Revisiting the 'Content-of-Laws' Enquiry in International Arbitration

Author:Soterios Loizou
Position:Teaching Fellow in Commercial Law, King's College London, School of Law; LL.M. mult. (UoA, NYU), PhD cand. (Cambridge), Esq. Earlier versions of this Article received the prestigious Colin B. Picker Prize of the American Society of Comparative Law ('ASCL') in 2016 and the first prize at the international student writing competition, which was...
Pages:811-875
 
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Revisiting the Content-of-Laws Enquiry in
International Arbitration
Soterios Loizou*
Establishing the content of the applicable law is one of the most
important, albeit seldom examined, topics in the theory and practice of
international arbitration. Setting as the point of departure the regulatory
vacuum in nearly all national laws on international arbitration, this study
examines in depth this content-of-laws enquiry in an attempt to foster
doctrinal integrity, legal certainty, and predictability in arbitral proceedings.
Specifically, this study encompasses a three level analysis of the topic.
Firstly, it explores the theoretical underpinnings and the various approaches
articulated in legal theory to the establishment of the content of the
applicable law in international litigation and arbitration. Secondly, on the
basis of an elaborate comparative review of the various legal regimes and
jurisprudence in the most frequently selected venues of arbitration, namely
England & Wales, France, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, the State
Copyright 2018, by SOTERIOS LOIZOU.
* Teaching Fellow in Commercial Law, Kings College London, School of
Law; LL.M. mult. (UoA, NYU), PhD cand. (Cambridge), Esq. Earlier versions of
this Article received the prestigious Colin B. Picker Prize of the American Society
of Comparative Law (“ASCL”) in 2016 and the first prize at the international
student writing competition, which was organized in conjunction with the
University of Missouri-American Society of International Law Dispute Resolution
Interest Group Works-in-Progress Conference in 2017. For helpful comments,
conversations, and suggestions, I am deeply grateful to Professor Cindy Buys,
Professor Dimitrios Ph. Christodoulou, Professor Nikolaos A. Davrados, Professor
Richard G. Fentiman, Professor Franco Ferrari, Dr. Anastasios Gourgourinis,
Professor Joshua Karton, Ms. Seo Hyung Kim, Ms. Michela Mancini, Dr. Louise
Merrett, Professor William J. Moon, Ms. Maria Lucia Passador, and the participants
at the inaugural Harvard Arbitration Discussion Series at Harvard Law School, the
American Society of Comparative Law Fifth Annual YCC Global Conference at
Tulane Law School, the Cambridge Private Law Centre Seminars at the University
of Cambridge, Faculty of Law, and the MU Center for the Study of Dispute
Resolution & the American Society of International Law Works-in-Progress
Conference. I would also like to thank the librarians at the Harvard Law School
Library, the Cambridge Squire Law Library, and the NYU Law Library for their
perseverance and invaluable assistance in procuring the voluminous sources
necessary for the preparation of this Article. Last, but not least, sincere thanks to the
Louisiana Law Review at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State
University for the uniquely rigorous and insightful editing of the Article. All errors
remain, of course, mine.
812 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 78
of New York (USA), and Sweden, as well as in leading investment
arbitration fora, it challenges conventional wisdom by showcasing the
emerging trend toward the application of a facultative jura novit arbiter
principle in international arbitral proceedings. Thirdly, it delineates a clear
modus operandi for arbitral tribunals and national courts reviewing arbitral
awards in annulment proceedings and offers model clauses, arbitration rules,
and national law provisions on the content-of-laws enquiry. The study
concludes with some final remarks and observations that amplify the
importance of continuous governing law related consultations between the
parties and the arbitrators throughout the arbitral proceedings and, certainly,
before the tribunal has rendered its final award.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction .................................................................................. 813
I. Meeting the Latins: Jura Novit Curia, Lex Fori,
and Lex Aliena ............................................................................. 816
II. International Commercial Litigation and Foreign Law ................ 817
III. International Arbitration: The Content-of-Laws
Enquiry in Theory ........................................................................ 821
A. Setting the Scene .................................................................... 821
1. Party Autonomy .............................................................. 824
2. Lex Arbitri ....................................................................... 828
B. The Fall-Back Approach .................................................... 830
C. The Inquisitorial Approach .................................................... 833
D. The Adversarial Approach ..................................................... 837
E. The Hybrid Approach ........................................................ 839
IV. International Arbitration: The Content-of-Laws
Enquiry in Practice ....................................................................... 839
A. The Civil Law Jurisdictions ................................................... 840
1. Sweden ............................................................................ 840
2. Switzerland ...................................................................... 843
3. France .............................................................................. 845
B. The Common Law Jurisdictions ............................................ 847
1. England and Wales .......................................................... 848
2. Hong Kong SAR ............................................................. 852
3. Singapore......................................................................... 854
4. New York ........................................................................ 856
2018] REVISITING THE “CONTENT-OF-LAWS” ENQUIRY 813
C. The Investment Arbitration Experience ................................. 861
D. Convergence of Laws? .......................................................... 864
V. De Lege Ferenda .......................................................................... 866
Conclusion .................................................................................... 874

. . .   
   ,
    

     
.
[Syriscus
. . . At all times
And in all regions Justice should prevail,
And, in the co mmon interest of
mankind,
Tis the concern of all who pass to see
Justice upheld.]1
INTRODUCTION
The method of establishing the content of the applicable law is one of
the most important, albeit seldom examined, topics in the theory and
practice of international arbitration. In stark contrast to the abundance of
publications relating to international arbitration, only a handful of scholars
have attempted to shed light on this dark corner of alternative dispute
resolution and to systematize the plethora of different approaches to the
ascertainment of the content of the applicable law in international arbitral
proceedings.2
1. THE ARBITRATION: THE EPITREPONTES OF MENANDER 40 (Gilbert Murray
trans., 1945).
2. As uniquely put by Professor Park, Many trees have been felled to make
paper for articles o n how to find facts, [but] . . . [l]ess attention has been paid to
the arbitrators truth-seeking function with re spect to legal norms. William W.
Park, Arbitrator s and Accuracy, 1 J. INTL DISPUTE SETTLEMENT 25, 42 (2010).

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