Stichting FX Claims v Natwest Markets. Amsterdam court rejects anchor, locus delicti commissi and forum necessitatis jurisdiction ia viz UK defendants in FOREX Cartel damages claim.

In FX Claims v Natwest Markets ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2023:1789, the first instance court at Amsterdam has rejected jurisdiction against the non-Dutch incorporated defendants (from the UK, the US, and Switserland) in a follow-on cartel damages case triggered by the European Commission’s decisions re manipulation of Forex Trading (known as Three Way Banana Split, Essex Express, and Sterling Lads, after the chatrooms in which the rigging was organised).

Stichting FX Claims was established by the US law firm that acts as third party litigation funder.

[6.3] the jurisdictional analysis takes place under Brussels IA for the Dutch-incorporated anchor defendant, Lugano II (referred to by the court as EVEXII) for the Swiss-incorporated defendant, and residual Dutch rules for all the others. However other than for the anchor defendant, the test is always the same (Dutch residual PIL instructs (see the Dutch Supreme Court in ‘Moldavia’) the courts to assess the claims using EU rules and CJEU authority): whether the claims against all defendants are so closely connected so that the sound administration of justice suggests it is expedient to hear them together, unless the claim is solely brought for the purpose of taking the defendant concerned away from their natural, domicile jurisdiction. Claimant resorts ia to the economic unit theory from EU competition law (see eg CJEU ENI) to support its anchoring unto a Dutch corporate vehicle of Natwest.

However [6.19] the Dutch Natwest SPV at the time of the infringements was not a direct daughter of the Natwest vehicle to whom the EC Decisions were addressed, and the claimant’s attention to the anchor defendant’s activities in their claim, is far underdeveloped [6.20]. With both the legal and the factual circumstances of anchor defndant being so radically different to those of the other defendants, the court finds [6.23] that the claims against it or not ‘closely related’ let alone so closely related so as to trigger expediency of joinder.

[6.31] Claimant’s argument that the cartelists’ activities concerned the whole of the EEA, including The Netherlands, is found not to suffice to identify Handlungsort (locus delicti commissi) in The Netherlands, neither [6.36] to locate locus damni Erfolgort in The Netherlands (here the court referred to CJEU CDC, flyLAL, and Volvo Trucks: damage needs to be shown for each individual claimant) other than for 3 of the parties represented in the claim, who have their corporate domicile in The Netherlands.

[6.37] a call upon the effet utile of the Damages Directive 2014/104 is rejected for that Directive is held not to include jurisdictional rules.

Finally the Stichting [6.43] attempts to establish jurisdiction under the Dutch forum necessitatis rule, referring to the practical challenges in suing outside the EU, the impossibility for non-EU, including UK courts to refer if need be to the CJEU (compare, in subsidiary fashion, Butcher J in Mercedez-Benz), the high costs involved in claiming in the UK, and, again, the effet utile of the Damages Directive. None of these impress the court which, referring to the need to apply forum necessitatis strictly, referring to there not being a serious suggestion that no fair trial will be guaranteed in the UK, and to the absence in EU statutory law or CJEU authority of a rule that EU competition law claims ought to always be judged by a court in the EU.

The judgment illustrates that much as the anchor defendant mechanism offers interesting opportunities, it cannot be used opportunistically.


EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading

Mercedez-Benz v Continental Teves. Post Brexit, follow-on cartel damages claims may well (and do) crash on forum non conveniens grounds.

In Mercedes-Benz Group AG & Anor v Continental Teves UK Ltd & Ors [2023] EWHC 1143 (Comm)  Butcher J set aside permission for service out of the jurisdiction (against EU-incorporated defendants) in a follow-on damages claim following the European Commission’s Hydraulic Braking system cartel findings.

The UK parties are the anchor defendants. Pre-Brexit, the case against the non-UK defendants would have been brought under A8(1) Brussels Ia and the abuse threshold per CJEU CDC would have undoubtedly not been met.

The attractive UK discovery rules were mentioned by claimants as an important reason to anchor the case in the UK. On that point [25] the judge held per Spiliada‘s instruction [as a general rule, the court will not be deterred from granting a stay or refusing permission to serve out simply because the claimant will be deprived of a ‘legitimate personal or juridical advantage’, such as damages on a higher scale or a more generous disclosure regime, unless it is shown through cogent evidence that there is a risk that substantial justice will not be done in the natural forum] that substantial justice could not be done in Germany, if it was an available forum.

