Special Mechanisms for Obtaining Evidence

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Every seasoned arbitration practitioner will have been in a situation where a particularly useful class of documents was in the possession of a third party or the client was unable to secure evidence from a potentially helpful witness of fact. Given the consensual nature of arbitration, arbitrators’ hands are tied and orders can be made only against parties to the arbitration and in respect of evidence that is in their possession or control. An arbitration also needs to have been initiated before a party can make any requests for evidence. Arbitrators also lack the coercive powers of a state court to enforce a document production order or to compel a witness to give evidence, albeit they can draw adverse inferences or make adverse cost orders.

There are a number of avenues to consider to overcome these limitations. There may be a contractual or statutory right to request the evidence in question (or that it be procured) or the applicable legal framework may bestow the competent court with the power to compel production of evidence in aid of arbitration. The focus of this chapter is on Section 1782 of Title 28 of the US Code (Section 1782), which offers arguably the most potent route to obtaining evidence when the relevant party is incorporated in the United States or present in the jurisdiction, albeit its application has been significantly limited to arbitral tribunals that derive their power from ‘governmental or intergovernmental’ authorities by the United States Supreme Court in a 2022 decision. Other routes to evidence briefly considered here, and that have been used in practice to varying degrees, are special discovery proceedings under New York’s rules of civil procedure, freedom of information access requests, data subject access requests pursuant to EU rules on data protection and evidence obtained in parallel criminal proceedings.[2]

Section 1782 application


Although many jurisdictions offer judicial assistance in obtaining evidence in aid of arbitration (as already noted), the seat of the arbitration ‘has usually been chosen for its neutrality, and so the relevant third party is unlikely to be within its jurisdiction’.[3] Courts in some jurisdictions also extend their judicial assistance in aid of foreign arbitrations,[4] with the US courts granting liberal aid to qualifying arbitral tribunals.

Section 1782 allows a foreign or international tribunal or ‘any interested person’ to file an application in a US district court in the jurisdiction where the respondent resides or can be ‘found’ within the district. The application may seek to compel deposition testimony or the production of documents ‘for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal’ where there would otherwise be no other mechanism to achieve this.[5] The US Congress enacted Section 1782 to further the ‘twin aims’: (1) to provide efficient discovery procedures in US courts for the benefit of participants or tribunals in foreign proceedings; and (2) (perhaps somewhat overzealously) to encourage other countries, by a ‘generous example’, to provide similar means of assistance to US litigants.[6]

As is explored in more detail below, Section 1782 can thus be deployed in arbitrations where arbitral tribunals are empowered by a governmental or an intergovernmental authority, and where one of the parties is incorporated in the United States or when the individual in question is located in the United States, even temporarily.[7] Courts retain discretion to reject the application, including in particular in circumstances where the evidence sought can be ordered by the arbitral tribunal in the usual course.[8] A Section 1782 application is thus most useful when third parties – such as corporate affiliates, subsidiaries, and parent entities – over which the tribunal has no jurisdiction, are in the possession of important evidence or (possibly) before the tribunal is constituted.[9]

In the subsections that follow, we first discuss the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision limiting Section 1782 to governmental and intergovernmental tribunals, then we explain the statutory requirements for making a Section 1782 application. We then explore the factors that courts consider in deciding whether to exercise their discretion to grant the application, followed by procedural aspects and considerations of the respondent in responding to the application.

The US Supreme Court clarifies the reach of Section 1782’s assistance to arbitral tribunals

In ZF Automotive v. Luxshare, the Supreme Court resolved a circuit split on the issue of whether Section 1782 allows a US district court to provide assistance with obtaining documents or testimony in aid of international commercial arbitrations. For years, the circuit split allowed participants in private commercial arbitrations to be eligible for Section 1782 assistance in several circuits, while this assistance was barred in others. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to two cases that presented this issue and consolidated the appeals for joint resolution: ZF Automotive US, Inc v. Luxshare, Ltd, which was a Sixth Circuit case concerning a prospective private commercial arbitration under the German Arbitration Institute Rules that was to be seated in Munich, Germany, and Fund for Protection of Investors’ Rights in Foreign States (Fund) v. Lithuania, which was a Second Circuit case involving an ad hoc tribunal constituted under the bilateral investment treaty between Lithuania and Russia and operating under the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Arbitration Rules.

To decide the issue, the Supreme Court turned to the text of Section 1782 and considered the statute’s context with other statutory regimes, such as the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The Court found that the term ‘foreign tribunal’ more naturally refers to a tribunal belonging to a foreign nation than to a tribunal that is simply located in a foreign nation.[10] Similarly, the Court concluded that the term ‘international tribunal’ is one that ‘involves or is of two or more nations, meaning that those nations have imbued the tribunal with official power to adjudicate disputes’. Taken together, the Court reasoned that these terms, as used in Section 1782, ‘complement one another; the former is a tribunal imbued with governmental authority by one nation, and the latter is a tribunal imbued with governmental authority by multiple nations’.[11] The Court also supported its decision on the basis of the FAA. The Court reasoned that a limited interpretation of Section 1782 would be in harmony with the FAA as it would be unreasonable to give foreign litigants greater discovery rights in US courts than domestic litigants. Accordingly, the Supreme Court unanimously held that Section 1782 ‘requires a “foreign or international tribunal” to be governmental or intergovernmental’.

Following its conclusion that Section 1782 applies only to arbitral tribunals that are cloaked in governmental or intergovernmental authority, the Supreme Court provided guidance to lower courts on the characteristics of arbitral tribunals that have this governmental authority.[12] The Supreme Court stated that neither the presence of a state as party to an arbitration nor the fact that the tribunal arose under the rules of a treaty between two states is dispositive. Instead, what matters is whether a state, or several states, ‘intend[ed] to confer governmental authority’ on the tribunal ‘formed pursuant to the treaty’ or law.[13] The Court instructed lower courts to consider (1) whether the arbitration panel is a permanent body created by law or treaty, rather than an ad hoc panel selected by the parties, (2) if the tribunal ‘functions independently of and is not affiliated’ with a state or states, such as because the tribunal members are not government officials or appointed by a state, (3) whether the tribunal receives governmental funding, and, lastly, (4) whether the awards are made public or confidential between the parties.

