Tag Archives: ISDS

Just published: UNCTAD report on ISDS development  

?????????????????????The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has recently published a report on developments of ISDS in 2015. The report addresses ISDS cases initiated in 2015 as well as the statistics on overall ISDS cases from 1987 to 2015.

The report finds that there were 70 ISDS cases initiated in 2015, which brings an overall number of publicly known ISDS cases to 696. Most of the cases initiated in 2015 arose from old bilateral investment treaties dating back in the 1990s.

Investors from developed countries made the most frequent claimants in cases initiated in 2015, with the top three home states of investors being the United Kingdom, Germany and Luxembourg. This is also true when it comes to the home states of claimants in total since 1987, where investors from the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom top the list.

On the state side, Spain was the most frequent respondent state in cases initiated in 2015, followed by Russia, Czech Republic and Ukraine. Overall since 1987, most frequent respondent states in ISDS cases are still developing countries, with Argentina and Venezuela top the list.

As for the matters being disputed, a number of cases initiated in 2015 concerned sustainable development sectors such as infrastructure and climate change mitigation. Approximately 30% of cases were triggered by the regulation of renewable energy producers, all of which were brought against EU member States (Bulgaria, Italy, and Spain).

ISDS tribunals rendered at least 51 decisions in 2015, 31 of which were in the public domain at the time of the writing of the report. This brings the number of concluded cases to 444 by the end of 2015, with 36% of the cases decided in favour of the State, 26% in favour of investors and 26% cases were settled.

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.

Former ICJ President Criticizes EU Investment Court Proposal

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In a May 17 address, independent arbitrator and former president of the International Court of Justice Stephen M Schwebel criticised the EU proposal for the establishment of a permanent investment court in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Schwebel spoke in Washington, DC at a public event organized by Sidley Austin, the American Society of International Law, and the District of Columbia Bar Association. Read the full speech here.

The current system of investor-state arbitration – the standard dispute-resolution mechanism in 3,000 bilateral investment treaties – “works reasonably well”, Schwebel noted. He expressed concern that the EC is now seeking to replace that system with “a system that would face substantial problems of coherence, rationalisation, negotiation, ratification, establishment, functioning and financing.” The EU proposal for an investment court, Schwebel argued, is a mere “appeasement” of “uninformed or misinformed critics”.

ISDS critics often presume that an arbitrator appointed by an investor is biased in favor of the investor – a presumption not supported by the record of investor-state arbitration. The EU’s proposal, Schwebel notes, instead risks entrenching pro-state bias by allowing states to appoint all the judges on the investment court, and depriving investors of influence over the appointment process. If the goal is a truly fair and neutral dispute resolution, “is there reason to presume that judges appointed only by states will not be biased in favour of states?”

ISDS costs – how much and who pays?

Ukrainian small coins on black tableHow much does ISDS dispute cost? Firstly, we have to be clear which costs are being referred to.

ISDS costs typically consist of three elements: the arbitrators’ fee, the administrative fee of the arbitral institution administering the case (not in every case) and the cost of legal representation. In some cases, there can also be additional costs relating to legal experts and an administrative secretary.

Arbitral institutions, such as the SCC, usually have rules on arbitrators’ fees and the administrative fee. The SCC sets these fees based on the amount in dispute.

Legal fees of counsel who represent the party depends on the complexity of the case and time spent. It may not necessarily reflect the amount in dispute, but rather whether facts and other matters in dispute have been complex or not.  In this context it deserves pointing out that the first generation of international investment agreement typically contained relatively broad and vague provisions, which may in itself create complexity in the adjudication of the claims.

A study by the OECD concludes that legal counsel fees and experts are the largest cost component in ISDS, estimated to average 82% of the total cost of a case. Arbitrator fees average about 16% of costs. Administration costs of arbitral institutions are relatively low, generally amounting to about 2% of costs.

The above numbers are interesting for the assessment of an appeal mechanism in ISDS. If the purpose of an appeal is to have the case reheard on its merits, effectively have a re-trial of the case, there is strong reason to believe that the cost of legal fees will double, as the case moves through the procedure for appeal.

