Arbitration Of Intra-Corporate Disputes

Kennett, Wendy Ann (2013) Arbitration Of Intra-Corporate Disputes. International Journal of Law and Management, 55 (5). pp. 333-360. ISSN 1754-243X

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the possible use of arbitration in disputes involving claims against directors. It takes as its starting point a recent decision of the English Court of Appeal, Fulham Football Club [1987] Ltd v. Richards, in which the Court confirmed the enforceability of an arbitration agreement in proceedings where one of the defendants was the company chairman, and asks how far this case is representative of a general trend.

Design/methodology/approach – The methodology adopted is comparative, with particular but not exclusive reference to laws in the USA, the UK, France and Germany. The paper examines case law and literature in three intersecting areas. First, it notes the existence of distinctive approaches to corporate governance which broadly correspond to those of common law and civil law (outsider and insider) jurisdictions. Second, it reviews the relative significance in different jurisdictions of public and private law mechanisms for enforcing compliance with the rules designed to ensure good governance. Finally, to the extent that private enforcement is relevant, it explores how far intra-corporate disputes are considered arbitrable in the selected jurisdictions.

Findings – It is apparent that the function performed by claims against directors in some jurisdictions – notably the USA and to a lesser extent the UK – is performed by other mechanisms elsewhere. In Germany, for example, actions for the annulment of company resolutions are a common form of intra-corporate dispute. A trend towards the use of arbitration to resolve intra-corporate disputes can be observed, but this may be limited to cases where there is a desire to preserve the relationship between the parties – which is frequently not the case where claims against directors are involved. Where that relationship is already damaged beyond repair, litigation may offer greater advantages.

Research limitations/implications – There is, nevertheless, a lack of empirical data as to the actual use of arbitration – as compared to litigation – in intra-corporate disputes in the jurisdictions under consideration.

Originality/value – The main value of this paper is thus to clarify the parameters of a field for further investigation.

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