Based on this statutory interpretation, and considering the governmental characteristics outlined in the decision, the Supreme Court found that both tribunals in ZF Automotive v. Luxshare and Fund v. Lithuania failed to qualify as tribunals with governmental or intergovernmental authority. The Court reasoned that the ZF Automotive v. Luxshare tribunal did not qualify because it was created by contract and governed by the parties. The Court acknowledged that the Fund v. Lithuania tribunal was a closer call because a state, Lithuania, was a party and the arbitration arose from an international treaty, the Lithuania–Russia bilateral investment treaty. However, the Court determined that the treaty did not grant the tribunal any governmental power because the parties, rather than the states, selected the tribunal, none of the panel members were governmental officers, and the tribunal had no nexus or responsibility to any state or intergovernmental body.

After the ZF Automotive decision, Section 1782 still applies to international arbitrations that derive their authority from governmental authorities. The key inquiry for US courts to determine whether the adjudicative body will qualify will be if the adjudicative body is ‘governmental or intergovernmental’, and not necessarily whether one of parties is a foreign state (non-US). While the Court rejected the choice of ad hoc arbitration provided under the Lithuania–Russia bilateral investment treaty, the door remains open as to whether permanent adjudicatory bodies, funded or controlled by participating states, could qualify as intergovernmental. These tribunals may be set up by the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). While the Court did not expressly rule that ICSID tribunals qualify for Section 1782 assistance, ICSID tribunals may well qualify under this new test because ICSID is a permanent institution created by a multilateral treaty, the World Bank, with awards that are binding as a matter of public international law.[14] However, it remains for the lower courts to grapple with deciding whether particular tribunals, such as ICSID, will qualify under Section 1782 in the wake of the ZF Automotive decision.

Statutory requirements

A Section 1782 applicant must satisfy four statutory requirements before a court can order discovery.

  • The applicant must be a foreign or international tribunal or an interested person. Being a litigant in a foreign proceeding more than satisfies the latter requirement. In the landmark case Intel,[15] the US Supreme Court acknowledged that the text of Section 1782(a) ‘reaches beyond the universe of persons designated “litigant,” and encompasses those with a reasonable interest in obtaining the assistance’.
  • To satisfy the ‘foreign or international tribunal’ requirement, the arbitral tribunal must exercise governmental authority. Thus, as explained above, private commercial arbitrations, or even ad hoc private arbitrations involving state entities and organised under international bilateral treaties, will not qualify. Instead, the tribunal will have to exert governmental authority and likely take the form of a permanent institution created by a bilateral or multilateral treaty, with awards binding as a matter of law.
  • The respondent must reside or ‘be found’ in the district of the court to which the application is made. For individuals, courts have held that the mere presence of an individual within the jurisdiction, even temporary, is sufficient to satisfy the ‘reside’ or ‘be found’ requirement. For entities, a Section 1782 application must be filed in the district in which the entity is incorporated or where it is headquartered. If an entity’s headquarters are in a district other than the district where it is incorporated, the applicant can file the application where it is more advantageous to do so.
  • The application must be to obtain evidence for use in a foreign or international proceeding; a requirement that has been interpreted broadly. To satisfy the ‘for use’ requirement, the applicant must show that (1) the requested discovery will be used at some stage of a foreign proceeding, and (2) the proceeding qualifies as a ‘foreign or international tribunal’. With respect to the first requirement, Section 1782 applications are filed while the proceedings are pending but this is not required. In Intel, the Supreme Court held that a proceeding may be within ‘reasonable contemplation’ and rejected the requirement that the proceedings be ‘imminent’. The Intel court clarified that the evidence requested need only be ‘eventually . . . used in such a proceeding’. To meet this lower bar of reasonable contemplation, applicants have attested to their intent to file proceedings, retained legal counsel, sent demand letters and provided other ‘objective indici[a]’.[16]

Discretionary Intel factors

Even if the statutory requirements of Section 1782(a) are satisfied, the district court retains its discretion to decide whether to order discovery. In deciding whether to exercise the discretion, courts consider the following factors set forth in the Intel decision: (1) whether the discovery sought is within the foreign tribunal’s jurisdictional reach and thus obtainable absent Section 1782 aid; (2) the nature of the foreign tribunal and its receptivity to evidence obtained under Section 1782; (3) whether the application conceals an attempt to circumvent foreign proof-gathering restrictions; and (4) whether the subpoena contains unduly intrusive or burdensome requests.[17] These factors must be assessed in light of Section 1782’s twin aims of ‘providing efficient means of assistance to participants in international litigation in [US] federal courts and encouraging foreign countries by example to provide similar means of assistance to [US] courts’.[18] Each of these factors is elaborated on below.

First Intel factor

This factor relates to efficiency.[19] If the foreign tribunal is in a position to order the discovery sought, then it is not efficient to burden a US court with such a request. Conversely, the aim of efficiency is furthered if the respondent is outside the tribunal’s reach and located in the United States. However, discovery can be obtained also against parties to arbitration proceedings provided the applicant demonstrates that the foreign law applicable to the arbitration does not afford any mechanism to compel the production of the requested documents if they are not produced pursuant to the tribunal’s order.[20]

Second Intel factor

The issue considered here is whether the foreign tribunal might regard as inadmissible the evidence obtained pursuant to Section 1782, in which case granting the application will be of no identifiable use and thus inefficient.[21] It would also not encourage the foreign jurisdiction where the tribunal is seated to grant reciprocal discovery for US applicants.

In considering this second factor, district courts generally presume that the foreign tribunal will be receptive to the evidence in the absence of clear, ‘authoritative proof that the foreign tribunal would reject the evidence sought’.[22] Authoritative proof of ‘unreceptivity’ is ‘embodied in a forum country’s judicial, executive, or legislative declarations that specifically address the use of evidence gathered under foreign procedures’.[23] In practice, this requires either a statement from the foreign tribunal disavowing the requested Section 1782 discovery, or statutory provisions or judgments having precedential value from the foreign jurisdiction prohibiting its use.

