BG Group plc v. Republic of Argentina

An investment treaty between the U.K. and Argentina authorizes a party to submit a dispute to “the competent tribunal of the Contracting Party in whose territory the investment was made,” and permits arbitration if, 18 months after such submission, the tribunal has not made a final decision. BG, a British firm, had an interest in MetroGAS, an Argentine entity licensed to distribute natural gas in Buenos Aires. At the time of BG’s investment, Argentine law provided that gas tariffs would be calculated in U.S. dollars and would be set at levels sufficient to assure gas distribution firms a reasonable return. Argentina later changed the calculation basis to pesos. Profits became losses. BG sought arbitration, which was conducted in Washington, D. C. BG claimed that Argentina had violated the Treaty, which forbids expropriation of investments and requires each nation to give investors fair and equitable treatment. Argentina denied the claims and argued that the arbitrators lacked jurisdiction because BG had not complied with the local litigation requirement. The arbitration panel concluded that Argentina’s enactment of laws that hindered recourse to its judiciary excused compliance and that Argentina had not expropriated BG’s investment but had denied fair and equitable treatment. The district court confirmed the award. The District of Columbia Circuit vacated, holding that the arbitrators lacked jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed. The local litigation requirement was a matter for arbitrators to interpret and apply; courts should review that interpretation with deference. Courts presume that the parties intended arbitrators to decide disputes about application of procedural preconditions to arbitration, including claims of waiver, delay, defense to arbitrability, time limits, notice, laches, or estoppel. The provision is procedural; it determines when the contractual duty to arbitrate arises, not whether there is a duty to arbitrate. It is a claims-processing rule. The fact that contract is a treaty does not make a difference. The Treaty contains no evidence that the parties had intentions contrary to the ordinary presumptions about who should decide threshold arbitration issues. View "BG Group plc v. Republic of Argentina" on Justia Law