Court Deprecates Attack on Arbitrators’ Factual Findings

The High Court has deprecated the increasing number of cases in which dissatisfied parties to arbitration proceedings inappropriately seek to utilise Section 68 of the Arbitration Act 1996 to challenge findings of fact made against them.

Two overseas companies had fallen out over four inter-connected contracts for the sale and transportation of substantial volumes of liquefied natural gas. Company A had failed to meet certain of its obligations under the contracts and company B had submitted the dispute for arbitration by three eminent French and Swiss jurists under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Company B had subsequently obtained the Court’s permission under Section 66 of the Act to enforce the arbitrators’ award in the same manner as a judgment. Company A was also ordered to pay Judgements Act interest on the outstanding amounts due under the award.

In seeking to set aside the award, company A mounted a detailed criticism of the arbitrator’s findings. However, in dismissing those arguments, the Court observed, “The reality is that this is yet another case, of which there are already far too many, where a party is seeking to use Section 68 to challenge the findings of fact made by the tribunal.” Such a course was clearly inappropriate.

In opening the way for company B to enforce the award, the Court also rejected company A’s complaint that the arbitrators had improperly delegated authority to their administrative secretary or impermissibly allowed her to participate in their deliberations.