Tag Archives: ICSID

Case Summary: Pac Rim Cayman LLC v El Salvador

Inside of salt mine shoot on corridorOur next case summary is Pac Rim Cayman LLC v. El Salvador and the summary is prepared based on the award rendered in October 2016.

The claim was brought based on the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and El Salvadoran Investment Law.

The investor held an exploration permit for a largely-underground gold mining site in Eldorado and further applied for an exploitation permit.  The dispute arose from the government’s refusal to grant exploitation license, which, according to the investor, amounted to several breaches of El Salvadoran Investment Law.

Meanwhile, the state based its refusal on the failure of the investor to obtain either ownership rights to all of the surface land in the concession area, or authorisations from all relevant landowners, as required under the Mining Law.

The tribunal decided to hear the claims under El Salvadoran law, which was allowed under the ICSID Convention, after it ruled that it did not have jurisdiction under the CAFTA.

The tribunal sided with the state and disagreed with the investor’s interpretation of the Mining Law which would not require authorisations from surface-level landowners if the activity does not involve surface-level land. According to the tribunal, the mining might pose environmental risks to surface landowners. Therefore, the investor’s interpretation was disproportionate to the risks.

In conclusion, the tribunal found that the investor did not comply with the requirement under the Mining Law to be granted an exploitation permit and therefore the government did not have any obligation to grant such permit to the investor.

The investor was also ordered to pay the majority of the state’s costs in the proceedings.

See other case summaries involving the mining industry here.

 

Just published: Analysis of EU’s ”Investment Court System”

Chicago downtown skyscrapers looking upThe American Bar Association (ABA) is a leading organization in international legal debate. On 14 October, the ABA Task Force on investment law published a report on the EU’s proposal for an “Investment Court System” (ICS). We wrote about ICS when the proposal was first presented.

The authors of the report, a number of American lawyers who have previously expressed different individual perceptions of ISDS, pointed out that they do not take a position on the different views on the legitimacy of the system and the need for reform. Instead, the report focuses more specifically on the EU’s ICS proposal, which is also included in the CETA. The report examines whether the ICS will achieve the objectives that the EU have set itself: is ICS neutral, effective and predictable? Is the proposal practical, effective and feasible?

The short answer is “maybe”. The report identifies a number of aspects where the ICS proposal can be improved to achieve the stated objectives. First is that there is a risk that the proposal will lead to less diversity among the judges who will decide on future disputes. The report recommends that it should be expressly stated that diversity (in terms of geography, legal background and gender) should be sought in the nominations of the judges.

Another significant weakness identified in the report is the enforcement of judgments. There is a risk that ICS judgement might not be able to be enforced outside states that signed the agreement, since ICS is not considered to be arbitration, but rather a quasi-judicial process. The ICSID Convention and the New York Convention might not be applicable in this case which means that the ability to have the judgment enforced globally might sharply deteriorate. As we have written before, the possibility of getting arbitration awards enforced worldwide is one of the most important reasons why arbitration has largely replaced litigation in international trade.

The third concern raised in the report is the imbalance between the parties in dispute. ICS proposal entails the fact that state parties can influence the proceeding, including by changing the court’s procedural rules with binding effect during the proceeding and also when the EU replaces a Member State as a respondent. According to the report, this means an imbalanced proceeding, to the investor’s disadvantage.

Vattenfall v. Germany live stream

Blogg_v41_2In the much-publicised ICSID case between Vattenfall and Germany, the main hearing is currently taking place. The parties have agreed to broadcast the hearing live and those who are interested in ISDS can follow this link to see what a hearing looks like. The broadcast starts at 19.00 CET, every night this week and the next.

Examples of national courts acting in ISDS

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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.

ICSID Statistics: Increased Diversity of Arbitrators

National flags of different countryThe ICSID Secretariat has recently published its latest case statistics where it reports that up to 30 June 2016, the number of overall ISDS cases has reached 570 cases.

Overall, most respondent states are countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South America.

Investors involved in overall ICSID cases mostly come from the service industry, where information and communication, finance, service and trade, transportation and tourisms sector together make up 29% of claimants.

As for outcome of the cases, States are successful in the majority of cases. ICSID reports that tribunals have declined jurisdiction in 26% of cases, dismissed all claims in 27% of cases and upheld claims in partial or in full in 46% of cases.

