Empirically Evaluating Claims About Investment Treaty Arbitration

Susan Franck, Washington and Lee University School of Law


With the blossoming of empirical legal scholarship, there is an increased appreciation for the insights it offers issues of international importance. One area that can benefit from such inquiry is the resolution of disputes from investment treaties, which affects international relations, implicates international legality of domestic government conduct, and puts millions of taxpayer dollars at risk. While suggesting there has been a litigation explosion, commentators make untested assertions about investment treaty disputes. Little empirical work transparently explores this area, however. As the first research that explains its methodology and results, this article is a modest attempt to evaluate claims about investment treaty arbitration. The article explores: (1) who is involved in arbitration and what is arbitrated, (2) increases in awards, (3) win/loss rates, (4) amounts claimed and awarded, (5) arbitration costs, (6) use of other dispute resolution processes, and (7) nationality and gender of arbitrators. Subjecting these areas to empirical scrutiny provides information that sets the stage for future research to provide insights to government officials responsible for negotiating investment treaties and parties planning their dispute resolution strategies. Ultimately, it offers factual information - grounded in a valid and reliable process - that stakeholders and commentators can use to promote dialogue about and evaluate the legitimacy of a dispute resolution process with profound public implications.