The Dutch first instance judgment in Groningen earlier this month, in X v PayPal (Europe) S.a.r.l. & Cie S.C.A., sees claimant debtor essentially seeking a compulsory settlement – CS. PayPal (established in Luxembourg) is the only debtor refusing the settlement proposed by claimant’s bank.
The CS is not listed in Annex I to the Insolvency Regulation 2015/848 (always check for the consolidated version, for the Annex is frequently updated by the Member States’ communication of proceedings to be included). This is where the discussion of scope of application could and should end.
Instead, the judge tests the CS against A1(1)’s abstract criteria. She decides there is neither divestment of assets, nor a temporary stay of individual enforcement proceedings.
This then raises the applicability of Brussels Ia. Seeing as the judge finds the action does not meet with the CJEU F-Tex criteria (Brussels Ia’s insolvency exception only applies to actions which derive directly from insolvency proceedings and are closely connected with them), she holds that Brussels Ia’s ‘insolvency’ exception is not triggered and that BIa applies.
The judge then cuts the corner which English courts in schemes of arrangement have often cut, namely to consider the willing debtors, domiciled in The Netherlands, as ‘defendants’ per Brussels Ia, hereby triggering Article 8(1) BIa’s anchor defendant mechanism. The judge justifies this by stating that the other creditors are interested parties and that it is in the interest of the sound administration of justice that the CS be discussed viz the interested parties as a whole. That may well be so, however in my view that is insufficient reason for A8(1) to be triggered. A8(1) requires ‘defendants’ in the forum state, not just ‘interested parties’. The suggestion that a co-ordinated approach with an eye for all interested parties, justifies jurisdiction, puts A8(1)‘s expediency cart before the A4 ‘defendant’-horse.
The judge then also cuts corners (at least in her stated reasons) on the applicable law issue, cataloguing this firmly in Rome I. She argues that even if the CS is a forced arrangement, replacing a proposed contract which party refused to enter into, it is still a contractual arrangement. That is far from convincing.
Equally not obvious is as the judge holds, that per A4(2) Rome I, the party required to effect the ‘characteristic performance’ of a compulsory settlement, is the claimant-debtor of the underlying debt, leading to Dutch law being the lex causae.
The judgment at the very least highlights the continuing elephant in the restructuring tourism room, namely the exact nature of these proceedings under Brussels Ia, EIR and Rome I.