CryptoCrossroads: Unraveling the Blockchain Knots in International Disputes

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, cryptocurrencies have emerged as disruptive sources, revolutionizing traditional financial systems and introducing unique legal challenges. As the global adoption of crypto continues to gain momentum, disputes arising from their use, ownership, and transactions have become increasingly prevalent. International arbitration stands as a vital mechanism for resolving cross border disputes by offering parties a neutral platform to navigate the complex legal issues arising from the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies.

Developing Rules & Regulations

In April 2021, the UK Jurisdiction Taskforce developed and published the brief but innovative, Digital Resolution Rules, designed to guide parties through a procedural framework that allows for the resolution of disputes relating to, among other digital technologies, cryptocurrency. The Rules include a default period of thirty days where an arbitral tribunal must determine a dispute within this timeline. Another key benefit of these rules is anonymity between parties – although the tribunal might request information regarding the identity of the parties, the parties can remain anonymous as to each other. The Rules also specify that English law is the default procedural law that governs the dispute as well as the arbitration agreement, which shortens the arbitration time period as parties cannot challenge jurisdiction. Continue reading “CryptoCrossroads: Unraveling the Blockchain Knots in International Disputes”

Codes of Conduct for Arbitrators

Codes of conduct for international arbitrators provide ethical guidelines and professional standards that arbitrators must adhere to when conducting international arbitration proceedings. These codes aim at establishing ethical and professional standards for arbitrators to ensure fairness, impartiality, and integrity in the arbitration process.

The most recent development in this matter was the announcement by Shane Spelliscy, Chair of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”) Working Group III (“WGIII”), at the 45th Session of the WGIII on March 31, 2023, that a workable compromise had been reached on the issue of how to regulate double hatting[1]. Consequently, Mr. Spelliscy announced that an agreement was reached on a text of the Code of Conduct for Arbitrators in Investor-State Dispute Settlement (“ISDS”)[2] to be presented for final approval at the UNCITRAL Commission in July 2023.[3] This code of conduct had been first proposed in 2019 and it focuses heavily on disclosures obligations by arbitrators.

This is a significant announcement, as several other prominent international arbitration centers have also continuously worked on similar codes of conduct and/or guidelines. Accordingly, while different institutions and organizations may have their specific codes of conduct, there are several common principles that are generally included:

  • Independence and Impartiality
  • Integrity and Fairness
  • Disclosure of Information
  • Competence and Diligence
  • Confidentiality
  • Transparency and Disclosure
  • Respect for Due Process
  • Compliance with Applicable Laws and Rules

Of course, the codes of different arbitration institutions and organizations may include additional or more specific provisions tailored to the particularities of the institution or organization (for example in the case of ICSID due to the nature of the disputes before such institution). Additionally, some international arbitration guidelines, such as the International Bar Association (“IBA”) Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration, provide detailed guidance on managing conflicts of interest and disclosure obligations for arbitrators[4]. These guidelines are widely recognized and often referenced in international arbitration practice.

Other important centers for international arbitration which have taken several initiatives to address and promote codes of conduct for their arbitrators include the International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”) and the London Court of International Arbitration (“LCIA”). The ICC, for example, incorporates ethical and professional standards in its own standard Rules, but has adopted additional rules and guidelines such as its 2016 Guidance Note on Conflict Disclosures by Arbitrators[5] and the 2017 ICC Arbitrator Statement Acceptance, Availability, Impartiality and Independence form[6]. Similarly, the LCIA incorporates ethical and professional standards in its own Arbitration Rules (specifically, but not limited to, Rules 5, 18.5 and 18.6 & Annex), in addition to publishing the 2017 LCIA Notes for Arbitrators[7].

It is noteworthy that the evolution of codes of conduct in international arbitration will be influenced by the evolving needs and expectations of the arbitration community, as well as legal developments and societal trends. For example, current challenges related to codes of conduct for international arbitrators include challenges in diversity and inclusion within arbitral tribunals and emerging ethical issues with regard to third-party funding, cybersecurity, or the use of artificial intelligence. The specifics of future codes of conduct will depend on the actions and initiatives taken by arbitration institutions, professional organizations, and stakeholders in the field to address these and other challenges.

