Marriott v Fresson. A finding on exclusive jurisdiction distinguishing Ferrexpo.

In Marriott v Fresson & Ors [2020] EWHC 2515 (Comm) at issue in the jurisdictional challenge is whether Articles 24(2) or (3) Brussels Ia are engaged in litigation essentially seeking to uphold commitments included in two contracts expressly governed by English law and with an exclusive jurisdiction clause in favour of the courts of England. The goal of the agreements being the transfer of shares in Spanish-domiciled corporation (PEV), the question is whether they ‘have as their object the validity of the constitution, the nullity or the dissolution of companies or other legal persons or associations of natural or legal persons, or the validity of the decisions of their organs’ (A24(2)) alternatively ‘have as their object the validity of entries in public registers’ (A24(3)).

Toledano DJ referred ia to Koza, Zavarco, and C-144/10 BVG and held that the principal object of the proceedings is the enforcement of shareholder agreements.

Even the defendants, in their jurisdictional challenge, do not suggest that the proceedings directly call into question the validity of any specific decision of PEV organs. Rather, they contend that the proceedings are principally concerned with a claim to the legal ownership of shares in PEV which impacts upon the composition of the shareholders of PEV and prospectively therefore upon the validity of decisions of the shareholders as an organ of that company.

That was a bit optimistic for Brussels Ia’s exclusive jurisdictional rules quite clearly do not aim at claims whose eventual effect might engage the heads of jurisdiction listed in them. The distinction however is not always easy to make. Claimants may creatively formulate their claims so as they do not fall within A24 (a tactic used particularly in A24(4) intellectual property rights cases, hence requiring the judge to decide what the true object of the proceedings might be; see e.g. Chugai v UCB).

Marriott v Fresson clearly differs from Ferrexpo, which is discussed in the judgment, where validity of the resolutions of the company’s general meeting of shareholders was the direct and specifically formulated claim engaged Article 24 which was applied reflexively.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.6, Heading 2.2.6.5.

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