By Daniel Harrison
The High Court recently held that a party was not free to disclose an arbitral award even though that award had already entered the public domain. Notably, the ruling may have significant implications for parties considering whether or not to resolve disputes through arbitration.
Background: UMS Holdings Limited v Great Station Properties S.A.
UMS Holdings Limited challenged an arbitral award on the ground of serious irregularity under section 68 of the Arbitration Act 1996 before the High Court. Because the judge had quoted parts of the arbitral award in the judgment refusing the application, UMS claimed that the award was a public document and that UMS could therefore use the award as it wished. The defendant, Great Station Properties, rejected this position and argued that the parties were still bound to keep the award confidential pursuant to Article 30 of the London Court of International Arbitration Rules (LCIA Rules), which provides:
“The parties undertake as a general principle to keep confidential all awards in the arbitration, together with all materials in the arbitration created for the purpose of the arbitration and all other documents produced by another party in the proceedings not otherwise in the public domain, save and to the extent that disclosure may be required of a party by legal duty, to protect or pursue a legal right, or to enforce or challenge an award in legal proceedings before a state court or other legal authority.”
Great Station applied to the High Court for an order preventing UMS from using the award for any purpose other than the court proceedings or from disclosing the award to any third parties. In response, UMS claimed that the court should not issue an order for confidentiality because the award had entered the public domain by virtue of references, as well as quotation at the hearing and in the judgment in the court proceedings — thereby nullifying Article 30’s confidentiality obligations.