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Court of Chancery Arbitration Likely to Become More Prevalent

September 28, 2011
Lewis H. Lazarus
Delaware Business Court Insider

In 2009, Delaware's General Assembly passed and Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation enabling arbitration in the Court of Chancery. In 2010, the Court of Chancery adopted rules governing arbitration. As the statutes — 10 Del. C. §§ 349 and 351 — and rules — Court of Chancery Rules 96-98 (Arbitration Rules) — are new and arbitration requires mutual agreement, arbitration may become a more prevalent means of resolving disputes as deal lawyers increasingly require Court of Chancery arbitration for disputes arising out of merger and other agreements.

Reportedly, the current dispute between Skyworks Solutions and Advanced Analogic Technologies contains a dispute resolution clause mandating arbitration in the Court of Chancery. It is thus appropriate to review why Chancery Court arbitration is likely to become an increasingly preferred method of dispute resolution.

First, the arbitration rules permit resolution of disputes by decision-makers with the knowledge and experience of the chancellor and vice-chancellors. To be eligible for Court of Chancery arbitration, the dispute must involve at least one party that is a Delaware entity; both parties must agree to arbitration; and if the dispute is solely about monetary damages, the amount in controversy must exceed $1 million. The procedure is not available for consumer disputes. Previously, disputes solely for monetary damages were not amenable to subject matter jurisdiction in the Court of Chancery.

Second, the members of the Court of Chancery are used to resolving matters on an expedited basis. The arbitration rules contemplate that generally an arbitration hearing will be scheduled within 90 days of the filing of the petition. However, they also allow for modification of the schedule with the consent of the parties and approval of the arbitrator. The arbitration rules thus permit flexibility for the parties and arbitrator to structure the dispute resolution on a schedule that makes sense.

Third, Chancery Court arbitration proceedings are confidential. The filing of a petition for arbitration is not included on the court's docket system. The petition and all supporting documents are by rule considered confidential and not of the public record, unless there is an appeal.

Fourth, Section 351 of Title 10 expressly authorizes parties to stipulate that an arbitration award shall be final, binding and non-appealable. As the synopsis to the legislation explains, "In many matters parties desire an answer and their dispute is narrow enough that even if they cannot settle, they are willing to agree in advance to live with the outcome rendered ... ." The new statutes permit that voluntary option.

Fifth, any appeals go to the Delaware Supreme Court, a decision-making body equally acclaimed for its knowledge and experience in the prompt resolution of significant business disputes.

Sixth, for parties in disputes with foreign entities, the new statutes and arbitration rules may provide greater comfort that the arbitration award will be enforceable against a foreign entity on its home turf under the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

Finally, the price is right compared to private arbitration. The filing fee is $12,000, to be equally divided by the parties. For each day or partial day that the vice chancellor or master engages in arbitration after the first day of arbitration, there is a $6,000 fee, also to be equally divided by the parties.

Efficiency, confidentiality, first-rate decision-makers experienced in resolving complex business disputes — for these reasons deal lawyers should consider the benefits of Chancery Court arbitration. And as they counsel their clients to specify Chancery Court arbitration in their agreements, we can expect that it will be an increasingly utilized tool for dispute resolution.