COMI in NIKI.

Thank you Bob Wessels for again alerting us (with follow-up here [update 15 January 2018 and here ; looks like regular revisits of prof Wessels’ blog are in order) and also reporting by Lukas Schmidt here) timely to a decision this time by the German courts in Niki, applying the Insolvency Regulation 2015, on the determination of COMI – Centre of Main Interests. Bob’s review is excellent per usual hence I am happy to refer for complete background.

Of particular note is the discussion on the extent of a court’s duty to review jurisdiction ex officio; the court’s correct assumption that in the event of foggy circumstances, the EIR’s presumption of COMI at the place of incorporation must have priority; and finally in my view the insufficient weight the court places on ascertainability by third parties.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5, Heading 5.6.1.

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Airia Brands Inc v Air Canada: jurisdiction and certification of global classes.

Interestingly enough the issue of inclusion of foreign victims in class action suits came up in conversation around our dining room the other day. (Our youngest daughter, 15, is showing encouraging signs of an interest in a legal career). In 2017 ONCA 792 Airia Brands Inc v Air Canada is reviewed excellently by Dentons here and I am happy to refer.  (See also here for Norton Rose reporting on related cases – prior to the CA’s decision in Airia Brands).

The jurisdiction and ‘real and substantial connection’ analysis referred to Van Breda (which recently also featured mutatis mutandis in the forum necessitatis analysis in  Cook).

Certification of global classes was part of the classic analysis of developments in international class action suits, which hit us a few years back when many EU states started introducing it. Airia Brands shows that the concerns are far from settled.

Geert.

 

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Sharia divorce and Rome III. The CJEU in Sahyouni.

I reviewed the AG’s Opinion in Case C-372/16 here. The Court held late December. Like the AG, it held that  Rome III does not cover divorces which are declared without a constitutive decision of a court or other public authority: it squarely uses the Regulation itself to come tho this view, without any assessment of whether the foreign State’s courts in private sharia divorces, has any impact on that conclusion.

With the first question answered in the negative, the other, very interesting issues covered by AG, became without subject. A judgment not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Geert.

 

 

 

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The RBS rights issue litigation: A missed opportunity for choice of law re privilege to go up to the UKSC.

Update 6 January 2018. Thank you Gordon Nardell QC for signalling that the CA has given leave to appeal in [2017] EWHC 1017 (QB) Serious Fraud Office (SFO) v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Ltd. The issues there are  summarised by Gordon’s learned friend Christopher Newman here. Appeal in SFO v ENR will give an opportunity to the Court of Appeal to address many of the same privilege issues – although not perhaps lex causae.

Welcome to this end of 2018.

Thank you Kate Wilford for flagging [2016] EWHC 3161 (Ch) The RBS Rights issue litigation. The litigation concerns a rights issue of shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland (“RBS”) which was taken up in 2008. By the various actions, shareholders in RBS seek to invoke statutory remedies against RBS under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (“FSMA”) whereby to recover substantial investment losses incurred further to the collapse of RBS shares. The prospectus for the Rights Issue was argued not be to accurate or complete.

The case at issue was held December 2016 but has only now come to my attention. Of note to this blog is one of the three issues that were sub judice: whether RBS is entitled to rely on the federal law of the USA as the law applicable to the particular issue, and if so, whether under that law the claim of privilege is maintainable: Hildyard J referred to this as “the Applicable Law Point”. It is discussed under 129 ff.

As Kate notes, the issue was concerned with the availability of legal advice privilege over records of interviews conducted by US lawyers in a fact-gathering investigation. RBS contended that the English court should have applied US privilege rules, which would have afforded the interview records a much broader degree of protection against disclosure.

I reviewed privilege and applicable law in my post on  People of State of New York v. PriceWaterhouseCoopersalbeit that in that case the toss-up was between different States’ law, not federal law. Hildyard J discusses the English 1859 authority Lawrence v Campbell: lex fori applies. Particular attention is paid to the in my view rather convincing arguments of Adam Johnson (who has since taken silk) as to why this 1859 authority should no longer hold, see 145-147.  Yet his arguments were all rejected, fairly summarily. RBS’ lawyers proposed an alternative rule (at 137): “Save where to do so would be contrary to English public policy, the English court should apply the law of the jurisdiction with which the engagement or instructions, pursuant to which the documents came into existence or the communications arose, are most closely connected.”

Rome I or II did not feature at all in the analysis – wrongly I believe for there could have been some useful clues there and at any rate the applicable law rules of the Regulations certainly apply to the litigation at issue and should have been considered.

