Bear Creek Mining Corp. v. Peru: the potential impact on damages of an investor’s contributory action and failure to obtain a social license

In an award dated 30 November 2017 (the “Award“), an ICSID Tribunal ordered Peru to pay around US$30.4million to Canadian company Bear Creek Mining (the “Claimant“) following its finding that a 2011 decree (“Decree 032“) constituted an unlawful indirect expropriation of the Claimant’s right to operate the Santa Ana mine (the “Project“).

This post discusses the disagreement between Karl-Heinz Bockstiegel (the president of the tribunal) and Michael Pryles (appointed by the Claimant) (together, the “Majority“), and Prof. Philippe Sands QC (appointed by Peru), on the assessment of damages. Prof. Sands considered that the damages should be reduced due to contributory fault on the part of the Claimant.

The impact the Claimant’s conduct had on the Tribunal’s calculation of damages was, in any case, significant. Given the extent of, and reasons for, the opposition to the Project by the time of Decree 032, the Tribunal thought a hypothetical purchaser would not have obtained the necessary ‘social license’ to proceed with the Project. Ultimately it awarded the Claimant only a fraction of the US$522 million claimed. The reduced damages award emphasises the importance of respect for human rights and engagement with indigenous communities by investors.

The respective views expressed by the arbitrators concerning the Claimant’s conduct are also interesting in light of the broader debate about the relevance of the human rights of non-parties in investor-state arbitration.

An overview of the overall Award can be found in the post published on 16 December 2017 on the Kluwer Arbitration Blog. Continue reading

PCA Tribunal rules on disputed Slovenia and Croatia land and maritime boundaries

In a long-running dispute, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (“PCA“) Tribunal has issued its Final Award. The Final Award, which runs to nearly 400 pages, determines disputed territorial and maritime boundaries between the Republic of Slovenia and the Republic of Croatia. The Final Award also creates a “junction” in the Adriatic Sea for Slovenia’s uninterrupted access to and from international waters and a regime for use of that junction. The parties are bound to comply with the Final Award within six months of its issue.

Having purported to withdraw from the arbitration in 2015, Croatia has stated that it does not consider itself bound by the Final Award. Slovenia, on the other hand, has indicated that it considers continued incursions into its territorial sea as delimited by the Tribunal to be a breach of both international and EU law (as Slovenia became part of the Schengen area on its accession to the EU).

The parties are reported to be engaging in dialogue regarding the implementation of the Final Award, with speculation as to if and how the EU Commission will bring pressure to bear on Croatia. Continue reading

Immunity: US Court of Appeals reverses lower court decision that had denied enforcement of foreign arbitral award

In a recent decision handed down on 31 May 2016, the majority in a United States Court of Appeals sitting in Washington DC reversed a decision by the US District Court that had denied enforcement of an arbitral award against the Czech Republic. In Diag Human Se v Czech Republic, the US District Court for the District of Columbia had dismissed Dian Human's enforcement petition on the grounds of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the Czech Republic had not waived its immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Upon appeal, by majority, the Court of Appeals held that arbitration exception to the FSIA applied, so that lower court had subject matter jurisdiction. The lower court's decision was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

A question mark still hangs over the enforcement of the 2008 award (the Award) in the US, as there remains a dispute between the parties as to whether the Award is final.

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ICSID tribunal declines jurisdiction on basis of lack of evidence of necessary “control” under BIT and requires claimant to pay 80% of costs of the state

In the ICSID decision of Guardian Fiduciary Trust Ltd f/k/a Capital Conservator Savings & Loan Ltd v Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (ICSID Case No. ARB/12/31) issued on 22 September 2015, the Tribunal declined jurisdiction on the basis that the Claimant failed to establish that it qualified as a national of the Netherlands for the purposes of the Netherlands – Macedonia BIT (the BIT).

The BIT provides a wide definition of "national" which extends to "legal persons….controlled, directly or indirectly…." by a national of a contracting party. The Claimant, Guardian Fiduciary Trust Limited (Guardian), a company incorporated in New Zealand, brought the claim under the BIT, arguing that it qualified as a national of the Netherlands as it was ultimately controlled by a Dutch foundation which had a registered office in the Netherlands. Having determined that the issue of control was ultimately a matter of evidence, and not something to be determined solely on the basis of an analysis of New Zealand law, the Tribunal concluded that the Claimant had failed to provide that necessary evidence. It further concluded that the limited evidence before it suggested that the Claimant was in fact indirectly controlled by another entity of a different jurisdiction.

In issuing the decision, the Tribunal considered it appropriate, in the circumstances, to award the State Respondent, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia), 80% of its costs.

This decision does not so much highlight the complexities of establishing control in a complex ownership structure, as it does the importance of properly establishing and evidencing the basis for a Claimant's assertion of a Tribunal's jurisdiction over the claim. Failure to do so may, as in this instance, leave a Claimant footing the bill for the State Respondent's costs.

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First enforcement of an Emergency arbitrator award against a state in investment treaty case

It has been announced in Global Arbitration Review that Ukraine has been the first state to have an emergency arbitrator award enforced against it (albeit that enforcement is currently stayed pending appeal). The Pechersk District Court in Kiev upheld an application by London-listed JKX Oil & Gas and two subsidiaries to enforce a Stockholm Chamber of Commerce award issued in January under the SCC’s 2010 Rules emergency arbitrator procedure.

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Investor’s claims against Peru thrown out due to abusive corporate restructuring to acquire treaty rights

In an award rendered on 9 January 2015, an ICSID tribunal (Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler (presiding), Eduardo Zuleta, and Raúl Vinuesa), determined that one of the Claimants had acquired shares in a Peruvian company only for the purpose of obtaining treaty rights, in relation to a foreseeable dispute and less than two weeks before the announcement of the State measures at issue in the case. The Tribunal concluded that the only plausible reason for the restructuring was to provide an investment treaty claim against Peru. The restructuring was therefore abusive. On that basis, the Tribunal declined to rule on the merits of the case, dismissed the claims, and ordered the Claimants to pay the Republic of Peru more than US$1.5 million in costs.

Investors are increasingly alive to the investment protections offered by bilateral and multilateral investment treaties.  Not all structuring (or re-structuring) of investments will constitute an abuse of process and with careful advance planning, investors can make their investments using the right vehicle and transaction structure to ensure the best treaty protections possible. For more information on this topic, please contact Prudence Heidemans to access our webinar on Structuring Investments and Maximising Treaty Protection.

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