Archive for category Conflict of Laws /Private international law

Colin King: On the application ratione temporis of the Recast Insolvency Regulation.

I thought I had but seemingly had not, flagged Bob Wessels’ timely alert to [2016] COMP 039 Colin King (Supreme Court of Gibraltar). The judgment first of all looks at the temporal scope of application of the Regulation, holding correctly that it is not the filing for bankruptcy which is relevant but rather the time of actual openings of those proceedings. Further, it makes correct application of the various presumptions and definitions vis-a-vis natural persons.

Not a shocking judgment but one which is a good read for a gentle introduction to COMI. And as Bob notes, it was not quite the first to apply the new EIR.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd edition 2016, Chapter 5.

 

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X v I: The Austrian Supreme Court on due diligence in choice of court under Brussels I Recast.

Thank you Klaus Oblin for flagging OGH 7 Ob 183/17p X SE v I SpA (yet again I am happy to grumble that there is really no need to keep B2B litigation anonymous) at the Austrian Supreme Court. At issue is the application of Article 25 Brussels I Recast: when can consent to choice of court be established.

The facts of the case reflect repeated business practice: offers are made and accepted; a business relationship ensues on the basis of which further offers and orders are made; somewhere along the lines reference is made to general terms and conditions – GTCs which include choice of court. Can defendant be considered to have consented?

The Supreme Court, justifiably, lays the burden of proof with the claimant /plaintiff: if the contract is concluded through different offer and acceptance documents, the offer need only reference the terms and conditions containing the agreement conferring jurisdiction only if the other party: can follow-up on this with reasonable diligence; and actually receives the terms and conditions.

I am happy to refer to Klaus’ excellent overview (which also discussed the absence of established business practice between parties: one of the alternatives for showing choice of court). Yet again, the first and foremost quality required of lawyers (here: in-house counsel) emerges: ensure proper filing and compliance with simple procedure. Here: a clear flag of the GTCs in correspondence, and simple follow-up would have sufficed.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.9.

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ECtHR draws the curtain over Krombach.

Thank you Tobias Lutzi for alerting us to the ECtHR drawing the final curtain (legally speaking at least) over the tragic events surrounding the Krombach case. The case is a classic viz ordre public, recognition and enforcement issues. Current decision however relates to the criminal law aspects of the case and the ne bis in idem principle in particular.

The Court declared Krombach’s complaint inadmissible.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16.1.4.

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Clutching at jurisdictional straws as short as hotpants. Suing Google for hotlinkers: High Court refuses service out of jurisdiction in Wheat v Alphabet /Google Inc and Monaco Telecom.

Hotlinking is explained at para 17 of [2018] EWHC 550 (Ch) Wheat v Alphabet /Google Inc and Monaco Telecom. (Cross-reference is also made to the related main case against Monaco Telecom, [2017] EWHC 3150 (Ch)). The principal claim against Monaco Telecom is that it has broadcast, and continues to broadcast, an unauthorised duplicate of theirearth.com – claimant’s website. Google is involved in the litigation because claimant alleges that Google’s search engine algorithm has done little to address hotlinking practice, which, it is said, facilitates copyright infringement.

Both cases are a good example of the standards for serving out of jurisdiction, essentially, to what degree courts of the UK should accept jurisdiction against non-UK defendants (here: with claimants resident in the UK). The Brussels I Recast Regulation is not engaged in either cases for neither Monaco nor Alphabet are EU based.

Copyright aficionados are best referred to the judgment to appreciate its impact. The judgment essentially confirms that other than in a B2C context (particularly where EU law applies and privacy is involved), suing (for tort) Google or indeed internet companies not headquartered here, is not an easy proposition.

Geert.

 

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Agrokor DD – Recognition of Croatian proceedings shows the impact of Insolvency Regulation’s Annex A.

Update 2 April 2018 For related developments in Slovenia, see Dr Sladic’s analysis here.

If one needed further illustration that the Brussels I Recast and the Recast Insolvency Regulation do not dovetail (a concept which I explore ia here) [2017] EWHC 2791 (Ch) Agrokor DD is it.

