Annet van Hooft
Peers and clients say:
"She is just excellent"
"Annet is a well-prepared, meticulous and brave arbitrator"
"She is patient but within limits, which gives her a lot of authority as arbitrator"
Annet van Hooft is an independent arbitrator based in Paris. After having practiced for more than 20 years at major US and UK law firms in Brussels, New York, and Paris, and having been a counsel at the ICC Court of Arbitration, Annet set up her own law firm focusing on international arbitration. She has a broad range of experience handling a wide variety of disputes (construction, energy, corporate, IP and life sciences).
What inspired you to set up your own law firm?
I received my first appointments as an arbitrator when I was an associate at Jones Day, and I discovered that I enjoyed working as an arbitrator very much. I then went on to make partner at Bird & Bird and develop their arbitration practice, which was a great experience. I was very regularly requested to act as arbitrator yet could virtually never accept any nominations because of conflicts of interest. I found this more and more frustrating and arrived at a point where I felt I had to make a choice: either put a cross on my career as arbitrator or leave Bird & Bird to fully develop my practice as an arbitrator. I chose the latter.
Is there a need for an international set of conflict principles in international arbitration?
I consider there is a need for an international set of conflict principles in international arbitration. Currently, different arbitration institutions (and national courts) do not apply the same standards. Although some institutions (such as the ICC) have published their own guidelines in relation to conflicts of interest, many institutions do not go beyond “blanket” requirements of independence, without providing any guidance at all.
Of course, over the last 20 years, the IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration have in large part, been the international arbitration community’s beacon on issues of conflicts. Given that they were last revised in 2014, and considering the increased demand for transparency, it is time to revisit them. It would be good if arbitration institutions could play a greater role in the revision process and so come to a greater consensus.
This is important so that parties know what they can legitimately expect from arbitrators in terms of disclosure, but also for arbitrators, so that they know what is expected of them (and can comply) and are shielded from unmeritorious challenges, which regrettably also still happen.
What qualities do the most successful arbitration specialists tend to have?
The most successful arbitration specialists are good listeners with excellent analytical skills. Moreover, they deliver timely, time and again.
To what extent has volatility in the commodity markets led to more frequent pricing disputes in the energy and construction industries?
I have recently seen several cases in which the volatility in the commodities markets was at the heart of the Parties’ dispute, whether in general, or within the framework of energy and construction cases. It is difficult to say to what extent the increased volatility has led to more frequent pricing disputes, solely on the basis of my own case load. In fact, it seems that increased commodity prices have led on the one hand to more bankruptcies (and hence to aborted cases, or cases that were put in abeyance), and on the other hand to pricing disputes. It is difficult to assess which tendency has been the strongest.
What do you make of the French Supreme Court’s recent decisions that require judges to review allegations of corruption when deciding on whether an arbitral award should be set aside?
This is a difficult issue. Nobody will dispute that corruption is morally reprehensible and cripples economic development. Arbitral Tribunals cannot shy away from dealing with allegations of corruption when they are brought before them and will have to inquire when they have reasons to believe that misconduct may play a role in the case at hand, also if the parties have not raised this issue.
This issue is separate from the issue of the standard of review (minimalist or maximalist) that is to be applied by national courts when deciding on the annulment or enforcement of awards. The current position of the French Courts is very maximalist when it comes to corruption allegations. This undermines the finality of arbitration.
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of virtual arbitration proceedings?
There are many advantages to having virtual arbitration proceedings, and very few drawbacks, if any. For example, having the hearing in virtual format tends to cut costs dramatically and limits the proceeding’s impact on the environment as it avoids the need for travel. Virtual hearings also simplify many logistical aspects related to the hearing because they can be easily (video)recorded, and transcribed, and you do not need to provide for hearing and break-out rooms, microphones, catering, etc. It is, however, a question of “horses for courses” and there may be hearings for which an in-person format is to be preferred.
What excites you most about the future of arbitration?
How AI will start to assist parties and their counsel in preparing written and oral pleadings.