“Rule-based International Traceability of Critical Raw Materials Supply Chains”

Written by: A/Prof Jeanne Huang & Prof Luke Nottage

This is the theme for our project (with Jeanne Huang as one Chief Investigator) funded recently by the University of Sydney, jointly with institutional partner Fudan University (Shanghai). The sub-theme is “Climate and Environmental Justice between China, Australia, and Other Selected Countries”, including Japan. It is part of series of research projects aimed at advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and involves also from our Sydney Business School Prof Hans Hendrischke (specialist in China). The other Chief Investigator from the Fudan University side is A/Prof Ping Jiang, assistant director of the Department of Environment Science and Engineering.

Abstract: “The US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU Digital Product Passport both underscore the urgent need for enhanced Environmental, Social, and Governance data traceability across Australian miners, Chinese processors, and US/EU regulators and consumers of critical raw materials (CRM) like Lithium. Addressing this need, this project explores how to establish a rule-based traceability framework to foster sustainable CRM supply chains between Australia, China, the US, and the EU. It adopts a multifaceted approach, incorporating law-business-engineering interdisciplinary research, interviews, case studies, conflict-of-law concepts, and comparative law methodology to address cross-border legal and ethical tensions and promote circular economy within CRM supply chains. It aims to use traceability to enhance transparency, visibility, and trust in CRM supply chains, and promote responsible sourcing and consumption, crucial for global digitalization, electric vehicles deployment, energy transition, and ultimately achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

The first of many planned research outputs planned through to mid-2025 is our presentation (slides here) on 12 July 2024 at the “Law and Sustainability” conference at the University of Sydney, co-organised with Singapore Management University and Hong Kong University (program and other details here). We look forward to feedback as we develop our presentation, “Private International Law and Sustainable Development: Establishing International Traceability of Critical Raw Materials Supply Chains” into a full paper that assesses and adapts models particularly from international dispute resolution (arbitral award and judgment recognition) and other international treaty regimes to facilitate recognition of CRM certificates in cross-border supply chains.

Consumer Law Compared and Refreshed

Yesterday (28 June 2024) I enjoyed attending the ACCC National Consumer Congress in sunny Sydney (program via here). This annual invitation-only event provides an excellent opportunity to discuss cutting-edge law and policy issues with new and old colleagues working in Australian state and federal governments, consumer NGOs, businesses and academia (more limited, but I am pictured here with QUT’s Nicola Howell [expert in consumer credit, co-convenor of the academic-focused annual Consumer Law Roundtable] and Dr Catherine Niven [expert in product safety regulation, major contributor to my ARC Discovery Project on child product safety begun before the pandemic- with our last research output published in 2023 here] and Monash Em Prof Justin Malbon [co-author of my 2019 book on ASEAN Consumer Law Harmonisation, with UMelb Prof Jeannie Paterson who had to attend the Congress virtually this year]). It would be good to see more such events bringing together such stakeholders in Japan (compared with in my recent CCLJ article with Souichirou Kozuka), ASEAN and other Asian states.

The first session was on “Buying in Australia – Are We Safe?”. The answer was “No” from panellists including Catherine (except perhaps one speaker). The opening speaker gave a moving account of how long and traumatic the process was to secure a mandatory product safety standard around button batteries, which were fatally ingested by her infant Bella. Another early fatality involving Britney was highlighted in my 2020 piece for The Conversation (leading to an ABC radio interview). That related also to my then Journal of Consumer Policy article arguing that the Australian Consumer Law did need to add an EU-style “general safety provision” (GSP) to fill gaps so suppliers switched to a more pro-active approach to risk assessments to ensure only safe consumer products were put onto the market, rather than waiting for accidents or risks to be identified and then conduct “voluntary” recalls of unsafe goods (mainly then only to avoid potential product liability claims for compensation and/or adverse reputational effects). In my comments at the Congress, I mentioned that after Canada added such a requirement in 2010, its recall rates went down; and when Singapore added a partial GSP (requiring all products to comply with EU, specified American or ISO standards) there were immediately fewer unsafe toys on their market. Yet the Treasury-led Consultation in 2020 into adding a GSP has led nowhere.

As alternatives, it seems, we find from late 2021 a further Consultation about allowing foreign standards to be adopted into the ACL (which I commented was a no-brainer) and another Consultation into allowing civil penalties for suppliers not providing remedies to consumers from defective – including unsafe – products under mandatory consumer guarantees (which I suggested was rather broad-brush and indirect, compared to ex ante regulation).

I also mentioned that unfortunately the written Submissions made by myself and others to all three Consultations have still not been made public. This is also true of the 2023 Consultation into adding to the ACL a general unfair trading prohibition (as under EU, US or Singaporean law). That would go beyond existing ACL prohibitions on misleading or unconscionable conduct to better address eg “dark patterns” facilitated by new technologies (such as “subscription traps” that the ACCC CEO reiterated at the Congress remain a concern). There were moves to make public Submissions to that Consultation (including mine, reproduced here for convenience and giving as an example such a subscription trap laid by The Economist magazine) and they were disclosed from 28 June (the day after the ACCC Congress) noting “79 submissions were received for this consultation, including 8 confidential submissions”. But in principle I believe such consumer law reform consultations should automatically make public submissions unless confidentiality is requested. That is now common good practice across Australian law reform bodies, including the Productivity Commission. In the same vein, Australia’s consumer law reform agencies should publicise at least a short report stating whether and why they may not be proceeding with ACL amendments.

I ended my comments by alerting Congress attendees to new developments in the EU that intersected with concerns raised by the panelists. The new General Product Safety Regulation requires suppliers to document product risk assessments (and implement traceability measures), notify regulators of progress on recalls, set up a public complaints portal (as the US has had for over a decade, but was not recommended in the 2017 ACL Review report) and make mandatory for online platforms some requirements (like responding within set time frames to complaints about unsafe products) that larger firms had adopted voluntarily under the 2018 EU Product Safety Pledge (mirrored by Australia’s 2020 Pledge). The EU Product Safety Pledge has itself been updated, and existing firms have re-signed it, to allow eg regulators to have access to the platforms’ portals to better monitor them for unsafe products.

The EU’s Product Liability Directive, which was adopted in 1992 has also recently been revised to better address new technologies and trends. For example, Article 7 makes an online platform jointly liable for harm if it suggests to an average consumer that products are provided either by the online platform itself or by a recipient of the service who is acting under its authority or control. However a recent comparative law article that Jeannie Paterson co-authored (and I helped with) noted a risk that platforms will avoid this liability potential by website and other disclaimers about exercising control over the suppliers. The article contrasts Californian cases against Amazon and other legal concepts that go further in imposing shared liability on such platforms, including pros and cons of such initiatives.

The second Congress session was on “Justice delayed: strengthening consumer dispute resolution in Australia”. Panellists highlighted persistent problems of access to justice, focusing initially on (prolific) defective vehicles and National Disability Insurance Scheme services. Although Prof Kozuka and I also highlight problems in Japan, I think Australia can do better in various ways. For example, because of the evidentiary issues raised in tribunals or magistrates’ courts, regulators should first more pro-actively use their ACL powers since 2010 to bring representative actions against suppliers who claim for example that cars or other complex products comply with the consumer guarantee of acceptable quality, such as reasonable durability. They can also support consumer NGOs who could run such test cases (eg to to determine how long a mid-value washing machine should last) and then publicise the outcomes, to help facilitate future negotiations and settlements.

Secondly, the NSW Office of Fair Trading should actually use its powers (added before the COVID-19 pandemic) to order suppliers to compensate consumers for up to $3000 in harm caused by products not complying with consumer guarantees, and publicise this among suppliers and consumers. Other jurisdictions should add such powers too, especially as the ACL is supported to be uniform across Australia. It is true that some suppliers may contest such orders. But they will also likely do that if and when the ACL adds powers for all consumers regulators to order civil pecuniary penalties for major failures, as mooted in late 2021 Consultation (paralleled by the Productivity Commission’s recommendations from an inquiry into Rights to Repair). Decisions from tribunals and courts, even at lower levels, will help clarify the meaning of general terms like reasonable durability.

Thirdly, we should introduce effective public complaints registers across Australia. Most jurisdictions lack them. And for example the NSW register does not differentiate by sales volumes or other measures of scale, making it hard for consumers or their advisors to determine if one supplier is really better or worse than others. These and other questions were raised in a 2017 Report by the Productivity Commission and should be revisited to improve access to consumer redress (and indeed informed purchasing decisions).

