ICC left reeling as arbitration court chairman Tercier resigns

The resignation of Pierre Tercier as chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Court of Arbitration has given the impression that the organisation is in turmoil.

Last week Tercier shocked the arbitration world by taking the decision to stand down at the end of June. The ICC says Tercier’s decision to leave was due to his “divergent views on the organisational relationship between the court and the general secretariat of the ICC” (www.thelawyer.com, 20 March).

A source close to the ICC claims Tercier could not get his way in relation to the court breaking its final link with the ICC to make it an absolutely autonomous body.

“The ICC is a politically motivated organisation and Tercier felt that, without a divide between the ICC’s secretariat and that of the court’s, it looked as if there was a lack of independence for the court,” says the industry insider. Tercier didn’t fit the mould and his supposedly radical ideas rubbed them up the wrong way.

“His ;innovation ;and ;brilliant connections will be an absolute loss to the court. In the short term Tercier leaving the court leaves it much like a headless chicken.”

The court’s secretary general Jason Fry, meanwhile, hit back at claims that the ICC court has lost its direction. “Pierre’s resignation has been portrayed as a constitutional crisis, but this hasn’t been the case,” he says. “It doesn’t change how the court operates day to day. Pierre’s decision to resign is unfortunate, to say the least. It’s something we regret, but life goes on.” Fry confirms that Tercier had a different vision for the future. “He wanted the secretariat of the court to have greater operational autonomy and this view was not shared by the ICC’s chairmanship. Therefore they wouldn’t support Pierre’s candidacy for another term. His reaction was to resign. The independence of the court is not and was not the issue.

“If I didn’t feel that the ICC and the court can continue to develop together, I would also have handed in my resignation. The proof is in the pudding, and I feel we have a bright future.”

Many on the arbitration circuit are concerned that Tercier was pushed out to make way for someone more in tune with the ICC’s vision for the court, but Fry is keen to allay any fears on this point.

“It’s simply not part of a grand scheme to put a preselected candidate into the place of Pierre,” says Fry. “The process is starting now to look for Pierre’s replacement. It will be carefully considered and will be transparent.”

So the race is on to find a replacement for Tercier and speculation is rife as to who will take on the court chairmanship. Names that have been touted include Swiss Arbitration Association president Dr Markus Wirth, as well as International Bar Association president Fernando Pombo.

But ICC secretary general Guy Sebban will not be drawn into a debate on who he believes will become the court’s next chair, instead echoing Fry’s sentiment that it will be a transparent process.

“Everyone knows everyone in the arbitration world, which will facilitate things, but we have an external body looking at the appointment to make sure the process is done with neutrality,” says Sebban. “The court’s very important for us and we mean to stay as a key player and leader in the market. This means we need a strong ambassador for arbitration to take on the role, especially as the court continues to move forward.”

The transformation of the court that Sebban alludes to includes becoming more international and less Paris-centric. As The Lawyer revealed (24 March), this includes launching in Singapore. Unfortunately for the court, its transformation will continue to be overshadowed until Tercier’s successor is appointed.