Reed Smith Client Alerts

The UK Supreme Court has delivered a long-awaited judgment which brings clarity to arbitrators’ duties of disclosure in situations where there are multiple appointments of the same arbitrator(s) in different arbitrations involving the same or overlapping facts or subject matter.

Appointing the same arbitrator in different arbitral references is a common practice in certain industries or under the rules/practices of certain institutional arbitral bodies. In some industries (such as shipping and agricultural commodities trading) a commonality of arbitrators in separate references is considered the norm. It is accepted as a way of managing the risk of inconsistent findings in multiple arbitrations which arise out of the same events and/or which involve interconnected relationships through contractual strings or similar arrangements. However, such appointments are not the norm in arbitrations under other international arbitral bodies such as the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

Thus, Halliburton v. Chubb has proven to be of significant interest as a result of the English Courts’ treatment of an application to remove an arbitrator who was appointed in three overlapping arbitrations with common parties.

On November 27, 2020, the UK Supreme Court brought a final determination of the application on appeal. It handed down a unanimous judgment on a number of important issues.1 The judgment (totalling 61 pages) helps to clarify arbitrators’ duties of disclosure, generally as well as in the common situation of multiple appointments in arbitrations arising out of the same or overlapping facts or subject matter.

Unusually, and given the significance of the issues in international arbitration, the Supreme Court permitted and considered written and oral submissions from five intervening parties: the LCIA, the ICC, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA), and the London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) (the Interveners).