Now, there seems to have been consensus that the case was Supreme Court material – however RBS did not pursue the point. We’ll have to wait therefore until another suitable case comes along which I imagine should not be too long in the making.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 1.

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Unstunned slaughter and EU law. Wahl AG finds no justification for total ban.

A post suited to be this year’s last, given the religious context of the current holiday period: Wahl AG advised late November in C-426/16. See my previous posts on the issue. A European Regulation (1099/2009) provides for an unclear, and conditional,  exemption from a requirement of stunning animals for religious slaughter. (Regularly the practise is also called ‘ritual’; including in current Opinion. ‘Religious’ must be the preferred term).

Practised in particular by the Jewish (Shechita; leading to ‘kosher’ meat) and Muslim (Zabihah; with halal meat) faith, a core aspect of the practice is that animals are not stunned prior to slaughter. The science on the effect of stunned or unstunned slaughter is equivocal. What is certain is that neither stunned nor unstunned slaughter, when carried out incorrectly (well documented in the case of stunned slaughter) aids the welfare of the animal.

The Flemish Minister responsible for animal welfare announced that, from 2015 onwards, he would no longer issue approvals for temporary slaughter plants at which religious slaughtering could be practised during the Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice because such approvals in his view were contrary to EU legislation, in particular the provisions of Regulation 1099/2009. The muslim community objects to the discontinuation of temporary slaughter plants.

The Advocate-General’s Opinion is lengthy, and there is a lot to chew on.  There is little point in rehashing all the AG’s points: readers are best referred to the Opinion itself. Of note however is

  • Firstly, the AG’s attempt strictly to delineate the issue.

The case he suggests is simply about what material conditions, in terms of equipment and operating obligations, must accompany unstunned slaughter in order for it to comply with the relevant EU rules. He suggests a rephrasing of the referring court’s questions in that direction. Along these lines he also in substance refuses to entertain the questions as to the validity of Regulation 1099/2009 itself, or the exemption from the duty to use approved slaughterhouses under the Regulation’s ‘cultural’ exception. (See footnote 13). In my view the Regulation is very vulnerable on this issue: sporting and cultural events are entirely excluded from its scope of application; religious rites are subject to a qualified exemption. That to me cannot survive a discrimination test.

The Brussels court had given the case a much wider scope: it suggested that the contested Flemish decision creates a limitation on the exercise of freedom of religion and undermines Belgian customs relating to religious rites, since it obliges Muslims to perform the ritual slaughter of the Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice in slaughterhouses that have been approved in accordance with Regulation No 853/2004. In the opinion of that court, this limitation is neither relevant nor proportionate in order to attain the legitimate objective of protecting the welfare of animals and human health (at 20). The AG however sees no limitation of freedom of religion at all, resulting from the general obligation to use approved slaughterhouses.

  • Despite the attempt at delineation, the background to the case is undeniable and filters through in the Opinion.

If only because the AG has to complete the analysis should the CJEU disagree with his view that freedom of religion is not being limited, he does review the legality of a total ban on slaughtering other than in plants that have been approved in accordance with the rules established in Annex III to Regulation No 853/2004.

First of all he refers to European Commission audits of the previously approved temporary slaughterhouses to make the point that they protected animal welfare sufficiently. He directly criticises the Regulation for its arguably disproportionate criteria in this respect: see in particular at 127.

Religious slaughter falls squarely within the European Convention of Human Rights Article 9’s freedom of religious expression. It is clear that the AG believes that the ban on unstunned slaughter other than in approved abattoirs, in the name of animal welfare or otherwise,  offends freedom of religious expression to such a degree that it simply must not pass: para 133 and the preceding argumentation is very clear.

The AG’s reasoning holds all the more for a total ban un unstunned slaughter full stop. That is the clear implication of this Opinion and one which must be welcomed.

Guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!

Geert.

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Bot AG in Fansites. No cheers for unified applicable data protection laws.

Apologies for late reporting. Bot AG opined end of October in C‑210/16 Fansites. [The official name of the case is Unabhängiges Landeszentrum für Datenschutz Schleswig-Holstein v Wirtschaftsakademie Schleswig-Holstein GmbH, in the presence of Facebook Ireland Ltd, Vertreter des Bundesinteresses beim Bundesverwaltungsgericht. It’s obvious why one prefers calling it Fansites].