The English courts are being asked to recognise Agrokor’s extraordinary administration as a foreign main proceeding under the Cross-Border Insolvency Regulations 2006 (CBIR). For the facts of the case and Hogan Lovells breakdown of the judgment see here.

Of note for this blog is that Croatia have not included the emergency procedure foreseen Agrokor Act in the relevant Annexes to the Insolvency Regulation. Consequently no matter how much the procedure in the abstract meets with the definition of insolvency proceedings, it does not fall under the Insolvency Regulation hence recognition and enforcement of same does not follow that Regulation. Neither does it follow Brussels I Recast: for the procedure most definitely meets with the ‘insolvency’ exception under that Regulation. Matthews J justifiably refers to both in passing only, noting they have no calling here.

Recognition was eventually granted. Despite some serious relevant differences between Croatian and English insolvency law, none of these as so serious as to trigger ordre public objections. As Jake Hardy notes: if no man is an island, nor is any debt obligation – no matter how English it has painted itself to be.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5.

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Saey Home: The CJEU on choice of court and invoices, and place of performance of concession contracts.

C‑64/17 Saey Home, is yet another illustration of, mercifully for us conflicts lawyers, even fairly sophisticated businesses often fail properly to conclude commercial agreements. Here: what is said to be a semi-exclusive concession agreement, was concluded verbally only.

Saey Home & Garden is a company with its registered office in Kortrijk (Belgium), which specialises in the manufacture and sale, inter alia, of kitchen equipment and utensils bearing the trademark ‘Barbecook’. That company does not have a branch or establishment in Spain. Lusavouga has its registered office in Cacia, Aveiro (Portugal). Its premises are in Portugal. Its network covers Spain, inter alia, where it has no branch or establishment. Parties to the main proceedings concluded a commercial concession agreement concerning the exclusive promotion and distribution (with the exception of one client) in Spain.

First up, has choice of court in favour of the courts at Kortrijk (referred to by its French synonym Courtrai, but then without the ‘r’ in referral documents and by the CJEU) been validly made if this choice was only included in the general terms and conditions included in the invoices? Hoszig (where a jurisdiction clause is stipulated in the general conditions, such a clause is lawful where the text of the contract signed by both parties itself contains an express reference to general conditions which include a jurisdiction clause) and Leventis (the purpose of the requirements as to form imposed by Article 25(1) is to ensure that consensus between the parties is in fact established) are the most recent CJEU precedent referred to. Both of them build on standing CJEU principle: one must not be overly formalistic when assessing the existence of agreement, but one must be certain that such agreement exists. While it is up to the national court to assess this in fact, the Court does indicate it is unlikely to be the case when no written agreement has been made (neither initially nor subsequently confirming an earlier verbal agreement) and all one has are the invoices.

Choice of court being unlikely, next up is the application of Article 7(1) to determine which court has jurisdiction to hear an application for damages relating to the termination of a commercial concession agreement concluded between two companies, each established and operating in a different Member State, for the marketing of goods on the domestic market of a third Member State in which neither of those companies has a branch or establishment.

Referring to Corman-Collins, the Court classifies concession agreements as being service contracts, which per Article 7(1) second indent, leaves to be determined the ‘place in
a Member State where, under the contract, the services were provided or should have been provided;’. Note: the place in a Member State. Not different places. Per Wood Floor Solutions, when there are several places of performance of the obligation characteristic of a contract for the supply of services the ‘place of performance’ must be understood as the place with the closest linking factor, which, as a general rule, will be at the place of the main provision of services. This place of ‘main provision’ follows from the provisions of the contract and, in the absence of such provision, of the actual performance of that contract and, where it cannot be determined on that basis, the place where the agent is domiciled (still per Wood Floor Solutions). This specific determination is left to the referring court.

One imagines different national courts may have treated all of this as acte clair – except perhaps for the peculiarity of Spain being a Member State where neither of the parties has either domicile or branch.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.1.

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National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon. Branches’ activities, Article 7(5) Brussels I Recast and engagement of Article 30.

In [2017] EWHC 3512 (Comm)  National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon, Article 7(5) makes a rarish appearance, as does (less rarely) Article 30. Popplewell J summarises the main facts as follows.

