SDNY Confirms $500M Arbitration Award, Rejects Claim of Arbitrator Impartiality

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Petitioner Andes Petroleum Ecuador Ltd. moved to confirm a $500 million arbitration award arising from a contract dispute involving hydrocarbon development in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The respondent, Occidental Exploration and Production Co., moved to vacate the award, citing the alleged impartiality of its own party-appointed arbitrator, Robert Smit. During the selection process, Smit disclosed that he knew Andres Petroleum’s lead counsel, Laurence Shore, from attending arbitration conferences. Occidental took issue with Smit’s failure to disclose that he and Shore were also appointed to serve on the same panel of the International Chamber of Commerce. Noting that a court’s review of an arbitration award is “severely limited,” the district court found no basis for Occidental’s claim of impartiality. The court found no evidence to suggest that any arbitrator acted fraudulently by virtue of his incomplete or nondisclosures. In addition, the court held that there was no indication of arbitrator misconduct or impartiality by virtue of Smit’s professional relationship with Shore, noting that the Federal Arbitration Act “does not proscribe all personal or business relationships between arbitrators and the parties.” Absent evidence that the arbitral proceedings themselves lacked fundamental fairness, the court granted Andres Petroleum’s petition to confirm the award and denied Occidental’s cross-motion to vacate.

 Andes Petroleum Ecuador Ltd. v. Occidental Exploration & Production Co., No. 1:21-cv-03930 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 15, 2021).

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