BCDR International Arbitration Review
December 2020 – Volume 7 Issue 2
Page 291

The Worldly Arbitrator: Conflicts of Interest Due to Close Personal Friendship and Enmity in a Cross-Cultural Context

Alejandro A. Escobar


This article considers conflicts of interest based on "close personal friendship" and "enmity" in the light of the enhanced importance of the factual context for such allegations. The article surveys recent decisions of national courts and arbitral institutions. It concludes that the threshold for finding a conflict on these grounds remains high, mainly because arbitrators enjoy a relatively broad sphere of professional activity. There seems to be convergence on the application of an objective test along the lines of the IBA Guidelines, which encourages transparency. Consistent with this view, arbitrators should apply a significantly lower threshold for disclosure of relevant (i.e., non-trivial) personal relationships. Enmity, however, seems to follow a different dynamic and is less amenable to arbitrator disclosure.