Now, who pays? The SCC Rules provides that the tribunal may apportion the administrative fee and the arbitrators’ fee between parties, depending to the outcome of the case. The Rules further mention that the tribunal may order a party to pay reasonable legal representation of another party.  Under UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, the costs of the arbitration shall in principle be borne by the unsuccessful party, even though the tribunal may allocate the cost between parties should it finds it reasonable.

In Glamis Gold v. USA, the tribunal dismissed all claims by the investor and ordered the investor to pay two-third of the arbitration costs. In Methanex v. USA, the tribunal also dismissed all claims by the investor and went further by ordering the investor to pay all the costs of the arbitration.

This practice has further been incorporated into recent free trade agreement. The TPP specifically provides that tribunal may award the state reasonable costs and attorney’s fees if it determines the investor’s claims to be frivolous.

The U.S is sceptical of the European Commission’s ISDS proposal

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In mid-September, the European Commission presented its proposal on dispute resolution in the TTIP, as we have previously discussed on this blog. In our previous post, we find it promising that the Commission’s proposal is built on existing practices but we also note that the proposal raises many questions.

The Commission’s proposal is only a proposal. It must first be accepted at home within the European Union and later be put on the negotiating table with the U.S counterpart. There has been some suspicions that the U.S would have doubted the proposed changes and this suspicion has now been confirmed.

The U.S Trade Representative Michael Froman especially expresses scepticism about the proposal of appeal mechanism in which the entire case will be reheard (in the current system, an award may only be appealed on procedural grounds). The U.S is among the countries that has been sued the most in ISDS nevertheless it has never lost a case, and the U.S Trade Representative is hesitant to give investors a second chance in the proceeding. As he puts it, “It’s not obvious to me why you would want to give companies a second bite of the apple”.

Another aspect of the proposal that has been widely criticized is the closed list of arbitrators to be pre-appointed unilaterally by states, in contrast to the current system in which each party in dispute may appoint an arbitrator.

Michael Froman would prefer that the investment chapter of the TTIP has provisions closer to those in the U.S model investment agreement of 2012. This model agreement is considered to be the most progressive of its kind and is based on international “best practices”.

The text of the completely negotiated TPP, which has recently been released, is based largely on such American model agreement. Froman believes that this should be the starting point of the TTIP.

ISDS CASE SUMMARY: Maffezini v. Spain

GaliciaBlogOur next case summary is Emilio Augustin Maffezini v. The Kingdom of Spain (ICSID Case No. ARB/97/7). The summary was prepared based on the award rendered on 9 November 2000.

The claimant was an Argentinian individual who established and invested in a corporation named EAMSA, for the purpose of building a production facility for chemical products in Galicia, Spain. The project was a joint venture with the Sociedad para el Desarrollo Industrial de Galicia(SODIGA), a public-private entity with a mandate to encourage industrial development in Galicia. SODIGA provided the investor with assistance in the form of advice and financing.

The project eventually failed due to surging costs, and the investor filed for arbitration under the Argentina-Spain BIT. The investor claimed (1) that the project failed because SODIGA had given flawed advice underestimating the costs of the project, and (2) that SODIGA was responsible for the additional costs resulting from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) because it had pressured EAMSA to begin construction before the EIA process was finalized. Spain contested the allegations, stating that SODIGA was a private company whose acts were not attributable to the state, and that the investor had assumed any risk relating to the feasibility and profitability of his investment.

On the issue of state attribution, the tribunal found that some of SODIGA’s functions were governmental in nature while others were commercial. Accordingly, the tribunal found that it was necessary to categorize the various acts or omissions giving rise to the dispute. On the investor’s main claim – that SODIGA’s bad advice was responsible for the project’s failure – the tribunal found that even though SODIGA officials had provided certain assistance relating to the project’s costs and returns, that assistance did not amount to a public function attributable to the state. Moreover, the investor was, simply put, responsible for his own investment. The tribunal explained:

“Bilateral Investment Treaties are not insurance policies against bad business judgments. While it is probably true that there were shortcomings in the policies and practices that SODIGA and its sister entities pursued in the here relevant period in Spain, they cannot be deemed to relieve investors of the business risks inherent in any investment.”