The third Congress session was on “Regulating for real people: understanding consumer behaviour to drive effective markets”. In his thought-provoking introduction (kindly shared now here), Consumers Federation of Australia chair Gerard Brody highlighted observed limits even with “nudges”, for example regarding electricity contract switching, and asked why suppliers shouldn’t just promise or be required to automatically put customers on the best plan. The CEO of (peak NGO) Consumers NZ pointed out that past consumption patterns may not be a good guide. I also wonder about handing over so much power and data to suppliers, and making consumers too passive (which is partly why for unfair contract terms regulation the price and subject matter cannot be impugned: consumers are assumed to be able at least to investigate and consider those, provided these items are not presented in a misleading way). A better solution might be electricity bills that say “if you switched to our Plan B you would save $XXX dollars” and then the customer could opt-in.

The Consumers NZ CEO provided an update on the progression of a private Member’s Bill to introduce a right of repair for New Zealand, including around spare parts availability, and likely mandatory labelling about durability (as recommended also by the Productivity Commission’s Right to Repair report). Again, I would add that the EU provides some good lessons for the antipodes (and say Japan). In February 2024 the EU institutions reached provisional agreement to enact the Right to Repair Directive, as part a larger environmental initiative aiming to extend a product’s life cycle and support a circular economy. Relevant features compared to the ACL regime (which for example allows the supplier not consumer to chose between repair and replacement):

“The Directive will require producers to carry out repairs outside of the legal guarantee for products covered by repairability obligations under certain EU ecodesign regulations listed in an Annex … [likely beginning with] certain white goods (including household washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators), vacuum cleaners, electronic displays, and mobile phones and tablets (among others)

… [requirements for] information on certain spare parts to appear on a website, making them available to all parties in the repair sector and preventing certain practices that can hinder repair – including contractual clauses or certain software- and hardware-related barriers

… [seemingly] loan devices to be provided to consumers while they wait for repair in certain cases and to enable a consumer to opt for a refurbished unit as an alternative

… Under the existing Sale of Goods Directive, the seller is liable to the consumer for any lack of conformity which exists at the time when the goods were delivered and which becomes apparent within two years of that time. In the event of non-conformity, the Sale of Goods Directive sets out a hierarchy of remedies, allowing consumers to initially choose between repair and replacement … to encourage consumers to choose repair over replacement, the legal guarantee under the Sale of Goods Directive would be extended by 12 months following a repair …”.

This EU development also intersects with greenwashing, and the hot topic of the last Congress session – “Lightbulb moments: bold ideas to help consumers play a meaningful role in the green transition”.

Corruption and International Treaty Developments in Asia

Written by: Luke Nottage (University of Sydney) and Nobumichi Teramura (Universiti Brunei Darussalam)

[Ed. Note: Our related new book was launched by the Attorney-General of Brunei at a symposium held there on 28 May 2024 (as reported here). A follow-up seminar, also including some new research emerging from the book, will be held at USydney Law School on 1 August at 5 for 5.30-7pm (further details here and Nobu’s presentation/overview Powerpoints also for LSA presentation here). A version of this posting is for the East Asia Forum.]

Corruption remains a serious problem in most parts of Asia. The economic effects are serious, regionally and globally, and the COVID-19 pandemic sometimes made the situation worse. Emergency measures for government procurement and management of the economy expanded opportunities for graft and impacted adversely on enforcement activities.

This problem has persisted for many years despite many new legal instruments aimed at or potentially impacting on corruption, as explored also in our recent book (open-access, so PDFs freely downloadable).

First, the OECD Convention (signed from 1997), prompted by the US enacting the Foreign Corrupt Officials Act two decades earlier, focused on the ‘supply side’. Developed economy member states (including Japan and Korea in Asia) committed to criminalising at home the bribery of foreign officials. Secondly, the UN Convention (signed from 2005, by almost all Asian states) covered bribery of both domestic and foreign officials, including also the ‘demand side’ (solicitation and receiving bribes).

However, the commitments under these multilateral treaties are often quite general, not setting for example any minimum criminal penalties for bribery. As Anselmo Reyes elaborates in his co-authored chapter, both treaties also leave open the possibility of allowing ‘facilitation payments’ – smaller ‘grease money’ payments to expedite routine government transactions like permits. Canada disallowed these under 2017 legislation but Australia’s 2024 amendments retain this possibility – perhaps reflecting the arguments of some economists (investigated in our book by Ahmed M Khalid, Bruno Jetin and others with econometric studies) that such low-level bribery in fact may be efficient.

In addition, even for the core commitments under both treaties, there is not much incentive for transparent and effective enforcement by member states. This is especially true in developing economies with less media freedom and/or democratic accountability – also under pressure. Scrutiny of enforcement under these treaties relies mainly on ‘peer review’ mechanisms that take years to implement, and recommendations on member states for improvements are not binding.

Some states have created new anti-corruption agencies and even courts, as in Indonesia and Thailand, but have faced political backlash. Others, like Vietnam and China, have sometimes vigorously enforced anti-corruption laws (including through the death penalty), but some suspect this is done selectively for political purposes.

A few Asia-Pacific states (such as Thailand and now in Australia) have followed the lead of the UK’s Anti-Bribery Act 2010, which specifically sanctions firms that do not take reasonable measures to introduce anti-bribery compliance schemes. This makes mandatory a feature of the opt-in UN Global Compact scheme that (larger) companies have started to sign up to. They may anyway be conscious of pressures from investors influenced by environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations.

This slow and sporadic transition towards taking corruption more seriously is also evident in provisions found in free trade agreements (FTAs) entered into by developed countries and regions: the EU, the US, Canada and (notably in Asia) Japan. These treaties also commit member states to both enact and enforce anti-bribery laws. They are reflected in some ‘mega-regional’ FTAs like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (Chapter 17) and in more detail the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (Chapter 26), but curiously not in the recently signed Second Protocol to the ASEAN Australia New Zealand FTA (except regarding government procurement: Chapter 17).

Typically, however, these treaties too are broadly worded, and corruption-related enforcement issues are not subject to their inter-state dispute settlement provisions that help make the commitments more credible. This limitation also seems to apply to the new  WTO Investment Facilitation Agreement (although its text is not yet public).

Corruption issues have been cropping up also increasingly, especially from around 2010, in investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arbitrations initiated under FTA investment chapters or standalone bilateral investment treaties (BITs). Occasionally under such international investment agreements (IIAs), a foreign investor claims compensation because host state officials solicited a bribe in contravention of the ‘fair and equitable treatment’ commitment under the IIA.

More often, the host state raises as a defence against an ISDS claim that the allegation that the foreign investor made a bribe when making the investment, so it is not covered under the IIA. If the arbitral tribunal agrees, it may decline jurisdiction, so the investor loses all treaty rights under international investment law and is left to the vagaries of host state law and court procedures. This typically arises where the IIA specifies expressly that it only covers investments made ‘in accordance with host state law’. Such outcomes may indeed incentivise foreign investors to avoid any form of bribery.

However, what evidence will prove such bribery, especially given that arbitrators (unlike anti-corruption agencies or courts) lack powers vis-à-vis third parties (like banks)? What if the alleged corruption is minor, vigorously solicited by public officials, commonplace and/or systemic in the host state? And what if it leads to the perverse incentive of the host state deliberately seeking a bribe, never enforcing sanctions against the official, but keeping evidence of the bribe as a ‘get out of jail free card’ if ever the foreign investor brings an ISDS claim after the host state discriminates or otherwise violates substantive commitments given under the IIA to encourage inbound investment? Focusing on East and South Asia, we and other authors in our book focus on possible more nuanced solutions for such scenarios, under existing or revised IIAs.

Overall, addressing corruption requires a careful assessment of its various manifestations, some much worse than others (as argued for China, for example). But it should also carefully consider the procedural mechanisms under both national law and international treaty law that help ensure appropriate enforcement of substantive commitments made by states.

Arbitration and Sports Law (Baseball) Dispute Resolution in Australia and Japan

As part of the Japanaroo suite of events, ANJeL is delighted to coordinate at Sydney Law School the two free public seminars below, both including a strong comparative focus on Japan and Australia, and involving a former Chief Justice of Victoria. One on Thursday 21 September compares arbitration’s historical trajectory (hybrid-format seminar, including two ANJeL program convenors based abroad – register via https://law-events.sydney.edu.au/events/intarbitrationaujp). The second on Friday 22 September compares sports law and dispute resolution (generally and with baseball as a major case study; in-person only, chaired by another ANJeL convenor Micah Burch – register via https://law-events.sydney.edu.au/events/globalsports-767).

1. Comparative History of International Arbitration: Australia, Japan and Beyond

This hybrid-format webinar compares the historical trajectory of international arbitration law and practice in Australia and Japan in regional and global contexts. An aim is to explore the evolving images and contours of arbitration and scope for cross-border collaboration in promoting this popular but sometimes contested form of dispute resolution.

