Home Archive for category "International Economic Law"

Social Capital and the Limits of Network Analysis

Published on September 29, 2014        Author: 

I want to start by thanking each of the commentators for their kind, forgiving and thought-provoking comments on my article, and by recognizing that the work of DaphaMichael and Tom set the foundations and served as the inspiration for this work. I will organize my responses into three different clusters:  methodology, extensions and other, more general comments.


I will first address Tom’s comments on the record of appointment as a proxy for displayed preferences. Can we ignore the fact that an appointment does not necessarily indicate that the arbitrator was the appointer’s first choice? I like to think of this question as a job offer to a candidate who decides not to accept an offer. The truth may be that certain candidates are in high demand and that many companies are offering jobs to the same well-qualified candidates.  Hence it is possible that parties who nominate arbitrators and may be trying to enlarge the diversity of the pool of arbitrators in ICSID may be somewhat restricted by the broader market of arbitration professionals.  This is true especially where, as Michael points out (and as confirmed by arbitrators during my interviews), the compensation provided by ICSID is lower than that of other arbitration opportunities and venues.   This is a limitation of the assumptions that can be made from the ICSID appointments. We are left with only the record of appointments as a second-best proxy.

A second point raised by Tom as to why the mid-2000s witnessed the first appointments of today’s power-brokers is also relevant. We must take into consideration that these years saw a boom of investor-state cases and, hence, more appointments. It is also true that this is when we started seeing more awards discussed publically.  Although I did not report these statistics in this paper, measures that reflect the connectivity of the network start stabilizing and changing in less intense ways during this period.  Thus I’m not surprised that the network acquired self-organizing qualities during this time.  One plausible hypothesis for future exploration is how the development of transparency rules may have helped cement public knowledge of decisions and with that, some of the insights that come with understanding the decision-making philosophy of arbitrators.

On the methodology of determining the average compensation per arbitration of US$200,000, I admit that the number is not incredibly precise. However, it is the best approximation I could divine. I followed a complex, yet not foolproof strategy to arrive at what I consider a very rough average. First, I computed the amount in 2010 dollars from roughly 70 awards that provided information on compensation in my sample of ICSID and ICSID Additional Facility awards. I divided this amount by the months of duration of each case and averaged the result. Using the dollars per month estimate, I calculated the possible amount paid to an arbitrator on settled or dismissed cases based on an average duration of the case. I confirmed that this rough estimate was in the right ballpark with one scholar who has done extensive empirical work with ICSID data as well as through my interviews with arbitrators. It is not an exact appraisal, but what is relevant for the purpose of the article is whether ICSID’s rate completely changes the incentives to accept an appointment and hence whether the distribution of ICSID appointments is completely different from that of other institutions. We cannot know the answer to this question for certain, but with a grain of salt, my educated guess (taking into account what I gleaned from working at ICSID) is that it does not. Most appointments are accepted and most rejections occur when a conflict exists. In my experience it was only in very few cases that, for other reasons (such as being too busy) an arbitrator decided not to accept an appointment. Read the rest of this entry…

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ICSID Arbitrators: The Ultimate Social Network?

Published on September 25, 2014        Author: 

waibelMichael Waibel is a University Lecturer at the University of Cambridge.

Sergio Puig’s article offers a refreshingly new, thought-provoking analysis of the links between investment arbitrators. Who the parties appoint as arbitrators matters for how the investment treaty regime operates. Criticism of the appointment process in investment arbitration is widespread, yet rigorous empirical work on this important aspect of the investment treaty regime remains rare. Relying on the theoretical frame of social network analysis, Sergio sheds light on the interactions among ICSID arbitrators. His analysis suggests that a core group of 25 arbitrators enjoys disproportionate influence on the development of the investment treaty regime. To understand what animates the regime, it may suffice to analyse the preferences and political philosophy of these 25 ‘power-brokers’.

