CPR And GE:Working Together To Grow ADR

Tuesday, July 1, 2008 - 00:00

Editor: What is the mission of CPR?

Bryan: CPR's reason for being is to change the way businesses resolve disputes around the word. We work on commercial ADR in all its forms and focus on a broad spectrum of issues, including preventing disputes, resolving a case/dispute early and building systems to address disputes. We especially have been studying the cutting edge issues that are affecting industries, as well as specific industry approaches to resolving disputes.

Of course, most people have heard about our panel of neutrals. They are quite literally world-class neutrals, handling the most complex businesses disputes around the world. CPR is a non-profit membership organization. The idea of our membership is that people who are dedicated to finding new and better ways of resolving disputes and conflict avoidance can get together and share ideas. We have committees and task forces that hold meetings and engage in activities all dedicated to the idea of improving and expanding ADR. We have institutional membership; most of the Fortune 100 companies and top 100 law firms are members, so the list of people who are involved with CPR is many pages long. GE's membership list alone is several pages.

Editor: Brackett Denniston was honored for his and GE's support of CPR. Would you describe the ways in which GE has provided support?

Bryan: GE is one of our major supporters and has been since 1980, when they signed the CPR Pledge. The first of its kind, the CPR Pledge states that signatory companies will in all appropriate circumstances seek alternative dispute resolution as a means to resolve disputes. Once the Pledge gained a certain amount of momentum with corporations, law firms began to sign it as well. We now have more than 4,000 organizational signatories to our Pledge. GE has been a broad supporter of the Pledge; from the CEO on down, everyone there is dedicated to the idea of ADR as expressed in the Pledge. GE has been a tremendous sponsor of CPR as an organization, having generously sponsored our programs and activities here and internationally. Brackett himself is a leader who believes deeply in ADR, in part because a company of GE's size and sector diversity simply cannot afford to be constantly in litigation.

Editor: GE will frequently assign an outstanding lawyer or lawyers from its law department to assist organizations it supports in implementing their objectives. Has this occurred in the case of CPR, and what services have those lawyers provided?

Bryan: Absolutely. GE attorneys sit on our board of directors, on our executive advisory committee and on probably 15 or so other committees. GE's Head of Litigation, Alex Dimitrief, is a member of CPR's Board of Directors, and Barbara Daniele, General Counsel of GE Commercial Finance, is the co-chair of our Executive Advisory Committee. GE corporate litigation lawyer, Roland Schroeder, serves on our Executive Advisory Committee and has led a number of programs and activities for CPR.

One important contributor I especially want to mention is Michael McIlwrath. Based in Italy, Michael is Senior Counsel, Litigation for GE Infrastructure, Oil & Gas. A long-time member of the CPR Institute and its European Advisory Committee, Michael last year launched our International Dispute Negotiation (IDN) podcasts, in which he interviews professionals from different countries and backgrounds about their various approaches to dispute resolution. You can find the podcasts at http://www.cpradr. org/audio1.asp; I highly recommend them.

Editor: Yes, The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel condensed and published one of those panels, and it can be found on our website at www.metrocorpcounsel.com. How does CPR help companies like GE expand globally?

Bryan: GE has been very supportive of our international efforts because for them it really boils down to the importance of resolving transnational disputes. GE operates in many different countries, and in those countries the local judicial systems may not be adequate to handle the kinds of disputes that could arise between a company like GE and a local company. Companies like GE would prefer that a private mechanism for resolving disputes be accepted and understood on some level locally.

We work from a policy perspective; we do not get involved in individual disputes. We know a number of people, and work with chambers of commerce and run meetings, most recently in Vienna, Paris, Brussels and The Hague. In places including Warsaw and Zagreb, we run sessions in which we train local people to become mediators and neutrals in the many different forms that alternative dispute resolution can take. We hold many of our meetings in European countries first, because many of our members have business there. But we also have a U.S./ China business mediation center, which GE helped us create.

CPR and its members do a lot of public speaking; we also participate with other organizations in meetings all around the world. We are spokespeople for ADR, and we provide the tools and work with foreign business to teach them about ADR and grow it locally, all of which is a great help to a global company like GE in conducting transnational business.

One of the leading GE lawyers in Europe, Jean-Claude Najar, has enlisted us to educate foreign companies with whom GE does business on the subject of ADR.

