Recently enacted Federal Law # 13.129/2015 amended Federal Laws # 9.307/1996 (Arbitration Act). This is a clear result of the increasing use of the arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution in Brazil in recent years. Even though the original act was enacted almost 20 years ago, it took about 10 years for arbitration to become a trustable choice of dispute resolution, mainly in view of lawsuits that claimed that arbitration clauses were not enforceable because they violated the judicial system access guarantee contained in the Brazilian Federal Constitution. Arbitration finally soared after Brazilian Supreme Court eventually ruled that such clauses are enforceable if the subject matter is a freely transferable right.

Most of the amendments refer to situations that well-structured arbitration clauses already addressed, but now – as it is usual in Roman law – become statutory law. In this situation, there are the following issues:

  • Parties can opt to put aside the rules of the chosen arbitration chamber that limit: (i) the use of a single arbitrator or co-arbitrators, (ii) the choice of the president of the panel; (iii) the choice of the arbitrators to its own list; but such rules will necessarily apply if there is a deadlock or in case of multi-party arbitration;
  • Arbitrators can issue partial awards;
  • Parties can agree to set terms longer or shorter than those established by the Act to apply for a
  • Correction or interpretation of the award and/or for the panel to address it (5 and 10 days are the legal standards);
  • Before arbitration commences, Parties can resort to the judicial system for any urgent provisional measure, but it becomes of no effect if the request for arbitration is not filed within 30 days from when it was granted; arbitrators are empowered to review the provisional measures once the arbitration commences.

It was never clear when statutes of limitation stop to run in case of arbitration. The new law establishes that it happens when the arbitration commences (so deemed as the moment when all arbitrators accept to serve as arbitrators), even if the arbitration is eventually dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The interruption of the statutes of limitation retroacts to the date of the filing.

An important novelty is that now it is clear that Parties may file lawsuits in order to force the arbitration panel to issue a supplementary ruling in case it did not address all the issues submitted to arbitration. The new act also establishes a 90 days deadline for a party to file lawsuit claiming any ruling by the arbitration panel to be void, in which case the judge will also decide if the matter must be resubmitted to the arbitrators.

Finally, the new act also amended Federal Law # 6.404/76 (Corporations Act) to allow stockholders holding at least half of the voting shares to amend the bylaws of a corporation in order to insert an arbitration clause. Dissenting stockholders were granted withdrawal right, except when strict circumstances when the corporation’s stocks ownership is dispersed over a certain threshold.

These amendments will become effective on July 28, 2015.