As a final note on this factor, responding parties seeking to oppose Section 1782 requests should not confuse receptivity with scope of discovery authorised in the arbitration proceedings. As Judge Poser observed, the scope of discovery is nearly always less in non-US proceedings than as authorised under the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP).[24] Simply because a foreign tribunal’s rules do not facilitate such discovery does not mean that the tribunal will not consider and receive the evidence.

Third Intel factor

The circumvention factor considers ‘whether the foreign court would be affronted by the applicant’s resort to US discovery’.[25] This might be the case if the use of material obtained in a certain manner is affirmatively prohibited. As the Second Circuit explained, ‘proof gathering restrictions are best understood as rules akin to privileges that prohibit the acquisition or use of certain material’. Meanwhile, rules that merely ‘fail to facilitate the investigation of claims by empowering parties to require their adversarial and non-party witnesses to provide information’ are not regarded as evidence of circumvention.[26] Positive prohibition of the use of materials obtained via a Section 1782 application would be rare in international arbitration and most likely be found in the arbitration agreement. It is therefore unlikely that foreign tribunals would be considered to be affronted. Nevertheless, it is advisable to explain adequately in a Section 1782 application that the discovery being sought will not violate any prohibitions imposed by the rules of procedures applicable to the foreign proceeding or arbitration.

Fourth Intel factor

Unduly intrusive or burdensome requests under Section 1782 may be rejected or trimmed by the district court, which has considerable discretion in this regard. District courts evaluate Section 1782 requests using the scope of discovery as authorised under the FRCP and not based on the scope of discovery available in the foreign tribunal.[27] Accordingly, requests should be tailored to the specific facts of the application and avoid requesting irrelevant material. Otherwise, just like in arbitration proceedings, respondents may characterise the requests as an impermissible ‘fishing expedition’.

Procedural aspects

In terms of procedure, as noted above, a Section 1782 application has to be filed with the US district court where the respondent resides or can be found. The application should consist of a notice of motion or application, memorandum of law and points of authority, supporting declaration and a proposed order attaching the proposed subpoenas. The content of these documents, in brief, is as follows.

  • The application or notice of motion should inform the court of the filings to be submitted and briefly explain the requested relief.
  • The memorandum of law and points of authority should set forth the facts of the underlying dispute and the nature of the non-US proceedings. It should further explain why the statutory requirements are satisfied and the discretionary factors weigh in favour of granting the application.
  • All declarations should detail the necessary facts giving rise to the dispute and the rules applicable to the foreign tribunal.[28]
  • A proposed order attaching the proposed subpoenas should follow the form of the local rules and the proposed subpoenas should detail the discovery requests in conformity with the FRCP. As discussed above, the requests should be tailored to the dispute and the facts necessary to establish that connection must be set forth in the application.

A Section 1782 application is commonly filed ex parte. If an ex parte application is granted by the court, the applicant must serve the application and subpoenas on the respondent pursuant to Rule 5 of the FRCP, which is the applicable rule governing the service of new actions.

Responding to a Section 1782 application

The manner of responding to a Section 1782 application depends on whether the application is ex parte. If it is not, a respondent will need to consider whether to file an opposition to the application. To the extent that an opposition is to be filed, the court’s local and individual rules ought to be reviewed carefully to determine the opposition deadline and a briefing schedule ought to be requested.

If the application is granted ex parte and the respondent is served with a subpoena from the ex parte order, three types of responses are available: (1) comply; (2) object; or (3) move to quash the subpoena.

Compliance is advisable if the application is on solid footing with narrowly tailored requests. Objecting to the subpoena (in the manner prescribed in the FRCP)[29] is advisable if the application, although on a solid footing, is overly broad in its scope. Well-lodged objections will cause the parties to seek to reach a compromise, failing which the onus will be on the applicant to move to compel compliance with the subpoena.

If, on the other hand, the respondent believes that the Section 1782 application was granted improperly, then it should file a motion to quash the subpoena. The motion to quash should articulate the reasons why the application fails to meet any of the statutory requirements or why the discretionary factors weigh towards denying the request. A motion to quash should also be accompanied by a declaration if there is a factual or foreign legal reason to deny the application. As a final note, if a respondent moves to quash and also believes the scope is improper, it should object under the FRCP to preserve the objections.

In conclusion, in circumstances where important evidence (be it documentary or witness) can be found on US soil, parties or prospective parties to an international arbitration (one that derives its power from ‘governmental’ or ‘intergovernmental’ authority) are advised to consider carefully whether to make a Section 1782 application, particularly if the evidence is needed to start the proceedings or if there are third parties involved who are beyond the arbitral tribunal’s reach.

Section 3102 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules

Section 3102 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) may be another tool available to parties or prospective parties to a private arbitration seeking discovery from persons or entities located in New York. It affords an opportunity to seek discovery ‘to aid in arbitration’ and, therefore, under the right circumstances, may be an alternative to Section 1782 assistance.[30] However, practitioners are cautioned that obtaining Section 3102 relief in aid of arbitration requires ‘extraordinary circumstances’ to warrant relief.

CPLR Section 3102(c) provides:

Before an action is commenced, disclosure to aid in bringing an action, to preserve information or to aid in arbitration, may be obtained, but only by court order. The court may appoint a referee to take testimony.

