Multi-party and multi-contract arbitration—an introduction

The following Arbitration practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Multi-party and multi-contract arbitration—an introduction
  • Joinder of parties and consolidation of arbitrations
  • Arbitration rules—provisions relevant to multi-party and multi-contract arbitration, joinder and consolidation
  • Drafting arbitration agreements where there are multiple parties and/or multiple contracts
  • Multi-party disputes and appointing the tribunal
  • Concurrent arbitration hearings
  • Practical considerations when conducting multi-party arbitration

Multi-party and multi-contract arbitration—an introduction

This Practice Note considers how some of the common challenges which can arise in disputes between multiple parties (multi-party disputes) and/or concerning multiple contracts (multi-contract disputes) may be managed in arbitration proceedings. Such proceedings are sometimes referred to as ‘complex arbitrations’, although that phrase bears other meanings too. Multi-party and multi-contract disputes are common, reflecting the complexity of international commercial transactions.

As discussed in Practice Notes: Arbitration—an introduction to the key features of arbitration and Arbitration—new starter guide, arbitration is, typically, a private, contractual method of dispute resolution, which offers parties meaningful control over who determines their dispute and the procedure that will be followed. Indeed, the ability to influence how proceedings will be structured and conducted is one of the commonly-cited reasons why parties—particularly commercial entities involved with cross-border transactions and/or projects—choose arbitration over, say, litigation in national courts.

In contrast to resolving a dispute between two parties arising out of a single agreement, the presence of multiple parties and/or multiple contracts may present challenges both when drafting dispute resolution mechanisms and when disputes arise.

Multi-contract situations can arise between two or more parties, eg:

  1. a general agreement (aka a master or head agreement), plus ancillary agreements (eg financing agreements and service agreements)

  2. a long-term framework agreement which sets out the general terms of the parties’ transaction, plus successive application agreements setting

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