The Core-Periphery Divide and Underrepresentation

The core of the arbitration network is composed of 25 arbitrators. Members of this elite group are on average connected to 11.75 other arbitrators. The core’s cultural and legal homogeneity is striking: 14 Europeans, 4 Latin Americans, 3 Canadians, 1 New Zealander and only 1 US arbitrator. Similarly, among the top ten countries of origin of ICSID arbitrators overall, five are Euro-Atlantic states (US, France, UK, Canada and Switzerland) and five Latin American. By contrast, African and Asian arbitrators have rarely been appointed to ICSID tribunals, despite significant inward- and outward flows of foreign investment to and from Asia in particular. In such data-intensive work, minor errors are bound to creep in. For instance, in Figure 4, Vaughan Lowe appears as a US, rather than a UK national, and the 26th arbitrator in the core between Jonny Veeder and Jan Paulsson remains nameless.

The formal bond of nationality may be only a crude measure of arbitrator behaviour. As Sergio rightly highlights (p. 405), many arbitrators with nationalities of developing countries have received at least part of their legal education in developed countries (chiefly the UK, the US and France). Indeed, if one focuses on arbitrators who have spent most or all of their adult lives in a developing country and have not worked or received part of their educated in developed countries, the voice of developing countries in even less represented among ICSID arbitrators than the formal link of nationality would suggest.

Other demographics are also underrepresented among ICSID arbitrators, most notably women. 93 percent of all ICSID appointments were male arbitrators (p. 404). Given that Brigitte Stern has accumulated the highest number of appointments of any ICSID arbitrator, the share of female arbitrators is even lower at 5 percent (p. 405). Two female super arbitrators apart, women are at the periphery of the arbitration network. This gender imbalance mirrors the general characteristics of the entire arbitration network (p. 411).

Yanhui Wu and I have recently assembled data on a control group composed of more than 700 potential ICSID arbitrators, i.e. individuals with similar characteristics and qualifications to those who have already been appointed to at least one ICSID tribunal. Our control group includes current and former ICJ and WTO Appellate Body (AB) Members who, unlike some of their judicial colleagues, have yet to be appointed to an ICSID tribunal, and partners at leading arbitration practices in the same position. Ten former AB members and 18 current and former ICJ judges since 1990 have never been appointed. The following table compares some characteristics of the treatment and control groups. Read the rest of this entry…

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Social Capital and Arbitral Decision Making

Published on September 24, 2014        Author: 

DDaphnaaphna Kapeliuk is a Senior Lecturer at Radzyner Law School, IDC Herzliya. Her research interest focuses on international arbitration in general and on arbitral behavior in particular and on private international law.

In his brilliant article “Social Capital in the Arbitration Market”, Sergio Puig seeks to map the social arrangements that result from interactions among ICSID arbitrators, as part of the social dynamics of international arbitration. Using data of all appointments of ICSID arbitrators made between 1972 and 2014 and applying a social network analysis methodology, Sergio sets out to understand the role of social capital in investment arbitration by relying upon proxy measures for social connectivity.

The sophisticated maps of the interactions among ICSID arbitrators represent a picture of the social landscape of the arbitration market. These maps are of great importance, especially since ICSID tribunals are composed of three arbitrators, and the dynamics between the arbitrators within the panels are important to understand the outcome of disputes. Sergio’s article joins prior scholarship that has claimed that ICSID arbitrations are handled by a closed group of arbitrators, sometimes referred to as “grand old men”, or “blue chip men”, who are being repeatedly appointed to decide large scale investment disputes. He argues that the network analysis of ICSID arbitrators “provides important evidence of a dense network”, in which a limited number of prestigious arbitrators increase in prestige, while the others remain in the periphery.

