Arbitrator Code of Ethics Revamped

ABA and AAA Task Force Provide Working Draft of New Ethics Code

This four-year effort by a joint task force of the American Bar Association and the American Arbitration Association has now produced a working draft that will cover both domestic and international arbitrations.

According to an article on (10/5/01), the project neared fruition about two years ago, when issues arose about the applicability of the Code to party-appointed arbitrators.

The new Code addresses that area and, more importantly for securities arbitrators, proposes new guidelines for commercial arbitrators with respect to case management, solicitation of assignments, compensation, ex parte communications, and disclosure responsibilities. These changes are generally described in the Drafter’s Notes that accompany the Draft Revised Code.

Regarding case management, arbitrators are reminded in subdivision F of Canon I that they must “make all reasonable efforts to assure the prompt, economic and fair resolution of all matters submitted for decision.” On the subject of disclosure, arbitrators will have an expanded duty, which will “emphasize that any doubt as to whether disclosure is to be made should be resolved in favor of disclosure.” Of particular interest is a new subdivision D to Canon I which states simply that an arbitrator has a duty to decline service “unless fully satisfied of his or her ability to serve without bias, with independence from the parties, witnesses and the other arbitrators (italics added), with competence to serve, and with the necessary time and attention.

The draft will now be submitted to various ABA sections for approval and ultimately brought before the Association’s House of Delegates for adoption. (SAC Ref. No. 01-42-02)

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