It is a generally accepted principle that an arbitrator has a duty to be impartial and independent of the parties involved in a dispute, and to disclose any circumstances that may give rise to doubts as to his or her impartiality or independence. This principle is reflected in article 12 of the UNCITRAL Model Law, as well as the arbitration rules of all major arbitral institutions.
However, the precise scope of this duty may not always be clear, especially with the growing size of corporate conglomerates and international law firms in recent years leading to the rise of increasingly complex conflict-of-interest issues.
In 2004, the International Bar Association (IBA) released its Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration in an attempt to increase certainty and uniformity of standards of disclosure in the arbitration world. Since then, the IBA guidelines and their 2014 revision have become widely accepted by many arbitrators and institutions as an authoritative guide to making decisions on disclosure and arbitrator appointments, respectively.
On 12 February 2016, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration adopted a new guidance note for the disclosure of potential conflicts of interests by arbitrators. This article examines how the new ICC guidance note compares to the IBA guidelines.
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SYLVIA TEE is a senior associate at Lipman Karas and former director, Arbitration and ADR, Asia of ICC Dispute Resolution Services