CPLR Section 3102(c) can be used as a device to enable the petitioner to frame a petition for arbitration, to preserve evidence for a forthcoming arbitration, and it has also been recognised as an appropriate device for ascertaining the identities of prospective respondents.[31] Under Section 3102, the applicant may seek disclosure utilising any device provided by the CPLR – this would include depositions, interrogatories and document demands. A prospective arbitration petitioner is not entitled to pre-arbitration discovery if they already possess sufficient information to state a claim.[32] Rule 3102(c) also cannot be used to uncover proof of an intended cause of action or to determine if a cause of action might exist.[33]

Court-ordered disclosure to aid in arbitration is allowed by CPLR Section 3102(c) but is ‘sparingly used’ and only by a showing of ‘extraordinary circumstances’.[34] New York courts reason that because the parties have chosen an arbitral, rather than judicial, tribunal for their case, they should ordinarily seek their disclosure before the arbitrators.[35]

Under CPLR Section 3102, a party may initiate a special proceeding, which should be commenced by a notice of petition or an order to show cause and a petition to obtain discovery in aid of arbitration. The petition should demonstrate that the court has subject matter jurisdiction to hear the potential action for which the disclosure is sought. The petition must be supported by affirmations or declarations attesting to the facts used in the petition to obtain discovery and also be served in accordance with Article 4 of the CPLR. The CPLR Section 3102 proceeding should be filed in the county in which one of the respondents resides; for corporate respondents, this would be the county where the principal office is located.[36] Last, and subject to the local court’s rules, the petition should also be accompanied by a proposed order.

Freedom of information requests

If the desired documents are held by public authorities, another route to obtaining them might be through a freedom of information request. The right to access information held by public bodies is now generally recognised, both domestically and in international law.

As regards domestic law, the constitutions in many jurisdictions contain a stand-alone right to information.[37] In addition, states have enacted legislation guaranteeing their citizens’ right of access to government information. Whereas in 1990 only 13 countries had adopted such statutes,[38] today around 120 countries have freedom of information acts, although they are by no means uniform and ‘vary in strength’.[39] Information legislation ordinarily encompasses the right to request (and receive) information from public bodies but also the state’s obligation to publish information proactively.[40]

From the public international law standpoint, ‘international human rights bodies such as the UN Human Rights Committee, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Committee on Social Rights have today accepted the existence of a right to information in certain circumstances’.[41] Thus, by failing to comply with a freedom of information request, a state also risks breaching the applicant’s human rights, as is apparent from a summary of the European Court of Human Rights’ landmark judgment in Társaság a Szabadság v. Hungary[42] on access to information:

The applicant, a civil liberties NGO, employed domestic freedom of information (FOI) legislation in a bid to obtain access to the text of an application for constitutional review of laws relating to drug offences submitted to the Constitutional Court by a member of parliament. The decision of the Constitutional Court to refuse to grant access to the requested material had been upheld by the domestic courts on the basis that the application for review contained personal data of the Member of Parliament which could not be accessed without the author’s approval. The European Court of Human Rights decided that the refusal of access amounted to a violation of the applicant’s rights under Article 10 [of the European Convention on Human Rights].[43]

Another significant development is the entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents on 1 December 2020 (the Convention on Access). The Convention is ‘the first binding international legal instrument to recognise a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities’.[44] To date, 20 countries have either signed or ratified the Convention on Access, including Belgium, Iceland and Lithuania, which historically have weaker freedom of information laws.[45] Each party is obliged give effect to the Convention on Access in its domestic law.[46] Under the Convention, anyone (whether a citizen or not) may request access to official documents held by public authorities without specifying reasons for the request, subject to customary limitations such as protection of national security and privacy.[47] This further supports the trend towards broad availability of documents held by governments.

Although, in general, a freedom of information request does not need to be tied to any proceedings, it is no surprise that it has been used successfully by claimants in investment treaty arbitrations where the state counterparty was bound by the relevant freedom of information legislation.[48] Making a freedom of information request may be particularly useful before commencing arbitration proceedings, including, for example, if one needs access to travaux préparatoires in respect of the applicable treaty from the prospective state counterparty or, some other documents. One should also note that the applicable freedom of information legislation may cover not only states and state entities but also private parties performing public functions or operating with public funds.[49]

The key advantages of making an information request in aid of arbitration can be summarised as follows.

  • The request can be made before commencement of the proceedings, which may assist in assessing the prospects of the claim, developing new legal theories and substantiating claims with evidence, before making a final decision to proceed with the arbitration.
  • The request need not be made by the (prospective) party to the proceedings and neither does there need to be an identity of the parties on the state side – a state related entity not party to the arbitration might be captured by the freedom of information legislation or if the state related entity is party to the arbitration, documents might be obtained from the state that is not a party via this route.
  • The scope of a freedom of information request can be broader than a document production request since the former is not limited to the scope of the dispute.
  • Respondent states may be more motivated to produce documents at the document production phase, when the request for documents is coupled with a freedom of information request under the state’s own legislation, which can attract more public scrutiny and the potential threat of a human rights violation, as noted above.
  • Making a broad freedom of information request may place an additional administrative burden on the responding party.
  • More a neutral factor than an advantage is that the cost of making a freedom of information request is nominal, unless the request itself is litigated (in which case the costs of any such litigation are likely to be modest).

However, there are also (perceived) risks or drawbacks in making such a request that ought to be considered before the request is made.

  • Depending on the prescribed timelines in the applicable legislation, the requested entities can take several months to respond to an information request, and the response may be unsatisfactory. Freedom of information requests should thus be considered in good time prior to starting an arbitration, or at least at the outset of the proceedings.
  • A request for information may tip off the prospective counterparty about the intention to make a claim, which may not be desirable.
  • The quality of information or documents that can be expected differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, depending on the applicable freedom of information legislation and local practices.

In sum, although the risk of tipping off the prospective counterparty has to be given serious consideration, there is little downside to making a freedom of information request. A party may gain access to a broader set of information (including from non-parties) compared to a conventional document production request, at nominal cost and even prior to initiating arbitration proceedings.

Data subject access requests pursuant to EU rules on data protection

Another tool that is often mentioned in this context is the possibility of making a data subject access request pursuant to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR),[50] which became effective in the European Union on 25 May 2018. However, we consider that the use of this tool in international arbitration is likely to be limited to specific factual situations in which personal data that can be obtained pursuant to the GDPR may be of relevance.

