If there is any doubt about Miami as a hub of international mediation and arbitration, consider this case that would be unthinkable to resolve almost anywhere else:
A Chilean group agreed to buy stock from an Ecuadorean bottling company for franchise rights in Ecuador. The Ecuadorean group backed out of the deal, refused to sell the stock and instead sold it to a third party for $63 million, triggering a breach of contract claim by the Chileans. Both of the warring entities were owned by British Virgin Islands holding companies.
They agreed to arbitration — in Miami. Filings and pleadings were in both English and Spanish, and the July 2009 proceeding took place entirely in Spanish, with attorneys and witnesses from Miami, Chile, Ecuador and the British Virgin Islands. The arbitrator was Alejandro M. Garro, an Argentine-American adjunct professor and senior scholar at Columbia University who is licensed in Madrid, Buenos Aires and New York.
Garro awarded the Chilean group $11 million. The other side challenged the award in the British Virgin Islands and finally in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, which upheld the award July 5. Ultimately the winning legal team collected 100 percent of the award plus interest for the client.
The winning attorneys were based in Miami, Chile and the British Virgin Islands: John Rooney, formerly of Shutts & Bowen and now with his own firm; Arturo Martinez of Shutts & Bowen in Miami; Alfredo Alcaino and Marco Salgado with the Chilean firm Alcaino Rodriguez; and Jack Husbands and Oliver Clifton of Walkers law firm in the British Virgin Islands, where the award plus interest was collected.
Cost Of Arbitration
Miami was the inevitable destination because it has the talent, multilingual capability, infrastructure and air connections to handle international mediations and arbitrations. It is a gateway city in a growing global industry without borders.
International mediation and arbitration require lawyers attuned to the social and cultural customs of different countries, each with its own business culture. In Miami, advocates represent clients throughout Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. In some law firms, including Shutts & Bowen, some U.S.-trained attorneys and professionals also received legal training in Brazil, Colombia, Argentina or elsewhere.
Arbitration doesn’t always come cheap or easy. Parties have to fly here and pay translators, experts and forensic accountants. Many cases have international tax ramifications and therefore must involve international tax lawyers.
The cost of the arbitration also can vary with the institutional rules selected by the parties in their agreement for how the arbitration is administered.
The case described above was administered by the International Centre for Dispute Resolution of the American Arbitration Association.
The following Miami case was managed by the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration based in Paris.
A Colombian company managing a Haitian power plant sued a French entity and a Florida company in federal court with a $200 million demand. When the claimant discovered a $660,000 advance against costs required under ICC rules, it balked. Political chaos in Haiti amid Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s 2004 ouster sped things along, and the case quickly settled.
Resolution does not always result in collection in the arbitration venue. In one case, a Colombian company was using a French company’s technology and didn’t pay for it. The French company won a seven-figure award after arbitration in Miami and then sought to collect in Colombia. The Colombian company filed bankruptcy in Colombia before the French company could realize the award.
Fortunately, after forensic accountants followed the money, the French company filed a lien on New York assets of the Colombian company and collected there.
In each of the cases, Miami was the only logical choice for the arbitration.
Miami also is emerging as an intellectual center for international arbitration. The University of Miami School of Law has developed a particularly aggressive program, offering a master’s degree in international law with a specialization in international arbitration. The program is one of a few in the world to offer an advanced degree in international arbitration.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the International Council for Commercial Arbitration 2014 Congress will take place in Miami. It’s one of the largest arbitration events in the world.
ICCA’s decision is one of many reasons Miami, with its location, talent, infrastructure and services, deserves a place on anyone’s global short list of international arbitration centers. Count on Miami to grow in importance as a center of alternative dispute resolution activity.
Miami a leader in international