Speakers

Commentator: Prof Luke Nottage (University of Sydney)(Drawing on the concluding chapter in his 2021 book: https://japaneselaw.sydney.edu.au/2020/08/book-in-press-with-elgar/ and his Encyclopedia entry on ACICA (with Prof Richard Garnett) at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4431276 )

Thursday 21 September

Time: 4-5.30pm

Location: The University of Sydney, Common Room, Level 4, New Law Building (F10), Eastern Avenue, Camperdown

Cost: Free, but registration is essential. Please select your attendance type during registration.

CPD points: 1.5 points

This event is being held an online and in-person at Sydney Law School. Please indicate your viewing preference when registering.

This event is proudly co-presented by the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law, the Resolution Institute and the Australian Network for Japanese Law at the University of Sydney Law School.

2. 2nd Annual Global Sports Law Symposium: Dispute Resolution

In-person event

This symposium brings together luminary experts and practitioners in sports law to discuss dispute resolution in the world of sports (it follows on from ANJeL’s seminar on international arbitration). The symposium’s first panel will feature two giants of the Australian sports law world reflecting on their careers in jurisprudence and sports administration resolving disputes in the sports area. The second panel will be a case study focusing on dispute resolution in baseball with two experts on both Japanese and Australian baseball.

About the Speakers

A. Dispute Resolution in Sports: Expert Reflections

Professor Deborah Healey (University of New South Wales)

Deborah Healey is the Director of the Herbert Smith Freehills China International Business and Economic Law (CIBEL) Centre and the Editor of the Sports Law Journal. She has more than 30 years of experience serving on the boards of major sports governance organizations and serves on the National Sports Tribunal.

Professor the Hon Marilyn Warren AC KC (Monash University)

Marilyn Warren is a Vice Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow of Monash University and is the former Chief Justice of Victoria. She practices as a commercial arbitrator and teaches law as a Professor at Monash’s Law Faculty.

B. Dispute Resolution in Sports: Baseball Case Study

Mr. Mark Marino (CEO, Baseball NSW)

Mark Marino has been the CEO of Baseball NSW since 2014 and is an Executive Committee Member of the Australian Baseball Players Alumni Association. Mark played collegiate and professional baseball in the United States and was the CEO of the Sydney Blue Sox 2014-2018.

Dr. Matt Nichol (Lecturer, Central Queensland University, (Melbourne))

Matt Nichol is a lecturer and sports law academic at the School of Business and Law at Central Queensland University and a board member of Baseball Victoria. His research uses approaches to labour law and regulatory theory to understand the regulation of labour in professional team sports.

Moderator: Mr. Micah Burch, Senior Lecturer, Sydney Law School.

Hosts: Sydney Law School, Australian Network for Japanese Law, Australia New Zealand Sports Law Association

Date: Friday, 22 September 2023

Time: 4.00-5.30pm

Location: Common Room, Level 4, New Law Building (F10), The University of Sydney

Please follow directional signage on arrival.

CPD Points: 1.5

This event is proudly co-presented by The University of Sydney Law School, the Australian Network for Japanese Law and the Australia New Zealand Sports Law Association.

Japan’s International Investment, Evolving Treaty Practice and Arbitration Related to Corruption and Illegality

Written by: Luke Nottage and Nobumichi Teramura#

Abstract: This article forthcoming in 55 Journal of Japanese Law (mid-2023), part of an interdisciplinary book project on Corruption, Illegality and Asian Investment Arbitration [including a conference held in Brunei on 29 May 2023 (booklet here) supported by ANJeL and CAPLUS], addresses for Japan the difficult practical and policy question facing arbitration tribunals when a foreign investor claims mistreatment by a host state but the latter alleges that the investment was tainted by corruption or other similar serious illegality. By way of background, Japan emerged from the 1980s as a leading exporter of foreign direct investment (FDI). Yet it has low inbound FDI despite some significant growth since the late 1990s (Part II). This is despite Japan having comparatively very little corruption, which is often problematic for foreign investors (Part III).

To protect and promote outbound FDI after a hesitant start, over the last two decades, Japan has accelerated ratifications of standalone bilateral investment treaties (BITs) as well as investment chapters in free trade agreements (FTAs). Almost all allow foreign investors from the home state to directly initiate investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arbitration against host states to get relief from violations of substantive treaty commitments, such as non-discrimination or compensation for expropriation (Part IV.1).

Japan’s investment treaty practice on corruption and illegality is comparatively interesting for two reasons (Part IV.2). First, from around 2007, its treaties have often required host states to take measures against corruption. This should help Japan’s outbound investors, but these obligations are generally weakly phrased. Secondly, Japan’s treaties have been less consistent in expressly limiting their protections to foreign investments made in accordance with host state laws (including against corruption). This may be due to treaty drafters from Japan and counterparty states being less aware of the significance of such express legality provisions, which will often lead tribunals to decline jurisdiction if corruption is established, thus leaving foreign investors without treaty protections. Such outcomes may also incentivise host states to ensure a bribe is taken, to use as a treaty defence if foreign investors ever launch treaty claims, whereas other outcomes for tribunals are possible if there is no express legality provision. Another possibility is that this drafting is deliberate, again to benefit Japanese outbound investors as claimants because the absence of a legality provision renders more difficult defences from host states, which typically have more corruption than in Japan.

Japan may adopt more and clearer legality provisions if it becomes subject to more inbound ISDS arbitration claims, and/or if claims by Japanese outbound investors are mostly against well-governed host states with little scope for corruption. Yet both types of claims remain few (Part V). The shift may therefore come more from other counterparty states pushing for such legality provisions and Japan agreeing in its future treaties to demonstrate its overall commitment to combatting corruption, and to preserve the legitimacy of the ISDS arbitration system (Part VI).


# Respectively: Professor, University of Sydney Law School; Assistant Professor, Institute of Asian Studies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

“Crisis as an Opportunity for Development of Japanese Law”

Following on the inaugural ANJeL-in-Europe symposium organised by Prof Giorgio Colombo for UPavia in late 2019, Dr Wered Ben-Sade and other attendees or associates are participating online in this law-related session on the first day of the Sixth Bi-Annual International Conference of the Israeli Association for Japanese Studies (15-17 November 2022).

Chair: Wered Ben-Sade Bar-Ilan University, Israel

CRISIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DEVELOPMENT OF JAPANESE LAW
Chair: Wered Ben-Sade
Crises create new opportunities for development, particularly when traditional perceptions and customs (or habits) are questioned and reexamined. Similarly as “Necessity is the mother of invention” (Plato), crises push us out of our comfort zone while simultaneously lowering the risks of change, thus motivating us to operate differently in order to solve them or improve our response. This is true both at the micro, personal level, and at the macro level of society. Understanding this mechanism at the macro level can facilitate us when we encounter a personal crisis and inspire us to search for the opportunity that is encapsulated within.
Five presentations will examine how crises serve as an opportunity for the development of Japanese law, both in the past (from the second half of the 19th century) and now. Some of the most debated challenges that Japan and the world are currently facing, such as inclusiveness of women, legal education, Covid19 impact and sustainability (in the context of corporate governance), will be discussed.

Béatrice Jaluzot Lyon Institute for Political Sciences & Lyon Institute for East Asian Studies
Crisis as an opportunity for development from a historical perspective: The choice of a positivist legal system following the signature of the Unequal Treaties
In the second half of the 19th century, Japan experienced the collapse of a thousand-year-old culture based on the Chinese model and the emergence of a society inspired by Western models. The disappearance of the old regime, caused by the imperialist movements of the time, gave way to a country that was profoundly renewed in all its fundamental structures. Among them, the country’s legal system was one of the essential novelties and one of the main achievements of the new leaders. They were thus able to set up institutions that are still largely those of today. The aim is to present how this legal system is the result of this brutal overthrow of the regime, but also to understand how the accelerated transition from which it emerged took place. This rupture gave rise to the powerful and efficient structures we know today.

Makoto Messersmith University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA
Insights on the possibility of inclusiveness of women in law studies of Japan
When we look at the status quo and history of female law professors in the U.S. and Japan, it shows that unlike the U.S., Japan has not experienced great improvement regarding inclusiveness of women into law studies, yet. Although it seems that Japan has made some efforts to encourage more women to enter the field of law, women in law studies are still facing unique challenges. For instance, in many universities, female law professors are still less than 20%. In my talk, I will explore their challenges and discuss how we can encourage more women to be included in law studies.

Luke Nottage University of Sydney, Australia and Ken’ichi Yoneda, Kagoshima University, Japan
Introducing ICT into Japanese Legal Education:
The Postgraduate Law School Movement and Covid-19 as Cornerstones
This report explains the evolution of online legal education in Japan, particularly in its universities. Three phases can be discerned: before and after the introduction from 2004 of a new postgraduate Law School system to improve and expand core legal professionals, as part of a wider justice system reform program, and a more dramatic expansion prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. The Law School reforms had trickled down somewhat to undergraduate legal education, building on and linking to wider nationwide and university-sector initiatives in Information and Communications Technology. This fortunately positioned Japanese legal education quite well for pandemic-related challenges, although the transitions have not been easy.