[1] “Double hatting” is commonly used to refer to the practice of arbitrators who also carry on other activities such as counsel or expert witness. This means that someone who acts as arbitrator in some proceedings acts “the subsequent day” (so to say) in other proceedings for example as counsel or expert witness, possibly even in front of arbitrators who have been acting as Counsel before him in the above referred to arbitral proceedings.

[2] Full text of the draft is available at: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/

[3] See “Working Group III: Investor-State Dispute Settlement Reform”, available at:

[4] Full text of the IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration available at: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/

[5] See “2016 Guidance Note on Conflict Disclosures” available at:

[6] See 2017 ICC Arbitrator Statement Acceptance, Availability, Impartiality and Independence form available at:

[7] See LCIA Notes for Arbitrators available at:,to%20their%20impartiality%20or%20independence.

Eleventh Circuit Expands Standards for Vacatur of International Arbitration Awards

On April 13, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned decades of precedent in determining the grounds that can be asserted to vacate an arbitral award governed by the New York Convention (the “Convention”)[1]. The Eleventh Circuit in Corporación AIC v. Hidroelectrica Santa Rita, sitting en banc, held that in a case under the Convention where the United States is the governing jurisdiction, the grounds for vacatur of a domestic award are set out in domestic law, currently Chapter 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act[2] (“FAA”).[3] In doing so, the Eleventh Circuit overruled the two prior controlling cases on the issue and settled a circuit split, realigning their opinions with that of its sister circuits. This decision—which expands the grounds for challenging arbitration awards beyond those provided in the Convention—could have significant implications on parties choosing the Eleventh Circuit as the seat of arbitration moving forward.

Continue reading “Eleventh Circuit Expands Standards for Vacatur of International Arbitration Awards”

Arbitration: the Brexit get out of jail free card?

One of the most useful assets in the classic board game Monopoly is the famous get out of jail free card. A player who finds themselves in jail can utilize it to ‘free’ themselves, almost immediately, but more importantly without paying a monetary penalty.

But what has Monopoly got to do with Brexit or arbitration? Whilst the similarities may not be immediately obvious, for commercial agreements made after 11:00 pm on 31 December 2020, jurisdiction clauses that specify arbitration are in many ways a legal get out of jail free card.
Continue reading “Arbitration: the Brexit get out of jail free card?”

Arbitration in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

By N. Gordon Knox, Partner

Over the last decade, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the “KSA”) has made significant strides to create a robust arbitration regime.  This is due in part to new arbitration and enforcement laws, an increase in support of the arbitration process from the KSA’s judiciary and, significantly, to the work of a dynamic and innovative arbitration institution – the Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration (the “SCCA”).

The SCCA was established pursuant to Ministerial Resolution No. 257 of 14/6/1435H and became operational in late 2016 when it opened its headquarters in Riyadh.  Its mission is to provide “professional, transparent and efficient ADR services”.  The SCCA also has offices in Jeddah as well as Dubai.

As part of its Vision 2030 Initiative, unveiled in 2016, the KSA articulated its desire to encourage global investment within the Kingdom and diversify is sources of revenue.  The SCCA was established as part of KSA’s plan and one of the SCCA’s goals is to “create a safe environment that attracts both foreign and domestic investment to the [KSA]…. by eliminating obstacles and difficulties related to ADR between investing parties.”  The SCCA administers arbitration and mediation proceedings in both Arabic and English and is dedicated to providing professional, transparent and efficient ADR services, inspired by Sharia law. An arbitration may take the form of a standard arbitration, an expedited arbitration, an emergency arbitration or an online arbitration. Continue reading “Arbitration in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”

The Impact of Sanctions on International Arbitrations

One of the most important issues facing the parties (or potential parties) to an international arbitration is whether an award will ultimately be enforceable against opposing parties and their assets. The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “Convention”), usually provides the most direct means to enforce an award. And, as a general rule, the Convention’s application makes enforcement of International Arbitral awards a more straight forward process than judgments from foreign courts. But, parties must remain aware of and consider the limited defenses or obstacles to enforcement that still exist under the Convention, including where enforcement of an award would be contrary to public policy. This “public policy exception” is particularly relevant when issues of international sanctions are involved.

