FIDIC ‘launched’ the FIDIC 2022 reprints at the FIDIC International Construction Users’ Conference 2022, in London. The reception to the changes was mixed – some embraced the clarity; others questioned the significance and cost. This article draws your attention to 10 of the key areas of change in respect of the FIDIC Red Book 2017 including the definition of Claim, matters to be agreed or determined, the definition of Dispute and Exceptional Events.
This Practice Note is an introduction to the FIDIC Green Book 2021 (the Short Form of Contract). It is not a fully detailed clause-by-clause commentary. This article was first published by LexisPSL
An issue that often arises in international arbitrations involving the FIDIC forms of contract is whether a claimant's failure to: (a) go through the dispute resolution provisions; or (b) comply with a time-bar clause gives rise to a question of admissibility or jurisdiction. Put another way, if a claimant has failed to issue a notice of claim within 28 days or failed to refer a dispute to a DAB, does the arbitral tribunal have jurisdiction to make an award on the merits or should the arbitral tribunal make an award stating that it lacks jurisdiction?
FIDIC is concerned about its image. It says that heavily amending the FIDIC forms of contract impacts upon the FIDIC brand and that this is damaging FIDIC’s reputation. It seeks to address this with the introduction of five Golden Principles. But the Golden Principles are merely aspirational; they are not binding and have no contractual effect. Does this render them a pointless gesture ‘trying to hold back the tide’?
In all construction contracts, one of the central principles is the Employer’s obligation to pay the contract price. The Contractor will be wary about the Employer’s financial standing and ability to pay and concerned to ensure that payments are made on time and that effective remedies are available in case of late or non-payment. The FIDIC standard forms of contract contain provisions dealing with these aspects.
Much has been said about the new Red, Yellow and Silver Books 2nd Editions launched by FIDIC in December last year. The most obvious comment has been about their size, almost 50,000 words, which is some 60% longer than the 1999 forms. Although the 1999 forms were not perfect, most regular users seem to be agreed that they did not need 20,000 words to fix the issues. This consensus led this author to attempt to cherry-pick the good bits from the 2017 forms and to propose amendments to add the good ideas to the 1999 forms. The amendments apply to all three forms unless it is indicated otherwise.
Clause 3 deals with the duties and obligations of the Engineer and his assistants. Sub-Clause 3.1 deals with the role and duties of the Engineer. The Engineer is deemed to act for the Employer. The Engineer has no authority to relieve the Contractor of his duties, obligations or responsibilities under the Contract; nor can the Engineer amend the Contract. Under Sub-Clause 3.2 the Engineer can delegate authority to any assistants; however, the Engineer cannot delegate the responsibility to make Determinations. Under Sub-Clause 3.3 the Engineer may issue instructions or modified Drawings at any time, which are necessary for the execution of the Works. If the instruction constitutes a Variation, then it is dealt with under Clause 13 [Variations and Adjustments]. The Contractor is required to comply with any instruction given by the Engineer or delegated assistant. Sub-Clause 3.4 deals with the replacement of the Engineer. The Employer must not replace the Engineer with someone against whom the Contractor raises reasonable objection. Sub-Clause 3.5 deals with Determinations. When making a Determination the Engineer should consult with each of the Parties and, if agreement cannot be reached, make a fair determination in accordance with the Contract, taking due regard of all relevant circumstances. Both Parties are required to give effect to any Determination unless, or until, it is revised under Sub-Clause 20.1 [Claims, Disputes and Arbitration].
The main changes in Clause 16 are the new grounds for suspension and termination: Non-compliance with a final and binding Engineer’s Determination and binding or final and binding DAAB decision, to the extent that such failure constitutes a “material breach” of the Employer’s obligations under the Contract. (Sub-Clauses 16.1(d) and 16.2.1(d)). What constitutes a “material breach” is likely to be the subject of many disputes (see the commentary on Clause 15). Non-receipt of a Notice of the Commencement Date under Sub-Clause 8.1 [Commencement of Works] within 84 days after receiving the Letter of Acceptance. (Sub-Clauses 16.2.1(f)). This is development to ground (h) in the FIDIC Pink (MDB) Book which states: “the Contractor does not receive the Engineer’s instructions recording the agreement of both Parties on the fulfilment of the conditions for the Commencement of the Works under Sub-Clause 8.1 [Commencement of Works]”. It protects the Contractor from the financial consequences of fluctuations in the rates and prices during an extended delay to the start of the Works, although the Contractor ould be entitled to damages for breach of contract in any event. More importantly, it gives the Contractor loss of profit on the entire project. Engagement in corrupt, fraudulent, collusive or coercive practice at any time in relation to the Works or to the Contract. (Sub-Clauses 16.2.1(j).) This introduces parity between the Employer and Contractor. The wording is identical to that under Sub-Clause 15.2.1(h). In the FIDIC 1999 editions, the Employer was entitled to terminate if the Contractor gave or offered an inducement or reward etc. but there was no recipricol arrangement.
The main changes in Clause 15 are the new grounds for termination: Non-compliance with a final and binding Engineer’s Determination (Sub-Clause 15.2.1(a)(ii)) and a binding or final and binding DAAB decision (Sub-Clause 15.2.1(a)(iii)) to the extent that such failure constitutes a “material breach” of the Employer’s obligations under the Contract. Maxing out the Delay Damages (Sub-Clause 15.2.1(c)). There is no requirement for the Delay Damages to have been actually deducted. It is not clear what the position would be if the Contractor claims an EOT and it is granted by the DAAB or arbitrator after termination so that the Delay Damages are reduced below the cap. Would the termination then be unlawful?
