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ARBITRATION WORLD I’ll Arbitrate if I Want to: The Privy Council’s Recent Decision on the Meaning and Effect of Permissive Arbitration Clauses by Zaib Malik (London) This article reports on the recent decision of the UK Privy Council (“PC”) in the case of Anzen Limited and others (Appellants) v Hermes One Limited (Respondent) (British Virgin Islands), which concerned the meaning and effect of a permissive arbitration clause, i.e. a clause that appears to give the parties concerned an option to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than requiring that they do so. The PC is the highest court of appeal for several independent commonwealth countries, and its decisions are held as a source of legal authority by the courts of a number of other Commonwealth countries, including the courts of the United Kingdom and India. The potential impact of this significant decision is therefore likely to span a number of jurisdictions. BACKGROUND The Appellants and Respondent were shareholders in a British Virgin Islands (“BVI”) company known as Everbread Holdings Ltd (“Everbread”). The parties entered into a shareholders’ agreement dated July 2012 (“SHA”). The arbitration clause was at Clause 19.5 of the SHA and stated, “any party may submit the dispute to binding arbitration.” The Respondent commenced court proceedings in the BVI against the Appellants and Everbread on 10 February 2014. On 18 February 2014, the Appellants applied to stay the court proceedings pursuant to section 6(2) of the BVI Arbitration Ordinance 1976 (the “Ordinance”) on the ground that Clause 19.5 of the SHA was a valid and binding arbitration provision. Section 6(2) of the Ordinance states that where the parties have entered a binding arbitration 61