Sergio’s major contribution to understanding the interconnections among these arbitrators is presented in figures 4 and 6. Figure 4 focuses on the inside and outside of core ties and common cases of the 25 most central arbitrators, and figure 6 represents a sociogram of appointments of arbitrators (as presiding arbitrators) by other arbitrators to the same panels. These figures clearly show the strong ties between the central arbitrators within arbitration panels.
While the main objective of the article is to map the social dynamics of ICSID arbitrators, Sergio argues that the network analysis provides evidence that the dense network of arbitrators “reinforces prevailing norms and behavior and insulates its most important members from outside influence”. Although the social landscape presented in the article supports the claim that the core of the prominent ICSID arbitrators is small, that the article does not analyze how this network might reinforce prevailing norms and behavior. It does not define or analyze these terms. The remainder of this comment offers one possible mechanism for how the social structure might lead to the postulated outcome.
There is no doubt that the entry barriers to the investment arbitration market are extremely high. An arbitrator who wishes to be admitted to the core of the prestigious network, and thus repeatedly appointed, must establish a reputation that justifies a “membership” in the “club”. It is through his connections, behavior and decision making that he can establish such reputation. Sergio’s article focuses on the interconnections among arbitrators, but not on their behavior or decision making. Read the rest of this entry…

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Comments on Sergio Puig’s ‘Social Capital in the Arbitration Market’

Published on September 23, 2014        Author: 

Tom SchultzThomas Schultz is a Reader in Commercial Law in the Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College London and a Swiss National Science Foundation Research Professor in the International Law Department at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of International Dispute Settlement (Oxford University Press).

Professor Puig’s article ‘Social Capital in the Arbitration Market’ is a quite wonderful contribution to a number of things: our understanding of the dynamics of investment arbitration, the literature on arbitrator appointments, the methodological diversification of studies in international law, and certainly a few more. And it brings us rather convincing evidence, in a field where claims and representations (not to speak of copious discussions of what other people happen to have said) are more readily found than data and studies to substantiate claims. It is, in other words, intellectually edifying. The experimental design is well done, the plan well executed and the findings credible. In this, it is intellectually responsive to developments in the social sciences and the humanities. We don’t even need a mood-elevating metaphor to set great store by this sort of works, and this work in particular. (Incidentally, the study is also a formidable ‘who’s who in investment arbitration’, which undoubtedly will make for welcome entertainment in certain circles.)

A few small methodological points would probably deserve more discussion. (I said ‘would deserve’, not ‘would have deserved’: the article is long enough as it is and this is a law journal after all.) For instance, the author says that ‘The network analysis advanced in this article relies upon displayed preferences by the appointing entity (litigation parties, arbitrators, and the institution) to provide a larger picture of the network’s aggregate topology.’ But how do we know the preferences of the appointing entity? Right, by looking at appointments. But do effective appointments really tell us what the preferences are? What if individuals, who are the preferred choices of the appointing entity, refuse an appointment, and the appointing entity has to turn to their second or third choice? Never happens. Well… Actually, could such situations be statistically relevant?

Another methodological point: Figure 8 is puzzling. Not puzzling as in ‘probably wrong’. Puzzling as in ‘how come’? Here’s the author’s accompanying notes: “Figure 8 shows how, despite the fact that most ICSID cases were registered in the last 10 years, most ‘power-brokers’ or those arbitrators at the top of the profession entered the network in or prior to 2004.” In other words, the mid-2000s is the moment when you see the network effects. Why? Why did the network stabilise at that point in time? The network seems to have acquired self-organisational elements at that point in time, but, again, why then? Any hypothesis? Just happenstance? Just puzzling.

Beyond methodological considerations, we may also wonder–and perhaps the author wants to elaborate on this–why, in fact, it is a bad thing that a small number of arbitrators decide a great number of cases. Read the rest of this entry…

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Social Capital in the Arbitration Market

Published on September 22, 2014        Author: 

sergio puig-picDr. Sergio Puig is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

I am grateful to Professor Weiler, the editors of EJIL and the organizers of EJIL: Talk! for hosting the discussion of my article. I am privileged to have Daphna Kapeliuk, Michael Waibel, and Thomas Schultz as collaborators in this endeavor.  This is a great opportunity to engage with wonderful scholars in the field of international law, all of whom have produced very interesting and inspiring empirically-based research in the field. Below I summarize the methodology and main arguments of this piece.

