17 February 2021

US tech arbitration claims value soared to $1.4bn in 2020

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New York skyline

Financial services second-most active sector, according to The American Arbitration Association

Technology and financial services claims soared last year, figures published by The American Arbitration Association (AAA) and its international counterpart, the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR), show.

Tech accounted for $1.4bn of resolved claims – up from $327m in 2019 – while financial services claims came in at $1.1bn, having not featured in the AAA-ICDR ’s list of top ten sectors in 2019. 

Telecommunications ($750m) and energy ($668m) disputes accounted for the third and fourth most active sectors, while claim values relating to the top two industries in 2019 – construction and life sciences disputes – slumped.  

Having not featured significantly in 2019, the value of disputes involving legal services  and accountants rose to $240m and $180m respectively. 

In total the AAA-ICDR oversaw $18bn of administered claims against $15.7bn in 2019, although there was a slight drop in case numbers from 9,737 to 9,538. The value of counterclaims also increased.

ADR’s popularity in America’s cannabis industry continued; having recorded a 225% jump in cases handled in 2019, there was a further 100% increase in 2020 to $172m.  

"While shutdowns and delays slowed down the court system last year, we were able to facilitate the resolution of B2B cases through our digital platform seamlessly," said India Johnson, president and CEO of the AAA-ICDR. 

"Our caseload during one of the most disruptive and volatile periods in recent memory is a testament to the dependability of our ADR solutions and services in times of crisis," she added.

The ICDR, in particular, brokered hybrid arbitration solutions with fellow institutions in 2020, with blended virtual and physical hearings for clients.

On the diversity front, the number of female and ethnically diverse arbitrators in the AAA-ICDR's roster edged up to 27% in 2020 from 26%, while 33% of party-appointed arbitrators met the body's diversity criteria, as compared to 30% in 2019.

Meanwhile, one facet of the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted in the figures was the need for urgent interim relief. Last year saw 111 applications for emergency arbitrations, compared to 94 in 2019.  Of those, 101 were resolved: 33% were granted in full, 24% were denied and settlements were achieved in 26%.

“We are proud to be in the position to help parties achieve closure for their disputes in an efficient, cost-effective manner—regardless of lockdowns and other extraordinary constraints,” said Johnson.

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