The claimant also contended that SODIGA was responsible for the additional costs resulting from the EIA, which lead to the investor’s decision to stop the construction work and call off the project. In this regard, the tribunal concluded that the investor should have known that the project – a chemical plant – would require an EIA. According to the tribunal, the investor had known about the EIA requirement from the beginning of the project, but had tried to minimize it so as to avoid additional costs or technical difficulties.

For these reasons, the tribunal found that Spain could not be held responsible for the investor’s losses.

Arbitrators’ expertise makes ISDS strong

???????As investment and trade develop, disputes will be more diverse. Looking back at history, the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) only registered 28 ISDS cases during the first two decades after its establishment. In contrast, there have been 38 cases registered at the ICSID in the year 2014 alone. The substantive issues of disputes have become more diverse, and therefore a wider range of expertise is needed to solve the disputes.

One cannot perceive how future disputes will look like and what expertise will be required. At the same time, the quality of ISDS outcome needs to be ensured. The current practice has served this purpose by allowing parties to the dispute and/or arbitration institutes to appoint arbitrators from a broad range of expertise, as opposed to a pre-determined list.

Let’s look at some of the cases. In Glamis Gold v. USA, the tribunal had to decide whether a requirement to conduct a certain mining technique had constituted an indirect expropriation. This case required expertise to assess the value of the mining project, including evaluation of mineral price. In fact, the tribunal contributed 100-page analysis only on this issue.

In another case, Methanex v. USA, the tribunal was faced with lengthy submissions from parties on whether or not a certain chemical for fuel production was dangerous for the environment. In addition, there have been other complicated disputes on, among other things, electricity pricing and gas pricing. The above cases are only small part in the big pool of ISDS cases which requires specific expertise.

The current system of arbitrator’s appointment has made international arbitration able to adapt with the present needs of dispute resolution. Most importantly, it can keep up with the trade development. It is therefore unwise to replace this important feature with a pre-determined list of arbitrators.

A quick read of the EU Commission’s Investment Court Proposal

CommissionYesterday the EU Commission presented its proposal for the investment chapter in the TTIP, which is the result of a long consultation. The text, which runs to almost 40 pages, is available here. It will now be discussed internally in the EU and then put on the negotiating table with the US.

Below we briefly go through some of the noteworthy aspects:

The dispute procedure

-        A “court system” consisting of one Investment Tribunal and one Appeals Tribunal is set up.

-        The tribunals will work under established arbitration rules: ICSID, UNCITRAL or “any other rules agreed by the parties”, depending on the choice of the investor in the particular case. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the Commission is here relying on established practice.

-        While it is positive that the proposal draws so extensively on established arbitration rules, many areas remain where the interaction between the proposal and those rules must be studied further. This is most obvious when it comes to the enforcement of awards, but also other aspects such as the Appeals Tribunal and the appointment of arbitrators need extensive analysis before being included in a treaty.

-        It is made clear that the tribunal only has the mandate to look at cases through the lens of international law. Consequently, domestic law cannot be applied or reviewed by the tribunal.

-        Mediation provisions have been introduced. While mediation is sometimes often possible under the current system (and most disputing parties so far have elected not to mediate) such a procedure makes sense for reasons of efficiency. Mediation is however a challenge from a transparency perspective as it is hard to mediate openly.

The arbitrators/the system

-        The relationship is unclear between this proposal (which is aimed only at the TTIP) and the ambitious but vague multilateral dispute settlement mechanism envisioned by the Commission (which is to set up some sort of World Investment Court in the future). Under Article 12, many parts of the current proposal will cease to apply when/if a permanent multilateral system is set up. With this solution, the Commission is kicking the can further down the road.

-        Arbitrators can only be drawn from a list established by states. This is problematic because one of the two parties (the state) will set the frames for the disputes when the other (the investor) can only appoint from a list pre-approved by the state. Under the current system, each party can freely choose its own arbitrator.

-        States have to negotiate over whom to put on the list of arbitrators. This risks a politicization of the appointments, which is exactly what investment arbitration is intended to avoid.

-        Furthermore, the arbitrators must fulfill an almost impossible list of requirements to be eligible for the list. Annex II – where the arbitrators’ code of conduct is set down – in combination with the requirements in Article 9(4), leave a very small group of people eligible. In practice, depending on how the requirements are interpreted, it is likely that only retired lawyers (and probably only retired judges) will be able to sit as arbitrators. This restricts the parties’ possibility to appoint the most suitable arbitrator and also ensures that only a small elite gets to adjudicate investment disputes.