Ying Hsin Tsai College of Law, National Taiwan University
The Development of Shareholder Activism following the COVID-19 Pandemic
The development of shareholder activism in Japan, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, creates new opportunities. The Japanese company law designs assorted ways by which shareholders can participate in shareholders’ meeting, even if they cannot attend in person (e.g. proxy, written voting and electronic voting). Due to the pandemic, the shareholders’ meeting could not be held in-person, and instead these other ways were gradually put to use. In this presentation I will discuss the practical merits and legal drawbacks surrounding these ways. The overall picture that emerges is that while providing a variety of ways for shareholders to participate in the shareholders’ meeting itself can certainly enhance the practice of shareholder activism, how to design these ways in a manner which overcomes the legal issues remains a challenge.


Kozuka Soichiro Faculty of Law, Gakushuin University, Japan
Introducing Sustainability into the Japanese Corporate Governance
Japan’s corporate governance practice is making rapid developments towards engaging with sustainability. Japan has already the largest number of companies in the world, which have announced support for the TCFD (Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) framework. The development towards sustainability will probably continue, induced by the external global crisis of the need for sustainability, and by the internal pressure of the institutional investors. In this presentation I will evaluate the current and expected developments. The Japanese nuances in both regulation and practice of corporate governance will also be discussed.

“The Interface of Inquests and Consumer Law and Policy: 2021 NSW Coronial Inquest Findings into the 2017 Death of a Honda Driver from a Takata Airbag”

Abstract: A coronial inquest is an inquisitorial fact-finding investigation into causes and manner of deaths that are eg violent, unusual, or from unknown causes. The coroner may also make recommendations to improve health and safety related to the death investigated.[1] Sometimes such inquests attract considerable media and public attention, although usually not as much as say a royal or other commission of inquiry. As such, inquests could influence the implementation or enactment of consumer product safety law. Yet there is very little research into this interface. An interesting recent case study comes from a New South Wales coronial inquest over 2019-2021 into a tragic death in July 2017 associated with Australia’s largest-ever vehicle recall, which uncovered poor practices by the manufacturer (Honda Australia) as well as the regulators.

The recall ultimately involved 3 million vehicles in Australia originally affected due to defective airbags manufactured by Japanese firm Takata, which started to explode and kill or injure drivers abroad from 2015 and ended up being subjected to a mandatory recall order issued in February 2018 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). By March 2021 the ACCC reported that these 3 million vehicles had been successfully recalled by manufacturers, although: “around 312,000 vehicles have been deemed to be compliant with the recall although they have not had their airbags replaced … vehicles which have been scrapped, stolen or unregistered for more than two years, or where consumers did not respond or were not contactable after repeated contacts through different channels. Globally, these Takata airbags have been associated with over 350 serious injuries and 33 deaths. This includes one death in Sydney in July 2017 and one serious injury in Darwin in April 2017. Two injuries were also reported following an accident in Sydney in August 2020.”[2]

Many problems had been increasingly highlighted by local media and consumer experts or groups[3] concerning the Takata airbag recalls process in Australia. There were also some media reports towards the start[4] and during some hearings[5] of the NSW coronial inquest into the death of Mr Huy Neng Ngo in July 2017, killed by a Takata airbag that had still not been replaced by Honda Australia.[6] Curiously, however, there has been almost no media reporting of the findings and recommendations for avoiding further deaths, released on 19 November 2021 by NSW Deputy Coroner, Magistrate E. Truscott.[7] I became aware of the extensive report recently as I had been asked by the NSW Crown Solicitors’ Office in mid-2019 to provide a witness statement to the inquest. Essentially, the report finds that the specialist regulator (DIRD transport ministry) but also the ACCC were rather asleep at the wheel in scrutinising Honda Australia’s inadequate recall notices sent out from 2015 until his death. Regulators should have done more and earlier, partly due to failures in inter-agency coordination. They and Honda Australia only seem to have started lifting their game after Mr Ngo’s death, the first in Australia.

* * *

After submitting my written statement, I was not called for oral examination at the inquest. However, the inquest findings (at pp149-53) show how I had alerted senior ACCC officials back in late 2015 that Honda Australia was sending out recall notices that I considered misleading by only referring vaguely to a “precautionary” recall and without highlighting the serious risks, even though by that stage some like myself knew that Takata airbags had caused multiple injuries and deaths abroad. (By chance, I had been following the Takata recall saga abroad as part of my longstanding research in comparative consumer product safety law and practice, and had purchased a second-hand Honda so when I got these recall letters from Honda Australia I realised they were problematic.) The deputy coroner noted eg (at p188-9):

“… The content of the consumer recall letters at least until March 2017 effectively failed to convey to the consumer the importance of the need to replace the airbag. The recall strategy failed to bring to the attention of the consumer the risk or danger that the airbag posed. That this approach continued well past the publication of the Blomquist report and that none of Honda Australia, DIRD or the ACCC sought to widen the recall strategy at this time is regrettable. Moreover, as already discussed at paragraphs [256]-[286], it is regrettable that Honda Australia, which had the primary responsibility for its voluntary campaign, did not identify that it should change its consumer recall letter and strategy well before March 2017.

645. It was a failure that the ACCC did not itself or seek DIRD to intervene in Honda Australia’s campaign approach when the opportunity arose, such as in 2015 with the NRMA and Professor Nottage communications or indeed [from 2016] in the Takata Airbag Working Group meetings.”

It was only a month after Mr Ngo’s death from the exploding Honda airbag that (pp 202-203):

“… in August 2017 the ACCC reviewed manufacturers’ language in recall notices on the PSA website, as well as more broadly in consumer communications, and took steps to develop model language to be used in connection with voluntary recall measures for Takata airbags. Although, at this point, there was not yet any compulsory recall on foot, Mr Grimwade [from the ACCC] said that “we took it upon ourselves to ensure that the language on our website was reflecting the risks as we understood them, and as they were emerging in the investigation”. Mr Grimwade accepted that ACCC officers could have, prior to 13 July 2017, usefully exchanged views in relation to the text to be used in Takata recall notices, in the manner in which they did in August 2017. He agreed that this “should have been done”.

688. Mr Grimwade’s expression that the ACCC took it upon themselves to conduct this review is somewhat odd given that he said there was no lack of clarity by the ACCC as to whose responsibility the PSA [Product Safety Australia] website was – the ACCC had sole responsibility for it at all times.

689. That the 5ZV recall used the term “precautionary” in its language on the website in the first place but continued to do up until this review is concerning as there were numerous occasions which should have or at least could have given the ACCC cause to conduct such a review, namely: (i) the 2015 NRMA letter; (ii) the late 2015 Professor Nottage correspondence; (iii) the Blomquist report [for US regulators] and NHTS orders in May 2016; (iv) the April 2017 injury causing the Toyota misdeployment in the Northern Territory together with (v) the ACCC participation in the Takata Airbags Working Group meetings from June 2016 and (vi) its close working relationship with DIRD.

690. On 5 August 2017, following receipt of responses from affected vehicle suppliers, the Minister for Small Business, Michael McCormack, issued a “Safety Warning Notice to the Public” under s 129(1) of the ACL, regarding possible risks of using motor vehicles containing Takata airbags.1037 The Safety Warning Notice warned of possible risks involved in the use of motor vehicles containing Takata airbags supplied in Australia, urged consumers to check whether their vehicle had been included in a product safety recall and advised that the ACCC was investigating whether vehicles with Takata airbags will or may cause injury.1038 Mr Grimwade advised that the purpose of a safety warning notice such as this is to “bring attention to a particular hazard through the [M]inister” and that “used sparingly… they can get quite a lot of publicity and indicate the views of government in relation to a particular hazard”.1039

691. Mr Grimwade accepted that there was an opportunity, prior to 13 July 2017, for the Minister to issue a Safety Warning Notice – such as that ultimately issued on 5 August 2017 – in respect of the risks posed in relation to the voluntary recalls of Takata airbags.1040 He accepted that there was a missed opportunity on the part of the ACCC, prior to 13 July 2017, to make a recommendation to the Minister to issue a safety warning notice in relation to the Takata airbag recalls.1041

692. If the ACCC was waiting for a risk to materialise to justify a sparingly used strategy to bring to public attention the need to respond to a recall of Takata airbags, the most obvious time that the ACCC should have approached the Minister to issue a Safety Warning Notice was in April 2017 following the Northern Territory injury.”

