National courts play important roles in safeguarding the rule-of-law outcome of ISDS proceedings. Under the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, a party to an ISDS proceeding may request a national court to set aside an arbitral award. This can be done however on limited grounds, among others, if one of the parties was unable to present its case and if the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties. In addition, arbitration laws of a country also may provide grounds for setting aside an award.
Let’s take a look when this actually happened in practice.
In CME Czech Republic v Czech Republic, the tribunal found that the country’s media authority had destroyed the investor’s exclusive position as services provider for a private Czech TV channel, which left the company with assets but without business. In this case, the tribunal sided with the investor that the actions constituted an expropriation under the Netherlands – the Czech Republic Bilateral Investment Treaty.
The Czech Republic further requested the Svea Court of Appeal in Sweden to set aside the award under the Swedish Arbitration Act, on the grounds that, among others, one of the arbitrators had been excluded from the deliberations and that the award violated Swedish public policy. The Court of Appeal rejected this claim and found that the tribunal had given the arbitrators reasonable time to submit comments. Further, the Court viewed that the Czech Republic had failed to show that the award violated public policy. The Court therefore rejected the request on all grounds.
Meanwhile, in Metalclad v. Mexico, the tribunal found a violation of Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement since the investor was denied fair and equitable treatment by the government due to the absence of clear rules about a certain permit. According to the tribunal, this amounted to a failure by the government to ensure transparency for the investor.
Mexico submitted a request to the British Columbia Supreme Court in Canada to set aside the award, on the grounds that the tribunal had incorrectly considered that transparency requirement formed part of minimum standard of treatment and expropriation provisions of Chapter 11 of the NAFTA. The Court agreed with Mexico and ruled that the tribunal had decided a matter beyond its jurisdiction. The award was therefore partly set aside the award.