Zurich, July 2013 – Under the auspices of the Europe Institute at the University of Zurich, Prof Dr Andreas Kellerhals (University of Zurich) and PD Dr Thomas Werlen (Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP) assembled a symposium of international and national experts to discuss opportunities for the promotion of arbitration as a means of dispute resolution in finance (See programme). While financial institutions traditionally have favoured litigation in state courts over arbitration, the speakers identified a number of advantages of arbitration over litigation for both cross-border disputes and in the national context. Against the background of a general approach in many financial centres to use New York or English courts, panelists considered issues such as the lack of enforceability of these courts' decisions in many jurisdictions and the need for financial markets of globally consistent regulatory interpretations.
Two panels comprised of experienced practitioners, leading academics as well as industry and government representatives, confirmed a trend of key industries such as banking, insurance and commodities having recently started to embrace arbitration both for retail and institutional relations. A main reason for this is the increasing complexity in the nature of claims involving financial products. It was argued that bringing highly complex international disputes, such as arising from the financial crisis, before national courts poses itself a systemic risk that can be mitigated by recourse to expert arbitral tribunals. Panelists further contended that arbitration was ideally suited to deal with claims arising in the context of an increased involvement of parties from emerging markets due to the possibility for parties to choose a neutral seat of the arbitration and as a solution for the enforcement problem.
Participants argued that not only will the trend of an increase in the use of arbitration in financial disputes continue, but that Switzerland is uniquely suited to being the seat of such proceedings given its tradition as a place of arbitration, its financial expertise and its reputation as a politically neutral global financial centre. Consequently, it was agreed to engage all relevant stakeholders in a discussion with a view to build on Switzerland's existing strengths and to realise these looming opportunities.