New Dutch tribunal for financial disputes

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The Hague has acquired another international court to add to its collection of judicial institutions: PRIME Finance, an international tribunal for financial disputes. More than 80 judges will rule in international cases involving areas such as insurance and commercial transactions.

At the launch of the new tribunal on Monday in The Hague, Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager remarked:

“It seems strange, but no such thing has existed until now. It means there’s now an institution which can resolve international financial disputes, some of which can be extremely complex. The enormous amount of expertise will ensure its reputation around the world.”

The cases dealt with will include disputes about complex financial structures or derivates which are often too complicated for ordinary judges.

Public confidence
Mr De Jager and many members of his audience at the launch were grinning. There were even a few financial jokes (“I’m glad I live in a country that still has triple-A status.”). Were these perhaps smiles of relief? He continued: “This initiative will indeed be extremely valuable in helping to restore trust in the financial sector.”

At a time when the world is burdened by huge debts, continuing distrust of the banking system and diminishing credit status, it’s hoped that a financial tribunal will restore a little public confidence.

Arbitration
The full title of the tribunal is the Panel of Recognised International Market Experts Finance. “It will operate on the basis of arbitration and mediation. Arbitration means cases can be handled efficiently and quickly, in the space of a year. In a normal court, cases like these take much longer,” Gerard Meijer, the tribunal’s secretary general, explains.

Parties to disputes will be able to go to the Peace Palace in The Hague and choose from a list of judges. They then wait for a ruling. Mr Meijer:

“It’s a one-shot deal, as we say, so there is no right of appeal. The ruling is actually more binding than that of an ordinary judge. Under the New York Convention, the tribunal’s judgements are binding in more than 140 countries.”

Crisis solution?
Unlike other tribunals, PRIME finance is a market-driven initiative. It will, however, be supported financially by The Hague city council and the ministry of economic affairs will supply expertise. Instead of nations, commercial parties will seek rulings on disputes. The first clients for the new tribunal have yet to be announced.

Is this a step towards dealing with the debt crisis? Minister De Jager: “A single initiative could never be the solution. It can help, but much more is needed to sort out the debt crisis.”

(imm/mw)