Butcher J overall [26] held that Germany is an available forum (in the case of the German defendants by reason of both A4 and A7(2) [locus delicti commissi] Brussels Ia, and in the case of the UK defendant by reason of the German forum connexitatis rules), with which the dispute has its closest and most real connexion, and which may be described as the natural forum for the present dispute.

The nature of the infringing conduct, causation and damage all overwhelmingly took place in Germany, witnesses largely have German as their mother tongue. [51] counsel for claimants makes an interesting point that matters of convenience ought not to weigh in favour of cartelists (essentially a nemo auditur application), however, the judge holds that ‘in relation to the matters which will be in issue, there has been no finding that Mercedes are right, or the Defendants wrong.

Further and importantly [albeit only as an additional argument: [57]: ‘I should state, however, that I do not regard this factor as decisive. My conclusion on the natural forum would have been the same without it’], [56] the judge with respect to applicable law points to the disadvantage of England and Wales given the impossibility to refer to the CJEU

While the courts of England and Wales are obviously very used to applying EU law, and until recently did so as being directly applicable, it is the case that since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, UK courts cannot make preliminary references to the CJEU in respect of questions of the interpretation of EU law. While the Claimants say that a reference to the CJEU in respect of the interpretation of a Settlement Decision would be unusual, it cannot be said to be unprecedented.

Conclusion [58]

I am of the clear view that the forum with which the dispute has its closest and most real connexion is Germany, which is the natural forum for the dispute. The case has, in reality, very limited connexions with England and Wales, and it is not one, unlike very many which come before this court, where the parties have consensually chosen England and Wales as the forum for their disputes. The case has, by contrast, strong (and certainly much stronger) connexions with Germany.


The PIFFS v Al Wazzan litigation continues with disclosure order viz Swiss-held documents under English CPR, with consideration of prosecution risks under Swiss law.

I reported earlier on the jurisdictional issues in a case where PIFSS brings claims for sums totalling in the region of US$874 million, arising from the alleged corruption between 1994 and 2014 of its former Director General. In The Public Institution for Social Security v Al Wazzan & Ors [2023] EWHC 1065 (Comm), Henshaw J held early May that documents held in Switzerland must be disclosed, in application of disclosure rules under English civil procedure.

The disclosure concerns a large file of documents held by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office (SFPO)  arising from its investigations of Mr Al Rajaan and Ms Al Wazzan (Mr Al Rajaan’s widow) since 2012, and other documents held by Swiss-based entities or individuals, or located in Switzerland, or originating from and obtained under compulsion in Switzerland.

Disclosure was ordered, with a small caveat [161] which will see future specific measures (eg restriction of disclosure to counsel) be taken to ensure disclosure of the SFPO file documents to PIFSS does not create a risk of transmission to the State of Kuwait, which in turn might be viewed as sidestepping the State of Kuwait’s pending Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) request to Switserland for the purpose of the continuing criminal proceedings in Kuwait.

Justice Henshaw’s lengthy considerations do justice to two restraints on disclosure, under English CPR for use in English proceedings. The principal approach is [43 ff; and [47] in particular with reference to Bank Mellat v HM Treasury [2019] EWCA Civ 449] that questions of disclosure and inspection are part of the law of procedure and are therefore matters of English law as the lex fori ; duties of confidentiality (which, if breached, may result in sanction) arising under foreign law do not provide an automatic basis to withhold disclosure and inspection. They are a matter for the judge’s discretion, and disclosure is only not ordered where the party shows that the foreign law is regularly enforced, so that the risk of prosecution is real.

[51] the judge holds that comity considerations are an independent element to consider, and in the process refers to its neat definition in Dicey’s 16th ed § 7-002:

The United [States] Supreme Court famously said in Hilton v Guyot, a case on the recognition of foreign judgments: “‘Comity,’ in the legal sense, is neither a matter of absolute obligation, on the one hand, nor of mere courtesy and good will, upon the other. But it is the recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another nation, having due regard both to international duty and convenience, and to the rights of its own citizens or of other persons who are under the protection of its laws.

An interesting judgment raising several relevant issues (including one side-issue on the tardiness of the Hague Taking of Evidence rules).