The GDPR sets a high standard for personal data protection across the European Union, with severe fines for non-compliance by those handling personal data of up to 4 per cent of global gross revenue or €20 million, whichever is higher.[51] The GDPR is broad in its scope, and applies primarily to organisations established in the European Union that process personal data although, in some circumstances, it can also extend to organisations processing personal data established exclusively outside the European Union.[52]

As mandatory law, the GDPR applies equally to legal and natural persons falling within its ambit and handling personal data in the context of an arbitration. In an effort to consider the GDPR implications on arbitration in practice, the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) and the International Bar Association (IBA) established a Joint Task Force on Data Protection in International Arbitration, which has produced a consultation draft of the ICCA-IBA Roadmap to Data Protection in International Arbitration (the ICCA-IBA Roadmap). Once finalised, the aim of the ICCA-IBA Roadmap is to ‘provide practical guidance on the potential impact of data protection principles, in particular [the GDPR], on international arbitration proceedings’.[53]

One powerful tool of the GDPR of relevance for this discussion is a data subject access request (DSAR). DSARs allow individuals to obtain confirmation that their data is being processed and to access their personal data and certain other information (e.g., the purposes of processing, whether the data will be given to any other organisations and the envisaged period for which the data will be stored).[54]

Given that the information that individuals can request is limited to personal data, the ambit of a DSAR is much narrower than document production in civil litigation or international arbitration.[55]

Nevertheless, there are examples of cases (in the United Kingdom, for instance) in which actual and potential litigants (being natural persons) have sought to use a DSAR as a means of obtaining disclosure outside the usual disclosure process in litigation proceedings.[56] However, these are cases in which personal data held by the defendant may be highly relevant, such as in claims for discrimination by an employer. It is therefore difficult to see how a DSAR may usefully be deployed in commercial or investment treaty disputes except for a specific instance in which personal data held by one of the parties may be of relevance in resolving any factual issue (as information not concerning personal data may be redacted).

For any such specific cases, the benefits of making a DSAR are (1) access to data held by third parties, (2) access to personal data of which the arbitral tribunal may not be authorised to order production or that may be broader in scope than what might be granted pursuant to a disclosure request, (3) enforceability in courts, and (4) nominal cost. The potential for tipping off (as in respect of freedom of information requests) and the length of the process (organisations have up to three months to respond)[57] are two notable downsides. A DSAR should thus be made prior to or early on in an arbitration proceeding.

Finally, responding to a DSAR can be time-consuming and expensive. Making a DSAR may therefore be used as a litigation tactic to impose an administrative burden on a counter­party. However, before employing this tactic, one should consider the prospect of an equally burdensome tit-for-tat request.

Use of documents obtained in criminal proceedings

The interplay between international arbitration and criminal law has given rise to extensive arbitration commentary.[58] The one aspect that is relevant to this discussion is a party’s use of evidence obtained in criminal proceedings in parallel arbitration proceedings. In practice, two separate scenarios arise: (1) a state using its sovereign powers to obtain helpful evidence; and (2) a private party filing a criminal complaint and participating in the ensuing criminal proceedings as victim.

The first scenario is part of a broader theme of states using (and sometimes abusing) the state apparatus against foreign investors. This is well documented in the practice of investment treaty tribunals.[59] One of the consequences of a state-mandated criminal investigation concerning an investor is that the state may obtain access to the evidence collated in the investigation. For example, in Lao Holdings v. Laos, the tribunal went as far as holding that ‘the primary purpose for which the Respondent intends to use the powers of criminal investigation, at least in the first instance, is to collect evidence for use at the arbitration, which, in the result, will undermine the integrity of the arbitral process’.[60]

Regardless of whether the investor is prosecuted in good faith, the state gains a procedural advantage and equality of arms concerns arise.[61] Each case raises its own set of facts and different outcomes may be warranted. For example, in Libananco v. Turkey,[62] Libananco showed that Turkey had intercepted its counsel’s email communication as part of criminal proceedings, including privileged correspondence, such as a draft of Libananco’s arbitration memorial.[63] The tribunal ordered Turkey to obtain a statement from the public prosecutor that all intercepted emails and communications relating to the arbitration had been, or would be, destroyed.[64] Tribunals’ inherent power to maintain the equality of the parties by ensuring a state does not obtain an unfair advantage in gathering evidence through the use of police powers has been recognised by the Institute of International Law.[65] A tribunal may therefore require a respondent state to make an application to the tribunal before deploying any evidence obtained in the course of a criminal investigation.

As for the second scenario, non-confidential arbitral decisions are not readily available. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that these situations do arise. For example, imagine a situation in which the buyer commences arbitration proceedings against the seller for breach of a warranty and also makes a criminal complaint against the seller and related natural persons for fraud. Depending on the jurisdiction in question, the buyer may participate in the criminal proceedings as a victim with access to the evidence collected by the prosecutor (documents, records of property searches, transcripts of witness interviews, etc.) at minimal cost.[66] The buyer then uses that evidence in the parallel arbitration against the seller.

This approach[67] can obviously yield a significant procedural advantage for the claiming party, giving it indirect access to a state’s coercive powers. However, this advantage must be balanced against the complexities that parallel proceedings (criminal or otherwise) bring with them. In particular, parallel arbitrations spur arguments around procedural unfairness, bad faith, heightened standard of proof, lis pendens and suspension of the arbitration while the parallel proceedings are pending.

It is indisputable that leveraging parallel criminal proceedings, among other things, by accessing the criminal file and collecting evidence, can tip the scales of any arbitration. The foregoing discussion shows that one must wield this powerful weapon with caution as criminal proceedings have the propensity for aggravating disputes and, if shown to be unfounded, are likely to antagonise the tribunal.


As the discussion in this chapter shows, all is not lost when desirable evidence is in the possession of a third party over which an arbitral tribunal has no jurisdiction or is required prior to the commencement of arbitration proceedings. Outside the available court-assisted mechanisms to obtain evidence, where a US district court’s jurisdiction can be invoked, Section 1782 is the most potent, not least because it is available in respect of qualifying arbitrations and does not require the permission of an arbitral tribunal. However, in the aftermath of the ZF Automotive decision, Section 1782’s use has been significantly curbed to tribunals that operate under the auspices of governmental or intergovernmental authority. The ruling clarifies that Section 1782 cannot be used for private, commercial arbitration. And, in terms of international arbitration, based on the ruling, not all investment treaty arbitrations will qualify either. Following the decision, tribunals that have governmental authority are those in which a national law or international treaty creates the panel itself rather than those that simply reference the set of rules that govern the panel’s formation and procedure. US courts will also consider whether the panel includes members with an official affiliation with a foreign state and will consider other factors that indicate that the tribunal has governmental authority.