‘The Second Claimant is the Republic of Kazakhstan (“ROK”). The First Claimant is the National Bank of Kazakhstan (“NBK”). The Defendant is a bank incorporated in Belgium with a branch in, amongst other places, London. Through its London branch it provides banking and custody services to NBK in respect of the National Fund of Kazakhstan (“the National Fund”), pursuant to a Global Custody Agreement dated 24th December 2001, (“the GCA”). The National Fund has been the target of proceedings brought by Mr. Anatolie Stati and others, (“the Stati Parties”), who are seeking to enforce a Swedish arbitration award against ROK for a sum, including interest and costs, in excess of US$ 500 million. The Stati Parties obtained attachment orders from the Dutch court and the Belgian court, which were served on the Defendant (“BNYM”). BNYM, after taking legal advice, decided to freeze all the assets comprising the National Fund, which it holds under the GCA, on the basis that it was bound to comply with the Belgian and Dutch orders, breach of which would expose it to the risk of civil liability for the amount of the Stati Parties’ claims and criminal liability in Belgium and the Netherlands.’

Effectively therefore the London Branch of a Belgian domiciled bank, has frozen claimant’s assets which it holds in London (although the exact situs is disputed), on the basis that it wishes to prevent exposure to BE and NL criminal proceedings.

Parties arguments on jurisdiction are included at 41 and 42 of the judgment. Core to the Brussels I Recast jurisdictional discussions is Article 7(5) which provides

“A person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State: […]

(5) as regards a dispute arising out of the operations of a branch, agency or other establishment, in the courts for the place where the branch, agency or other establishment is situated;’

Beyond Case 33/78 Somafer, to which the High Court refers, there is little CJEU precedent – C‑27/17 flyLAL is currently underway. Popplewell J at 53 refers to Lord Phillips’ paraphrasing of Somafer in [2003] EWCA Civ 147  as a requirement of ‘sufficient nexus’ between the dispute and the branch as to render it natural to describe the dispute as one which has arisen out of the activities of the branch.

At 54 he holds there is such nexus in the case at issue, particularly given the management of the frozen assets by the London branch, and the very action by that branch to freeze them. This is quite a wide interpretation of Article 7(5) and not one which I believe is necessarily supported by the exceptional nature of Article 7.

As to whether the English and Belgian proceedings are ‘related’, providing an opportunity for the English proceedings to be halted under Article 30 of the Recast (lis alibi pendens), the High Court refers at 57 ff to C-406/95 The Tatry to hold that there is no risk of conflicting decisions in this case: the argument specifically being that even if the issues addressed are the same, they are addressed in the respective (English, Dutch, Belgian) proceedings under different applicable laws (in each case the lex fori on sovereign immunity). I do not find that very convincing. The risk of irreconcilable outcome is the issue; not irreconcilability or not of reasoning. In the same para 60 in fine in fact Popplewell J advances what I think is a stronger argument: that the issue whether the National Fund was used or intended to be used for commercial purposes, requires to be determined or addressed in the English proceedings, with the result that there is no risk of conflict.

Article 30 not being engaged for that reason, obiter then follows an interesting discussion on whether there can be lis alibi pendens if the court originally seized had no jurisdiction under the Regulation: here: because the Belgian and Dutch proceedings are arbitration proceedings.

Does Article 30 apply to Regulation claims where there was a related action in a Member State in which the related action did not itself come within the Regulation? Referring to the new Article 34 lis alibi pendens rule for proceedings pending ex-EU, ex absurdum, would there not be an odd lacuna if Article 34 required a stay where there were related non-Regulation foreign proceedings in a third party State and the position were not to be the same for equivalent foreign proceedings in a Member State? I do not believe there would be such lacuna: the Article 34 rule applies to concurrent proceedings which are in fact in-Regulation, except international comity requires the EU to cede to foreign proceedings with a strong (typically exclusive) jurisdictional call. For intra-EU proceedings, the comity argument holds no sway – mutual trust does.

Like Poplewell J however I reserve final judgment on that issue for another occasion.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11, Heading 2.2.14.

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