Terre Neuve v Yewdale. A Lugano /Brussels I jurisdictional fest.

In Terre Neuve SARL & Ors v Yewdale Ltd & Ors [2020] EWHC 772 (Comm), Bryan J entertains almost the entire jurisdictional chapter of the Handbook.

The proceedings are concerned with the alleged misappropriation of a sum of €10.6 million paid by the First Claimant (“Terre Neuve”) to the First Defendant (“Yewdale”) between July 2009 and September 2012, and thereafter allegedly misapplied with the alleged participation of other Defendants. The sums were paid pursuant to a tax optimisation scheme ultimately for the benefit of the Third Claimant (“Mr. Zahut”), who beneficially owned Terre Neuve and the Second Claimant (“Largely”). The scheme was allegedly created by a Mr. Sasson (now deceased), who gave tax advice through his company, the Third Defendant (“GPF”) and controlled Yewdale (an English company) and the Second Defendant (“REDS”) (a New York company).

In this preliminary judgment, plenty of the defendants challenge jurisdiction, even if as discussed at 11 ff, following judgment by Hancock J in [2019] EWHC 1119 (Comm), confirmed in [2019] EWHC 1847 (Comm), the action is already proceeding in England against Yewdale (which has been found to be a valid anchor defendant per Article 4 Brussels Ia) as well as a number of the overseas defendants: both those domiciled in Switzerland, and elsewhere. Co-defendants in current case were not involved in those earlier hearings.

Firstly, GPF, third defendant, challenges jurisdiction under Article 23 Lugano, more or less but not quite the same as Article 25 BIa. At 22 ff Bryan J cuts too many corners in my view. He extends CJEU precedent on Brussels I and Ia without question to Lugano construction. He unhesitatingly adopts English law (with Fiona Trust in the authority driver’s seat and with reference to the recent Etihad case) as the lex causae for the choice of court agreement. This is as lex fori additi I assume; the actual text of the choice of court agreement is not included in the judgment lest I looked over it however one can deduct the choice points to Switzerland. He is right in holding that the answer to the contractual construction of the choice of court agreement cannot be found in either Lugano or Brussels itself.

At 44 ff he decides that Claimants’ claims do not fall within the scope of any of the jurisdiction clauses in the Written Agreements, pointing away from England.

Next, a group of co-Defendants, who the Claimants allege were involved in and/or benefited from the misappropriation, challenge the jurisdiction of the English Court on various grounds, inter alia: that the claims against them are not sufficiently closely connected to be heard with the claims against the other Defendants in this jurisdiction, pursuant to Article 6(1) Lugano, and should instead be tried in Switzerland pursuant to Article 2 Lugano; that the claims against them would be more conveniently heard in Switzerland; that bringing proceedings against them in England is an abuse of process; that they should be tried in Switzerland pursuant to Article 5 Lugano; that proceedings against them in England are a breach of their rights under Article 6 ECHR; and that various agreements contain jurisdiction clauses which prevent the English Court from hearing the case against them.

In short (note all the authority he employs has been reviewed on this blog, both CJEU (e.g. Melzer) and English) Bryan J finds the cases are clearly related under Article 6 Lugano; forum non conveniens must not be entertained; and there is no abuse of EU law (a popular part of jurisdictional challenge following Vedanta); some of the defendants have submitted; Article 5 Lugano’s forum contractus is irrelevant for it only brings additional, not exclusive jurisdiction; Article 6 ECHR is clearly not breached (practical difficulties of attending, for instance, may be solved by modern means); arbitration in New York first of all does not engage an EU court and secondly of course arbitration is exempt from Lugano.

Finally the one co-defendant domiciled in Israel is nevertheless pulled into the English jurisdictional bath by application of residual English rules (serious issue to be tried; necessary and proper party).

Quite a lot to discuss by way of preliminary jurisdictional issue…

Geert.

 

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