SMD v Banco Santander: the CJEU will either boost or bust European private international law.

Update 2 April 2017. The case unfortunately was removed from the register on 10 March last, for the SC has withdrawn its questions.

The title exaggerates. However the CJEU will have an opportunity in C-136/16 SMD v Banco Santander (referred by the Portuguese Supreme Court) to hold how ‘international’ a case has to be to trigger application of the European private international law Regulations. In both Owusu and Lindner the Court suggested a flexible approach to the ‘international’ character of a case (hence to the Regulations being easily engaged). The case referred is reminiscent of Banco Santander Totta at the High Court. In that case, however, jurisdiction was not contested and analysis focused on the reach of Article 3(3) Rome I (relating to ‘purely domestic contracts’).

I have copy/pasted the questions referred below. No doubt the CJEU will not entertain them all.

Crucial questions, are: is choice of court ex the country enough for the  case to be considered ‘international’; if it is, can forum non conveniens-type considerations lead to the (national) Court seized ignoring choice of court; if it is not, what other international elements need to be present and does choice of law play a role in this assessment.

Exciting. Once private international law engaged, literally the whole world opens up to contracting parties. If it is not, one is stuck with national law.


(Handbook of) European Private International Law Chapter 2, Heading


In a dispute between two national undertakings of a Member State concerning agreements, does the fact that such agreements contain clauses conferring jurisdiction to another Member State constitute a sufficient international element to give rise to the application of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 1 and Regulation No 1215/2012 to determine international jurisdiction, or must there be other international elements?

May application of the jurisdiction agreement be waived where the choice of the courts of a Member State other than that of the nationality of the parties causes serious inconvenience for one of those parties and the other party has no good reason to justify such choice?

In the event that it is held that other international elements are necessary in addition to the jurisdiction agreement:

Do the swap agreements concluded between [Sociedade Metropolitana de Desenvolvimento, S.A.] (‘SMD’) and Banco Santander Totta have sufficient international elements to give rise to the application of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 and Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 in order to determine which courts have international jurisdiction to settle disputes relating to them where:

(a)    Those entities are nationals of a Member State, Portugal, that concluded two swap agreements in Portugal consisting of an ISDA Master Agreement and two confirmations, negotiated by the Autonomous Region of Madeira on behalf of SMD;

(b)    In that negotiation, the Autonomous Region of Madeira, assisted by Banco BPI, S.A., and by a law firm, invited more than one international bank to submit proposals, one of those invited banks being JP Morgan;

(c)    Banco Santander Totta is wholly owned by Banco Santander, with domicile in Spain;

(d)    Banco Santander Totta acted in its capacity as an international bank with subsidiaries in various Member States and under the single brand Santander;

(e)    Banco Santander Totta was considered in the ISDA Master Agreement as a Multibranch Party, able to make and receive payments in any transaction through its subsidiaries in London or Luxemburg;

(f)    Under the terms of the ISDA Master Agreement concluded, the parties may, in certain cases, transfer their rights and obligations to other representative offices or subsidiaries;

(g)    The parties to the swap agreements specified that English law was applicable and concluded jurisdiction agreements that confer exclusive jurisdiction on the English courts;

(h)    The agreements were drafted in English and the terminology and concepts used are Anglo-Saxon;

(i)    The swap agreements were concluded with the objective of covering the risk of variation in the interest rates of two financing agreements, both drafted in English and concluded with foreign entities (one based in the Netherlands and the other in Italy), and in one of the financing agreements it is provided that borrowers’ payments must be made to the HSBC Bank Plc account in London, on dates defined by reference to the London time zone and subject to English law and the English courts;

(j)    Banco Santander Totta acted as an intermediary of the international market, having concluded hedging agreements in the context of the international market?


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