New Zealand seen as global 'fix-it' hub

Lucy Reed: NZ could become a seat for international arbitration
David Williams, QC, is internationally recognised

New Zealand has the perfect conditions to become a seat for international commercial arbitration, a world-leading lawyer in the field says.

Lucy Reed, who leads the arbitration group Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in New York, one of the eminent firms in the industry, says New Zealand practitioners have proved themselves among the best in their field.

On a visit to New Zealand, she told NBR ONLINE she hoped to help aspiring international litigators to see the potential to resolve more transnational business disputes from this country.

Despite the importance of international trade to New Zealand, there has not been a lot of international arbitration involving New Zealand companies, she says.

“Therefore, you can count on one hand the practitioners here who do international arbitration."

Those who do have made their mark internationally: David Williams, QC, described as one of the world’s outstanding commercial arbitrators, has been involved in helping settle more than 100 disputes arising from international commercial agreements.

Sir Ian Barker, Dame Sylvia Cartwright, Sir Kenneth Keith and Sir Geoffrey Palmer also serve as international arbitrators. 

Most of New Zealand’s aspiring international litigators go overseas to practice at the big firms in Paris or the UK. 

But Ms Reed is encouraging more to return home to New Zealand to practice.

That would see them following in the footsteps of Daniel Kalderimis, now a partner at Chapman Tripp, who worked in Ms Reed’s team as a young solicitor at Freshfields in London; and Simon Consedine, who returned to Bell Gully from Freshfields Paris this year. 

Opportunities were growing for New Zealand as the volume of international commercial arbitration cases continued to increase and more work was coming out of Asia.

And Ms Reed says New Zealand has the perfect conditions to become a seat for international arbitration.

“You have a highly developed and excellent court system that gets in your DNA, strong natural justice and good universities and law firms.

“We’re always looking for people who are highly trained in common law and English speaking from New Zealand, Australia and Canada instead of from the US and UK.” 

High Court practice or being a retired judge was plenty of experience for a commercial arbitrator, Ms Reed says. 

“International arbitration has a very vibrant professional community, so it’s really not hard to keep your name in play [once you return to New Zealand].”

Unrivalled reputation for independence and impartiality

Ms Reed visited Auckland and Wellington last week at the invitation of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand.

Executive director Deborah Hart says New Zealand is a developing centre for international arbitration in the Asia/Pacific region.

“That’s not to say next year we will be a Hong Kong, but we’re a developing centre for our region because we have produced arbitrators of international standard and we have many young lawyers working internationally,” Ms Hart says.

“We have an unrivalled reputation for independence and impartiality – which is the key to so many of these large disputes. So New Zealanders can deliver on that.

“And we have a well-respected legal framework and well-regarded Arbitration Act and non-corrupt court system.”

New Zealand's top arbitrators and adjudicators

Among the better-known New Zealanders who have served as international arbitrators or adjudicators are:

  • Dame Sylvia Cartwright sits on the Cambodian war crimes tribunal.
  • Sir Kenneth Keith is an International Court of Justices judge.
  • Sir Geoffrey Palmer has been involved in numerous international bodies and was picked to chair a United Nations inquiry considering the clash on the high seas between the Israeli military and activists involved in Gaza-bound flotilla.
  • David Williams, QC, was listed in the 2007 Global Arbitration Review as one of London’s “super arbitrators”. A president and fellow of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand, he was also part of the arbitral body that recently awarded $US1.76 billion against Equador – the largest award ever in a bilateral investment treaty case against ICSID.
  • Derek Firth works on the ICC Panel. He has had a number of party and court appointments under the ICC Rules and is one of the leading dispute resolution practitioners in New Zealand, particularly in construction, property and commercial disputes.
  • David Kreider is the chief legal counsel for Vodafone. He is the New Zealand representative to the ICC Taskforce on the role of in-house counsel in dispute resolution and a member of the international advisory committee to the American Arbitration Association.
  • Daniel Kalderimis has represented many national and international clients in a range of major industries, including mining, oil and gas, telecommunitcations, foreign exchange and private equity.
  • Sir Ian Barker, QC, has, as an arbitrator and mediator, dealt with cases in construction and engineering, energy and utilities, insurance and reinsurance, international commercial arbitration, oil and gas, intellectual property, banking and real property valuation. He is an appointee of the New Zealand government with the ICSID Panel of arbitrators.
  • Campbell McLachlan, QC, has conducted numerous international arbitrations under ICC, UNCITRAL and LME rules and has represented or advised a number of sovereign states including the Armenia, Chile, Malawi, Cuba, New Zealand, South Africa, Tuvalu and the US. Since returning to New Zealand, he has combined his research and teaching with the practice in international arbitration and litigation.

Lucy Reed    

  • Global co-head of the international arbitration group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.        
  • Ranked as a top-tier international arbitration practitioner by Chambers USA 2011.
  • Sat on the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission.
  • Directed the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland.
  • Chairs the Institute for Transactional Arbitration and serves on the LCIA Court and ICC Arbitration Commission.
  • Past president of the American Society of International Law. 

Recent deals

  • ConocoPhillips in its multi-billion dollar ICSID arbitration against Venezuela for confiscation of its investments.
  • The Republic of Turkey in the successful defense of three multi-billion dollar ICSID arbitrations brought under the Energy Charter Treaty by alleged investors in Turkish power generation projects.
  • An Asian government in ICC arbitrations involving breaches of a share purchase agreement in the insurance sector.

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3 Comments & Questions

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So what is being said here is that we are good at producing arbitrators.

Hard to believe when we are so bad at producing decent Judges with relevant commercial experience.

As said in previous columns, and supporting others who have made these comments - there needs to be more scrutiny and filtering of potential candidates for judiciary to ensure that they have experience in commercial situations and have been directors of listed companies, prior to being appointed to the bench. Until this occurs the risk of hairbrain judgements will continue to be significant.

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Agree with the need for specialisation of Judges but strongly disagree that being a director of a listed company should be a requisite.

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It is not so much their lack of commercial experience that is relevant, but their, in many cases, obvious lack of comprehension of commercial practices.
The Law Degree only trains them to understand the 'statutes'; and, hard as it is to believe at times, develope the ability to tell fact from fiction.
The feminisation of the bench has not helped the dispensing of Justice one little bit, but has lead to some 'Bleeding Hearts' judgements.
Clearly there is a need for more indepth training of potential Judges in real world experience, rather than 'he/she is a good sort, let's promote him/her to the top bench!.'
The weakness of the judiciary is highlighted daily with 'Bail' decisions.

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