Suppipat v Siam Bank. Unsatisfactory discussion of legal advice privilege and lex fori.

Suppipat & Ors v Siam Commercial Bank Public Company Ltd & Ors [2022] EWHC 381 (Comm) repeats (and indeed refers to) the inadequate discussion of applicable law and privilege in PJSC Tatneft v Bogolyubov which I discuss here.

The application is for an order prohibiting respondents from using or deploying in these proceedings certain documents covered by legal professional privilege and/or containing confidential information, copies of which the respondents obtained pursuant to subpoenas in Thailand.

It is not in dispute apparently [26] and in any event Pelling J would have concluded that whether a document is capable of being privileged is a question to be determined as a matter of English conflicts law by the lex fori, which in this case is English law. That follows not undisputedly from the Rome Regulation which applies to the proceedings as either acquired or retained EU law (it is not clear when the claim form was issued).

The next question that arises is whether the Documents should be treated as privileged in this litigation notwithstanding that they have been obtained by the respondents lawfully by operation of an order of a court of competent jurisdiction in Thailand. This question is discussed as one of an alleged breach of an obligation of confidence (the subpoena in Thailand does not mean that the documents have entered the public domain) and the law that should apply to that obligation which both parties suggest must be discussed under Rome II. Thai law according to the defendants ([38-39] an unjust enrichment /restitution claim under Article 10; alternatively locus damni under the general rule of Article 4 with Thailand as the locus damni, it being the place of disclosure) , however claimants maintain that the issue is to be resolved applying English law for essentially all the reasons set out in the authorities deciding that English law applies to the question whether a particular document is privileged or not.

 

 

Pelling J [40] ff agrees with the claimants and holds that even if Rome II were to apply, both A16 Rome II’s overriding mandatory law rule and A26’s ordre public rule would trump Thai law given the robust nature of legal advice privilege in English law. That statement leads to an incorrect application of both Articles (for starters, A26 requires case-specific, not generic application).

The Rome II discussion cuts many corners and is certainly appealable. The judge’s views put the horse before the cart. Neither Article 16 nor Article 26 are meant to blow a proper Rome II analysis out off the water. Nor as I flagged, does the judgment do justice to the proper application of A16 and 26.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 4.81.

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