Second Circuit Finds International Arbitral Tribunal Formed Under a Bilateral Investment Treaty Constitutes a “Foreign Tribunal” Under 28 U.S.C. § 1782

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Third-party defendants AlixPartners LLP and Simon Freakley (collectively, “AlixPartners”) appealed from a July 2020 order of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which granted an application for discovery assistance pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782. Section 1782 allows federal district courts to compel witness testimony or document production from any person or entity “residing” or otherwise “found” in the judicial district for “use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal.” The Fund for Protection of Investor Rights in Foreign States sought assistance from the district court in seeking discovery from AlixPartners for use in an arbitration proceeding the fund had commenced against the nation of Lithuania. The fund brought the proceeding before an arbitral panel established pursuant to a bilateral investment treaty between Lithuania and Russia. The issues on appeal were: (1) whether an arbitration between a foreign state and an investor, which takes place before an arbitral panel established pursuant to a bilateral investment treaty to which the foreign state is a party, constitutes a “proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal” under section 1782; (2) whether the fund is an “interested person” within the meaning of section 1782; and (3) whether the district court abused its discretion in finding certain factors established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 U.S. 241 (2004), weighed in favor of granting the fund’s application.

Reinforcing its decision in In re Application of Hanwei Guo, 965 F.3d 96 (2d Cir. 2020), the Second Circuit held that the arbitration panel here qualified as a “foreign or international tribunal” under section 1782, as it was established in accordance with a bilateral investment treaty between two nations and was governed by the UNCITRAL rules. The court found this conclusion to be consistent with both Guo and legislative intent to broaden the reach of section 1782 to allow for discovery assistance within the context of intergovernmental tribunals. Because the fund was a party to the arbitration for which it sought discovery assistance, the court ruled that the fund was an “interested person” under section 1782. Having also determined that the district court did not err in its weighing of the so-called Intel factors, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling granting the fund’s application for discovery assistance.

In re Fund for Protection of Investor Rights in Foreign States v. AlixPartners, LLP, No. 20-2653 (2d Cir. July 15, 2021).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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