Sir David A R Williams QC


Telephone: +64 9 367 6896

Mobile: +64 21 367 689

Fax: 64 9 367 6895

[email protected]

Post: PO Box 405, Shortland Street, Auckland, New Zealand 1140.

Sir David Williams QC is a barrister and arbitrator with over 30 years’ experience as counsel in commercial litigation before New Zealand and overseas Courts and Arbitral Tribunals including numerous New Zealand cases heard in the Privy Council, London, England. Based on this extensive and broad-based commercial litigation background, and after serving as a Justice on the High Court of New Zealand, he has developed a strong emphasis on international commercial arbitration and investment treaty arbitration, mainly as an arbitrator but occasionally as counsel.

Sir David is a member of Bankside Chambers, Auckland, New Zealand and Maxwell Chambers, Singapore, as well as being an Associate Member of Essex Court Chambers, London.  He is an Honorary Professor of Law at the University of Auckland and is the co-author of Williams and Kawharu on Arbitration (LexisNexis, 2011). He sits part-time as the President of the Cook Islands Court of Appeal.

Who’s Who Legal 2005 listed Sir David Williams QC as one of the world’s outstanding commercial arbitrators. In 2007 Global Arbitration Review listed him as one of London’s “super arbitrators” …  Who’s Who Legal 2008 said in the English section that “David Williams QC of Essex Court Chambers is many people’s Chairman of choice at the moment.”

Who’s Who Legal 2010 in listing worldwide leaders in international commercial arbitration said that David Williams QC is “in a league of his own in New Zealand.” Chambers Global (UK) 2012 said David Williams QC, “has been in high demand of late. A ‘charming and decisive chairman’, he inspires confidence in clients and counsel alike by firmly guiding proceedings forward whilst also retaining a relaxed atmosphere.” Chambers Europe 2012 stated that “David Williams QC is characterised as ‘sensible, pragmatic and excellent in the technical aspects of arbitration’.” Chambers Asia 2012 said “David Williams QC of Essex Court Chambers is recommended as ‘an excellent arbitrator who is a big name internationally’”.  Chambers UK Bar (2013) stated that “David Williams QC of Essex Court Chambers but based in New Zealand, offers significant expertise in investment treaty and commercial arbitration.  Market commentators are quick to praise his capabilities as arbitrator, with one source commenting that ‘he controls proceedings brilliantly as chairman’.”  Who’s Who Legal 2014 referred to “The very intelligent Sir David Williams QC who has been involved in over 120 international arbitrations and currently serves as a member of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration” (ICCA).

Chambers Global 2014 listed Sir David among the top 40 most in-demand arbitrators worldwide for public international law, and said he was “one of the top international arbitrators in the world” and is frequently appointed to arbitrations involving treaty-based disputes.

Chambers Global 2014 – Asia Pacific Region said the “outstanding” Sir David Williams is an “internationally renowned arbitrator who acts on many of the top-end international disputes in Asia. Currently New Zealand-based, he brings vast global arbitration experience to act for high-profile clients across the region, in the commercial and investment spheres”.

Chambers Global 2014 – International Arbitration said that Sir David “has a solid reputation built over many years of acting on the largest cases in the field. He now primarily acts as an arbitrator, focusing largely on the Asia-Pacific region. Sources say: ‘He is absolutely in the top band on a worldwide level.’”

Who’s Who Legal 2017 – Who’s Who Legal says – “David Williams QC splits his time between the UK and New Zealand and is ‘always in demand and very frequently appointed:  this is due to his first-class abilities as an arbitrator’.”

Recent and Notable Cases

Chairman of the HKIAC arbitration in Grand Pacific Holdings Limited v Pacific China Holdings Limited (British Virgin Islands), where an award of US34 million was made to Claimants.  The award was upheld by the Hong Kong Court of Appeal in June 2012 (Pacific China Holdings Ltd (in liq) v Grand Pacific Holdings Ltd CACV 136/2011).

Presiding Judge of the Court of the Dubai International Finance Centre in International Electro-Mechanical Services Co LLC v Al Fattan Engineering, which held that the DIFC Court retained its inherent jurisdiction to issue anti-suit injunctions.  The case is discussed by C Spalton in Global Arbitration Review, 23 October 2012:  “DIFC Court sends pro-arbitration message” and also in Ostrove, Saloman and Shifman (eds) “Choice of Venue in International Arbitration” (Oxford, 2014) at page 130, paras 5.56-5.57.