Stichting Claim Gran Petro. Dutch court holds that use of the anchor mechanism merely to avoid tardy Brasilian proceedings in follow-on damages claim, constitutes abuse of process.

Regular readers will be aware that disciplining the use of the anchor defendant mechanism is not an easy task for a court to undertake (I have linked to one post yet the search tag ‘anchor’ will take you to plenty). The CJEU takes a restrictive view. Although in the case at issue Article 8(1) Brussels Ia does not formally apply (the mechanism does not apply to defendants domiciled outside the EU), instruction in Dutch residual rules is that they be applied as A8(1) would.

In Stichting Claim Gran Petro v Shell Netherlands, Shell Brasil and Raizen ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2023:7099, the Hague court of first instance did though refuse jurisdiction against the one Brazilian defendant (Raisen), anchored unto two Dutch Shell entities (Shell now having moved domicile exclusively to England was held [5.2] not to have relevance on account of the perpetuatio fori principle), citing abuse of the anchor defendant mechanism.

Shell have a majority share in Raisen. The claimants in essence called upon the corporate structure of Shell and, pro inspiratio, hoped to convince the court that the presumption of involvement of mother corporations in their daughter’s anti-competitive shenanigans might be enough to justify the relatedness of the claims. Such assumption exists in EU competition law (see eg CJEU ENI) however the court finds that claimants have not been able to prove a Brazilian equivalent.

The court refers ia to CJEU CDC v Azo Nobel et al to emphasize the condition that the anchor mechanism must not be intended merely to remove the defendant at issue from its natural domicile forum. [6.7] the court reports that the claimants acknowledge that Dutch jurisdiction is sought for reasons of  general tardiness of Brazilian proceedings. There is no suggestion that Raizen will not be willing to meet any future damages. Seeing as no presumption under Brazilian law of mother corporation involvement exists, and seeing as no proof of factual involvement of the Shell mother entities was furnished, [6.16] the court concludes that the anchor mechanism at issue is an abusive application and must not lead to jurisdiction.


Neighbours trip up big industry with Antwerp judgment holding 3M to account for (common law) nuisance following PFAS pollution.

On 15 May an Antwerp justice of the peace (effectively a first instance judge in ia neighbourly disputes) has issued a common sense, no nonsense judgment against 3M’s pollution for its PFAS pollution of the soil around its manufacturing site at the Port of Antwerp. (For background to PFAS aka per and polyfluoroalkyl substances see also my earlier post on applicable law). PFAS produced there were mainly used in fire extinguishing foam.

Bypassing the sluggish criminal law and public law investigations and enquiries, and in view of alarming levels of PFAS found in the family’s blood, two immediate neighbours at the site claim against 3M on the basis of what is effectively common law nuisance. Such a claim is one of strict liability: it does not seek to establish fault or negligence, rather it aims at addressing the imbalance in proprietary enjoyment.

The judgment reminds us that the historic roots of many an environmental law (think Rylands v Fletcher (1868) LR 3 HL 330 and later Cambridge Water Co Ltd v Eastern Counties Leather plc [1994] 1 All ER 53 ) are still good law despite the overwhelming body of local, regional, federal, EU and international environmental statutory laws.

3M (other than to internal civil procedure rules on the court’s jurisdiction) referred ia to its environmental permit and to its use of ‘state of the art environmental technologies; to the distinction between the statutory remediation duty on the one hand and the liability for pollution, on the other; to its voluntary phasing out of PFAS at the site, and to the soil remediation (negotiated with /imposed by the Flemish authorities) it will carry out ia on the claimants’ property ; to the inconclusiveness of data on long-term health impact; and to the need to at the least stay the case in light of ongoing criminal and public law investigations.

The judge held that claimants’ individual rights exist independently of public and criminal procedures and may be enforced separately, and that all four elements for the laws of nuisance are present:

Neighbourliness (the only element not contested by 3M);

Nuisance. For the existence of nuisance, the judge referred ia to statements aka ‘extrajudicial confessions’ made by 3M executives during hearings in the Flemish Parliament;

Excessive nuisance. The nuisance is also held to be excessive, with simple reference ia to clearly abnormal PFAS readings in claimants’ blood;

Attributable to 3M. Here, too, the judge holds straightforwardly: ia mapping ordered by the Flemish Government shows a clear concentration of PFAS on the sites run by 3M.

