UPDATED AAA ACCOUNTING RULES
By Jeffrey T. Zaino, Esq.
The American Arbitration Association® (AAA®) has updated and renamed the Professional Accounting and Related Services Dispute Resolution Rules effective February 1, 2015. The updated Rules, now named the Accounting and Related Services Arbitration Rules and Mediation Procedures, address some of the unique characteristics of accounting disputes, and incorporate other changes that reflect user preferences for a streamlined, cost effective and efficiently managed arbitration process.
Among the significant changes is the rule on the production of information, which responds to party expectations that arbitration will be far more efficient and cost-effective than a typical court proceeding. The revisions also provide for a balanced, fair, efficient and focused management of the exchange of information.
With respect to discovery, the Rule revisions also provide for:
• Strong management by arbitrators regarding the exchange of information with a view toward reduced cost and increased focus on the issues in dispute, including consideration of the proportionality, scope and materiality of the request given the amount in dispute.
• Balancing the goals of avoiding surprise, promoting equal treatment, and safeguarding each party's opportunity to fairly present its claims and defenses.
• Limiting document requests to files that are directly relevant and material to the parties' claims and defenses. If the search required is for files of individuals such search should be limited to files of those who spent time of significance (not measured alone by the number of hours spent working on matters that are relevant and material to the parties' claims and defenses)..
• A representative list of certain categories of electronically stored information that should not be allowed absent a determination by the arbitrators, for good cause shown, that there is a compelling need for such access.
The updated Rules continue to make clear that arbitrators may not compel an accounting firm to either complete a professional engagement or to issue a specified form of opinion or report when granting interim measures, emergency measures of protection, interim relief, or issuing a partial or final award.
Jeffrey T. Zaino, Esq., is Vice President for the Commercial Division of the American Arbitration Association in New York