Hob nobbing, guanxi and not hot tubbing

Recently, I was at two events (ADR related) and both required me to note my carbon footprint.

My first event was ‘Resolving Business Disputes in Today’s China’ in New York City (organised by the JurisConference). It was a great event, great lunch and interesting lunch debate. Although the event has nothing to do with edisclosure/ediscovery, one of the speaker/panellist did say ‘we avoid ediscovery’. Maybe resolving disputes in today’s China are being viewed as ‘resolving disputes being the same as doing businesses’. Doing businesses in these parts of the world are still steep in the traditional ways of using and/or maintaining ‘face’ or ‘guanxi’. If you have guanxi, then ethical (like arbitrator’s biases or impartiality or independence) or trust issues just do not surface or are naturally imposed in the guanxi relationships. (Hence, Med-Arb is a natural way for resolving disputes in the Far East).

However, there’s more than one party in a dispute and if one of them is not accustomed to guanxi then the game of ‘where to go or which seat or which institution or who has the leverage/assets/ power to turn the table?’ provides the dispute drama. The game is not whether we can find the evidence or whether we need the evidence. It is not a ‘truth seeking’ game. Is that why edisclosure/ediscovery is avoided?

So, my next hob nobbing (for want of a better term?) event is at The Hague. The event was ‘Weighing the Facts: Information Exchange and Presentation of Evidence in International Commercial and Investment Arbitration’.
Note that ‘edisclosure’ was not in the title but there was a topic ‘The Present and Future of Electronic Disclosure in International Arbitration. It was a great pity that only a handful of people were at the second day (half day session only). On the second day, there was a detailed ediscovery presentation. It would have been a great finishing highlight if all the speakers/panellists could gather together (collaboratively?) and share their consensus or divergence views or experiences.
In case anyone is wondering what about the IBA Rules of Evidence? What about it? From what I’ve heard – No changes required now and also in the foreseeable future. Nah! No e-evidence rules required.

Instead, it seems that privilege and ethical issues will become increasingly problematic in information exchange or disclosure in international arbitration. No amount of notes/guidelines/protocols/rules/laws will help cement or create a smooth level playing field for the international players and parties.

What have we got left then? Hob nobbing and/or guanxi? We all know what is hot tubbing. Hob nobbing may potentially create more conflicts of interests (ethical issues) unlike guanxi relationships whereby ‘beneficial rather than conflicting’ interests are at play. More food for exploration!

Well…the wheels of justice chuckle along crankily with or without ediscovery/edisclosure. Maybe the good old fashion hob nobbing and/or guanxi are the new unwritten protocols/rules/laws for e-evidence. Only time will tell…

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