The judge concludes with a provisional statement of €2,000 damages for the reduced enjoyment by claimants of their property.

The judgment does not indicate the parameters to be used for final determination of damages. Early commentary on the judgment indicates a number of open questions, such as the parameter within which claimants can be considered to be ‘neighbours’, etc. It is clear that 3M will not just appeal, but will generally continue its approach of litigating each and every claim (of note is that Belgium’s collective proceedings provisions are not optimal, and moreover difficult to apply to common law nuisance cases) with convoluted legal reasoning and much distinguishing. Yet the judgment is appealing in its straightforwardness and no doubt inspiring to the many proceedings which, sadly, are en route in this sad episode of industrial ‘innovation’.



Conference announcement. ABLI-HCCH webinar: Cross-Border Commercial Dispute Resolution – HCCH 1965 Service Convention (27 June 2023).

Last July, I posted about a joint webinar between the Singapore-based Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI) and the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) on the Choice-of-Court and Judgments Conventions. The two organizations return this year with their third joint session, this time on the 1965 Service Convention.

Titled Cross-border Commercial Dispute Resolution – HCCH 1965 Service Convention, the webinar will take place on Tuesday 27 June between 4 to 5:10pm (Singapore time) or 10 to 11:10am (CEST), and is expected to discuss, among others, the actual operation of the Service Convention in practice, how the Service Convention works with the other HCCH Conventions for cross-border dispute resolution, and Singapore’s accession to and upcoming implementation of the Service Convention.

Invited speakers include Sara Chisholm-Batten (Partner, Michelmores LLP), Melissa Ford (Secretary, HCCH), Delphia Lim (2Director, International Legal Division, Ministry of Law, Singapore), Professor Yeo Tiong Min (Singapore Management University), and Professor Yun Zhao (University of Hong Kong and Representative of Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, HCCH).

For more information or to register, click here. Early bird discount is available until 28 May.

Queries about the webinar can be directed to Catherine of ABLI at



Nicholls v Mapfre. Yet again, and divergently so, on Spanish interest rates and Rome II’s evidence and procedure carve-out.

Nicholls & Anor v Mapfre Espana Compania de Seguros y Reaseguros SA [2023] EWHC 1031 (KB) yet again discusses the evidence and procedure carve-out in Rome II and its relationship with A15 Rome II ‘scope of the law applicable’. In the absence of a possibility to refer to the CJEU, a Court of Appeal intervention might be useful.

Pandya v Intersalonika [2020] EWHC 273 (QB) held that proceedings were time-barred per Greek law (lex causae), where the claim form was issued in the E&W courts before expiry of Greek limitation period, but was not served until after that expiry. A narrow reading of the A1.3 carve-out was confirmed in Johnson v Berentzen [2021] EWHC 1042 (QB)) and in Bravo & Ors v Amerisur Resources Ltd (Re The Amerisur plc Putumayo Group Litigation) [2023] EWHC 122 (KB).

In Duffy v Achmea [2020] EWHC 3341 (QB) it was held that interim payments are within the evidence & procedure exception; in Troke v Amgen [2020] EWHC 2976 (QB) interest payments, ‘because they are discretionary under Spanish law (the lex causae)’, were held to fall under the A1.3 exclusion. Sedgwick v Mapfre concluded the same (albeit on better reasoning IMHO) That seems to also have been the approach in Woodward -v- Mapfre, unreported but referenced in current judgment by Spencer J.

Eventually however the judge does not follow Troke or Sedgwick, holding [30] that  the recovery of interest provided for by Spanish law under Article 20 of the Spanish Insurance Act is, pursuant to Rome II and as a matter of European law, substantive, not procedural. In essence, the relevant foreign law rate of interest is said to be a matter of clear relevance to the remedy (financial compensation) to which the claimant is entitled, being intrinsically connected or linked to the award of financial compensation.

His reference [30](1) to the suggestion that A15′ applicable law provisions needs to be construed widely and A1’s carve outs narrowly, is wrong in my opinion. [31] He clearly suggests he might have referred to the CJEU had that been possible (although I do not necessarily agree that the CJEU would then have looked for a ius commune approach across the EU).

Even though he finds fault with the application of the rules by the lower courts, his calculation of awards are the same and the appeal fails.


EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 4.8.