Among other mechanisms available, national freedom of information legislation and, more recently, the Convention on Access, oblige states and, for the most part, state-related entities to comply with requests for information, although the time limits for compliance may be generous and the information provided may not prove to be useful, necessitating another round of requests. While reserved for instances of ‘extraordinary circumstances’, CPLR Section 3102(c) provides another potential avenue to obtain evidence that is located in the New York state. The GDPR provides another route to obtaining evidence from private parties where personal data is of relevance; however, this is rarely the case in commercial or investment treaty arbitrations. Evidence that can be gleaned from parallel or related criminal proceedings should also be considered, although arbitral tribunals will take a dim view of a party’s litigation tactics if the power to initiate criminal proceedings held, in particular, by state parties is abused.


[1] Anna Masser and Lucia Raimanová are partners, and Kendall Pauley and Peter Plachý are associates, at Allen & Overy.

[2] There are no doubt other routes to obtaining helpful evidence, depending on specificities of applicable national laws or international instruments. For example, the Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters of 1970 (the Hague Convention) is an effective mechanism for obtaining foreign judicial assistance in aid of national court proceedings. It has been suggested that the Hague Convention may be used in aid of international arbitration proceedings directly or indirectly (i.e., the tribunal making a request to the courts of the seat, which would request judicial assistance), but there is little authority on this proposition (see Gary B Born, International Commercial Arbitration (3rd edition, Kluwer Law International, 2021), pp. 2599–600).

[3] N Blackaby, C Partasides, et al., Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration (6th edition, Kluwer Law International, Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 430.

[4] For example, in England and Wales, Section 44 of the UK Arbitration Act 1996 provides the courts with powers exercisable in support of arbitration proceedings, which include the taking of the evidence of witnesses, the preservation of evidence and the making of orders relating to property that is the subject matter of the proceedings or as to which any question arises in the proceedings. However, in non-urgent cases, these powers are exercisable only with the permission of the arbitral tribunal or by agreement of the parties. There is also a debate as to whether those powers are available against non-parties. Although the Court of Appeal held in A and B v. C, D and E [2020] EWCA Civ 409 that Section 44(2)(a) (the taking of the evidence of witnesses) can apply to non-parties, the position with respect to Section 44(2)(e) (the granting of an interim injunction or the appointment of a receiver) and Section 44(2)(b) (the preservation of evidence) remains that those powers are not available against non-parties (see Cruz City Mauritius Holdings v. Unitech Limited [2014] EWHC 3704 and DTEK Trading SA v. Morozov [2017] EWHC 1704, respectively). For an overview of national arbitration regimes in other jurisdictions, see R Bradshaw, ‘How to Obtain Evidence from Third Parties: A Comparative View’, Journal of International Arbitration (2019), Vol. 36, Issue 5, pp. 653–57.

[5] Mees v. Buiter, 793 F.3d 291 (2d Cir. 2015) (explaining how the Intel factors distinguish between discovery prohibitions, akin to rules of privilege, and the lack of discovery mechanism to compel discovery).

[6] Heraeus Kulzer, GmbH v. Biomet, Inc., 633 F.3d 591, 597 (7th Cir. 2011) (Posner, J).

[7] In re Edelman, 295 F.3d 171 (2d Cir. 2002) (holding to be ‘found’ under Section 1782 requires an individual to be ‘physically present in the jurisdiction when served with process’) (quoting Burnham v. Superior Court of California, 495 U.S. 604 (1990)).

[8] Intel Corp v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 U.S. 241, 264 (2004) (‘A foreign tribunal has jurisdiction over those appearing before it, and can itself order them to produce evidence.’).

[9] For example, in Republic of Ecuador v. Bjorkman, the Attorney General of the Republic of Ecuador filed a Section 1782 application against a third party in aid of a United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) proceeding against Chevron concerning certain environmental claims. Ecuador’s Section 1782 application targeted an environmental expert who authored soil sample reports in support of Chevron. The Section 1782 application sought deposition testimony of the expert as well as the underlying materials and documents used in support of his report (No. 11-CV-01470-WYD-MEH, 2011 WL 5439681, p. 1 (D. Colo. 9 November 2011)). The court granted the application because it found that UNCITRAL rules apply only to the parties before the tribunal and the environmental expert was not an employee of Chevron and, thus, beyond the reach of the tribunal.

[10] ZF Automotive US, Inc. v. Luxshare, Ltd., 142 S.Ct. 2078, 2091 (13 June 2022).

[11] ibid.

[12] id., 12–16.

[13] id., 13.

[14] The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention establishes a permanent institution that resolves disputes between states and investors. Member states are involved in the institution; for example, by being part of a council that meets every year. ICSID also has a legal system of its own that gives its awards the same status as final judgments and makes them enforceable in all ICSID member states.

[15] Intel Corp. v. Adv. Micro Devices, Inc., 542 U.S. 241 (2004).

[16] See Consorcio Ecuatoriano de Telecomunicaciones S.A. v. JAS Forwarding (USA), Inc., 747 F.3d 1262, 1270 (11th Cir. 2014) (finding that a detailed explanation of its prospective claim as well as a declaration of its intent to file a civil action to be sufficient to bring a claim within the realm of reasonable contemplation).

[17] Intel, 524 U.S., pp. 264–65.

[18] In re Chevron, 749 F. Supp 2d 141 (S.D.N.Y. 2010); see also John Deere Ltd. v. Sperry Corp, 754 F.2d 132, 135 (3d Cir. 1985) (observing that the drafters of Section 1782 hoped to provide an ‘example of unilateral, nonreciprocal, internal legislation, . . . which other countries may wish to follow’).

[19] Andover Healthcare, Inc. v. 3M Co., 817 F.3d 621 (8th Cir. 2016) (denying Section 1782 application, in part, because respondents were parties to the foreign proceeding seated in Germany).

