At its session in Tokyo on October 23, 2014, the IBA Council has approved the new version of the IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration. This version updates and clarifies the original IBA Guidelines, which were approved by the IBA Council on May 22, 2004. According to the IBA, “the Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest represent the most comprehensive work to date defining the framework by which the impartiality of arbitration in the international arena can be most effectively assured.”
The release led me to do a quick database search to see whether there was any German case law that applied, or at least relied on, the IBA Guidelines. I did indeed find a decision of the Frankfurt Court of Appeals (Oberlandesgericht) dealing with a challenge of an arbitrator.
The court looked at the IBA Guidelines and remarked that “the arbitrator’s activity on which the challenge of the arbitrator is based also does not violate the IBA Guidelines, the Rules of Ethics for International Arbitrators or Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes, irrespective of the issue whether these guidelines are binding in the present arbitral proceedings.” (Die hier beanstandete Tätigkeit des abgelehnten Schiedsrichters verstößt auch nicht gegen die IBA-Guidelines, die Rules of Ethics for International Arbitrators bzw. den Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes – ungeachtet der Frage der Verbindlichkeit dieser Verhaltensmaßregeln für das vorliegende Schiedsverfahren…).
So it appears that the IBA Guidelines are at least occasionally consulted by the courts.
For a U.S. perspective and a discussion of the differences between the IBA Guidelines and the AAA/ABA Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes, see James H. Carter and John V.H. Pierce, 2014 IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest, New York Law Journal, November 17, 2014.