This year’s Commercial Arbitration Symposium of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators produced lively and informative debate on a broad range of current topics. The ninth annual symposium was again held in the atmospheric surroundings of the Old Parliament House, and this year attracted the participation of a record number of arbitration practitioners, ranging from enthusiastic young practitioners to seasoned arbitrators, experts and counsel.

The symposium was split into three sessions. Sessions 1 and 3 followed the usual format, with no set speakers or speeches: participants were invited to introduce topics before the discussion was opened to the floor. Session 2 was dedicated to the topic of third party funding, with an expert panel answering questions submitted by participants in advance. As always, there was a high standard of questions, and several of the questions provoking most debate came from younger participants. All sessions were held under the Chatham House Rule.

The symposium opened with a session on arbitral innovation, rules and procedure, co-chaired by Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy of the Singapore Supreme Court and Mr Mohan Pillay, Joint Head of Pinsent Masons MPillay LLP. In session 1, participants debated what were the most important arbitral innovations of recent years and yet to come; the utility of early dismissal procedures and how they are likely to be employed and interpreted; the use of technology in arbitration; and the implications for arbitration of recent moves to promote commercial courts around the world.


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Session 2 followed up the debate at 2013’s symposium on changing the law in Singapore to permit third party funding for arbitration. In 2017, the law was indeed changed, in both Singapore and Hong Kong, a key development for arbitration in Asia and so, in this session, representatives of five leading funders answered questions on the products available and how funding operates in practice: Tom Glasgow of IMF Bentham; Charlie Morris of Woodsford Litigation Funding; Mark Wells of Calunius Capital; Alain Grec of La Française International Claims Collection; and Quentin Pak of Burford Capital. Joining them on the panel was Ms Kim Rooney of Gilt Chambers, who oversaw the Hong Kong Law Reform Commission’s work on third party funding. Andrew Pullen of Fountain Court Chambers chaired the session.

The final session of the afternoon considered the roles of tribunals and courts, co-chaired by Mr Nicholas Lingard of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Mr Tay Yu-Jin of Mayer Brown JSM. The session began with a discussion of what being “pro-arbitration” really means for a court. Participants went on to consider the balance between the roles of courts and tribunals/emergency arbitrators in cases of interim relief in support of arbitration; the powers of arbitral tribunals to grant anti-arbitration injunctions; and whether the Singapore courts should award indemnity costs against unsuccessful parties in arbitral set-aside and enforcement actions.

After the working sessions, there followed a drinks reception and official launch of the Institute’s Third Party Funding Guidelines, one of a trio of soft law instruments developed by organisations in Singapore to promote good practice in connection with funding of arbitrations. SIArb’s Guidelines are aimed at funders. They complement the Practice Note for arbitrators issued by SIAC and guidance for lawyers issued by The Law Society of Singapore. At the invitation of SIArb’s President, Dinesh Dhillon of Allen & Gledhill, participants toasted the launch of the guidelines before staying to network with friends and colleagues.

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Reported by: 

Andrew Pullen – Fountain Court Chambers

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