Until recently, the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC's) ability to seek monetary equitable remedies (particularly disgorgement and restitution) for alleged antitrust violations went virtually unchallenged. However, the most recent appellate case that interprets the FTC's monetary equitable remedies under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act leaves open many questions about the FTC's ability to seek monetary equitable remedies in antitrust cases pursuant to Section 13(b).
The Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission have announced the release of the 2020 Draft Vertical Merger Guidelines (VMG) for a 30-day comment period. As with any guidelines issued by the agencies, the finalised VMG will be instructive for the agencies' review of vertical mergers and will be persuasive but not binding on the courts should a contested merger enter litigation.
California's governor recently signed a bill designed to enhance antitrust scrutiny of patent settlements between branded and generic pharmaceutical companies. The bill follows the California attorney general's nearly $70 million settlement in Summer 2019 with several pharmaceutical companies based on patent settlements that the attorney general claimed violated the Cartwright Act and is yet another example of diverging interpretations between federal and state antitrust laws.
According to a recent Lazio Regional Administrative Court ruling, before reaching a decision on the revocation of incentives, the Energy Services Operator must confirm whether the renewables exception set out in Article 42(3) of Legislative Decree 28/2011 applies (ie, the plant in question must have received incentives when the violation was verified) and assess the size of the reduction with regard to the extent of the violation detected.