Member of the ICSID Tribunal in Occidental Petroleum Corporation v Republic of Ecuador.  In October 2012 the Tribunal issued an award in favour of Occidental for US1.9 billion, which was at the time the largest sum ever awarded in an ICSID arbitration. In February 2013 at the Global Arbitration Review Awards in Bogotá, the award for the most important published decision in 2012 in jurisprudential terms went to this decision.

Member of the ICSID Tribunal in Deutsche Bank v Sri Lanka.  In November 2012, the Tribunal issued an award in favour of Deutsche Bank for US65 million, finding Sri Lanka had breached the investor protection provisions of the Germany–Sri Lanka Bilateral Investment Treaty.

Sir David has been appointed as a member of the arbitral tribunal which will decide the claim brought by Chinese financial services company, Ping An against the Kingdom of Belgium.  Ping An was the largest shareholder in Fortis, a massive Belgium-Dutch Financial Institution which was the subject of a Government rescue in 2008.  The Tribunal will be chaired by Lord Collins, recently retired Judge of the UK Supreme Court.  The third arbitrator is Mr Michael Moser of Hong Kong.  The claim is being brought under the ICSID (World Bank) arbitration rules.

Sir David was Counsel for the Arbitrators’ & Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand as Intervener in the NZ Supreme Court in Carr & Brookside Farm Trust Ltd v Gallaway Cook Allan [2014] NZSC 75. The appeal concerned the principles under Article 34 of Schedule 1 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (NZ) relating to the setting aside by the Court of arbitral awards.

Sir David Williams QC was a member of an ICSID (World Bank) arbitral tribunal which issued in September 2014 a unanimous Award in favour of Canadian listed company Gold Reserve Inc. The Tribunal found that Venezuela had violated the Canada–Venezuela bilateral investment treaty in its treatment of Gold Reserve in relation to its Brisas gold and copper mining project. The Tribunal held the state liable under the treaty’s Fair and Equitable treatment clause and ordered it to pay US713 million for the fair market value of the project, plus US23.3 million in interest and US5 million in legal and technical costs incurred by the claimant. A further 27 cases against Venezuela are pending at ICSID (the International Centre for Investment Disputes, World Bank Washington DC).  The majority relate to nationalisations overseen by the late President Hugo Chávez.

Sir David was Chairman of a Court of Arbitration for Sport Arbitration Panel (CAS) which in October 2014 decided an important test case relating to the “out of competition” regime which applies to elite athletes in New Zealand and elsewhere.  In its decision the CAS reversed the earlier decision of the New Zealand Sports Tribunal and upheld the primacy of the principle of no prior notification to athletes in relation to out of competition testing.

Qualifications and Career

Sir David Williams QC was for eighteen years a litigation partner at Russell McVeagh, Auckland.  He moved to the independent Bar in 1987 and was appointed QC in that year.  From 1992 to 1994, he was a judge of the High Court of New Zealand.  He returned to the Bar in 1994 specialising in arbitration matters.  In 2010 he was appointed an honorary professor at the University of Auckland Law School where he teaches international arbitration. Together with Amokura Kawharu, Sir David is co-author of Williams and Kawharu on Arbitration (LexisNexis, 2011), New Zealand’s first comprehensive treatise on domestic and international arbitration. The book won the JF Northey Prize 2012 for the best legal treatise published in New Zealand in that year. It has since been favourably reviewed:

Anthony Sinclair / Mark Robertson – (2013) 29 Arbitration International 319

“Williams & Kawharu is an excellent contribution to the academic literature that will do much to shape the ongoing development of arbitration law and practice in New Zealand.  It may take pride of place amongst the foremost tests on arbitration law and practice in any jurisdiction, and stands to be the leading text on arbitration in New Zealand for many years to come.”

Review by Chester Brown, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney published in 2013, 87 Australian Law Journal, page 1.

“…an excellent text which provides a thorough treatment of domestic and international arbitration from a New Zealand perspective, and which is of interest and relevance to those engaged in international arbitration in many jurisdictions …”

LawTalk 796/25 May 2012 (New Zealand Law Society) Book Review by Robert Fisher QC

“Williams and Kawharu (“W&K”) is a major arrival on the local arbitration scene.  Its 1245 pages make it easily the most comprehensive hard copy text on the subject in New Zealand.