The report also covers cases initiated and completed in ICSID Fiscal Year 2016, which is the period of 1 July 2015 –30 June 2016. In this period, most cases involved investors in power and energy industry, followed by the service sector.

There is an apparent increase in diversity of arbitrators in terms of nationality during the Fiscal Year 2016. During this period, arbitrators, conciliators and ad hoc committee members from South America, Central America and the Carribean, Middle East and North America, Sub-Saharan America, South & East Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia made up 39% of cases. This represents a significant improvement compared to just 24% in the previous fiscal year.

Transglobal Green Energy v. Panama

Panama2016This case summary is based on the publicly-available ICSID award in the case between the American company Transglobal Green Energy (”Transglobal”) and The Republic of Panama. In the award from June 2, 2016, the arbitral tribunal rejected the case early on and found that the investors attempted to abusively create jurisdiction under an investment treaty.

The case centered around a hydro-electric power plant in Panama. A company owned by Panamian national Julio Cesar Lisac had been awarded a concession to operate the plant for 50 years. After the first year, the Panamian authorities found that Mr. Lisac’s company did not meet the requirements of the concession and therefore terminated the agreement (and later awarded the concession to another company). Mr. Lisac challenged this termination in Panamanian courts.

Subsequent to the termination of the concession, Mr. Lisac transferred part of his company’s interests in the power plant project to Transglobal, a company incorporated in Texas. Using Transglobal’s American nationality, an arbitration was brought against Panama based on the bilateral investment treaty (”BIT”) between USA and Panama. The investors alleged that the termination of the 50-year concession was made in violation of the BIT.

The arbitrators found that they did not have jurisdiction over the case and thus rejected the claim early in the proceedings. Since Mr. Lisac and his comapny both had Panamanian nationality, the move to transfer the interests in the power plant to American-incorporated Transglobal was held to be made with the only purpose of obtaining protection under the BIT between USA and Panama. Therefore the tribunal stated that the investor attempted to create ”artificial jurisdiction over a pre-existing domestic dispute”, thereby abusing the system of investment treaty arbitration.

The tribunal’s reasoning was similar to that in Philip Morris v. Australia, where another tribunal refused to hear Philip Morris’ claims because they were found to constitute an abuse of the investment treaty system.

Both these recent cases demonstrate that there is no room to exploit ISDS to bring unjustified claims. One academic recently described this as a tendency by tribunals to ”police the gates to investment treaty claims against states”.

ISDS not used to change legislation

law concept. studio shotsIt has been perceived that States who entered into international investment agreements (IIAs) with arbitration clause risk being sued by foreign investors when they change legislation which causes negative impact on certain investments. However, a study by German and Dutch researchers have shown that foreign investors have very rarely used ISDS to seek damages due to legislative changes. Neither has ISDS been used to hamper introduction of a new law.

The study shows that most ISDS cases have targeted contracts between a State and foreign investors, or the rejection or modification of licenses. Another study by the Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment, quoted in the German and Dutch study, shows that among all ICSID cases up to 2014, only 9% of cases dealt with legislation. Only half of the cases concerned government actions, and the rest dealt with decision-making by local governments and state-owned companies.

Previous claims under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for damages caused by legislative changes have all failed, according to the study. In a well-known case where investors brought a claim for damages allegedly caused by legislative changes, the recently-decided Philip Morris v. Australia, the investor’s claims were dismissed at an early stage.

In conclusion, studies have shown that it is very rare that foreign investors used ISDS to challenge States’ legislative powers in areas such as for example environment protection and public health. Instead, the study found that in the vast majority of cases, investors claim compensation on grounds that the State violated its concrete commitments in the form of contracts or licenses.

ISDS transparency in draft SCC Rules 2017

BloggReglerThe Arbitration Institute at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (SCC) turns 100 years in 2017. During this year, the SCC will update its rules for arbitration, and a draft version of those updated rules has now been published. Among the novelties is an annex applicable only to ISDS disputes, which expressly allows for non-parties to participate in an arbitration.

Among the arbitration institutions which administer ISDS cases under their own rules, the SCC is second only to ICSID. These SCC cases are currently governed by the 2010 version of the SCC Rules, but a committee has now published the updated draft version.

