David Bateson is a leading international arbitrator who has been involved in many arbitrations in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. He has extensive experience in disputes in a variety of industry sectors including construction, resources, commodities, insurance, joint ventures, shareholder agreements, shipping and telecommunications. In construction, energy and resources, he has been involved in many large projects, acting for governments, developers, contractors and subcontractors.
Describe your career to date.
I worked for Denton Hall Hong Kong in the 1980s as a construction and resources lawyer. In 1990 with others, including my fellow partner Paul Starr, I joined Mallesons Stephen Jaques, which became King & Wood Mallesons in 2012, and continued with construction/ resources, but also began to act as an arbitrator in the late 1990s. In 2015 I joined 39 Essex Chambers in Singapore as an international arbitrator.
What attracted you to the Singaporean market?
I work internationally as an arbitrator and Singapore is a great place to be based, as SIAC goes from strength to strength, and the ICC has just opened an office. I also needed a change after so long in Hong Kong, and Singapore has a better life for families, and is less polluted and crowded.
Has the jurisdictional focus of your practice changed in recent years? If so, what do you think is causing this?
Hong Kong and Singapore remain the two biggest centres for Asian arbitration, but AIAC in Kuala Lumpur and KCAB and SIDRC in Korea, plus other regional arbitration centres such as BANI and TAI, are increasing their offering and attracting more cases.
Arbitration has come under noticeable pressure to improve transparency in proceedings. Would a similar treaty to the “Mauritius Convention” for commercial arbitrations have a positive effect on the field?
The tension between confidentiality in commercial arbitrations and the end user’s desire for more transparency has increased in the past five years. The Mauritius Convention was widely acclaimed but few countries have ratified it. Increased transparency is gaining ground and there is widespread support for more publication of awards, such as ICSID, to increase precedents and generate more confidence in the process. The ICC publishes redacted awards and more institutions will follow.
Commercial arbitration rulings are often not published. How significant has this been as a hindrance to the development of this field of law?
Courts in the region are increasingly providing a viable alternative to commercial arbitration. For example the SICC in Singapore.
Advantages are less costly as there are no fees for judges, and tougher procedural sanctions for delays and guerrilla tactics, and publication of awards assists precedents. Too many arbitrators bow to the parties’ autonomy and fear of challenge and are not tough enough on recalcitrant parties. Also, courts may be quicker.
Disadvantages are loss of confidentiality and the valuable ability to choose arbitrators; and concerns over enforceability of judgments, which are not awards that can be readily enforced in most jurisdictions pursuant to the New York Convention. Court judgments rely on The Hague Convention and reciprocal enforcements by bilateral agreements between countries.
You have been involved in many arbitrations across five continents. What has been your most memorable case to date?
They have all in many different ways, and under different laws and cultures, been memorable. From a coal mine in China, a steel plant in India, a highway in Dubai, a casino in Macau, to a hotel resort in Vietnam, they have all been stimulating and fun.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in the field of construction law?
It is a wonderful area to experience major projects in many jurisdictions. In this era of globalisation, it is a perfect career move.
David Bateson is praised by peers as "a great arbitrator" and a "safe pair of hands" who is lauded for his "very strong construction practice".
David Bateson is a leading international arbitrator who has been involved as arbitrator in over 130 arbitrations in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. He has acted as Chairman, party-appointed arbitrator, or sole arbitrator in arbitrations under the rules of the AAA, AIAC, BANI, CIETAC, HKIAC, DIAC, ICC, LCIA, PCA, SIAC and VIAC, or in ad hoc arbitrations.
He has extensive experience in disputes in a variety of industry sectors including, construction, resources, commodities, insurance, joint ventures, shareholder agreements, shipping and telecommunications.
In construction, energy and resources he has been involved in many of the largest projects in the region, Europe and the Middle East, acting for governments, developers, contractors and subcontractors.
Chambers Asia 2016 described him as “pre-eminent and widely experienced”, “one of the top arbitrators in the region” who is “excellent at pretty much everything he is doing” and “an accomplished arbitrator, who is getting more and more cases in Asia, and worldwide”. The Legal 500: Asia Pacific stated that David is “one of the top arbitrators in the region”. Chambers Asia 2017 describes him as “a very good arbitrator”, and praises him for “writing a very good award”. It adds that he is “well able to control an arbitration” and “culturally sensitive”. He is listed in Chambers’ list of Most in Demand Arbitrators for Asia.
He has over 38 years of legal experience and is a specialist in all forms of dispute resolution including arbitration, litigation and alternative dispute resolution. He has been resident in Asia since 1980 and before that, he lived in Africa, Fiji and New Zealand. He is now based in Singapore.