UK: English Court Sets Aside Arbitration Award For Serious Irregularity Due To Tribunal's Non-Disclosure Of Novel Point Central To Award

Last Updated: 7 November 2018
Article by Nicholas Peacock and Rebecca Warder

The odds of successfully challenging an arbitral award in the English Courts on the basis of s68 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (serious irregularity) remain low. In the recent past over 95% of s68 challenges have been unsuccessful and in the period from 2015 to 2017 only 3 out of 112 s68 appeals succeeded, approximately 2.7% of applications made.

However, the English High Court has recently set aside an arbitral award for serious irregularity under s68(2)(a) in the case of RJ and another v HB [2018] EWHC 2833 (Comm). This case is a relatively rare and interesting example of a successful s68(2)(a) challenge.


The parties to the dispute had entered into various agreements under which, ultimately, HB agreed to transfer shares in a bank to RJ (or an RJ affiliate) in exchange for a Euro sum then equivalent to US$75 million. There was no share transfer and HB alleged that RJ and RJ's corporate vehicle (L Ltd) had failed to take steps to obtain the regulatory approval needed to accept the transfer. As a result, HB brought arbitration proceedings against RJ and L Ltd, seeking to force RJ to (at least) take required steps towards effecting the agreed share transfer.

The sole arbitrator, "a very senior English QC, well known and highly regarded in the world of international commercial arbitration", initially handed down a partial award setting out his first findings, on the basis of which he invited the parties to settle their disputes.

The parties failed to reach a settlement agreement and the arbitrator then made a final award declaring that:

  • RJ and L Ltd were in breach of the share transfer agreements between the parties.
  • RJ was the beneficial owner of the bank shares HB had purchased.

The s68 challenge

RJ and L Ltd applied to the English Court to have the award set aside, on the basis that the decision declaring RJ to be the beneficial owner of the shares was affected by a serious irregularity.

The applicants successfully argued that the order ultimately made, that RJ was the beneficial owner of the shares held by HB, had not been sought by any of the parties to the dispute. The possibility that this was the proper share ownership structure had never been raised by the arbitrator at any stage. As a result the parties were never given an opportunity to consider or to deal with this new point.

There had been three exchanges during oral closing submissions which could be read "as a hint that something like what became [the Award] may have been starting to go through the Arbitrator's mind", but the Court decided these were not enough to put the parties on notice that the arbitrator was contemplating the entirely novel point.

The Court's reasoning on the serious irregularity point pivots on the well-established position that arbitrators should request parties' views when introducing a novel point in a dispute, as summarised in Zermalt Holdings SA v. NuLife Upholstery Repairs Ltd [1985] 2 EGLR 14:

"[i]f an arbitrator is impressed by a point that has never been raised by either side, then it is his duty to put it to them so that they have an opportunity to comment. If he feels that the proper approach is one that has not been explored or advanced in evidence or submission, then again it is his duty to give the parties a chance to comment...It is not right that his decision should be based on specific matters which the parties have never had the chance to deal with. Nor is it right that a party should first learn of adverse points in a decision against him. That is contrary both to the substance of justice and to its appearance".

The Court decided that the tribunal in this case had dealt with the dispute on a significantly different basis to the submissions of the parties, had failed to draw the new point to the attention of the parties, and had therefore failed to allow them to make submissions on the new point.

The award had created substantial injustice, as RJ was declared to beneficially own a large minority bank shareholding that he did not want, for which he did not have the required regulatory approval, which would expose him to a real risk of regulatory fines, and which he might be forced to continue owning for a significant period of time.

Despite setting aside the award, the Court refused to remove the arbitrator, highlighting the difficulty of obtaining removal of an arbitrator even in cases of clear irregularity. The judgment contains an interesting discussion of whether the right to remove an arbitrator arises under s68 itself and suggests that an additional s24 application is in fact required in order to achieve removal.


This rare successful s68 challenge demonstrates that the English Courts will be prepared to intervene in the outcome of arbitral proceedings where there is clear and serious irregularity causing substantial injustice. While the decision is of legal interest, it is unlikely that there will be any change to the English Courts' pro-arbitration and anti-interference stance, or the usual very high threshold for succeeding on a s68 challenge.

The case is another reminder of the difficulty inherent in an application to remove an arbitrator, even where a party is able to establish serious irregularity and succeeds in remitting the award to the tribunal, or having it set aside. When applying to remove an arbitrator as part of a s68 application, it would be wise to also make a s24 application. However, if there is no suggestion that the arbitrator has acted inappropriately, then applicants must get over the significant hurdle of showing that the arbitrator would not be able to approach rewriting the award with an open mind. In most cases this is likely to prove difficult.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Edmonds Marshall McMahon
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Edmonds Marshall McMahon
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions