Peru’s Misguided Proposal for Countering Corruption in Arbitrarion

In Peru, as in far too many countries, the judicial system is corrupt and unreliable. For this reason, companies often find arbitration is an attractive alternative for resolving commercial disputes—not just because arbitration can be cheaper and faster than judicial dispute resolution in these cases, but because the arbitrators are (supposedly) less likely to be corrupt than judges. Alas, corruption has found its way into commercial arbitration in Peru as well, as illustrated most prominently by a recent case in which agents of the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht allegedly paid bribes to arbitrators to secure favorable decisions in pending cases between Odebrecht and the Peruvian government (see hereherehere and here). 

bill was introduced into the Peruvian Congress this past February that, according to its proponents, would address this problem. This bill would amend Peruvian arbitration law to add a requirement that all international arbitrators hearing domestic cases have their qualifications certified by the state education regulator (known by its Spanish acronym SUNEDU) within 30 days. On its face, this requirement doesn’t seem to have much to do with corruption. But the bill’s advocates have been quite explicit that this new rule should be understood as a way to prevent future corruption of arbitration proceedings in Peru. According to the bill’s supporters, corruption in arbitration arises because foreign arbitrators do not understand Peruvian anticorruption laws; therefore, the argument continues, requiring a state agency to validate the credentials of these foreign arbitrators would ensure that they understand the Peruvian system, including the prohibitions on corruption in the arbitral system and the regulation on corruption more generally (see here and here).

If that sounds silly, it’s because it is. This bill not only fails to address the actual sources of corruption in Peruvian arbitration, but might actually make things worse. Arbitral corruption is a genuine problem in Peru, but this is not the right way to address it.

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