Author: Hans Smit*
Published: December 1996
Payment of Money, Foreign Currency
Description: As international arbitration grows apace, awards are increasingly rendered in foreign currencies. Not only may international arbitral tribunals sitting in foreign countries render awards in the currency of the country in which they are sitting, they may also render awards in a foreign currency other than that of the country in which the awards are issued. For it is well-established that international arbitral tribunals, which are generally authorized to fashion remedies to fit the circumstances of the particular case, are free to cast their awards in the currencies of the underlying obligations.
The arbitral authority to render an award in the appropriate foreign currency is one of the many attractive features of arbitration, for it avoids difficulties engendered by conversion from a foreign currency into that of the forum, which is the prevailing practice of national courts. But these difficulties re-emerge when national courts insist on converting into domestic currency international arbitral awards that were rendered in a foreign currency. The question of whether national courts will do so is therefore of crucial importance to international arbitration. A national court’s considering itself obligated to convert an arbitral award in a foreign currency into U.S. dollars stems from the notion that national courts can render judgments or decrees only in the national currency. It is therefore appropriate that we consider both the propriety of an American court’s rendering its own judgment or decree in a foreign currency and its confirming, without conversion into U.S. dollars, an arbitral award in a foreign currency.
*Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law.