Agora v SPA Italiana Lastre. French Supreme Court refers to CJEU on lex fori prorogati in hybrid choice of court.

This short post on Agora v SPA Italiana Lastre ECLI:FR:CCASS:2023:C100265 at the French SC could suffice with referring to para 2.331 of the Handbook. That para asks exactly the question on which the SC has now referred to the CJEU:

The insertion into the Regulation of the lex fori prorogati rule often does not assist. In particular, where parties expressly make choice of court non-exclusive (non-exclusive choice of court), or where they designate a plurality of specifically identified courts, the lex fori prorogati is not immediately ascertainable.[1] Neither is it in the event of so-called ‘unilateral’ or ‘one-sided’ choice of court, which I review below. In my opinion, therefore, at the very least for these cases which are not solved with the new lex fori prorogati rule, parties are best advised to continue to (or start to) make separate and express choice of law for unilateral and non-exclusive choice of law.

[1]               An argument also made by counsel for the defendants in Commerzbank Aktiengesellschaft v Liquimar Tankers Management Inc [2017] EWHC 161 (Comm).

Please refer to François Mailhé’s post who has background to the issues here, referring ia to Banque de Rothschild. Note that Mary Keyes edited a whole volume on asymmetric aka hybrid aka unilateral choice of court.

Like François I do not think the CJEU will entertain all the questions referred. I cannot imagine it finding the very acceptability of unilateral choice of court to be covered by Article 25. That is simply not within the Article’s remit. (The CJEU might make an exception for the issue in those consumer contracts not covered by the protective regime of Brussels Ia, eg pure contracts of transport; here it might refer to secondary EU consumer law on unfair terms).

I do also wonder whether the Court will say anything about recital 20’s odd inclusion of renvoi, and whether parties may take away the uncertainty by designating a specific lex causae for the choice of court clause, and in doing so may also exclude renvoi (the answer to both in my view should be ‘yes’).


EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, 2.331.

Boughajdim v Hayoukane. A classic qualification exercise on formal and essential (substantive) validity of marriage.

Boughajdim v Hayoukane [2022] EWHC 2673 (Fam) is a good case to illustrate qualification as an essential part of the private international law exercise. I had the case as one of the many open windows on my desktop. Despite my tardiness in reporting, I still do so, seeing as it is exam season and students are likely to start grapling with the course materials.

Core question is whether the Petitioner’s (the wife) divorce petition should be allowed to proceed in E&W, based on a marriage that has been recognised by the Moroccans court and registered in Morocco pursuant to legislation designed to provide retrospective recognition of marriage in that jurisdiction. The retrospective element is the result of the (alleged) spouses, of which the husband has dual Moroccan-UK citisenship, becoming aware that the absence of a marriage certificate was precluding an application for British Citizenship for one of their children.

The wife argues that the lex loci celebrationis in this case is Morocco, that the formal validity of the marriage falls to be determined by reference to the local form under Moroccan law and that this court is dealing with a valid foreign marriage, acknowledged as such by a foreign court and affirmed following failed proceedings by the husband for perjury and on appeal. By contrast, the husband contends that a proper analysis of the lex loci celebrationis means that the formal validity of the marriage falls to be determined by reference to the domestic Marriage Acts. In this context, he submits that the Moroccan marriage cannot be recognised as valid in E&W either as to form or as to capacity, the husband submitting in respect of the latter that the law governing questions of capacity is, in any event, the law of the husband’s domicile, under which law the husband did not validly consent to the marriage. Finally, the husband argues, in any event, that in the context of the special character of marriage there are cogent reasons for refusing to recognise the Moroccan marriage on the ground of public policy.

There is a convoluted procedural background to the case which this post does not engage with, for it is not relevant to the outcome of current judgment. (This also includes nb a number of res judicata elements, held [98], arising out of concurrent Moroccan proceedings.  Clearly, whether or nor there was a valid marriage at all is of relevance for all sorts of reasons, including financial ones.

