The parties in a $238-million dispute over the construction of the third set of locks for the Panama Canal are raising issues concerning alleged conflicts of interest on the part of the International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”) arbitrators in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The case may address rarely litigated issues concerning whether arbitrators who sit on multiple arbitration panels together or who support appointment of each other to lead arbitration panels have disabling conflicts of interest.
The case pits Grupo Unidos por el Canal, S.A. (“Grupo”), a consortium of Spanish, Italian, Belgian, and Panamanian construction firms, against Autoridad del Canal de Panama (“ACP”), the Panamanian entity that operates the Panama Canal and that sponsored the multi-billion-dollar, decade-long project to expand the Canal’s capacity by building a new set of locks (the “Project”). The current dispute (the “Panama 1 Arbitration”), which centers on the suitability of the rock coming from the excavations to be used to produce concrete aggregates for the Project, was arbitrated before a three-member ICC Tribunal and resulted in a $238-million award to ACP and against Grupo. The ICC Tribunal reversed a decision of the dispute review board established in the parties’ contract.
Reprinted courtesy of Sarah B. Biser, Fox Rothschild LLP and Philip Z. Langer, Fox Rothschild LLP
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