Some more specific findings by the deputy coroner were as follows:

1. Was there a lack of clarity and substantial confusion between ACCC and DIRD as to their respective roles in the monitoring of the Takata airbags voluntary recalls generally and specifically in regard to the 5ZV recall

Essentially yes, in that eg despite an inter-agency MoU “the ACCC did not know that DIRD did not have any process of its own in regard to the suppliers’ recall strategies nor did it know that the suppliers were not submitting their recall strategies to DIRD” (para 727). Furthermore (at p219), the coroner did not accept:

“the ACCC submissions that the ACCC had no basis to challenge or question Honda Australia’s description of the defect, hazard and risk contained in the 5ZV recall notification. It should have sought to clarify whether the defect would have the same effect and risk as other Takata airbag defects – namely the “inflator rupture causing metal fragments” to strike a vehicle occupant. Without clarifying whether the 5ZV recall involved the same hazard as then known to exist with the previous recalls, given there was no evidence suggesting that there was some other hazard, it would seem that the ACCC, DIRD and the suppliers proceeded on the basis that it was the same hazard but because the recall was classified as “precautionary” or “preventative” the hazard wasn’t appropriately described. That it was not clarified or corrected resulted in a failure to ensure that the public was adequately warned of the dangers of the defective airbags. Likewise, as previously discussed, Honda Australia failed to make due inquiry with Honda Japan in this regard though appeared to be aware that Honda Japan was using the terms preventative and precautionary as discussed above.

734. Counsel Assisting’s phrase of “lack of clarity” or “substantial confusion” is a measured term and the submissions advanced by DIRD and the ACCC demonstrate rather than diminish the disparity between the ACCC and DIRD as to their understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities when there is ample evidence that such disparity existed.”

3. Should DIRD and the ACCC have directly raised with Honda Australia that its consumer recall letters should not include tentative language such as “preventative measure” and “precautionary action” and that the letters did not clearly refer to the nature of the defect and the risk of death or injury in 2015 and 2016.

4. Should DIRD have sought from Honda Australia the 5ZV consumer recall letters.

Again, yes (p 211):

“… DIRD should have obtained at least one of the 5ZV recall letters by following up the request made in August 2015 or preferably by specifically making a new request for the 5ZV recall. Had DIRD received the 5ZV recall consumer letter/s, it appears unlikely that DIRD would have identified and taken action in respect of the issues which were concerning to Professor Nottage in late 2015 or indeed Mr Thomas in mid-2015 in relation to the letter he received for his own Honda vehicle. Those issues should have identified and been formally raised with Honda Australia. Again, whether DIRD would have done so had it obtained a copy of the 5ZV consumer letter is questionable given its position as to DIRD’s limited role and function. At the least it should have identified that the defect and risk were inadequately described in that it did not mention that metal fragments could cause injury or death to a vehicle occupant.

741. Likewise, the issues raised by Professor Nottage in 2015 should have been formally raised with Honda Australia by the ACCC or by DIRD at the request of the ACCC. There was no process in place for DIRD to be tasked with raising it directly with Honda Australia. Raising it generically in a TAWG meeting was, in the circumstances, inadequate.”

5. Should, prior to July 2017, the ACCC and/or DIRD have taken steps to publicise the risks posed by defective Takata airbags by way of its own media announcement or by co-ordinating a media campaign with the industry.

Yes (at p222-3), with the deputy coroner accepting:

“counsel for the ACCC and DIRD’s submissions that it was for the suppliers to co-ordinate and promote an advertising campaign, and though the ACCC and DIRD could encourage a wider campaign, neither agency had power to compel one. However, rather than adopting a reactive media posture which on one view could be thought to resemble a reluctance to publicise the Takata recalls, both agencies could have adopted a pro-active media posture on their own accord as well as encouraging industry, and in this case Honda Australia specifically, to engage in a public campaign.

749. Whilst the recall was voluntary and neither agency had powers to compel the industry to adopt such a strategy (in the absence of any compulsory recall then having been commenced), a supplier’s refusal or failure to engage in such a campaign strategy could have been an escalation criteria [sic] by which the agencies could measure the progress of the recall, and which may have motivated industry to engage in such a campaign. Advertising campaign aside, the MOU allowed for the joint settling of media releases issued by the ACCC or DIRD. The only media release that was prepared related to what would be issued in the event of a misdeployment event, rather than considering how the government could bring the recalls to the attention of the Australian public, for the sake of the public safety, in advance of any such incident. As Professor Nottage wrote to Mr Ridgeway at the ACCC at the end of 2015, a government media release incurred no cost. There is no good reason why DIRD and the ACCC failed to issue such a release. Likewise, there was no good reason why Honda Australia failed to do so, particularly given the scale of the recall. 

8. If the ACCC or DIRD had not missed the opportunities to bring the defect and risk of the Takata airbag to public notice, is it likely the Ngo/Chea vehicle airbag would have been replaced earlier thus preventing Mr Ngo’s death

Yes (pp225-6):

“…Ms Chea and her family did not know about the Takata airbag recall and when in March Ms Chea did learn of it having collected the registered letter, she had, within the week, booked the vehicle into Peter Warren’s service department for recall replacement. Had she learned of the defect earlier, it would appear that she would have made an earlier appointment. Likewise, had Julie Ngo been aware of the risk of the defective airbag she would have likely insisted that it be replaced on 11 July 2017. Whilst it is not possible to conclude that any action or inaction of the government agencies did contribute to Mr Ngo’s death, it is likewise not possible to conclude any action or inaction on their part did not contribute to Mr Ngo’s death.

757. Counsel for DIRD point out that Ms Chea says that she only received the March 2017 letter. That is the one she responded to. That letter had a clearer content consistent with the Blomquist Report and correctly identified the defect, hazard and risk. Had that information been contained in an earlier letter and received by Ms Chea or a family member then it is likely the Vehicle would have been booked in at an earlier time. Had there been public announcements then other persons who had received the earlier letters may have been able to identify the importance of the recall and brought it to Ms Chea’s attention.

758. As is apparent from the foregoing responses, I agree with the position advanced by Counsel Assisting. I make the finding that due to a lack of clarity and at times substantial confusion as to the respective roles of DIRD and the ACCC, together with the lack of a documented escalation process against which to monitor and advance the progress of the recall, the ACCC and DIRD inadequately administered and monitored the Takata Airbag voluntary recalls during the period July 2015 to July 2017. The inadequacy particularly arose in that there was a failure to ensure that the defect and hazard of the Takata airbag subject to the Honda Australia 5ZV recall was properly described to the Australian public on the ACCC’s PSA website, in the Honda Australia letters to consumers, or by Australian public media broadcasts in a timely and adequate manner.”

In conclusion, the deputy coroner added multiple recommendations for better monitoring of vehicle recalls in future (p226 et seq), in the context of some legislative reforms already underway.

* * *

Despite these quite critical findings and recommendations in November 2021, as of early May 2022 there seem to be no Australian newspaper reports on them, although there was some other Takata airbag fatality news in mid-2021.[8] Perhaps the lack of mainstream Australian media reporting on the inquest findings is because Mr Ngo’s death is sadly considered “old news”, and other fatalities or accidents are more widespread or vivid (especially after several years of deaths and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic). Yet it seems important that government officials and regulatory systems are held to account, and that lessons are learned and communicated from careful inquiries like inquests in order to improve consumer product safety law and practice.

Indeed, an article published online on 9 December 2021 by a smaller journalistic outlet reported that a former ACCC official allegedly lost his job in 2018 after some of his concerns went public that the Commission was not doing enough about the Takata recall:[9]

“… Three years ago an anonymous Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) official was frogmarched out of his office — and later threatened with criminal action — after internal emails became public via a television exposé on the Takata airbag scandal.

The official was concerned the ACCC had not reacted quickly enough on the threat to public safety of the potentially deadly airbags and used its powers only after a driver was killed by shrapnel from an exploding airbag which penetrated his neck, causing him to bleed to death.

Now a coroner’s hearing has confirmed that many of the official’s warnings were on the mark. 

For one thing it means the official feels confident about revealing his identity. His name is Dean Wright. He held a senior executive level position as assistant director of the ACCC’s product safety branch and he was 52 at the time.”

“I am entirely comfortable with what I did,” Wright told Crikey. “I felt I had no choice.

“I don’t regret my part in revealing the truth about the years of dithering. I’d like to believe that the coronial court’s recommendations will save lives and prevent further horrific injuries.”

Does he feel he is owed an apology? 

“Yes. That would be the right thing to do, but more to the point the ACCC owes the public an apology for not being truthful.”

The ACCC said it did not propose to comment on Wright’s “actions or opinions”. It also said it had “identified and implemented a number of lessons drawn from the inquest” before the coroner’s report was released and was working on others.”

