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Singapore International Commercial Court: Secrecy in arbitration

In CZT v CZU [2023] SGHC(I) 22 dealt with an arbitration where the majority of the Arbitral Tribunal ultimately ruled in favour of the Defendant and  issued a Final Award which found the Plaintiff was liable to the Defendant for non-performance of contractual obligations. One arbitrator refused to sign the Final Award and instead issued a dissenting opinion raising various allegations against the majority including “serious procedural misconduct”, “continued misstating of the record”, attempting “to conceal the true ratio decidendi from the Parties”, “distortion of the deliberation history”, lack of impartiality, and knowingly stating an incorrect reason for his refusal to sign the Final Award.

The plaintiff applied to set aside the award on the basis of serious allegations by the dissenting arbitrator against the two other members of the tribunal and brought an application to compel the arbitrators to produce records of their deliberations.

The Singapore International Commercial Court dismissed the plaintiff’s production application, concluding that the plaintiff had not demonstrated that the interests of justice outweighed the policy reasons for protecting the confidentiality of deliberations. In the Court’s view, the application to set aside the award could proceed without those records.

The decision is an important benchmark in terms of deliberative secrecy in arbitration, which according to the Court, will only yield in the rarest of cases, which generally would not include bare allegations even of a serious nature.

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