[20] See In re Application for Discovery Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782, 1:19-MC-0102, 2019 WL 4110442, p. 2 (N.D. Ohio 29 August 2019) (weighing the first Intel factor in favour of granting the application even when the respondents were parties to an Italian proceeding because, as residents of Ohio, the respondents fell outside the authority of the Italian courts to compel compliance with domestic discovery).

[21] Chevron Corp v. Stratus Consulting, Inc., 10-CV-00047-MSK-MEH, 2010 WL 1488010, p. 5 (D. Colo. 13 April 2010) (finding in favour of granting a Section 1782 request for materials to be used in an arbitration because the tribunal has the power to control relevance and admissibility).

[22] In re Veiga, 746 F. Supp. 2d 8, 17 (D.D.C. 2010).

[23] Euromepa S.A. v. R. Esmerian, Inc., 51 F.3d 1095, 1102 (2d Cir. 1995).

[24] Heraeus Kulzer, GmbH v. Biomet, Inc., 633 F.3d 591, 593 (7th Cir. 2011).

[25] In re Illumina Cambridge, 2019 WL 5811467 (N.D. Cal. 7 November 2019).

[26] Kulzer v. Esschem, Inc., 390 F. App’x., p 92 (holding that German law limits on document discovery are merely ‘curbs on [the German tribunal’s] production capacity’, not proof-gathering restrictions).

[27] Rule 26(b)(1) of the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) provides the parties to discovery ‘any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case’. Proportionality is determined by weighing (1) the importance of the issues at stake in the action, (2) the amount in controversy, (3) the parties’ relative access to relevant information, (4) the parties’ resources, (5) the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and (6) whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

[28] With respect to the foreign tribunal’s rules, the declaration should set forth the seat of the tribunal, the governing law and the applicable rules regarding discovery. The declarations must be based on personal knowledge or attached exhibits.

[29] Under Rule 45(d)(B)(2) of the FRCP, a respondent to a subpoena must serve any objections to the subpoenas before the compliance deadline or within 14 days of service of the subpoena. Objections to subpoenas are typically on the grounds that a subpoena (1) imposes an undue burden or expense, (2) requests irrelevant information, (3) is vague or ambiguous, and (4) seeks privileged or confidential information, such as trade secrets.

[30] See, e.g., Zampolli v. Range Devs., 2019 WL 5394487, at *2 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 22 October 2019) (commanding a party to a London arbitration to turn over documents under Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) Section 3102(c) when the petitioner established that the documents ‘are required “in order to present a proper case in arbitration”’); Cusimano v. The Strianese Family Ltd. Partnership, 2010 WL 3974909 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 5 October 2010) (ordering pre-arbitration discovery by deposition under CPLR Section 3102(c) and clarifying that this statute allows the court to grant disclosure for matters sent to arbitration).

[31] Bumpus v. New York City Transit Authority, 66 A.D.3d 26, 33 (N.Y. App. Div. 2009).

[32] Matter of Zeigler v. City of New York, 65 A.D.3d 1159 (2d Dep’t 2009) (reversing order granting pre-action disclosure pursuant to CPLR Section 3102(c), because the ‘petitioner had sufficient information to frame a complaint without the discovery requested’).

[33] Stump v. 209 E. 56th Street Corp., 212 A.D.2d 410 (1st Dep’t 1995) (denying petition and explaining that CPLR Section 3102(c) ’cannot be used by a prospective plaintiff to determine whether he has a cause of action’).

[34] De Sapio v. Kohlmeyer, 35 N.Y.2d 402, 406 (1974); AXA Equitable Life Ins. Co. v. Kalina, 956 N.Y.S.2d 743, 745 (4th Dep’t 2012) (finding no extraordinary circumstances present when the plaintiff sought discovery to aid arbitration before a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority tribunal); Travelers Indem. Co. v. United Diagnostic Imaging, P.C., 899 N.Y.S.2d 641 (2d Dep’t 2010) (‘court-ordered disclosure to aid in arbitration is justified only where that relief is “absolutely necessary for the protection of the rights of a party” to the arbitration’).

[35] See Matter of Geico Gen. Ins. Co. v. Weislee, 2012 WL 1580941, at *5 (Sup. Ct. Kings Co. 2012).

[36] See CPLR Section 503.

[37] M McDonagh, ‘The Right to Information in International Human Rights Law’, Human Rights Law Review (Vol. 13, Issue 1, 2013), p. 53.

[38] T Mendel, Freedom of information: a comparative legal survey (2nd edition, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization/Communication and Information Sector/Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace Division, 2008), p. 3.

[39] Transparency International, Right to Information, available at www.transparency.org/en/our-priorities/right-to-information (last accessed 8 August 2023).

[40] T Mendel, op. cit., p. 5.

[41] M McDonagh, op. cit., p. 28.

[42] Application No. 37374/05, Merits, 14 April 2009.

[43] M McDonagh, op. cit., p. 36.

[44] Council of Europe, ‘Details of Treaty No. 205’ (Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents), available at www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/205 (last accessed 8 August 2023).

[45] See Global Right to Information Rating, which analyses the quality of the world’s access to information laws, available at www.rti-rating.org/country-data/ (last accessed 8 August 2023).

[46] Convention on Access, op. cit., Article 2(2).

[47] id., Articles 2(1), 3 and 4(1).

[48] For example, see Windstream Energy LLC v. Government of Canada, PCA Case No. 2013-22, Claimant Costs Submissions, 11 April 2016, paragraphs 29–32 (‘Windstream had to rely on requests for documents under Ontario’s freedom of information legislation in order to obtain responsive documents not produced by Canada. . . . The documents Windstream obtained through this process were numerous and were extensively relied upon in these proceedings.’); William Ralph Clayton and others v. Government of Canada, PCA Case No. 2009-04, Investors Reply Memorial, 21 December 2011, paragraph 684; Cargill, Incorporated v. Republic of Poland II, UNCITRAL, Award, 5 March 2008, paragraph 55; World Wide Minerals Ltd. v. Republic of Kazakhstan, UNCITRAL, Judgment of English High Court of Justice I, 29 January 2019, paragraph 23; and Michael Ballantine and Lisa Ballantine v. Dominican Republic, PCA Case No. 2016-17, Amended Statement of Claim, 4 January 2017, FN 69.