Meanwhile, perhaps in the light of the inquest, a class action brought in the NSW Supreme Court against Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Mazda and BMW reached a mediated settlement in September 2021 for A$52m (including $15m for the plaintiffs’ lawyers!). A specialist media outlet report noted furthermore that:[10]

“In August, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched legal action against Mercedes-Benz, accusing it of minimising the risk of serious injury of death from the faulty Takata products. The ACCC alleges Mercedes-Benz staff downplayed the risks “on at least 73 occasions,” stating the recall was precautionary in nature and “there had been no incidents, accidents, injuries or deaths … at all,” despite there already having been one fatality in Australia at that time and one serious injury recorded.”

The saga therefore continues, so there may still be scope for the wider public to learn what really went on from the Takata airbag debacle, and the lessons that can be drawn more generally for consumer law and policy in Australia and beyond. There have been longstanding concerns particularly about Australia’s lack of clarity and impact of the law on recalls (and mandatory accident reporting) and insufficient coordination or leadership from the ACCC and state/territory regulators vis-a-vis specialist regulators (as pointed out eg in 2013, prompted by a problem reported regarding Volkswagen – even before its fake diesel emissions disclosure scandal).



[1] For background into the NSW law and practice around appearing in coronial inquests, see eg https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiBzo2WzdH3AhUiyzgGHT86AZUQFnoECAQQAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww5.austlii.edu.au%2Fau%2Fjournals%2FNSWBarAssocNews%2F2014%2F12.pdf&usg=AOvVaw30yvr7BIPzuS0Gx25wPu3D

[2] https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/car-manufacturers-complete-999-per-cent-of-takata-airbag-recall

[3] See eg https://www.choice.com.au/transport/cars/general/articles/unprecendented-mandatory-recall-takata-airbags-280218

[4] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/nsw-inquest-into-death-of-sydney-driver-to-examine-takata-airbag-risks/n4kk69rs4 and https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-23/faulty-takata-airbag-coroner-inquiry-death-cabramatta-man/11538628

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jun/22/regulators-knew-of-two-takata-accidents-before-a-sydney-mans-death-inquest-told

[6] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/faulty-airbag-at-centre-of-recall-to-blame-for-death-of-sydney-man-20170721-gxg5yj.html

[7]  https://coroners.nsw.gov.au/coroners-court/download.html/documents/findings/2021/Inquest_into_the_death_of_Huy_Neng_Ngo_-_Findings.pdf via https://coroners.nsw.gov.au.

[8] https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au › nsw › news-story: 3 June 2021 — “The ACCC has found a third Australian was killed by a Takata airbag, raising questions about why there was not a coronial inquest.”

[9] https://www.crikey.com.au/2021/12/09/accc-whistleblower-vindicated-steps-out-of-shadows/

[10] https://www.whichcar.com.au/car-news/takata-lawsuits-in-nsw-settled-by-major-car-companies-for-52-million

Japan: Sustainable Corporate Governance and ‘Gradual Transformation’

[ANJeL Program Convenor Prof Souichirou Kozuka and I have written a shorter chapter on Japan for the 5th edition of Principles of Contemporary Corporate Governance (by Jean Jacques du Plessis, Anil Hargovan and Jason Harris): see our longer manuscript version reproduced here for the 4th edition published by Cambridge University Press in 2018). As indicated in the introduction below, we pay particular attention to the hot topic internationally of ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors in corporate activity and investment, highlighting changes and (mostly) continuities in the corporate governance system behind Japan’s rapid uptake of ESG and sustainable or responsible investment.]

Japan developed vibrant commercial activity domestically towards the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate era (1603-1867), when it largely closed itself off to the world. As the country re-opened and expanded industrialisation over the Meiji Era (1868-1912), codifications and legal institutions were introduced following the European civil law tradition. Stock exchanges were established and investment grew into often family-owned companies, resulting in considerable emphasis on shareholder primacy before World War II.

However, after the US-led Allied Occupation (1946-51) until at least the 1980s, Japan became renowned for its stakeholder approach to corporate governance. More emphasis was placed on the interests and roles of employees (especially those in “lifelong employment”), creditors (especially “main banks”) and key suppliers or corporate customers (including in “keiretsu” corporate groups, and/or involving significant cross-shareholdings). These three practices influencing corporate governance, only loosely underpinned by relevant legislation, started to unravel after an asset bubble collapsed and Japan entered a “lost decade” of economic stagnation from the 1990s. Growing foreign investment into the Japanese stock market also supported a “gradual transformation” toward more shareholder primacy. This has involved some more protection for minority shareholders, and partial shifts towards a “monitoring” rather than executive board especially in listed companies (as elaborated in Part 11.2 of our new chapter).

The transformation since the 1990s has been reinforced by the creation of a new legislative regime (Part 11.3) and more recent “soft law” Codes for corporate governance and engagement or stewardship by institutional investors (Part II.4). Japan has experienced three major waves in the development of corporate law, at roughly half-century intervals. The Meiji-era Commercial Code enacted around the turn of the 20th century was followed by US-inspired reforms during the post-war Occupation, then much more wide-ranging reforms from around the turn of the 21st century prompted by Japan’s economic slowdown. Even in terms of formal legislative changes, the trajectory has not been one of straightforward ‘Americanisation’, and the overall position now reached is also very different from US law, as evidenced by the partial persistence of the statutory auditor governance structure inspired by German law. Also evident are some influences from – or at least parallels with – aspects of English law. These are epitomised recently in listing requirements, including a ‘comply or explain’ Corporate Governance Code since 2015, and an earlier tendency in takeover regulation to give priority to decisions of shareholders over those of directors. The impact of German law, filtered sometimes nowadays through EU law, remains important too. Japan’s complex corporate law landscape is also influenced by  the three distinctive features of post-War corporate governance practice mentioned above, even though they too have been undergoing gradual transformations.

Much discussion has emerged recently also around ESG issues for investors and managers in Japan, as in many other jurisdictions with large securities markets (Part II.5). A key question is whether this means even-greater shareholder primacy, as foreign institutional investors in particular pushed for further ESG initiatives from Japanese firms, or whether it marks their return towards more stakeholder-based corporate governance. The answer is important for predicting likely future directions (Part II.6).

Corruption and Illegality in Asian Investment Arbitration

Written by: Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura (UBD-IAS, CAPLUS affiliate) and Luke Nottage

[Updates: I have co-authored draft introductory, concluding, Japan and Thailand chapters for this book agreed with Springer in their Asia in Transition series. Some or all were presented at a public conference held in Brunei on 29 May 2023 (booklet here) supported by ANJeL and CAPLUS, and at events in UFrankfurt and Heidelberg MPI in early July 2023. Earlier versions were presented at an invitation-only webinar for book contributors hosted by UBrunei on 15 June 2022, as well as at Griffith University’s Law Futures Centre on 21 July, NUS ISEAS on 22 September, and at Monash Law (Melbourne CBD) on 9 November 1-2pm.]

The Institute of Asian Studies at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD-IAS) has recently funded a conference volume project on this important topic, involving several professors from the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS).

The original proposal overview is further below; the final set of authors/chapters submitted to Springer in mid-2023 is as follows:

Foreword — Amokura Kawharu (President, New Zealand Law Commission)[1]

Introduction

  1. Bribery and Other Serious Investor Misconduct in Asian International Arbitration — Nobumichi Teramura (Asst Professor, Institute of Asian Studies (IAS) at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD)),[2] Luke Nottage (Professor, Sydney Law School)[3] and Bruno Jetin (Associate Professor and Director, IAS at UBD)[4]

Part 1: The Economic Context of Corruption and Investment

  • Does Corruption Hinder FDI and Growth in Asia and Beyond? The Grabbing Versus Helping Hand Revisited — Ahmed Masood Khalid (Professor and Former Dean, School of Business and Economics at UBD)[5]
  • The Effect of Corruption on Foreign Direct Investment at the Regional Level: Positive or Negative Relationship? — Bruno Jetin, Jamel Saadaoui (Senior Lecturer, University of Strasbourg)[6] and Haingo Ratiarison (University of Strasbourg)[7]

Part 2: General Legal Issues from the Interface of Corruption, Illegality and Investment Arbitration

  • Anti-Corruption Laws and Investment Treaty Arbitration: An Asian Perspective — Anselmo Reyes (International Judge, Singapore International Commercial Court)[8] and Till Haechler (Bar Exam Candidate, Supreme Court Canton of Zurich)[9]
  • Multi-Tiered International Anti-Corruption Cooperation in Asia: Treaties Review and Prospects — Dr Yueming Yan (Asst Professor, Faculty of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong)[10] and Tianyu Liu (LLM Candidate, Leiden University)[11]
  • Corruption in International Investment Arbitration — Michael Hwang (Senior Counsel and Director, Michael Hwang Chambers LLC)[12] and Aloysius Chang (Senior Associate, Watson Farley & Williams)[13]
  • Rebalancing Asymmetries between Host States and Investors in Asian ISDS: An Exception for Systemic Corruption — Martin Jarrett (Senior Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law)[14]