The Advocate-General summarises (para 2-3) the case as involving ‘proceedings between the Wirtschaftsakademie Schleswig-Holstein GmbH, a company governed by private law and specialising in the field of education (‘the Wirtschaftsakademie’), and the Unabhängiges Landeszentrum für Datenschutz Schleswig-Holstein, a regional data-protection authority in Schleswig-Holstein (‘ULD’) concerning the lawfulness of an order issued by the latter against the Wirtschaftsakademie requiring it to deactivate a ‘fan page’ hosted on the website of Facebook Ireland Ltd. The reason for that order was the alleged infringement of the provisions of German law transposing Directive 95/46. Specifically, visitors to the fan page were not warned that their personal data are collected by the social network Facebook (‘Facebook’) by means of cookies that are placed on the visitor’s hard disk, the purpose of that data collection being to compile viewing statistics for the administrator of the fan page and to enable Facebook to publish targeted advertisements.’

The case ought to clarify the extent of the powers of intervention of supervisory authorities such as ULD with regard to the processing of personal data which involves the participation of several parties (at 13). I had flagged earlier that this case is relevant to the jurisdictional and applicable law issues involving datr cookies.

Whatever the outcome of the case, its precedent value will be limited by the imminent entry into force of the new General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR. The GDPR clearly introduces a ‘one-stop principle’ with only one lead authority (in FB’s case, Ireland’s data protection agency) having the authority to act (see also the AG’s observation of same in para 103).

As prof Lorna Woods in excellent analysis observes, the issue comes down to the interpretation of the phrase from Art. 4(1)(a), ‘in the context of the activities of an establishment’. Dan Svantesson has most superb analysis of Article 4(1)(a) here, anyone interested in the issue will find his insight most helpful.

Now, the Advocate-General leans heavily on Weltimmo however I would suggest its precedent value for the Fanpages case is constrained. Weltimmo concerned a company set up in Slovakia but with no relevant activities at all in that Member State. Indeed as the Court itself observed (at 16-18) , the company was effectively male fide (my words, not the CJEU’s) moving its servers and creating fog as to its exact whereabouts. In other words a case of blatant abuse. There is no suggestion of abuse in Fanpages. Moreover according to the CJEU in C-230/14 Weltimmo the phrase ‘in the context of the activities of an establishment’ cannot be interpreted restrictively (AG’s reference in para 87), yet that CJEU holding in Weltimmo cross-refers to Google Spain in which the crucial issue was whether EU data protection laws apply at all. That is very different in Weltimmo and in Fanpages. That EU authorities have jurisdiction and that EU privacy law applies is not at issue.

There is sufficient argument to find in the Directive, even before its transformation into the GDPR, that in cases such as these the same processing operation ought to be governed by the laws of just one Member State. It would be good for the CJEU to recognise that even before the entry into force of the GDPR.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.2.5.

 

 

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Eli Lilly v Genentech: When does a patent infringement case turn into questions of validity? – and its impact on cost findings.

I explained the issue in [2017] EWHC 3104 (Pat) Eli Lily v Genentech in my posting on Chugai v UCB. A defendant in a patent infringement case often tries to make the case that the suit is about patent infringement really: for this obliges the court per GAT v Luk to refer (only the) invalidity issue to the court with exclusive jurisdiction under Article 24(4) Brussels I Recast.

Here, Eli Lily seek a declaration of non infringement of a bundle of European patents held by Genentech, a US-incorporated firm.

Birss J in the case summarises all relevant precedent, including Chugai, to reach the conclusion that the suit can stay in the UK.

Of note is his holding on costs. The English courts do not just review whether the case is currently about validity but also what the likelihood is that it will become one on validity. For if it does later on, Birss J suggests ‘this entire exercise will have been something of a charade‘ (at 84). (Which is not quite the case: even if the validity issue needs to be temporarily outsourced to different courts, the infringement issue may later return to the courts of England).

On this point, Eli Lilly refuse to disclose whether they may seek a ruling on the validity of the patents: they would rather wait to see Genentech’s defence. Not an unacceptable position, but one, High Court does warn, which will have an impact on costs. At 87: ‘I am satisfied that these unusual circumstances mean that it would not be fair to pre-empt what each party may decide to do. There are sufficient uncertainties that the right thing to do is wait and see what happens. However in my firm but necessarily provisional view that wait should be at Lilly’s risk as to costs. If Genentech does counterclaim for infringement, and validity of the non-UK patents is put in issue (here or abroad) in response, then it is very likely that Lilly should bear the whole costs of this application even if they win it in its form today.

That latter point is interesting. It’s twice now this week that judgments come to my attention where jurisdictional considerations are clothed in costs implications.

Geert.

(Handbook of ) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.6.7.

 

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