…W&K has undoubtedly taken its place as a key resource for anyone dealing with arbitration in this country.  It will also provide the reader with a useful springboard into international commercial and investment treaty arbitration.  Its two great contributions are its comprehensiveness and its internationalism.  In a small country we need more books like this.”

Robert Morgan, Asian Dispute Review, January 2013

“Concise and comprehensive in one stroke, Williams & Kawharu deservedly occupies a place in the pantheon of commentaries on arbitration under the Model Law.”

Global Arbitration Review by Wendy Miles, Monday 20 August 2012

“Williams & Kawharu on Arbitration is a comprehensive, in depth analysis of the law and practice of domestic and international arbitration, New Zealand.  It is a first and only complete study of all aspects of arbitration specifically for New Zealand law studies, lawyers, judges and arbitrators, making it an essential addition to the New Zealand legal bookshelf.  International arbitration practitioners further afield, especially in the Asia/Pacific region, should not overlook the broader appeal of this invaluable treatise, for its concise and accessible format, thoughtful analysis and unique content.”

Sir David has contributed chapters to other works, including: Muchlinski, Ortino and Schreuer (eds) The Oxford Handbook of International Investment Law (OUP, 2008); Brown and Miles (eds) Evolution in Investment Treaty Law and Arbitration (Cambridge UP, 2011); Pryles and Moser (eds) The Asian Leading Arbitrators’ Guide to International Arbitration (JurisNet, 2007); and, Rowley (ed) Arbitration World (The European Lawyer, 2006 and 2010). He was the arbitration editor of the New Zealand Law Review from 1989-2013.

In September 2012 Sir David delivered the Herbert Smith Freehills Lecture at the Singapore Management University, the lecture being entitled “Defining the Role of the Court in Modern International Commercial Arbitration”.

Other recent publications:

·        David Williams “Defining the Role of the Court in Modern International Commercial Arbitration” (2014) 10(2) Asian International Arbitration Journal 137.

·        David Williams and Mark Tushingham “The Application of the Henderson v Henderson Rule in International Arbitration” (2014) 26 Singapore Academy of Law Journal 1001.

·        David Williams and John Walton (with the assistance of Anna Kirk and Gowan Duff) “Costs and Access to International Arbitration” (2014) 80(4) Arbitration 432.

·        David Williams and Stephanie Thompson “Interim Measures in International Arbitration: New Zealand”, chapter in Interim Measures in International Arbitration (Lawrence W Newman and Colin Ong (eds),  Juris Publishing, 2014).

·        David Williams and Thomas Clark “Welcome BackSilks – Why the Return of the QC rank was entirely justified” [2014] NewZealand Law Journal 31 / June 2014 Newsletter of the New Zealand Bar Association.

·        David Williams and Anna Kirk “Fair and Equitable Treatment of Witnesses in International Arbitration – Some Emerging Principles”, chapter in a forthcoming publication, Charles Brower: Liber Amicorum (David Carron, Abby Cohen-Smutny, Epaminont as Triantafilou and Stephen Schill (eds)).
Academic Qualifications

• LLB, University of Auckland Law School, 1965
• LLM, Harvard Law School, 1966
• Visiting Scholar University of Virginia Law School, USA, 1978
• Visiting Fellow Cambridge University, UK, 2002
• Honorary Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, 2010 –

Professional Qualifications

Admitted as a barrister to New Zealand Bar (1965); Australian Bar (1986), A.C.T. (1986), N.S.W. (1987), Victoria (1987), Cook Islands Bar (1998) and also to English Bar (Lincoln’s Inn) (2003).

Experience at the Bar

• Litigation partner, Russell McVeagh McKenzie Bartleet & Co, Auckland 1969–1984
• Barrister at Law 1985–1991, 1995–
• Queen’s Counsel, 1987 –

Judicial Experience

• Justice of the High Court of New Zealand, 1991–1994

Part-time Judicial appointments

• Justice of the High Court of the Cook Islands 2000–2005
• Chief Justice of the Cook Islands 2005–2010
• Justice of the Court of Appeal of the Cook Islands 2010–2013
• President of the Court of Appeal of the Cook Islands 2013–
• Justice of the Court of the Dubai International Financial Centre 2007–2013


Sir David Williams is a former President of the Arbitration and Mediators Institute of New Zealand, and is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators,  a member of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA), and a member of the Panel of Arbitrators for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Previously, he was a member of the board of the American Arbitration Association, the ICC International Court of Arbitration, and the London Court of International Arbitration.