-        The Appeals Tribunal, allowing the case to be reheard on its merits, is sure to make disputes much longer and much more expensive; the average dispute would likely be twice as expensive as under the current system, which affects both investors and states.

Transparency

-        An express reference to the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules is included. The proposal even goes further than the Rules by making clear that many documents, including everything from proceedings before the Appeal Tribunal, shall always be made public.

-        The proposal extends the possibility for third parties to intervene. While the general tendency towards transparency is desirable, Article 23 states that the tribunal “shall permit any natural or legal person which can establish a direct and present interest in the result of the dispute”. This seems to (i) restrict the tribunal’s discretion by saying that it “shall” allow such submissions and (ii) considerably widen the scope of who shall be allowed to file submissions. In comparison, the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency states that the tribunal “may” allow such submissions, after consulting the parties and only if it finds the submission could be helpful.

 

ISDS key figures and findings

worldisdsA report by Notre Europe Jacques Delors Institute, a think-tank working on European Union issues, summarizes important numbers related to bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and ISDS.

The report puts numbers into perspective – with some of its findings as follows:

  1. The number of BITs increased five-fold between the late 1980s and the end of 1990s.
  2. In parallel, the external stock of FDI demonstrates a ten-fold increase over 20 years with a growth from USD 2,400 billion in 1992 to USD 23,600 billion in 2012.
  3. There is now a total of 3,200 investment agreements worldwide, 93% of them provides an ISDS clause.
  4. Out of the 98 countries who have been a respondent in an ISDS proceeding, about three-quarters were developing countries or economy in transition. Less than one-third of claims were brought against developed countries.
  5. The average compensation claimed was USD 343.5 million, however the average amount awarded was USD 10.4 million.

The European Union member states have signed a total of 1,356 BITs with non-EU member states, in addition to around 190 BITs between themselves.

With regards to the EU – United States relationship, the report notes that nine member states have signed investment agreements with the U.S – all include ISDS as dispute resolution mechanism. These member states consist of Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. There have been so far 9 known ISDS claims between the U.S and the EU, all submitted by US investors (4 against Poland, 3 against Romania, 1 against the Czech Republic and 1 against Estonia).

ISDS is included in the EU’s upcoming agreements, including free trade agreements with Canada and Singapore – the negotiations of which have been concluded. According to the report, ISDS is also mentioned in agreements currently negotiated between the EU and China, Myanmar, Morocco, Thailand and Vietnam.

Seminar report: ISDS – A Way Forward

AndrinaSeminariumImage2red3BloggThe SCC, in cooperation with the Association of International Arbitration and Brussels Diplomatic Academy of Vrije Universiteit Brussels organized a seminar, ISDS: Away Forward in Brussels, on 27 May 2015. The speakers were arbitration practitioners from Sweden, Belgium and France, including SCC Legal Counsels and representatives from the International Bar Association Subcommittee on Investment Arbitration. Read the full programme here.

The historical background of ISDS was explained, and how the mechanism was established under the ICSID Convention as a response to inefficient diplomatic protection to foreign investors. The discussion continued with the currently-debated issue, ISDS and environmental protection. SCC presented research findings that the number of ISDS cases where investors brought a claim because of environmental regulation is small. The findings from these cases support a conclusion that arbitral tribunals have not questioned the power of government to regulate for environmental protection.

In addition, some procedural aspects of ISDS were addressed, particularly transparency and public participation. The speakers emphasized that this is in fact not a new development, as tribunals have supported transparency and public participation to an increasing extent in the past decade. A new procedural development of ISDS, emergency arbitrator, was also discussed.

A speaker reminded that when discussing reform of the system, public opinion should always be taken into account.  It is important to ensure that the democratic values are preserved. The International Bar Association (IBA) is working on a project to bring together opinions from different stakeholders in ISDS. The ambition is to address the criticisms surrounding ISDS and to propose improvements of the system, when needed.

IBA has also recently published a statement, addressing facts of ISDS.

The dynamic and forward-looking discussion from the participants were much appreciated. More discussions will follow ahead to preserve the rule of law and ISDS.