International Construction Law Review
BRIBES FOR CONTRACTS, AND CONTRACTS FOR BRIBES: THE DIFFERING APPROACH OF ENGLISH AND FRENCH COURTS TO ENFORCEMENT OF ARBITRAL AWARDS
John Steel, Barrister*
This essay was submitted in 2020 for the Jane Lemon QC essay competition. It examines the application by the English and French courts of the “public policy exception” when enforcing arbitral awards which are tainted by allegations of bribery. That comparative analysis seeks to show a divergence between the two jurisdictions, with the appellate courts in France encouraging a “maximalist” supervisory approach which has not been adopted by the court in England.
“The law by which our case must be decided is not difficult to find, seeing that it is the same among all nations; and it is easy to understand, seeing that it is innate in every individual and implanted in his mind.” Hugo Grotius, Mare Liberum, 1609.1
The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (the “NYC”) envisages an international regime of delocalised justice.2 This relies on a pro-enforcement bias in the legal systems of contracting states, which is encouraged by the articles of the NYC; there is, however, a counterweight contained therein at the intersection of the international with the domestic. This is the public policy exception.
The purpose of this essay is to examine the public policy exception as applied in the English and French courts to contracts tainted by bribery when enforcing arbitral awards.
The principle claim of this essay is that the Paris Court of Appeal (“PCoA”) has shown an increasingly “maximalist” approach to recognition and
* Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This essay was first submitted as an entry in the inaugural Jane Lemon QC Essay Competition in 2020 and won second prize.
1 Grotius, H, Mare Liberum, Trans. Alex Streicher, 2011.
2 Read, P, “Delocalization of International Commercial Arbitration: its relevance in the new millennium”, American Review of International Arbitration, 1999, vol 10 no 2 commenting in respect of Article V(1)(a) and (e).
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