Editor: In his book High Performance with High Integrity, Ben Heineman encourages companies to work together to achieve common worthy policy objectives. How has this played out with GE's work with CPR?

Bryan: Right away I think of the many GE employees who are personally involved; their substantive participation goes well beyond the theoretical. We have Barbara Daniele leading our Executive Advisory Committee and Michael McIlwrath doing podcasts. Brackett Denniston was the keynote speaker at our annual meeting this past year. GE employees throughout the organization get involved - they get on the podium, they draft papers.

For example, one area for which CPR is known is early case assessment. Former GE lawyer PDVillarreal, who now heads litigation at Schering Plough, was an early proponent of the implementation of an early case assessment system at GE. Having seen that this worked, PD and the current GE employees worked with us on putting together a protocol for early case assessment. So not only did GE benefit from coming up with the idea of a mechanism for early case assessment, but they were willing to share it with us. As a result of their time and effort, we now have a protocol that any company that comes to us can use. If "integrity" can be defined as an individual effort that is directed to a common good, then certainly GE employees have demonstrated integrity.

Editor: How receptive have you found foreign companies to ADR?

Bryan: Certainly arbitration is far ahead of mediation. Pursuant to the New York Convention in 1958, most countries in the world have agreed that arbitration decisions will be enforceable in their courts. If you have a dispute while doing business in a country that has signed on to the New York Convention, you can go to an arbitrator and that arbitrator's decision will be enforceable in their court. Arbitration is preferable to litigation when you are dealing with transnational disputes. International arbitration is on the rise, and in fact outside the U.S. most people don't even refer to it as part of alternative dispute resolution. Outside the U.S., ADR means mediation or conciliation.

Acceptance of mediation, meanwhile, remains spotty. There is a fair amount of acceptance of mediation in the U.K., Australia, the Netherlands and somewhat in Singapore as well as other locations around the globe. The effort to grow mediation in many places continues, as there remains a fair amount of resistance. While the resistance comes in many different forms, it usually is that the local courts are considered efficient at resolving disputes, that therefore ADR isn't needed. This resistance is very common, particularly in civil law countries. Editor: Where do you see the most growth in ADR happening and what do you see as your role?

Bryan: Certainly we are witnessing more growth in alternative dispute resolution outside the U.S. than inside, as ADR is already used frequently here. The volume of transnational business going forward is on an unbelievably steep growth path. When Brackett Dennison spoke at our annual meeting, one of the things he said was that GE's revenue used to be primarily from the U.S. - both in terms of revenues generated in the U.S. and employees living in the U.S. Since the mid-1990s, all that has changed. Over 50 percent of GE's revenues come from outside the U.S. Many of their employees are outside the U.S., and their business interests are all over the globe. When I look to the future, I see CPR's role as helping companies use private dispute resolution in order to most effectively conduct their business around the world.

Editor: Can you tell us about CPR's focus on early case assessment?

Bryan: Early case assessment is something that all organizations with a lot of litigation should do. Upwards of 99 percent of cases in the U.S. are resolved before they go to trial. But the later they are resolved, the more money is spent in litigating them. The concept behind early case assessment is to move the needle back so that if a case is going to be resolved, then get it resolved by consensus and before unnecessary money is spent on lawyers.

Editor: Different cultures have different attitudes toward mediation. Do you run into many challenges when doing mediations with different cultures?

Bryan: There are always challenges, but I have found that one of the reasons mediation is such a powerful tool is that it is actually easier to overcome cultural differences during a good mediation than it is in other forms of dispute resolution. We have done surveys asking people why they choose mediation over litigation or arbitration, and the number one reason is that through mediation, two sides can continue a relationship. If you have relationships you want to continue - be they with other companies, employees, vendors, stakeholders or other organizations - mediation should be your first choice for resolving a dispute.

Editor: Where do you interact most with GE, and where do you see the relationship headed?

Bryan: We work with GE all around the world. That's how integrated their people and their work with us is. When Brackett Denniston spoke here, he said that it was one of GE's goals (and I know it is our goal) to grow ADR around the world.

Integrity is good business. When integrity is embedded in the culture of a company and is lived by the leadership, the individual creativity, energy and dedication of its employees all rise to that level. We have benefited and continue to benefit tremendously from GE's support.

Please email the interviewee at kbryan@cpradr.org with questions about this interview.