Michigan Law Professor Julian Arato has received the inaugural ICCA-Guillermo Aguilar-Alvarez Memorial Prize for his paper “The Private Law Critique of International Investment Law.”

The International Council for Commercial Arbitration bestows the award, which honors the best published work on international arbitration over the last two years. The announcement of the prize winner took place at a special ceremony held during the September 2022 ICCA Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

“It’s an honor to be the inaugural recipient,” said Arato. “The Aguilar-Alvarez Memorial Prize is a great initiative to build bridges between academics and the community of arbitration practitioners, which well reflects ICCA’s inclusive and dynamic spirit.” 

The article argues that investment treaties subtly constrain how nations organize their internal systems of private law, including laws of property, contracts, corporations, and intellectual property. 

“Problematically, the treaties do so on a one-size-fits-all basis, disregarding the wide variation in values reflected in these domestic legal institutions,” said Arato, whose scholarly expertise spans the areas of public international law, international economic law, and private law. “Investor-state dispute settlement exacerbates this tension, further distorting national private law arrangements.” 

He added that this hidden aspect of the system produces inefficiency, unfairness, and distributional inequities that have eluded the regime’s critics and apologists alike.

Arato won the ICCA prize for a 2020 submission, but the ceremony and announcement were delayed for two years due to the pandemic. An independent advisory committee selected the essay, published in the American Journal of International Law in 2019, from 55 entries. 

The prize was established in 2019 in memory of former Governing Board member Guillermo Aguilar-Alvarez and will be awarded biennially during an ICCA Congress to the individual under 40 who has written the best published work on international arbitration, conciliation, or other forms of dispute settlement. 

Arato’s paper also was awarded the Francis Deák Prize in 2020. The annual prize is given to a younger author for meritorious scholarship published in the American Journal of International Law.