Mediation Looks to Singapore

15 Feb 2016
Community Dispute Resolution News (www.cdr-news.com)

A change of leadership takes place at the Singapore International Mediation Centre, while firms and in-house lawyers alike prepare to discuss the subject in depth ahead of the first Global Pound Conference, to take place in March 2016.

Having acted on his own as the Singapore International Mediation Centre’s (SIMC) inaugural chair since its opening in 2014, 39 Essex Chambers’ Edwin Glasgow QC now shares his leadership duties with another silk – this one a Singaporean Senior Counsel.

George Lim SC, a consultant at Singapore firm Wee Tay & Lim, has acted as co-chairman of SIMC since the start of 2016; Lim was previously the deputy chairman, but both men were instrumental in leading the working group which recommended that the Singapore government in November 2013 should establish the SIMC alongside its better-known arbitral rival, theSingapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

That body saw a change of leader in WilmerHale’s Gary Born, who is now the president of SIAC, appointed by Lucien Wong of Allen & Gledhill, SIAC’s chairman, who is also on the SIMC board.

The aim of the SIMC is to offer ADR that may be required given a significant rise in commercial transactions in Asia and the corresponding increase in the number and complexity of cross-border disputes.

The SIMC has a purely international focus, as distinct from the Singapore Mediation Centre, which focuses on mediating domestic disputes; and it acts a foil to SIAC and the Singapore International Commercial Court as promoting the Lion City as a regional disputes hub.

Last year also saw some changes to SIMC’s board of directors with the additions of Viswa Sadasivan, chief executive officer of Strategic Moves, and Bonnie Hobbs, associate general counsel at Accenture, from 1 April 2015, as well as Han Kok Juan, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Law, from 1 November 2015.

NEW BROOM

Han replaces his predecessor Poon Hong Yuen; in Singapore’s highly technocratic society, interactions between government, business and private practice are seen as consensual and adding to the SIMC’s leadership strengths.

Also continuing on the board is Fountain Court’s Professor Lawrence Boo, who is a well-known academic and arbitrator, alongside insurance specialist John Pyall, head of claims atMunich Re, and Chow Kok Fong of Equitas, and immediate past president of the Law Society of Singapore, experienced arbitration lawyer Lok Vi Ming SC of Rodyk & Davidson.

That firm recently announced a combination with Dentons, which alliance of firms has grown considerably in 2015 and into 2016.

The SIMC shows a promising beginning, having received seven cases to date with the sums in dispute ranging from SGD 5 million to more than SGD 600 million, which included requests for mediations disputes in the construction, oil and gas, shipping, aviation and service sectors.

Parties involved in the disputes have included companies from Singapore, Cayman Islands, Germany, India, Korea, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

Lim said in a statement: “2015 has been a good year for SIMC and I look forward to working with Edwin, the board and the executive team of SIMC in 2016 to further establish SIMC as the preferred provider of international mediation services in the region and beyond.”

Commenting on the future of the SIMC, Glasgow said the Centre would “aim to leverage on Singapore’s position and expand [its] service offerings beyond the mediation of international commercial disputes to include investor-state, inter-state or intra-state stakeholder disputes”.

ARB-MED REVISITED

One interesting fact is that three of SIMC’s seven cases have been ‘Arb-Med-Arb’ cases jointly administered with the SIAC, a hybrid process that combines arbitration and mediation.

‘Arb-Med’ is popular in the East, with Baker & McKenzie’s Celeste Ang calling it “an apt illustration of the user-centric nature of Singapore’s offerings by allowing disputes referred to arbitration to be stayed while the parties embark on mediation.”

The practice of mixing mediation and arbitration into a single dispute resolution process is acontroversial subject for some, with enthusiasm for the extent to which arbitral tribunals should facilitate settlement between parties by encouraging the use of mediation being a live topic.

Speaking in 2011, Justin D’Agostino, now Herbert Smith Freehills’ global head of dispute resolution, told CDR that such moves were “good news – effective dispute resolution practitioners should always have an eye to avoiding taking disputes all the way to court or arbitration”.

Hong Kong, he noted, encouraged arb-med and its counterpart, med-arb, saying that his own experiences of arb-med had been very positive, adding “if the “arb-med” procedure is conducted properly, it should not be possible for the award to be successfully challenged”.

He added: “There are challenges, but these tend to relate more to implementation rather than to the fundamental principles.”

HSF itself is committed to encouraging mediation regionally; the firm’s Singapore office will hold an interactive session with in-house counsel on how to use mediation effectively, led by Alastair Henderson, the local managing partner, and senior associate Emmanuel Chua, alongside Eunice Chua, deputy CEO of the SIMC.

Among other topics, the session will focus on how in-house counsel can persuade various stakeholders within the company to participate effectively in mediation to maximise their settlement prospects.

Eunice Chua, meanwhile, will raise will be the secretariat’s experience with case management and practical issues arising from the Arb-Med-Arb Protocol.

The SIMC announcement comes a month before the first of the Global Pound Conferences (GPC), in which HSF, together with Allen & Gledhill, the Ministry of Law, SIAC, JAMS as well as corporate partners, Shell, Akzo Nobel, amongst others, are involved.

The GPC conferences are aimed at stimulating debate and generating actionable data on the needs of corporate and individual dispute resolution users, both locally and globally, based on research collated from a series of Core Questions that will be asked to all stakeholders involved in dispute resolution whether this is through litigation, arbitration or mediation.

The aim of this conference is to create a conversation about dispute resolution and how it should be used in commercial conflicts in the 21st century, with Singapore marking the first event in a 36-city conference series in March 2016 that will bring together users of disputes resolution services, as well as advisors, providers and other stakeholders.

The event series aims to bridge what organisers call “a significant gap between what those with commercial and civil disputes expect and need from the system, and the systems and services currently provided by their lawyers, judges, arbitrators, mediators, educators and policy-makers”.

As ever, Singapore’s public and private sectors have paid enthusiastic interest, with speakers including Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon, presiding judge of the Singapore state courts, will open the conference, and a keynote address will be provided by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, and Michael McIlwrath, global chief litigation counsel of GE Oil & Gas, and the chair of the series.

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