[85] English law [like much of the world, GAVC] distinguishes between the form of the marriage (formal validity), which is governed by the lex loci celebrationis and the questions of capacity to marry to marry (essential validity, aka material or substantive validity). It is well settled that in English PIL the question of the capacity to marry is determined by the law of the party’s antenuptial domicile (Dicey Rule 75; note the contrast with continental Europe which tends to opt for lex patriae). Note however that what part of the validity question is a formal one and what part a substantive one, is not unequivocally clear. In E&W, there is no authority that conclusively answers the question of which system of law will govern the question of consent to marriage, i.e. whether consent is a matter of form governed by the lex loci celebrationis or a matter of capacity governed by the law of domicile.[86]

MacDonald J holds [90]

that the lex loci celebrationis in this case is the Kingdom of Morocco. I am further satisfied, on the facts as I have decided them, that the parties complied with the local form in the lex loci celebrationis sufficient for the court to be satisfied that it is dealing with a valid marriage having regard to the principle of locus regit actum. Further, I am satisfied that the husband has not demonstrated to the satisfaction of the court in this case that grounds exist for refusing to recognise the Moroccan marriage on the basis of public policy. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the wife’s petition can proceed.

A difficultly is [100] that neither party contends for a marriage ceremony, or any other celebratory event, on an ascertainable date or at an ascertainable place giving rise to a marriage. The wife relies on the operation of a retrospective statute in a foreign jurisdiction as having constituted a valid marriage. There was no ‘marriage ceremony or other similar celebration’: then wat is the locus celebrationis? [105] The existence of a course of conduct by which some but not all of the legal steps necessary to conclude a marriage in a jurisdiction in which a ceremony is not required might, depending on the facts of the case, also assist in identifying whether there is a lex loci celebrationis and its location in a case concerning the operation of retrospective marriage legislation. Here, the judge decides that in 2000, on the balance of probabilities, the husband proposed marriage to the wife in Morocco, that there was an engagement party held, that there was a dowry agreed and paid and that the wife and husband considered themselves to be engaged and were to be married.

[114] ff the judge holds Moroccan formal procedure (including an element of service) following the retrospective Act, was properly complied with.

[139] ff and much more briefly, consent by both parties is established.

Finally [148] the ordre public exception looks at the consequences in England and Wales of recognising the decision of a foreign court that a marriage subsists as the result of retrospective legislation in respect of a British Citizen domiciled in E&W. [149] The Judge holds that the marriage to which the husband now objects arose by operation of law as the result of legal proceedings in respect of which, as the court has found, he was aware, in which he was represented, in which he had the opportunity to make representations and in which he did make, albeit cursory, representations objecting to the relief sought by the wife.

In conclusion, an earlier pronounced stay on the divorce petition was lifted.

A good case to illustrate qualification and its consequences.


Autostore v Ocado. The High Court holds not entirely convincingly on applicable law to obligations of confidence in relation to high-stake patent infringement suit.

In Autostore Technology AS v Ocado Group Plc & Ors [2023] EWHC 716 (Pat), Claimant AutoStore is a Norwegian company, pioneer in automated warehouse technology. First defendant develops automated systems for use in large scale grocery businesses.  The second defendant is a joint venture between the first defendant and Marks & Spencer. Ocado is a former customer of AutoStore’s.

Ocado’s defences include that the patents were invalid due to prior non-confidential disclosures to two parties based in Russia, including EVS, a company based in St Petersburg, and Russia’s central bank.

‘Matter made available to the public’ is part of the ‘state of the art’ condition for patents (in the UK: s.2(2) of the 1977 Act). It may affect the novelty or obviousness of a patent: Subsections 2(1) and (2) of the Patents Act 1977 (“the 1977 Act”) provide:

2. (1) An invention shall be taken to be new if it does not form part of the state of the art.

(2) The state of the art in the case of an invention shall be taken to comprise all matter (whether a product, a process, information about either, or anything else) which has at any time before the priority date of that invention been made available to the public (whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) by written or oral description, by use or in any other way.

In support of their case of lack of novelty and inventive step Ocado rely on alleged prior disclosures to the Russian entities which Autostore say were made in confidence and could not therefore be part of the state of the art.

The section of the judgment that is of relevance to the blog (other than the brief reference to the TRIPS agreement [256]), is the qualification of the obligation not to disclose matter to the public, as (non)contractual, and the subsequent application of Rome II.  Hacon J summarises the issues [263] ff

Where a party relies on an express contractual restriction on the foreign disclosure of information, the effect of the alleged contract will be assessed according to the applicable law.  The party asserting the contractual restriction is obliged to plead the existence, the circumstances of formation and the relevant terms of the contract.  An English court seised will apply Rome I to determine which foreign law governs the contract.  The court will then decide whether, according to that law, there was an express term of confidentiality as alleged and whether its effect was to restrict the use of the information in issue.

