In response to concerns among users of arbitration services that certain arbitrators are not resolving disputes in an efficient way, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) is introducing arbitrator report cards to enable parties to rate their satisfaction with arbitrators’ performance. Parties to HKIACadministered arbitrations will have the opportunity to report on the performance of arbitrators in that arbitration across the following criteria:

  • preparation;
  • familiarity with the applicable laws and arbitral rules;
  • the ability to facilitate a fair, neutral and effective process;
  • case management;
  • communication skills; and
  • decision making.

Arbitrators in HKIAC arbitrations will also be able to give feedback on their tribunal colleagues. Further, the parties and arbitrators will be able to evaluate their satisfaction with the HKIAC’s administrative services and facilities.

This evaluation stops short of delivering transparency regarding arbitrator performance to users of arbitration, in that the results of the arbitrator assessments will not be made available to the parties, or the users of the HKIAC more generally. Parties will continue to rely on their lawyers’ international arbitration experience to propose arbitrators who deliver efficient and effective arbitrations, and steer them away from arbitrators who do not perform.

The introduction of this arbitrator report card system is nonetheless expected to be a powerful mechanism for making arbitrators more accountable to the users of arbitration, as it is likely to make arbitrators more conscious of acting with the highest standards at all times to ensure a positive assessment of their performance to the HKIAC. Further, given this information will be used by the HKIAC to inform their appointments of arbitrators in future cases, it will enable the HKIAC to appoint arbitrators who are highly rated by the users of arbitration, and to avoid appointing non-performing arbitrators. There is a risk that this system will result in fewer new and young arbitrators being appointed by the HKIAC, given it may be inclined towards repeat appointments of arbitrators that it has gathered information on from previous cases. In our view, the benefits which this system may deliver, by enhancing the quality of the arbitrators the HKIACappoints, outweighs this concern.

This initiative is in keeping with a recent trend towards arbitral institutions seeking to make arbitrators more accountable, such as the ICC’s requirement that arbitrators disclose their availability prior to accepting arbitral appointments. Given the competition between arbitral institutions for a greater share of the international arbitration market, we expect the HKIAC’s arbitrator report card or similar mechanisms to be replicated by other leading international arbitral institutions.