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Change under way at the Madrid Court of Arbitration

Cosmo Sanderson

23 July 2018

Change under way at the Madrid Court of Arbitration

A new hearing room in Santoña Palace

The Madrid Court of Arbitration has re-elected Antonio Sánchez-Pedreño as president, done away with its list of arbitrators and started publishing the names of those appointed, and opened “spectacular” hearing rooms in its headquarters in Madrid’s Santoña Palace.

Sánchez-Pedreño, who has been the court’s president since 2014 and will now serve a second four-year term, tells GAR that his goal is to “keep on developing the Madrid court as a serious international option for arbitrations,” with a focus on attracting disputes from Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa.

Before joining the Madrid court, Sánchez-Pedreño spent eight years as an independent arbitrator hearing disputes under the rules of the ICC and various Spanish institutions. He has also spent two decades working for international law firms, as head of private equity law in Madrid at Baker McKenzie and head of corporate law in Madrid at Linklaters and Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira.

Explaining the abolition of the list of arbitrators, Sánchez-Pedreño says that, although the list was never a “closed” one, it caused confusion to clients who thought they could only appoint listed arbitrators – and was contributing to perceptions of the Madrid Court of Arbitration as “a closed shop”.

Dámaso Riaño, a former partner at Arias SLP in Madrid who joined the court in February as its new secretary general, says that the list of arbitrators was “very male, very Spanish and did not include many young practitioners” and that not having a list is more likely to lead to the appointment of more arbitrators from different countries, as well as women and younger candidates.

In the absence of party appointment of arbitrators – which the court will continue to encourage – the court will either designate them itself or produce a list of preferred arbitrators of which the parties will be allowed to strike off the names they don’t like and rank the rest.

In an alternative, recently developed technique both the parties and the court will pick an equal number of arbitrators, with the court then combining the three lists in a random order. This will be passed to each side, who can strike off the names they don’t like and rank the rest, without being aware who has been picked by the opposing side and who by the court.

When putting forward its own names, the courts will consider the CVs of “a diverse pool” of arbitrators, stored on an internal database, and select the person best suited to the case, Sánchez-Pedreño says.

In common with other Europe-based institutions from the ICC International Court of Arbitration to the Milan Chamber of Arbitration and Vienna International Arbitration Centre, the Madrid court has also introduced new transparency measures, including the publication of the name of all arbitrators appointed to its tribunals.

And it is introducing a quality control questionnaire, seeking feedback from parties and arbitrators to monitor the performance of arbitrators and the court itself.

Other developments at the court include the creation of a new advisory committee and a new website with information on its workings. It has also appointed Cristina Vidal, partner at Ramón y Cajal Abogados in Madrid, to its arbitrator appointment committee.

The court’s new hearing rooms are in the historic Santoña Palace, a typical Madrid townhouse built in 1730 with a façade designed by Baroque architect Pedro de Ribera and eclectic interiors created by the dukes of Santoña. The palace is the former home of the Madrid Chamber of Commerce and contains paintings alluding to trade and industry.

Riaño says the hearing rooms have “already been described as the most spectacular in Europe.”

Meanwhile, merger negotiations are continuing between the Madrid court and Spain’s two other largest arbitral institutions, the Spanish Court of Arbitration and the Civil and Commercial Court of Arbitration. Last December, the three institutions signed a memorandum of understanding paving the way for their unification.

ntonio nchezedreo Antonio Sánchez-Pedreño

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