The position is not so straightforward where it is said that a party in a foreign context was restrained from using information under an obligation that was not contractual – what an English court would recognise as an equitable obligation.

Rome II does not expressly recognise equitable obligations as a separate category. Clearly however they may still qualify as ‘non-contractual’.

[270 ff] Hacon J justifiably rejects Ocado’s assertion that Rome I and II dovetail. It is beyond doubt that not all obligations that are not contractual, must necessarily be covered by Rome II and vice versa.  Likewise, the overall application of Rome II clearly may imply non-contractual obligations that are putative. Meaning for the purposes of the application of Rome II, one may have to pretend for the time being that there are non-contractual obligations at play and that these are covered by Rome II, only for the so identified substantive lex causae to decide that there are not, after all, any non-contractual obligations at play.

Re the alleged disclosures made by the Bank, [276 ff] AutoStore’s primary contention is that the hypothetical breach of the alleged equitable obligation of confidence is correctly categorised as a culpa in contrahendo within the meaning of A12 Rome II, seeking support ia in CJEU Ergo. [286] It argues the respective obligations of confidentiality arose in the context of negotiations (with the Russian companies) which ultimately led to the conclusion of the Distribution Agreement governed by Norwegian law.  Consequently, the same law applies to the obligations of confidentiality.

However upon consideration the judge holds [298] – with much support found in prof Dickinson’s Rome II volume and his contribution on Rome II in Dicey’s 16th ed – that A12 does not apply to the alleged disclosures by the Bank, seeing as in his view A12 does not apply to third parties to the contractual negotiations, even agents of the contracting parties. There were no negotiations between AutoStore and the Bank and AutoStore for its own reasons wanted to ensure that any agreement reached would be with EVS and not the Bank.

Instead, [324] ff, the lex causae is held to have arisen out of an act of unfair competition within the meaning of A6 of Rome II. That is important, for Article 6 does not have an escape clause like Article 4(3).

Here, the judge’s reasoning is under par.

Oddly for instance he holds A6(2) is not engaged ia [335] ‘because the Bank is not a competitor of AutoStore’s’ yet he nevertheless applies A6(1): ‘the law applicable to a putative obligation of confidence on the Bank was the law of the country where competitive relations or the collective interests of consumers are, or are likely to be, affected.’: this is not convincing.

Reference is then made by the judge to CJEU Verein für Konsumenteninformation v Amazon EU Sàrl , CJEU Volkswagen and to Celgard, and to the Mozaikbetrachtung present in particular in the latter case. However he then [351] holds that ‘attention must be paid to the hypothesis posited in this case. It is that the Bank was about to make Bank Bot Designs public or had already done so’, subsequently linking that [353] to the procedural relief Autosore would have hypothetically sought for the potential breach, in, the judge holds, Russia. Conclusion [354]: ‘Of the laws made applicable under art.6(1) of Rome II to apply to the question of confidentiality, the one that would have mattered on the hypothesis raised would have been Russian law.’ That link to procedural relief to me comes out of nowhere.

As for the relationship with EVS, [301] the question arises as to whether AutoStore and EVS contemplated a contractual relationship at the relevant times. The judge [302] holds that a theoretical possibility of the purchase of goods or services or of some other contractual relationship does not suffice to trigger A12: commercial parties are almost constantly on the look-out for such relationships. [322] after having considered the various arguments the judge holds that A12 is engaged vis-a-vis EVS, yet that the putative law of the contract cannot be determined by A12(1), hence requiring the application of A12(2)(a). The applicable law is the law of the country in which damage would hypothetically have occurred, here, it is held, Russia.

Applicable law for both claims having been held to be Russian law, the remainder of the judgment then deals with evidence of that law and the conclusion [396] that the information was disclosed without imposing any obligation of confidence on either EVS or the Bank.

As noted the A6 analysis in my view is appealable. For both the A6 and the A12 analysis it is also a pity and concern to see, once again, the English courts (chicken and egg-wise led of course by counsels’ probable absence of presentation of same) lack of engagement on issues of both acquired and retained EU conflict of laws, with scholarship outside of the UK and /or other than written in English.


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