In this modest contribution, I try to bring together different scholarly traditions. In framing the question, I note that scholars with different academic traditions have provided diverse and, at points, conflicting explanations regarding why arbitration professionals are such a seemingly small and homogenous group in terms of gender, national origin and educational background. In this article, I seek to empirically assess this observation and to explore why this may be happening. Given the limited access to the record of appointments under most arbitration facilities, I used the data of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). In spite of critiques regarding ICSID’s practices with respect to transparency, it is the sole arbitration institution to publicize its entire record of appointments.

By surveying the list of ICSID appointments, I seek to operationalize the basic characteristics of the social structure of international arbitrators.  Anticipating some reactions, I must admit that this is an imperfect alternative. Ideally we would have more information about international arbitration appointments generally. But given the shared characteristics between general international arbitration and the more specific field of investor-state arbitration, I argue that ICSID’s record of appointment can imperfectly inform this scholarly debate. So, while the article focuses on ICSID arbitrators–a group that has not escaped controversy in recent years–my point is more general and tries to speak to a broader scholarly debate.

Applying network analytics (and some basic statistical analysis) to ICSID’s record of appointment, I confirm what we already knew: a few, socially prominent actors are dominant in the field. But not all arbitrators are equal; hence there are different sources of social capital. Read the rest of this entry…

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The EU/US v. Russia Trade Wars: Revisiting GATT Article XXI and the International Law on Unilateral Economic Sanctions

Published on September 22, 2014        Author: 

The EU, US, and Russia are far from reaching any détente in the economic warfare waged between some of the world’s economic powerhouses. On 11 September 2014, the US and EU announced a deepening of their current joint economic sanctions over Russian actions in the Ukraine, this time imposing sanctions targeting Russian banks and oil companies. The new EU September 12 sanctions exclude Russian banks from raising long-term loans in the EU, ban any exports of dual-use equipment for military use in Russia, ban future EU-Russia arms deals, and prohibit EU export of oil industry technology to Russia. The United States has also announced that it would likewise deepen and broaden sanctions against Russia’s financial, energy, and defense industries. In response, Russia announced a “full embargo” on food imports from the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Norway, which it subsequently expanded in September to include used cars, clothes, and consumer products, in retaliation for the latest round of EU and US sanctions. On 12 September 2014, Russian Economy Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev announced that the latest round of US and EU sanctions “provides grounds for appeal to the WTO..and [Russia] will appeal.”

Does Russia have a plausible case against the US and the EU at the WTO?

Read the rest of this entry…

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From Targeted Sanctions to Targeted Settlements: International Law-Making Through Effective Means

Published on July 22, 2014        Author: 

2014.08.06.Marijanew pictureMarija Đorđeska, LL.M., is a Thomas Buergenthal Scholar and an S.J.D. Candidate at the George Washington University Law School, in Washington D.C.

The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of Treasury (OFAC) has again shocked the international financial community with a recent settlement with BNP Paribas, France’s largest financial institution. BNP Paribas was accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, Sudan, Burma and Cuba from 2005 to 2012. For $8.9 billion in compensation – the priciest settlement to date – OFAC pardoned BNP Paribas and its subsidiaries from their civil liability under U.S. law. (Settlement Agreement [30], see also Enforcement Information for June 30, 2014).

OFAC is aggressively and effectively applying U.S. sanctions law to foreign institutions incorporated and doing business abroad, without taking into consideration foreign domestic legal regimes or international standards. French President François Hollande expressed his disapproval of the penalty imposed on BNP Paribas. The settlement should also cause concern among European and international lawyers, as BNP Paribas is the ninth European financial institution to be sanctioned since 2006 for processing funds for entities subject to U.S. sanctions. By threatening to cut off foreign financial institutions from the U.S. market, OFAC precludes these financial institutions from publicly and transparently arguing their case in legal proceedings (Settlement Agreement [31]). OFAC is establishing a precedent of a new, efficient, and not yet legal method for asserting U.S. laws abroad, bypassing the traditional territoriality principle of jurisdiction.