Russian Court Ruling Impact on International Arbitrations

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, dozens of countries, including the United States, introduced or greatly expanded sanctions against Russia, the Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as high-powered Russian government officials and other influential Russian interests. These sanctions have been extensive, going so far as to prevent Russian banks from using the SWIFT international payment system.

The Russian government responded to these sanctions, in part with the introduction of Federal Law No. 171-FZ, which provides Russian parties to an international arbitration (who are also the subject of Russian sanctions) the opportunity to apply to a Russian court for an injunction prohibiting foreign claimants from continuing the arbitration and receiving an award. The Russian court can also award the sanctioned individual a sum of money that equals the sum of the international award against the sanctioned person thereby eliminating the award against the sanctioned person. Continue reading “The Impact of Sanctions on International Arbitrations”

The Benefits of International Arbitration

Arbitration is quickly emerging as one of the preferred methods for dispute resolution in the United States. The pros and cons of domestic arbitration are well known, and at times hotly contested. While many of the same arguments apply to international arbitration, in the context of cross-border business transactions, international arbitration can provide the neutrality, predictability, enforceability, and efficiency that is critical to achieving a just outcome.

Neutral Site and Predictability
International Arbitration provides a neutral forum for dispute resolution, thereby avoiding even the perceptions of ‘home court advantage’ that often times complicate selection of domestic courts. Often times, a dispute that crosses international boundaries is potentially subject to jurisdiction in more than one country. Parties may have concerns about navigating unfamiliar legal terrain or bias in another party’s home jurisdiction. Under traditional litigation, usually one party gets to decide where, and under what laws, the litigation will be resolved. Even if parties agree to a forum selection and choice of law clauses ahead of time, inevitably one party is likely to be disadvantaged by local procedures and/precedents in the chosen venue. While these advantages and disadvantages are part of general litigation strategy, they are often barriers to fair and effective dispute resolution.

International arbitration provides parties the opportunity to choose where the arbitration will take place, what laws will apply, and even the makeup and nationalities of the arbitrators. From there, parties will know what to expect in term of pleading rules, discovery procedures, and the types of damages and other remedies that are available. Most importantly, both parties will be given the same set of circumstances to arbitrate under, without substantial advantages given to either party. International arbitration allows disputes to be decided on the merits without influence from potentially biased judiciaries, disadvantageous procedural technicalities, and other issues that muddy the waters in traditional litigation.

In addition to providing an opportunity for neutrality that is not always available through traditional litigation, international arbitrations provide invaluable predictability to both parties. One of the biggest issues that arises in international litigation is the uncertainty that comes with navigating a foreign judicial system. Rules and procedures governing what claims may be brought, the discovery process, the trial itself, and remedies vary widely across jurisdictions. When parties agree to arbitrate an international dispute, they have the opportunity to create certainty and predictability in how the dispute will be resolved. The location of the arbitration and the rules governing the arbitration will be agreed upon prior to the dispute arising. The parties will have an opportunity to assemble an agreed-upon panel of fair minded individuals with alleviates the fear of being subject to the whims of a foreign judicial system. Parties in international arbitration have much more control over the length of the process without having to worry about a backlogged court-docket and other procedural delays that often cause traditional litigation to go on for years. Overall, international arbitrations provide parties with the resources to maintain control over their own disputes in many ways that traditional litigation does not.

An Increased Likelihood that Judgments are Enforceable
The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Award (otherwise known as the “New York Convention) provides a straightforward mechanism for enforcement of international arbitral awards. Over 150 countries have ratified the Convention and it provides a guarantee a mechanism that allows, and encourages, courts within the various signatory countries to enforce an international arbitration clause and award. This level of comity provides a significant benefit over the difficulties faced when seeking to enforce a foreign-court judgment. For example, a judgment from a United States court is not automatically enforceable in other countries – even those with similar legal traditions. A claimant may have to go through a second series of expensive and time-consuming litigation just to prove that the judgment should be enforceable in the foreign jurisdiction. An award secured in international arbitration however, provides more security to the prevailing party that they will be able to recover their award no matter where they need to enforce the judgment.

Pick the Panel
When parties decide to resolve their dispute through international arbitration, one of the key benefits is the ability to appoint arbitrators with relevant expertise. This removes a lot of the variability seen when presenting cases before judges and juries who may not be well-versed in the subject matter of the dispute. The presence of subject matter experts on the tribunal usually provides assurance to the parties that their claims are being adjudicated properly and fairly and reduces the need for appeals based on incorrect findings.

