Recent developments have impacted the much-anticipated update to the English Arbitration Act 1996. Proposed reforms, developed by the Law Commission and through a consultation process, marked the first significant changes to the Act since its inception. However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s unexpected decision to call a general election in July 2024 has halted all current parliamentary business, including the passage of the bill to reform the Act.

In this article series, we look at key arbitration related decisions from the past year and draw out the key lessons for users of arbitration.

Arbitral awards are rarely set aside by national courts but the 2023 English case of The Federal Republic of Nigeria v Process & Industrial Developments Ltd. involved an extraordinary and successful challenge to an US $11bn award for serious irregularity, despite the high threshold applied by English law. The judgment expressly invited the arbitration community to reflect on best practice for disputes involving states and large sums to ensure fairness and the visible integrity of the process.

Earlier this month, President Biden announced the formation of a “Strike Force on Unfair and Illegal Pricing.” This strike force will be an interagency group co-chaired by the FTC and DOJ. President Biden stated the group will focus on industries including “prescription drugs, health care, food and grocery, housing, [and] financial services.” While the exact makeup of the strike force is not clear, it has been reported that FTC Chair Lina Khan and Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, will co-chair it. 

An American Arbitration Association arbitrator recently awarded Black Knight, Inc. (BK) $155M stemming from Pennymac Loan Services, LLC’s (Pennymac) alleged use of its mortgage-loan servicing platform to develop its own competing product. Though the arbitrator did not find Pennymac liable for trade secret misappropriation, they found that the use of BK’s product accelerated the development of Pennymac’s product and caused BK to lose licensing profits.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division released a joint statement reiterating document preservation obligations for companies and individuals that are the subject of government investigations and litigations, emphasizing messaging platforms, such as Slack and Google Chats, that automatically delete communications. Both agencies announced updated language in their standard preservation letters, specifications for “second requests” used in pre-merger review under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, voluntary access letters, and grand jury subpoenas, to address these instant messaging platforms. The agencies emphasized that companies’ obligation to preserve information on such platforms is nothing new, explaining their clarification is to prevent companies from feigning ignorance if communications are not preserved after preservation obligations are triggered.

On March 4, 2024, the California Supreme Court ruled in Niedermeier v. FCA that consumers forced to trade in or sell their defective vehicles due to a manufacturer’s failure to comply with the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, California Civil Code section 1793 et seq., (the “Act”) should not have their restitution reduced by the money they received from the trade-in or sale.

In July 2019, the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) handed down a judgment in a case that concerned the extent and operation of the principle of open justice (Cape v Dring). The question before the UKSC was how much of the written material placed before the court in a civil action should be accessible to those who are not parties to the proceedings and how it should be made accessible to them.