[49] See Convention on Access, op. cit., Article 1(2)(ii)(3).

[50] Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)).

[51] See id., Article 83.

[52] id., Article 3.

[53] International Council for Commercial Arbitration, ‘ICCA-IBA Joint Task Force on Data Protection in International Arbitration’, available at www.arbitration-icca.org/icca-iba-joint-task-force-data-protection-international-arbitration (last accessed 8 August 2023).

[54] See GDPR, Article 15.

[55] Personal data is defined in Article 4 of the GDPR as ‘any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person; an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person’.

[56] See Ittihadieh v. 5-11 Cheyne Gardens [2017] EWCA Civ 121 (in which Mr Ittihadieh made a data subject access request (DSAR) of his fellow residents in a residential building in support of a discrimination, harassment and victimisation claim); Deer v. University of Oxford [2017] EWCA Civ 121 (in which an ex-employee made a DSAR of her university in support of a claim that she had been victimised); and Dawson-Damer v. Taylor Wessing LLP [2017] EWCA Civ 74 (in which trust beneficiaries made a DSAR of the trustee’s solicitors in support of their claim against the trustee).

[57] GDPR, Article 12(3).

[58] See, for example, D Hiber and V Pavic, ‘Arbitration and Crime’, Journal of International Arbitration (Vol. 25, No. 4, 2008), pp. 461–78; F Kremslehner and J Mair, ‘Crime and Arbitration: Arbitration and (Austrian) Criminal Law – Guidelines for Arbitrators and Counsels’ (Chapter IV), Austrian Yearbook on International Arbitration, 2012, pp. 289–324; R Mirzayev, ‘International Investment Protection Regime and Criminal Investigations’, Journal of International Arbitration (Vol. 29, Issue 1, 2012), pp. 71–105; V Bourgeois, W Eyskens, M Fernandez-Bertier and M Stoyanov, ‘Procedural Interplay Between Investment Arbitration and Criminal Proceedings in the Context of Bribery Allegations’, Belgian Review of Arbitration (Vol. 2018, No. 1, 2018), pp. 7–40; and T Obersteiner, ‘Provisional Measures under ICSID Rules: The Power of Tribunals to Interfere with Domestic Criminal Proceedings’, Journal of International Arbitration (Vol. 37, Issue 5, 2020), pp. 607–34.

[59] We refer to investment treaty arbitration in the context of arbitrations involving states because documents from those cases are more readily publicly available. For articles summarising the relevant cases, see R Mirzayev, op. cit., and T Obersteiner, op. cit.

[60] Lao Holdings N.V. v. Lao People’s Democratic Republic I, ICSID Case No. ARB(AF)/12/6, Ruling on Motion to Amend the Provisional Measure Order, 30 May 2014, paragraph 26.

[61] See T W Wälde, ‘Procedural Challenges in Investment Arbitration under the Shadow of the Dual Role of the State: Asymmetries and Tribunals’ Duty to Ensure, Pro-actively, the Equality of Arms’, Arbitration International (Vol. 26, Issue 1), 2010, pp. 3–42.

[62] Libananco Holdings Co. Limited v. Republic of Turkey, ICSID Case No. ARB/06/8, Decision on Preliminary Issues, 23 June 2008.

[63] id., paragraphs 72–77.

[64] id., Order 1.1.3. Similarly, the tribunal in Glencore v. Colombia (I) excluded documents from the record on the basis of the obligation to arbitrate fairly and in good faith, and under the principle of equality of arms as the documents had been seized from the claimant by Colombia’s Antitrust Agency in the context of a preliminary antitrust investigation (Glencore International A.G. and C.I. Prodeco S.A. v. Republic of Colombia, ICSID Case No. ARB/16/6, Decision on Annulment, 22 September 2021, paragraphs 322–31; Glencore International A.G. and C.I. Prodeco S.A. v. Republic of Colombia, ICSID Case No. ARB/16/6, Award, 27 August 2019, paragraphs 84–90). In contrast, in Gavrilović v. Croatia, Croatia launched a criminal investigation in respect of Mr Gavrilović during the arbitration (Gavrilović and Gavrilović d.o.o. v. Republic of Croatia, ICSID Case No. ARB/12/39, Decision on Provisional Measures, 30 April 2015, paragraph 5). The claimants argued that the criminal investigation was intended to advantage Croatia in the arbitration, and requested that Croatia furnish copies of all evidence collected during the course of the criminal investigation (id., paragraph 29(iv)). The tribunal rejected the claimants’ argument as not supported by evidence and noted that ‘insofar as the criminal file contains documents that are relevant to [the] arbitration and are within the scope of any disclosure ordered, the Tribunal would expect that the Respondent would, of course, disclose those documents’ (id., paragraph 225(a)). In EuroGas v. Slovakia, the Slovak police seized documents in criminal proceedings that were launched in connection with the investor’s forthcoming filing of a request for arbitration against Slovakia (EuroGas Inc. and Belmont Resources Inc. v. Slovak Republic, ICSID Case No. ARB/14/14, Procedural Order No. 3 – Decision on Requests for Provisional Measures, 23 June 2015, paragraphs 48–52). The tribunal made no order with respect to the criminal proceedings, and was satisfied with Slovakia’s assurance that its representatives in the arbitration had not reviewed, and would not review, the seized materials (id., paragraph 96).

[65] Institute of International Law, Eighteenth Commission: ‘Equality of Parties before International Investment Tribunals’, 2019, paragraph 293.

[66] See, for example, criminal procedure laws in Austria (Article 66), Slovakia (Article 46), the Czech Republic (Article 43) and Germany (Article 395). We note that the scope of the victims’ rights in criminal proceedings vary by country and limitations may apply to the use of the evidence collected.

[67] It should be clear that domestic criminal laws ordinarily impose an obligation to report any suspected criminal conduct.

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