Affordability and Efficiency
While the affordability and efficiency of arbitration versus domestic litigation can be hotly contested, many of the rules and forums common to International Arbitration provide at least the possibility for significant cost and time benefits. When viewed in contrast with the American legal tradition, this is particularly so given the lack of expensive pre-trial discovery and post-trial appeals that are prevalent in many US jurisdictions and which may prolong a case for years. Under an arbitration agreement, parties are encouraged to move through the process quickly with a panel of arbitrators dedicated to their case. For example, the International Chamber of Commerce Rules of Arbitration offer an expedited procedure in cases where the amount in dispute does not exceed $2 million. This is meant to streamline the arbitration process and keep costs low. Unfortunately, in traditional litigation, there is not a similar mechanism in the United States or other jurisdictions. After an arbitration has ended and the tribunal has issued a final award, that dispute is usually over. Challenges to arbitral awards are also generally more limited than domestic court judgments. In addition, parties in international arbitration proceedings are often awarded reimbursement of their attorneys’ fees and other arbitration costs which has the potential to make arbitration an even more affordable option.

Resolving an international dispute does not have to be a lengthy, confusing, or expensive endeavor. Parties engaged in international business transactions should consider that agreeing to arbitrate can keep costs manageable while moving the dispute along efficiently with fairness and predictability.

Cross-Border Disputes in the Cannabis Industry & International Arbitration

As continued legalization of cannabis across jurisdictions in the U.S. and foreign countries causes the industry to become increasingly lucrative, determining proper avenues for dispute resolution controlling underlying agreements and investments has become a critical consideration for business-owners and foreign investors alike. Foreign investment in businesses involving cannabis is subject to a complex web of oversight that could include any combination of local and foreign laws, agreements, regulations, and practices. Many foreign investors in the cannabis industry have turned to international arbitration as a method for navigating these complexities and resolving disputes that may arise from such investments and business relationships. This post explores high-level considerations for foreign investors in the cannabis industry when assessing the viability of arbitration as a means for dispute resolution.

Continue reading “Cross-Border Disputes in the Cannabis Industry & International Arbitration”

Get Your Dispute Resolution Clause Right! The Most Important Clause In Any Commercial Contract In Vietnam

Most contracts in North America and Europe specify in detail all of the parties’ obligations and will be closely watched for the effectiveness of its clauses. The contract’s legal enforceability, however, is widely regarded as a given.

On the other hand, contracts between foreign investors and Vietnamese entities or with a reference to Vietnam that establishes Vietnamese jurisdiction should always specify the question “what institution will decide any disputes and in which language and what national law is to be applied?”

In this circumstance, without a dispute resolution clause, Vietnamese courts will have jurisdiction over a possible dispute. However, interested parties must consider the particularities of Vietnamese courts in comparison to Western rule-of-law courts.

To read the full text of this post by Duane Morris Vietnam partner Dr. Oliver Massmann, please visit the Duane Morris Vietnam Blog.


Arbitration Case Management: Procedural Innovation or Getting Back to Original Intent? Cost and Schedule Efficiency

Originally promoted as a cost-efficient alternative to the public court system, International Arbitration has faced increased criticism by parties and attorneys worldwide for the increasing length and cost of arbitral proceedings. In a 2018 survey conducted by the School of International Arbitration at Queen Mary University of London (“QMUL Survey”), 67% of respondents identified cost as one of the three worst characteristics of international arbitration and 34% identified lack of speed as one of three worst characteristics[1]. Issues that were listed by respondents to this survey as possible contributing factors to the increase of the cost and length of arbitral proceedings include the lack of consequences for delay by arbitrators and/or parties and insufficient principles or guidance on the allocation of costs[2].

As a response to these concerns, arbitration institutions around the world have issued an array of new case management rules. In 2018, the International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”), for example, issued a report on Techniques for Controlling Time and Costs in Arbitration. The ICC stated that this report “should be seen as an adjunct to the [2012 ICC] Rules” which included, among other things, additional guidance as to the mandatory initial case management conference and as to the explicit obligation on both the arbitral tribunal and the parties “to make every effort to conduct the arbitration in an expeditious and cost-effective manner.”[3]

Thereafter, in 2020 and 2021 two of the most prominent global arbitration institutions, the London Court of International Arbitration (“LCIA”) and the ICC, respectively, published new rules which both institutions announced as being designed to promote more efficient, flexible and transparent arbitrations.

