Panel will bypass courts in City disputes

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A NEW arbitration service was launched yesterday to bypass the courts and offer quick settlement of City disputes.

The City Disputes Panel, modelled on procedures in the shipping industry, is backed by the CIty Corporation and big firms such as National Westminster, Barclays, Morgan Guaranty and Swiss Bank Corporation. It is to offer speedy, legally enforceable and confidential decisions in disputes that might otherwise take years to come to court. As well as a regular service there will be a fast-track procedure to sort out disputes in days if the parties agree.

Stanislas Yassukovich, who is chairing the panel, said charging rates might be similar to those for court actions but it was the speed with which decisions could be reached that would save money. 'The taxi fare is roughly the same but you will be in it for so much less time,' he said.

Richard Freeman, a solicitor and former merchant banker who is chief executive of the panel, cited a recent dispute between a bank and a broker over how underwriting fees should be split. The case took two years to come to court and required detailed briefing of the judge on the technical issues.

The panel is Mr Freeman's idea. It will sit with a judge and two finan1904al practitioners, chosen for each case from an agreed list. They will meet the disputing parties and establish procedures immediately.

Mr Yassukovich said the court system had been under pressure in recent years. 'The panel will satisfy the need for an alternative of the highest quality, run by people who understand the banking and wholesale financial services industries.'

It is hoped to attract arbitration business from overseas. 'London has a virtual monopoly of maritime disputes anywhere in the world. We are ultimately out to create the same thing for the financial services industry,' Mr Yassukovich said.