Volunteer admin October 30, 2023

Volunteer to be an Arbitrator

The NGFA Arbitration System has been serving the industry for more than 100 years, as an inexpensive, accessible, expeditious and user-friendly alternative to litigation and other dispute resolution forums. Its continued success depends on NGFA members volunteering to serve on three-person arbitration panels. 

Each Case requires arbitrators with different backgrounds from varying sectors of the industry and geographic locations. 

Arbitrators are dedicated industry leaders who generously volunteer their time and energy to the system. Arbitrators enjoy the respect and gratitude of the NGFA and the industry as a whole.  

Thank you for considering volunteering!

The information below will help you get acquainted with the process and determine whether you want to participate in this time-honored system.

How are arbitrators selected?

The arbitrators are experienced in the type of trade or transaction involved in the case, and are commercially disinterested with respect to the particular dispute at hand. The arbitrators are selected by the NGFA Secretary, as a neutral third-party administrator, from the NGFA membership. The arbitrators are required to disclose any circumstances likely to affect impartiality, bias, financial or personal interest. NGFA takes great care in screening the arbitrators during the selection process. The parties have the opportunity to challenge the appointment of an arbitrator for prejudicial or other reasons, but this very rarely is necessary because of the thoroughness of the initial screening process. The NGFA Secretary then replaces the arbitrator upon determining the validity of such a challenge.

When deliberating about a case, what is the first piece of evidence that I should look at?

NGFA Arbitration cases typically involve the interpretation of a contract between the parties. Consequently, your first obligation is to enforce the agreement made by the parties, regardless of whether you feel it was fair or equitable, or in conformity with the NGFA Trade Rules. While the NGFA Trade Rules are applicable to trades between NGFA Active or Allied members (and to other parties by contractual agreement), remember that the parties are free to agree upon other terms and have the right to exclude the applicability of the NGFA Trade Rules to a particular transaction. Additionally, trade practice or trade custom ordinarily becomes applicable only in those situations where the agreement between the parties or the NGFA Trade Rules fail to address the issue(s). As an arbitrator, therefore it is your duty to:

  1. Interpret the contract
  2. Apply the NGFA Trade Rules
  3. Apply trade custom if appropriate

You may also use your own judgment in applying general or specific provisions of law in reaching your decision.

Do all of the arbitrators have to agree on the final decision?

No. While a single opinion is generally rendered, a committee members always the right to submit a separate statement of their reasoning. If the decision is not unanimous, then a majority vote shall constitute the decision. In such split decisions, opinions setting forth the reasons for each side’s decision are encouraged. 

Will I be expected to search for outside evidence to supplement the evidence provided by the parties?

No. Your decisions and written opinion are to be based on the facts and arguments presented by the parties, along with your own knowledge of the trade. It is the responsibility of the parties to clearly present all aspects of their case. The NGFA Arbitration Rules expressly provide that “the NGFA Secretary and the arbitration panel are not responsible for undertaking fact-finding searches or discovery.” Thus, you are not to conduct an independent investigation by talking to the parties, or to anyone else, concerning the merits of the case. Review the case from your own perspective and reach your own conclusion based upon the evidence. Failure to produce particular evidence may be taken into consideration in reaching your decision. 

May I discuss the case with coworkers who might have insight into the specific issues presented in the case?

No. At all times (pre- and post-decision), you are to keep all deliberations and your decision confidential. Do not discuss the case in any way with the parties or anyone else (including coworkers), except your fellow arbitrators, and for administrative purposes with the NGFA Secretary. Your decision, once it is finalized and signed, should be forwarded to the NGFA Secretary. The NGFA will then send the decision to the parties. Do no discuss the case outside of the committee even after a decision becomes final under the NGFA Arbitration Rules and is published. Refer all inquiries from outside of the committee to the NGFA.

What are the three sections of a typical written arbitration decision, and what information is provided in each section?

It is important that the arbitration decision be presented in the words of the arbitrators. Therefore it is essential that your decision contain all of the relevant information in this basic format:

Statement of the case: In this section, you will summarize the events leading up to the dispute between the parties, and both parties’ main arguments, along with their claims for damages.

Decision: In this section, you will explain how the committee came to its decision. This should include any parts of the contract, trade rules, or trade practices that you found to be particularly relevant to the dispute. 

Award: In this section, you will give the actual amount of damages (if any) that you decided to award, along with any additional explanation or detail having to do with the final award amount. 

You may include as much or as little information as you find necessary to thoroughly explain the case and your decision. NGFA encourages all new arbitrators to explore the published cases on the website.