In the documents that are publicly available, OFAC does not mention any legal grounds on which it claims jurisdiction, leaving it unclear on what basis the U.S. can sanction transactions initiated abroad by foreign entities or the clearing of US dollars outside the U.S. (Factual Statement [34]) or regulate foreign exchange transactions (Settlement Agreement [12, 13]). Because the settlement negotiations were not made public, and BNP Paribas also waived its right to “any possible legal objection,” (Settlement Agreement [31]) the substantive public debate on the issue is necessarily limited.

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Mackerel War Called Off?

Published on April 9, 2014        Author: 

In November 2013 we wrote about a remarkable WTO dispute initiated by Denmark against the EU (The ‘Mackerel War’ Goes to the WTO). The case is remarkable because it has pitted one EU Member state against the other 27. Denmark, a member of the EU, brought the case “in respect of the Faroe Islands” which are part of Denmark, but not of the European Union.

The dispute concerns fishing quotas jointly managed by the Faroes, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the EU under the Atlanto-Scandian Herring Management Arrangements. In annual negotiations, the parties decide on the division of the total allowable catch (TAC). In 2013 parties were unable to reach agreement, largely due to refusal to accommodate the Faroe Islands request for a larger part of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC).

When the Faroe Islands unilaterally decided to increase their catch, the EU responded by prohibiting import of herring and mackerel from the Faroe Islands. Denmark then brought a WTO dispute as well as arbitration proceedings under Annex VII of UNCLOS. In its request for consultations to the WTO, Denmark claimed the EU’s response to be in breach of GATT Article I:1, V:2 and XI:1. Denmark also reserved its rights under UNCLOS.

The parties have recently settled their dispute in respect of mackerel. On 12 March 2014, the Faroe Islands, Norway and EU concluded a joint arrangement for the conservation and management of the North East Atlantic mackerel stock for the next five years. The arrangement allocated 13% of the TAC between the parties (not including Russia and Iceland) to the Faroe Islands. This is a sizeable increase compared with the 5% that had been previously allocated to the Faroese, and the proportion is set to increase again next year.

The WTO dispute, however, is centered on herring, whereas the new agreement only deals with mackerel. Pending an agreement on herring, the WTO complaint and the UNCLOS Annex VII arbitration continue, and EU Regulation 793/2013, establishing sanctions against the Faroe Islands, remains in force. Read the rest of this entry…

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Evidence in Environmental/Scientific Exceptions: Some Contrasts between the WTO Panel Report in China-Rare Earths and the ICJ Judgment in Whaling in the Antarctic

Published on April 7, 2014        Author: 

Rare earths imageTwo significant international decisions involving environmental protection claims were issued within the last few days of March 2014.  On 26 March 2014, a World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel issued its Report in China-Measures Related to the Exportation of Rare Earths, Tungsten, and Molybdenum (hereafter, China-Rare Earths), which held, among others, that “China may not seek to justify the export duties it applies to various forms of rare earths, tungsten, and molybdenum [pictured above left, credit] pursuant to Article XX(b) [exception for measures "necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health"] of the GATT 1994.” (Panel Report, para. 8.11b)  On 31 March 2014, the International Court of Justice issued its Judgment in Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) (hereafter, the Whaling case) where the Court held, among others, that “the special permits granted by Japan in connection with JARPA II [Japanese Whale Research Programme under Special Permit in the Antarctic Phase II] do not fall within the provisions of Article VIII, paragraph 1 [, of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling." [Judgment, para. 247(2)].  In China-Rare Earths, China sought to justify export duties that facially violated Paragraph 11.3 of China’s Accession Protocol to the WTO, by essentially alleging that these duties were justifiable as measures “necessary to protect human, animal, or plant life or health” within the purview of Article XX(b) of GATT 1994.  In the Whaling case, Japan sought to justify JARPA II as a programme “undertaken for purposes of scientific research and is therefore covered by the exemption provided for in Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the [International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling].” (Judgment, para. 49).  While both decisions contain rich analyses of numerous issues of treaty interpretation, one can also look at significant methodological contrasts between the ICJ and the WTO Panel on the treatment of scientific evidence and assignment of evidentiary burdens for the environmental/scientific issues in each case.

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