In October 2019, the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (“SCC”) issued revised arbitrator’s guidelines (the “Guidelines”). The Guidelines cover questions frequently raised by arbitrators on case management, costs, timelines, appointment and use of administrative secretaries, VAT issues, and the contents and structure of final awards. In addition, the Guidelines provide explanations as to the use of the new SCC Platform, which is a new secure digital communication and file sharing platform used in SCC arbitrations.
The Guidelines are a revision of the 2017 guidelines, which also had a strong focus on efficiency in arbitral proceedings. It should be noted that, while the Guidelines have been updated in 2019, they relate to the 2017 Arbitration Rules of the Arbitration Institute of the SCC, which remain the current rules governing SCC arbitrations.
The Guidelines do not provide a step-by-step guide on SCC arbitration, but rather serve to aid arbitrators deal with procedural questions which have arisen frequently in the SCC’s Arbitration Institute’s experience. The novelty of these guidelines lies in their focus on (i) the SCC Platform, (ii) the substantial additional information provided on the content and structure of awards, and (iii) the SCC’s Arbitration Institute’s forward-looking approach on reimbursable arbitrator expenses, which now include the “standard costs of climate compensating for the [arbitrators’] flights”.
THE SCC PLATFORM
In May 2019, the SCC announced that all SCC arbitrations would be managed on the SCC Platform from September 2019 onwards. The SCC Platform, which is now live, is a digital platform, which enables the SCC, the tribunal and the parties to share case documents, such as procedural orders, submissions, exhibits and SCC communications. This is intended to act as the main document and information sharing platform between the case parties.
The SCC Platform is based on three overarching principles: (i) efficiency; (ii) transparency; and (iii) security. The Guidelines explain that, if the arbitration participants take full advantage of the SCC Platform, this should serve as a complete file of the case materials, as well as an archive for a year after the arbitration ends. The Guidelines, therefore, encourage the arbitration parties to use the SCC Platform to file all case materials.
The SCC assures SCC arbitration users that the SCC Platform provides secure cloud-based storage within the EU, using technology trusted by over 250 law firms, and suitable for sharing sensitive and large case files. However, the SCC Platform is intended to be more than just a file sharing mechanism, as it seeks to enable and promote efficient case management. To this end, some of the SCC Platform’s features include a case calendar for relevant dates and deadlines, which the tribunals are responsible for keeping updated.
In autumn 2019 and spring 2020, the SCC plans to tour various locations around the world, and consider the complexities of secure communication and digitalisation within international arbitral proceedings. As part of this tour, the SCC will also showcase the SCC Platform.
STRUCTURE AND CONTENT OF AWARDS
The Guidelines have an increased focus on the form and content of SCC awards. New sections deal with the contents of the cover and introduction to the award, and set out where the tribunal’s jurisdiction, arbitration seat, type of award, procedural history and the scope of the tribunal’s should be addressed.
The Guidelines also provide directions as to the proper format and content of recitals and operative parts of awards. In addition, the Guidelines now contain a section on the tribunals’ reasoning and findings, emphasising that tribunals must provide sufficient and logically coherent reasons for their findings, including for their costs rulings.
The new Guidelines also contain information on the notices which must be included in awards for Sweden-seated arbitrations, following the changes made to the notice-related sections of the Swedish Arbitration Act in 2018.
OTHER NOTABLE FEATURES OF THE GUIDELINES
The Guidelines present a notable change in the Arbitration Institute’s approach to expenses. The Guidelines provide more details about the arbitrators’ reimbursable expenses. In particular, the Guidelines provide additional detail on the reimbursable travel-related expenses, which now include the “standard costs of climate compensating for the [arbitrators’] flights”, i.e. the arbitrators’ costs of carbon offsetting their flights to case-related proceedings.
The Guidelines continue to have a clear focus on the fairness and efficiency of SCC arbitral proceedings. The Guidelines insist on the tribunals’ duty to provide reasons for their decisions, and promote the use of the SCC Platform, which is in itself a tool aiming to ensure transparency. The Guidelines also encourage arbitrators to make full use of the SCC Platform, and take responsibility for certain aspects of its management, such as keeping an up-to-date case calendar on the SCC Platform.
Apart from presenting the novel SCC Platform, perhaps the Guidelines’ most innovative aspect is their treatment of reimbursable travel expenses, as they encourage arbitrators to expense the costs of carbon offsetting their case-related flights. In light of the international appetite to address climate change challenges, it will be interesting to follow whether other major arbitral institutions will take an approach similar to the SCC’s in terms of the guidance they provide to their arbitrators.
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