Part 3: Country Reports

  • Foreign Investment, Investment Treaties and Corruption in China and Hong Kong — Vivienne Bath (Professor, Sydney Law School)[15] and Tianqi Gu (PhD candidate, Sydney Law School)[16]
  • Corruption and Investment Treaty Arbitration in India — Prabhash Ranjan (Professor and Vice Dean, Jindal Global Law School)[17]
  • Corruption and Illegality in Asian Investment Disputes: Indonesia — Simon Butt (Professor, Sydney Law School),[18] Antony Crockett (Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills)[19] and Tim Lindsey (Professor, Melbourne Law School)[20]
  • Foreign Investment, Treaties, Arbitration and Corruption: Comparing Japan — Luke Nottage and Nobumichi Teramura
  • Corruption and Investment Arbitration in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic: Corruptio Incognito — Romesh Weeramantry (Counsel, Clifford Chance)[21] and Uma Sharma (Litigation Associate at TSMP Law Corporation)[22]
  • Corruption and Illegality in Asian Investment Arbitration: The Philippines — Thomas Elliot A Mondez (Court Attorney, Court of Appeals in the Philippines)[23] and Jocelyn Cruz (Chair, Commercial Law Department at De La Salle University)[24]
  • Investment Arbitration, Corruption and Illegality: South Korea — Joongi Kim (Professor, Yonsei Law School)[25]
  • Foreign Investment, Corruption, Investment Treaties and Arbitration in Thailand — Sirilaksana Khoman (Professor of Economics, Thammasat University; Member, National Anti-Corruption Commission)[26] Luke Nottage, Sakda Thanitcul (Professor, Chulalongkorn Law School),[27]

Conclusions

  1. Towards a More Harmonised Asian Approach to Corruption and Illegality in Investment Arbitration— Nobumichi Teramura, Luke Nottage and Bruno Jetin

[1] https://www.lawcom.govt.nz/commissioner-profile/amokura-kawharu

[2] https://ias.ubd.edu.bn/nobumichi-teramura/

[3] https://www.sydney.edu.au/law/about/our-people/academic-staff/luke-nottage.html

[4] https://ias.ubd.edu.bn/bruno-jetin/

[5] https://ubd.edu.bn/menu/staff-directory/2017/04/20/dr.-ahmed-masood-khalid/

[6] https://www.jamelsaadaoui.com/

[7] https://www.linkedin.com/in/haingo-ratiarison-20a2b21bb/?originalSubdomain=fr

[8] https://www.sicc.gov.sg/about-the-sicc/judges

[9] https://www.linkedin.com/in/till-haechler-b09b051b6/?locale=es_ES

[10] https://www.law.cuhk.edu.hk/app/people/prof-yueming-yan/

[11] https://www.linkedin.com/in/tianyuliu521/?originalSubdomain=cn

[12] https://www.mhwang.com/

[13] https://www.wfw.com/people/aloysius-chang/

[14] https://www.mpil.de/en/pub/institute/personnel/academic-staff/mjarrett.cfm

[15] https://www.sydney.edu.au/law/about/our-people/academic-staff/vivienne-bath.html

[16] https://www.linkedin.com/in/tianqi-gu-115921228/?originalSubdomain=au

[17] https://jgu.edu.in/jgls/prof-dr-prabhash-ranjan/

[18] https://www.sydney.edu.au/law/about/our-people/academic-staff/simon-butt.html

[19] https://www.herbertsmithfreehills.com/our-people/antony-crockett

[20] https://law.unimelb.edu.au/about/staff/tim-lindsey

[21] https://www.cliffordchance.com/people_and_places/people/lawyers/sg/romesh_weeramantry.html

[22] https://www.linkedin.com/in/umajsharma/?originalSubdomain=sg

[23] https://www.linkedin.com/in/elliot-mondez-518271128/?originalSubdomain=ph

[24] https://www.linkedin.com/in/jocelyn-cruz-4b119719a/?trk=public_profile_browsemap_profile-result-card_result-card_full-click&originalSubdomain=ph

[25] https://uic.yonsei.ac.kr/main/academic.asp?mid=m03_01_02&act=view&uid=849&keyword=

[26] https://www.americanconference.com/speakers/dr-sirilaksana-khoman/

[27] https://www.law.chula.ac.th/en/profile/5496/

* * *

Bribery and other serious illegal behaviour by foreign investors are widely condemned in any society. The problem is that people seem not to have reached a consensus on the consequences of corruption and illegality in international investment and especially in investment arbitration – a transnational procedure to resolve disputes between a foreign investor and a host state. A core issue is whether a foreign investor who violated a host state’s law would be awarded protection of its investment, as per its contract with the host state and/or the applicable trade or investment agreement between the home state and the host state. Some suggest such protection would be unnecessary, as the investor committed a crime in the host state, while others attempt to establish an equilibrium between the investor and the host state. Some others claim to protect investment, invoking the sanctity of promises made. This research explores ‘Asian’ approaches toward the issue, considering the extent to which significant states in Asia are likely to become ‘rule makers’ rather than ‘rule takers’ regarding corruption and serious illegality in investor-state arbitration. To this end, we will employ a comparative method, inviting scholars from the Asia-Pacific region, including UBD-IAS and other institutions.

The Principal Investigator is Dr Nobumichi Teramura, the Co-Principal Investigator is Assoc Prof Bruno Jetin (UBD-IAS Director), Luke Nottage (appointed also now a Visiting Professor at UBD) is another contributor and the others are listed below. Many have previously worked together on related Asia-focused projects, notably their co-edited volume with Shahla Ali on New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (Wolters Kluwer 2021) and Luke Nottage’s book co-edited with Julien Chaisse on Investment Treaties and International Arbitration Across Asia (Brill, 2018; expanding on country reports from a 2017 JWIT special issue on ASEAN with Prof Sakda Thanitcul as joint special editor and supported by the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre).

This new project’s primary purpose is to examine Asian approaches and case studies regarding corruption and serious illegality in international investment arbitration. It focuses on corruption-related disputes between private parties and public sector entities. It also covers other serious illegal conduct by foreign investors  related to or broadly equivalent to corruption and bribery, including serious non-compliance with key provisions of national laws regulating the admission or operation of foreign investment.

Regional free trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP Agreement) mandate member states to combat corruption and other illegal conduct. However, they remain silent on how specifically to deal with public-private disputes arising from corruption and illegality. Trade and investment law experts have become well aware of the problem, and some suggest treaty reforms even at a global level. Against this backdrop, the research aims to accumulate Asian perspectives, for Asia to build the foundation of leading the next rounds of treaty reforms. In particular, it intends to address the following questions:

  1. Whether Asia has been and will remain ‘ambivalent’ about international law prohibiting corruption and illegality. How have Asian countries been combatting corruption and other illegal activities particularly as to foreign investment? What laws and rules exist, and how do they operate in respective jurisdictions? What are the recent developments?
  2. Whether and how Asian countries have dealt with corruption and illegality in relation to foreign investment projects. If they have faced any international investment cases, what are the outcomes and consequences?
  3. Whether Asian countries have been or are more likely to become ‘rule makers’ rather than ‘rule takers’ in international investment law (as explored generally in the Brill and Wolter Kluwers books mentioned above) regarding corruption and illegality.

Those questions will support us to achieve the central objective: to examine Asian approaches toward  corruption and illegality in international investment arbitration. As we enter an age in which Brunei is increasing its engagement with foreign companies, it is probable that there will be disputes that need to be arbitrated, and corruption and illegality in investment arbitration are issues which other countries in the region are already facing. This research project will help the Bruneian authorities and the academic community, and counterparts in other Asia-Pacific jurisdictions as well as further afield especially when engaging with this region, learn more about such topical issues and potential counter-measures.

More specific expected outcomes include:

  1. One international online research workshop in mid 2022 and one international symposium in early 2023 (depending on pandemic travel restrictions), both in Brunei, for the contributors to present their papers and exchange opinions.
  2. An edited volume in the IAS-Springer Book Series on “Asia in Transition” based on the research papers by the contributors. (A further grant will be applied for to assist with related copy-editing etc, and CAPLUS interns and other Sydney Law School resources will assist particularly with the chapters authored by CAPLUS members.)
  3. A journal article co-authored by Professor Nottage, A/Professor Jetin and Dr Teramura for a Q1 Scopus journal.