The committee consists of in-house counsel, academics and practicing lawyers from both Sweden and nine other jurisdictions. The proposal contains a number of new elements, but from an ISDS perspective it is noteworthy that the new draft rules include a special annex for ISDS disputes. Under this annex, non-disputing parties are expressly given an avenue to provide the tribunal with written submissions. This applies to both third parties and to the investor’s home state.

The proposed provisions on submission by third parties mirror the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules from 2014.

The draft rules will be presented and discussed at a public hearing 9 June in Stockholm.

New Report: ICSID Cases Relating to Asia

magnifying glass on a document with columns of figures

The ICSID Secretariat recently published a statistics report focusing on the South and East Asia and the Pactific (SEAP) region.

As of 1 October 2015, a total of 539 cases have been registered with the ICSID Secretariat since 1972. Of those 539 cases, 42 involved a state party from the SEAP region—including 8 cases against Pakistan, 7 against Indonesia, 5 against Bangladesh, 4 against the Philippines, and 3 each against Korea, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. In 13 of the 42 cases involving SEAP states, the investor bringing the claim was also from a SEAP country; in the remaining cases, the investor was from a country outside the SEAP region.

Of the 42 cases involving a SEAP state:

  • 62 percent were based on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), and 29 percent were based on an investment contract between the investor and the host state.
  • 43 percent settled, and 57 percent were decided by an arbitral tribunal. Of the cases that were decided by an arbitral tribunal, 47 percent ended in an award declining jurisdiction, 24 percent resulted in an award dismissing all of the investors’ claims, and 29 percent ended in an award upholding the investor’s claims in part or in full.
  • 38 percent concerned the oil, gas and mining industry; 12 percent related to electric power or other energy; and the transportation, construction, and services/trade sectors accounted for 10 percent each.

A number of SEAP nationals have served as arbitrators in ICSID cases. In total, as of 1 October 2015, SEAP nationals accounted for about 11 percent of all appointments made in ICSID cases. Most of the SEAP appointees were from Australia and New Zealand, but Singapore, the Philippines and Bangladesh are also represented on the list of appointees.

Arbitrators’ Independence and Impartiality

ArbitratorsBlogThe parties in an ISDS case select the arbitrators that resolve their dispute. Arbitration law and institutional rules provide layers of control mechanisms to ensure the impartiality and independence of these arbitrators.

The SCC Arbitration Rules require that every arbitrator must be impartial and independent. This requirement extends from the outset and throughout the proceeding. Prior to appointment, an arbitrator must disclose any circumstances which may give rise to justifiable doubts as to his or her impartiality or independence. Further, a party to a dispute may challenge an arbitrator during the course of the proceedings, if new circumstances arise or facts come to light that lead the party to doubt the arbitrator’s independence or impartiality.

Most institutions, including the SCC, evaluate challenges to arbitrators under an objective standard – that is, the arbitrator is disqualified if the circumstances, from the point of view of a reasonable third person, give rise to a conflict of interest. In other words, it is not necessary to show that the challenged arbitrator in fact lacks independence and impartiality, but rather that there is an appearance of partiality.

In arbitrations administered by the SCC, the SCC Board makes the final decision on arbitrator challenges. In evaluating challenges, the Board may refer to the International Bar Association Guidelines on Conflict of Interest in International Arbitration (“IBA Guidelines”). The IBA Guidelines list specific situations in which an arbitrator should decline an appointment, or step down if already appointed.

For example, the SCC Board sustained a respondent’s challenge to an arbitrator appointed by claimant because the arbitrator’s firm had been involved in matters both for and against the respondent. The arbitrator was released from the appointment. Read this article for more information on challenges in SCC cases.

The ICSID Convention, developed by States, provides that an arbitrator can be dismissed if he or she manifests a lack of the qualities required to sit as an arbitrator. A proposal to disqualify an arbitrator was upheld in Bluebank v. Venezuela, on the ground that the arbitrator appointed by claimant worked in a law firm that represented other claimants in unrelated ICSID cases against Venezuela.

Under the ICSID Convention, an ISDS award may be annulled if the tribunal was not properly constituted. This may include situations where an arbitrator failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest before or during the arbitration.