International arbitration is often more expensive than litigation

A survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers at 19 found that “nearly two thirds (65%) of the respondents perceive international arbitration to be more expensive than transnational litigation and 23% believe it is about as costly as transnational litigation.”

It was unclear to me what the survey defines as international arbitration. Is it between two companies which are based in different countries? Is it arbitration that involves the laws of two countries? Is it arbitration that takes place in a country where neither disputant has significant operations?

As to the actual costs of the 103 respondents’ most recent international arbitration, they were significant. Just over half of them incurred costs between $100,000 and $500,000. Another 14 percent fell between $500,000 and $1 million, 22 percent between $1 million and $5 million, and a whopping 12 percent of the international arbitrations cost more than $5 million. If you take the midpoint of each range, and $6 million for the top range, the overall expected cost of this set of most recent arbitrations is $1.6 million.

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