Contributors based at UBD:

Name and FICsDescription of contribution
Dr Nobumichi TERAMURA (UBD-IAS)Principal Investigator – general editor and author of chapters for the edited volume in the IAS-UBD “Asia in Transition” series
Associate Professor Bruno Jetin (UBD-IAS)Co-Principal Investigator – general editor and author of chapters for the edited volume in the IAS-UBD “Asia in Transition” series
Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Indera Negara Pengiran Anak Haji Puteh ibni Al-Marhum Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Haji Mohamed AlamGeneral contributor (re corruption, investment, arbitration and the Asia-Pacific) and author of the forewords of the edited volume
Professor Ahmed Masood Khalid (UBD-SBE)Contributor (re business and corruption)
Dr Masairol Bin Haji Masri (UBD-SBE)Contributor (re business and corruption)
Dr Hammeed Abayomi Al-Ameen (UBD-SBE)Contributor (re business law and corruption)

Other Contributors:

Professor Luke NottageUniversity of Sydney, Australia (CAPLUS Associate Director); UBD (visiting professor)Co-organiser – general editor and author of chapters for the edited volume in the IAS-UBD “Asia in Transition” series
Dr Colin Ong QCArbitration Association of Brunei Darussalam; and Colin Ong Legal ServiceContributor (re standard of proof for corruption allegations)
Professor Sakda ThanitculFaculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University, ThailandContributor (re Thailand)
Professor Sirilaksana KhomanFaculty of Economics, Chulalongkorn University; National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), ThailandContributor (re Thailand)
Mr Antony CrockettHerbert Smith Freehills, Hong KongContributor (re Indonesia)
Professor Simon ButtUniversity of Sydney (CAPLUS Co-Director)Contributor (re Indonesia)
Professor Romesh WeeramantryNational University of Singapore; Clifford ChanceContributor (re Lao Republic)
Justice Anselmo ReyesSingapore International Commercial CourtContributor (re corruption regulations for economic warfare)
Professor Vivienne BathUniversity of Sydney (former CAPLUS Director)Contributor (re China and Hong Kong)
Professor Joongi KimYonsei Law School, South KoreaContributor (re South Korea)
Professor Dai TamadaKyoto University, JapanContributor (re Japan)
Dr Prabhash RanjanSouth Asian University, IndiaContributor (re India)
Dr Martin JarrettMax Planck Institute, Heidelberg, GermanyContributor (re general investment law and investor misconduct)
Professor Tim LindseyUniversity of Melbourne, AustraliaContributor (re Indonesia)
Dr Jocelyn CruzDe La Salle University, the PhilippinesContributor (re the Philippines)

Guest Blog: Pandemic Pressure Points –Economics Governance and Society in Japan

Written by: Joseph Black (CAPLUS law student Intern, 2021) [with updates from Prof Luke Nottage]

On 25 August 2021, the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), the Australia-Japan Society of New South Wales (AJS), the Australia-Japan Research Centre (AJRC), the Japan Studies Association of Australia (JSAA) and the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law (CAPLUS) delivered a timely seminar entitled “Pandemic Pressure Points: Economics, Governance and Society in Japan”. The webinar [recorded here] was moderated by Dr Rowena Ward, JSAA Treasurer and Senior Lecturer in Japanese studies at the University of Wollongong. Panellists were Professor Yasuko Hassall Kobayashi, Associate Professor at Ritsumeikan University’s College of Global Liberal Arts (and Honorary Associate Professor, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific); ANJeL co-director Professor Luke Nottage from the University of Sydney Law School; and Professor Shiro Armstrong, AJRC director and Associate Professor of economics at the Australian National University (also co-editor of the East Asia Forum blog). Closing remarks were given by Masahiko Kiya, Consul-General of Japan in Sydney, and also Patron of AJS and on ANJeL’s Advisory Board. We had the privilege to explore diverse and topical themes: the impact of the pandemic on Japanese governance and its legal system, the impact of the pandemic on the Japanese economy, how the pandemic has disadvantaged vulnerable groups, and, among other themes, the emergence and potential of digitalisation in Japan. [Comparing developments in Japan with China, Indonesia and Malaysia, as part of an ANJeL/CAPLUS/CAPI (UVic) webinar around Prof Victor Ramraj’s edited book on COVID-19 in Asia, see the 28 May 2021 webinar recording here.]

Dr Ward commenced the substantive part of the seminar by sharing graphs reflecting vaccination and case numbers in Japan. While the number of cases has substantially increased since the middle of June 2021, deaths have recently come down compared to the 7-day average (~7 compared to 32), and have been kept very low by international standards even during earlier waves. Turning to age and sex statistics, males, especially in their 80s, are generally at a higher risk of death than females, and recently, there have been virtually no women in their 30s who have died from COVID. Around 40% of Japanese have received two doses. This number is somewhat higher than in Australia, which has also ramped up vaccinations over the last two months.

Following the statistics, Professor Kobayashi presented and dissected the economic disparity between women and men in the Japanese labour market amid the pandemic and the general social picture. Professor Kobayashi noted that women have generally had less income than men (~251.0 to 338.0); have been subject to precarious, part-time jobs at a higher rate than men; and have experienced more unemployment than men. Women with child/ren had the highest unemployment rate (11.5% compared to 4.2% for men and 9.1% for women) according to May 2020 statistics. As Professor Armstrong later suggested, the actual rate of unemployment figure may be unknown for all women (and men), as the unemployed may not have started looking for employment and are therefore not incorporated in unemployment statistics. Professor Kobayashi noted that there has been an increasing number of telephone consultations for domestic violence (skyrocketing from around 9,000 in January 2020 to over 17,000 between March and April 2020). Furthermore, women have found themselves tasked with ever-more domestic responsibilities, and would like men to participate more in the household than pre-pandemic (21% of tasks to about a quarter).

Professor Armstrong turned to the Japanese economy, and discussed the immediate impacts of the pandemic on the economy. He noted that, while the economy did not shrink this quarter, we may miss the ‘Olympic bounce’ that historically accompanies the Olympics (Tokyo was in a state of emergency and we did not see the type of tourism that follows the Olympics). Nonregular workers, women, young people, the elderly, and the vulnerable in Japanese society have particularly experienced financial hardship. Unlike Australia, Japan has provided limited stimuli, and it has taken considerable time for Japanese to receive checks and masks.

Later, Professor Nottage discussed Japanese law before and amid the pandemic. Japan has been comparatively unusual in pandemic management [but rather like eg Sweden] by not imposing criminal or other legal sanctions on individuals, but instead relying mainly on community norms and self-responsibility to limit movement and COVID-19 spread. One question is whether this provides another example of what Professor John Haley identified as a persistent pattern of “authority without power” in Japanese legal history, meaning authorities don’t have or want to invoke legal powers. An illustration is the practice of informal “administrative guidance” to influence business activity, quite common until the 1980s.

However, Professor Nottage observed that with the COVID-19 pandemic, the government did have constitutional power to extend emergency powers to restrict business activity (which it eventually legislated for, but still in a soft manner compared to Australia and other countries) and even to restrict movement by citizens. The government seems to have decided not to introduce harder lockdown measures because legally they still have to be proportionate, and Japanese citizens and firms generally act responsibly anyway. Another reason is that compensation should be paid if constraints are legislated, and the Japanese government already has high levels of national debt. The response has arguably struck quite a good balance, if we focus on the very low death rates (as the government seems to have done from the outset of the pandemic) combined with benefits from keeping the economy largely open. As one Tokyo-based law professor remarked, a visitor nowadays wouldn’t really know that Japan was going through a global pandemic, except for people wearing masks in crowded situations, somewhat fewer commuters as more work or have university studies from home, and some organisations restricting numbers and hours of operation.

The recent reliance mainly on self- and community responsibility does sit somewhat uneasily with the reforms implemented after an all-of-government report on justice system reform, aimed at making the law more part of everyday life in Japan. Those changes to civil and criminal justice, as well as the expansion of legal education and professionals, were aimed at allowing businesses more flexibility instead of ex ante regulation by public authorities, but improved processes to provide ex post remedies for misbehaviour through more functional courts or alternative dispute resolution systems. But in public health, especially in crises like a pandemic, prevention is usually better than cure. There are downsides, too, in moving socio-economic ordering in an overly legalistic direction.

Professor Nottage also mentioned some areas where the pandemic has had significant impact on Japan’s legal system, drawing on a series of YouTube interviews with various experts in Japanese law, funded through the Japan Foundation Sydney for ANJeL and the JSAA. Japan’s contract and consumer law systems seems to be responding comparatively well, but the pandemic challenges have forced the courts to bring forward plans to digitalise their still mostly paper-based procedures. By contrast, the rapid worldwide shift to remote hearings in international arbitration and mediation creates opportunities for newly established ADR institutions in Japan, but also significant competition.

The webinar also had a variety of questions and answers during the question segment, in the Sydney Law School podcasts recording. For further developments and perspectives, the AJRC is holding a Japan Update 2021 online seminar on 8 September 2021 over 10:00AM-3:00PM AEST.

***

Joseph Black is a Juris Doctor student at the University of Sydney and anticipates commencing his Masters of International Law program from February 2022. Joseph is an intern with the CAPLUS and is interested in Japanese Law, Chinese Law, Indonesian Law, East Asian Studies, and other fields.