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Arbitration (Scotland) ACT 2010

Rule 26 – Confidentiality Default

145.Rule 26 is a default rule which provides that the arbitrator(s) and the parties must not disclose confidential information as defined in rule 26(4) relating to the arbitration. There are various exceptions to this. The effect is that disclosure will be a breach of an obligation of confidence unless the parties agree otherwise.

146.The parties are placed under a duty of confidentiality towards each other and to the tribunal. The tribunal is likewise placed under a similar duty towards the parties. A breach of the obligation of confidence will be actionable by the party or parties to whom the duty was owed. The available remedy will depend on the circumstances, but might be interdict or damages. Breach of the duty of confidentiality will also for instance allow removal of an arbitrator under rule 12 where it leads to substantial injustice.

147.The exception allowing disclosure in paragraph (1)(a) covers disclosure of information, for example, to the tribunal, other parties, advisers, experts and witnesses authorised by the parties. In addition, paragraph (1)(b) allows any disclosure by the tribunal or for the conduct of the arbitration.

148.Paragraph (1)(c) covers disclosure required by enactment or rule of law (including compliance with court orders), for the fulfilment of any public duty or function and where public officials seek information in pursuance of regulatory functions.

149.Paragraph (1)(d) covers disclosure where this is needed to protect a person’s lawful interests. In the Court of Appeal in the English law case of Emmott v Michael Wilson & Partners Ltd., Lawrence Collins LJ, said “that disclosure was permissible when, and to the extent to which, it was reasonably necessary for the establishment or protection of an arbitrating party’s legal rights vis-à-vis a third party in order to found a cause of action against that third party or to defend a claim, or counterclaim, brought by that third party. It would be this exception which would apply where insurers have to be informed about the details of arbitral proceeding”(1).

150.Paragraph (1)(e) covers disclosure in the public interest and (1)(f) in the interests of justice. Paragraph (1)(g) permits disclosure in circumstances which would attract a defence of absolute privilege in a defamation action (for instance in Parliamentary proceedings).

151.The duty of confidentiality is not imposed on third parties, for example professional advisers and expert witnesses. However, it is expected that the parties or tribunal will enter into private arrangements with third parties under which an agreement or undertaking to keep matters confidential is obtained. Disclosure by third parties is not a breach of any duty of confidentiality imposed by rule 26.

152.Rule 26(2) imposes an express duty on the tribunal and the parties to take all reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised disclosure by third parties, for instance by informing them of the requirement of confidentiality or seeking confidentiality undertakings from them if appropriate. Rule 26(3) imposes a duty on the tribunal to inform the parties at the outset of the arbitration whether any proceedings they will be involved with are to be confidential.

153.If the tribunal breaches the duties in rules 26(2) and (3), this may be grounds for removal of the arbitrator under rules 12 and 13. If the parties are unhappy about a disclosure by an arbitrator, they could agree to remove under rules 11 or 12. If the parties breach the duty under rule 26(2), the tribunal can take this into account when allocating the parties’ liability for expenses between themselves under rule 60. Failure by the tribunal to comply with any of the duties in rule 26 may also be a ground for a serious irregularity appeal where non-compliance causes substantial injustice.

1

[2008] EWCA Civ 184; WLR (D) 82 at paragraph 101.

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