Main common changes in the LCIA 2020 Rules[4] and in the ICC 2021 Rules[5]: both sets of new rules provide for (i) paperless filings and communications; (ii) remote hearings; (iii) expedited procedures; and (iv) clarification of prior rules and new rules concerning consolidation of arbitrations.

Other relevant changes in the ICC 2021 Rules: (i) ability of the tribunal to make “additional awards” where they omit to address claims in the main Award (Article 36.3); (ii) the value in dispute in order for the Expedited Procedure Rules to apply (under Appendix VI and Article 30(2)) increased from $2 million to $3 million; (iii) additional rules and transparency as to third-party funding; (iv) ICC Court discretion in “exceptional circumstances” to deviate from any agreement by the parties on the method of constitution of the arbitral tribunal and appoint the entire tribunal to avoid a significant risk of unequal treatment; and (v) more flexible joinder provisions.

Many other arbitration institutions, for example the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”) in 2022, followed suit and published similar updates to their procedural rules[6]. All of these changes are a welcome development in addressing the continuing concerns of arbitrations users as to time and cost effectiveness, especially the increased use of technology, which received an additional push after the COVID-19 Pandemic.

However, it is important to keep in mind that establishing these case management rules is not necessarily an innovation to the International Arbitration practice, but is a necessary adaptation to challenges presented by the welcome growth of use of International Arbitration to resolve cross-border disputes. Moreover, delays can start to set in from the beginning of an arbitral proceeding, especially in complex matters, and, although the flexibility of arbitration is also part of its original appeal, too much flexibility can lead to increased time and cost[7].

Accordingly, even though many International Arbitration institutions do not prescribe specific timelines in their rules for all stages of arbitration, the most prominent International Arbitration Rules have been determining mandatory case management hearings in order for the Arbitral Tribunal, with the agreement of the parties, to determine case management procedures, which is a positive feature. Similarly, the availability of specific expedited procedures, for example, is a welcome development, but there are many other changes that arbitration users would like to see, such as (i) more tailored procedures for complex and multi-party arbitrations; (ii) cost sanctions for delay by arbitrators; (iii) rules giving extensive case management powers to arbitrators including robust sanctions in relation to the behavior of parties and counsel; and (iv) limitations on length of written submissions and oral hearings on procedural issues, etc[8].

It is noteworthy that users generally still believe that International Arbitration is a better method of dispute resolution than the courts, and it is clear that institutions around the world are and should continue working on addressing concerns that this general belief might change. Although time and cost are still some of the main concerns between users of International Arbitration, in the most recent 2021 QMUL Survey, International Arbitration is still the preferred method for an overwhelming 90% of respondents to resolve cross-border disputes, either on a stand-alone basis (31%) or in conjunction with ADR (59%)[9].

As long as both, arbitration institutions and parties, maintain the focus on the original intent of International Arbitration as a flexible, time and cost-effective alternative to public court systems, new rules and updates on case management features should continue to be published for this purpose. And, of course, it is important that the parties themselves also understand the institutions and procedures best suitable for their case.

[1] See 2018 International Arbitration Survey: The Evolution of International Arbitration, available at:—The-Evolution-of-International-Arbitration-(2).PDF), at pg. 8.

[2] See Id. At pg. 34.

[3] See International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Commission Report, ‘Techniques for Controlling Time and Costs in Arbitration’ (2d ed. 2018), at pg. 4.

[4] See 2020 LCIA Arbitration Rules, available at:

[5] See ICC Rules of Arbitration entered into force on 1 January 2021, available at:

[6] See 2022 ICSID Convention, Regulations and Rules, available at:

[7] See International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Commission on Arbitration and ADR, “Effective Management of Arbitration: A Guide for In-House Counsel and Other Party Representatives” (1st ed. 2018), at pg. 3.

[8] See 2021 International Arbitration Survey: Adapting Arbitration to a Changing World, available at:, at pg. 12 

[9] See Id., at pg. 12.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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