Clause 14 - Contract Price and Payment by George Rosenberg.
In London last week, FIDIC launched its Second Editions of the Red, Yellow and Silver Books. They are big, weighing in at almost a kilo each. The general conditions cover 106 pages with more than 50,000 words, over 50% longer than the 1999 forms. Many improvements have been made, addressing issues that have emerged since 1999. Fans of Dispute Boards will be pleased to see that all three books now have standing boards with more emphasis on dispute avoidance; and that appointment of DB members and enforcement of their decisions have been made easier. Disputes and Arbitration are now dealt with in a separate chapter 21. Here are the most interesting changes to the Yellow Book.
Two decades ago, unjust enrichment was described as “the Cinderella of law, barely 10 years old but growing up rapidly. Until recently unrecognised and overshadowed by the ugly sisters, Contract and Tort, Cinderella’s day has arrived.” In England a claim for unjust enrichment was initially referred to as a claim in ‘quasi contract’. This language has now been abandoned and unjust enrichment has a strong foothold in the landscape of commercial law and its role and limits are becoming more clearly defined. Despite this, it is only infrequently pleaded in construction cases and when argued it is often set out in broad terms where the facts do not support such a claim. However, this is cause of action that should not be overlooked by a contractor or employer – especially if they have claims that fall outside the four corners of their construction contract.
Corbett & Co. has devised a helpful commentary on FIDIC 1999 books Clause 2. Clause 2 sets out certain obligations which are imposed on the Employer; however, this is by no means all the Employer’s obligations. The obligation to pay the Contractor, for example, is found in Sub-Clause 14.7 and the obligation to Take-Over the Works is found at Sub-Clause 10.1. The first obligation imposed on the Employer under this Clause is to give to the Contractor a right of access. Sub-Clause 2.1 needs to be read alongside Sub-Clauses 2.3 and 4.6, which make it clear that possession of the Site need not be exclusive. Sub-Clause 2.2 imposes on the Employer an obligation to assist the Contractor when requested to obtain permits, licences or approvals required by the laws of the Country. The obligation to reasonably assist is not an absolute obligation and generally will not mean the Employer will have to expend money on fulfilling the obligation. Sub-Clause 2.3 imposes on the Employer an obligation similar to that imposed on the Contractor under Sub-Clause 4.6. The Employer is responsible for any failure by its personnel to co-operate with the Contractor or to comply with safety regulations, take care of persons on Site, make sure the Site is reasonably free from unnecessary obstructions, and protect the environment. Sub-Clause 2.4 imposes on the Employer an obligation to show that financial arrangements have been made and are in place to enable it to pay the Contract Price. Sub-Clause 2.5 deals with the Employer’s Claims and requires that the Employer give notice and particulars of its claim before the Engineer makes a Determination under Sub-Clause 3.5. The Employer cannot set-off any claims it may have against the Contractor unless it complies with this Sub-Clause.
FIDIC is arguably the most widely used standard form of international construction contract but reported FIDIC cases are rare. Is it time for an increased publication of FIDIC cases? There are three categories of decisions arising out of FIDIC dispute resolution provisions: 1. Decisions of the Engineer or the Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB), which will generally not be published or reported to anyone other than the parties involved in the dispute. 2. Decisions of arbitral tribunals, which are not usually made public although this is subject to certain exceptions. 3. Decisions of national courts, which are a relatively rare occurrence for the reasons discussed below.
Articles on Arbitration The Need For Reasons - O, Reason
On 27 May 2015, the 160-page reserved judgement of the Singapore Court of Appeal (“CA”) was handed down in Persero 2 - PT Perusahaan Gas Negara (Persero) TBK (“PGN”) v CRW Joint Operation (“CRW”). It will be regarded a triumph for contractors wishing to enforce DAB decisions. The CA ruled that the interim award issued by the arbitral tribunal ordering enforcement of the DAB’s decision should stand. Using the concept of an “inherent premise”, the CA made two important findings: 1) it was not necessary for the Contractor to refer the failure to pay (the secondary dispute) back to the DAB; and 2) it was not necessary for him to refer the merits (the primary dispute) in the same single arbitration as his application to enforce.
If the parties to a FIDIC contract cannot agree on a suitable DAB member and they have selected FIDIC as their appointing entity, they may request FIDIC to appoint that DAB member. FIDIC’s present procedures however seem less than ideal. They increase the prospect of rejection of the candidate nominated by FIDIC in the first instance and so also the need to repeat the exercise. They could also result in an appointment unacceptable to one or both parties. In my view they need to be revised.
Time Waits for no Man – So you think the Adjudicator got it wrong? How long do you have to challenge the decision?
How long have you got to challenge the adjudicator’s decision? The English Court of Appeal has decided: 1) the claimant who considers the adjudicator awarded too little must challenge before the original limitation period for his claim expires; and 2) the defendant who considers he paid too much has a new limitation period starting on the day he paid the adjudicator’s decision. Is it unfair that the loser may have years longer than the winner? That question will soon be answered by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Their decision will be of interest to anyone involved with FIDIC DABs anywhere in the world.
If there is no DAB appointed by the parties to a FIDIC 1999 contract, may disputes be referred directly to arbitration under clause 20.8? This issue has troubled many in the industry – and has now been considered in English and Swiss courts.
As disputes under the FIDIC forms of contract are normally resolved in private Dispute Adjudication Board (“DAB”) proceedings or confidential arbitration proceedings, reported FIDIC cases are rare and often of considerable precdential value either formally or informally. In this article, originally published in The International Construction Law Review, Corbett & Co. Director Victoria Tyson considers one such recent decision which was transferred from the Gibraltar courts.