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Tributes to Johnny Veeder

13 March 2020

Tributes to Johnny Veeder

In 2018, Veeder participated in a video prepared by UNCITRAL commemorating the 60-year anniversary of the New York Convention

Members of the arbitration community have paid tribute to Johnny Veeder following his death last week.

Some of the tributes below have been edited; the full tributes will be passed on to Marie Veeder, Johnny's widow. 

I am devastated by the passing of Johnny. I knew him from the beginning of the 80s. We had a case in Bermuda in 1986 where Johnny acted for Russia and I for the foreign buyer of oil. We have gone through many developments in international arbitration together for four decades, in particular on ICCA [the International Council for Commercial Arbitration]. I sat with him in a number of cases, including Plama v Bulgaria and Achmea v Slovak Republic. It was fabulous to work with him. 

I miss him dearly both personally and professionally - his humour, kindness and perspicacity are irreplaceable. 

Albert Jan van den Berg, Hanotiau & van den Berg

The best among us is gone, Sir Galahad and Merlin in one, and never shall we see his like.

Jan Paulsson, Three Crowns

With Johnny's passing, the international arbitration community loses an exceptional human being, not only a remarkable arbitrator and jurist, but also a radiant personality known for his profound kindness and generosity.

Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, Levy Kaufmann-Kohler

My first encounter with Johnny dates back to 2012 when I had the privilege of sitting with him and Professor Luca Radicati di Brozolo as members of the tribunal in a major oil and gas arbitration raising intricate legal principles and issues of third-party funding. Johnny's modesty, ingenuity, sense of humour and infectious positivity and brilliance cemented the collegial and professional bond that existed between all members of the tribunal. His captivating pure soul, encouragement, support and warmth in dealing with his colleagues (including those whom he encountered for the first time) have left a mark on me. Our friendship and my admiration of his personality, soul, intellect and pure heart grew stronger with every encounter...

...I consider myself fortunate to have met, worked with and learnt from Johnny... [His] ethics and character are a testament to the fact that professional ascension into the hall of fame need not entail a loss of humanity. He will always be remembered with a huge smile on the face, admiration in the heart and mind and a genuine appreciation of how modesty, wisdom and ingenuity can (and should) co-exist. 

Mohamed Abdel Wahab

The passing of Johnny Veeder, in the prime of life, means the end of an era in the universe of international arbitration. Johnny was larger than life in every sense of the word. Above all, we mourn the loss of a decent and wonderful human being.

Yves Fortier QC

Johnny had a great interest in the Soviet period of Russian arbitration history... My guess is this was for two reasons. First, the Soviet archives have been and still are kept under a cloak of secrecy, meaning Johnny had to find different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in British, German and French archives and, like any true researcher, took enormous joy in trying to solve the mystery. Second, Johnny was always fascinated with the contribution of ordinary arbitrators or “foot soldiers” as he called them. He was not so enchanted with big names but thrilled to discover what a particular Soviet arbitrator, often at risk of being executed or incarcerated, did to protect the integrity of arbitration. The articles Johnny has written on Soviet arbitration have contributed handsomely to wider knowledge of the subject and been eye-opening to most Russian lawyers who, thanks to the secrecy of the materials, hadn't the faintest idea what happened in these cases. Johnny alone contributed more to the understanding of Russian law than many Russian scholars together. 

Last year I managed to convince Johnny to speak at and publish an article for Russian Arbitration Day. I promised from the beginning that I would take him to libraries and organise meetings with senior academics who might be able to shed light on missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. What was mesmerising for me was that Johnny proved better versed in some aspects of Soviet legal history than even Professor Alexander Makovsky, who is considered the most senior and respectable scholar in the Russian legal community.

Johnny did find one missing piece of his Soviet legal jigsaw on that trip, although unfortunately he did not manage to write about this.

I cannot imagine the world without him. 

Roman Khodykin, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Johnny Veeder. Johnny was a brilliant, generous and humble arbitrator and advocate, who was held in great esteem by the entire arbitration community and who contributed greatly to the development of the field over many decades. 

In 2018, Johnny participated in a video prepared by UNCITRAL commemorating the 60 year anniversary of the New York Convention. His concluding remarks are an important reminder of international arbitration's role in furthering harmonious international relations and the rule of law. 

Emmanuel Gaillard, Shearman & Sterling

What was perhaps unique about Johnny, despite his exceptional achievements, was his consummate humility. He was forever unassuming and instantly disarming, engendering a feeling of warmth in everyone he met. He had time for everyone, whoever they were. 

And he made everybody laugh...

...We have all been orphaned. But through the mists of tears, we are left with a truly exceptional legacy from which generations to come will be enriched. 

Toby Landau QC, Essex Court Chambers

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