The Court of Appeal recently found that there was no appearance of bias where an arbitrator had accepted multiple arbitral appointments from one party to several arbitrations where the subject matter of the arbitrations was the same or overlapping. Nevertheless, the court held that the arbitrator had had a duty in law and as a matter of good practice to disclose issues where there was a real possibility of bias.
It is relatively rare for the English courts to overturn awards of arbitral tribunals. However, a recent decision of the Commercial Court did just that, setting aside a London Court of International Arbitration partial award made by a panel of three queen's counsel. The partial award was challenged on the basis that the arbitral tribunal had lacked substantive jurisdiction and the application had been made pursuant to Section 67 of the Arbitration Act 1996.
In a recent case regarding the enforcement of an arbitral award against Kazakhstan, the English court ruled that in light of new evidence that had not been before the tribunal when the award was rendered, the allegations of fraud raised by Kazakhstan should be fully investigated before a view could be taken as to whether the award could be enforced in England. The court confirmed that public policy is a matter for each state to consider, regardless of whether the courts of another country have ruled on the matter.
Dispute resolution clauses providing for arbitration, but giving one party the exclusive right to elect to refer a particular dispute to litigation before the courts – known as 'unilateral option clauses' – are a common feature in many transaction documents. In light of the result of the UK referendum on membership of the European Union, it is worth considering whether unilateral option clauses remain fit for purpose.
A recent case has provided useful guidance on the availability of the courts' powers to grant interim relief in support of arbitral proceedings in circumstances where similar relief may be available through the arbitral process. This is the first time that an English court has considered the way in which emergency arbitrator provisions (which remain relatively new in the industry) interact with the courts' powers under Section 44 of the Arbitration Act 1996.