Court: Dead Sea Works must reveal arbitration transcripts

Jerusalem District Court rejects a Dead Sea Works petition to keep transcripts from arbitration hearings over royalties from becoming publicly available.

By
July 16, 2013 01:32
2 minute read.
The Dead Sea Works

The Dead Sea Works 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The Jerusalem District Court on Monday rejected a Dead Sea Works petition to keep transcripts from arbitration hearings over royalties from becoming publicly available.

The company went into arbitration talks with the Finance Ministry in 2010 over whether it had paid the appropriate level of royalties to the government, and whether the government had fulfilled its promises to support infrastructure.

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The judge in the case, Yigal Mersel, ruled that the subject – the nation’s natural resource reserves – was a public matter, and not a private business one. The company will also have to pay NIS 20,000 in legal fees for Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense), the environmental group that demanded that the Finance Ministry make the transcripts public in August, 2012, prompting the Dead Sea Works petition.

Israel Chemicals (ICL), which owns Dead Sea Works, argued that the transcripts revealed trade secrets, and said it had received assurances at the start of the arbitration process that they would not be revealed.

“ICL put faith in the government representatives and arbitration institution, and throughout the arbitration process fully revealed all the information and forms, including trade secrets, before the arbitrators and government representatives,” the company said in response to the ruling on Monday.

“Publicly exposing trade secrets will do real damage to the company and all its stakeholders, including the Israeli public, the company’s employees, shareholders and Israel’s government.”

The leaders of Adam Teva V’Din called the court’s decision a brave choice.



“The court ruled in a precedentsetting decision that there can be no privileges associated with arbitration proceedings in which the state is involved,” said Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam Teva V’Din. “Public information belongs to the public, even more so when it comes to natural resources like the Dead Sea, which belong to the public.”

Dana Tabachnik, head of Adam Teva V’Din’s economics and natural resources department, slammed Dead Sea Works for “shamefully continuing to exploit the resources of the Dead Sea” and for concealing information from the public about the company’s failure to properly pay for its exploitation.

“We must welcome this courageous court decision that today upheld the value of public information transparency as a supreme and basic value,” Tabachnik said.

Nidal Haik, an attorney for the Movement for Quality Government, hailed the decision as “an important milestone in the fight for public transparency.”

“When we are dealing with an issue with unprecedented public and economic implications – the rule is transparency and civic engagement,” Haik said.

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