Miami Hosts Two Conferences On Latin American Arbitration

, Daily Business Review

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As arbitration rapidly becomes the preferred form of dispute resolution throughout Latin America, lawyers, multinational corporations and governments are grappling with myriad challenges as they set up and seek to enforce arbitration clauses.

Among the challenges are what venue to choose, what arbitrator to choose, how local courts respond to arbitration and whether they honor rulings, which countries take a broad interpretation of arbitration and whether to arbitrate under the International Chamber of Commerce's International Court of Arbitration or another forum.

The themes were explored at two Miami conferences on the topic of Latin American arbitration and business in the past week, the U.S. Latin America Legal Summit held by ALM, the Daily Business Review's parent, and Akerman Senterfitt and the International Arbitration in Latin America conference sponsored by the ICC International Court of Arbitration.

The conferences underscored Miami's growing recognition as a popular locale for international arbitration. The city was chosen to host the International Council for Commercial Arbitration's biennial conference in 2014.

Catherine Jones, general counsel for Virgin Mobile Latin America, noted her company considers "where the assets are" before choosing a venue for arbitration

"You don't just want a pretty piece of paper," she said. "You may want to sue locally."

Every Latin American country is different, she noted, adding, "don't assume anything."

The ICC International Court of Arbitration is increasingly turning to Miami as a venue for its cases. The organization seated 42 cases in 2012, according to Josefa Sicard-Mirabel, the ICC's North American director of arbitration and alternative dispute resolution. Of those, 22 were held in New York, and nine in Florida including six in Miami.

The advantage for Miami is "Miami being Latin America but not Latin America, and Miami being the United States but not the United States," Sicard-Mirabel said.

John Rooney, a Miami solo practitioner and arbitrator, considers Miami "a very friendly venue." He attributed this to the fact that in 2010, the state adopted the Florida Arbitration Act to substantially match the U.N. Commission on International Trade Law's model law on international commercial arbitration, which arbitrators say provides a more uniform arbitral process. Six other U.S. states—Illinois, Texas, California, Connecticut, Oregon and Louisiana—follow the same model.

What's being said

  • Excellent article. International Arbitration in Latin America will continue to thrive for the foreseeable future.

    The biggest problem in the region is its painfully slow court systems. By way of example, it takes 1,402 days to enforce a contract in Guatemala; in Colombia it takes 1,288 days to enforce a contract, 426 days in Peru, 480 days in Chile, 590 days in Argentina, 610 days in Venezuela, 725 days in Uruguay, and 731 days in Brazil.

    Until the region implements modern court procedures and streamlines its bloated bureaucracy, parties will continue to favor international arbitration over the local courts.

    This point was recently highlighted in the International Business Law Advisor.

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