The High Court in Midtown. This is what recognition and enforcement looks like ex-EU.

Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Recognition and enforcement intra-EU goes smoothly in civil and commercial matters. So smoothly in fact, the European Commission wanted to abolish the potential for refusal altogether in the Brussels I Recast (regular readers are aware I reported on it at the time of negotiation).

Thank you Clyde & Co for alerting me to a case which highlights how complicated things can get outside of the EU context. In [2017] EWHC 519 (Comm) Midtown Acquisitions v Essar Global parties settled their dispute in an agreement, under which the defendant accepted liability and “confessed to judgment”. The New York courts then entered a Judgment by Confession (similar to an English consent judgment). Recognition and enforcement was sought in England.

In the Brussels system, discussion is still possible on the very notion of ‘judgment’ as I have recently reported (see my postings on Pula Parking and Zulfikarpašić). Refusal of recognition is possible on very narrow grounds. Famously, under the Brussels regime, recognition does not require res judicata of the foreign (intra-EU) judgment. (A misleadingly simple statement made in all Reports. But I’ll leave the detail for another time (see eg Gothaer for earlier analysis).

Outside the Brussels regime however (lest the Brexit negotiations yield a continuing bridge between civil procedure in the UK and EU this will also apply to judgment issued by UK courts), discussion on these two points re-emerges: when can a ruling be considered a ‘judgment’, and does it have res judicata? Defendant in Midtown argues that the New York judgment was not a “judgment” as that expression is used in English law because (i) there was no lis between the parties in New York, (ii) the New York judgment was not final and conclusive and (iii) the New York judgment was not on the merits.

Teare J rejected all three arguments on the basis of relevant precedent. The judgment merits reading for it is a good reminder of the extent of argument ensuing when one is not covered by the umbrella of EU or international harmonisation of recognition and enforcement.  Complications which are not likely to assist the London legal market in maintaining its attraction post Brexit.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16.

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Rincon. Overriding mandatory law or ‘lois de police’ in California.

Rincon ((2017) 8 Cal. App 5th 1) is another case suited to comparative conflicts classes. It applies California’s restrictive regime on waiver of jury trial to a contract governed by New York law and with choice of court for New York.

‘Lois de police‘, also known as lois d’application immédiate or lois d’application nécessaire,  are included in the EU’s Rome I Regulation (on applicable law for contracts) in Article 9. (I reported earlier on their application in Unamar).

Jason Grinell has background to the case. Parties had made choice of law and choice of court in favour of New York. The link with New York was real (in EU terms: this was not a ‘purely domestic’ situation), inter alia because of the involvement of New York-based banks, parties being sophisticated commercial undertakings, and the contract having been negotiated in NY. However the real estate development is located at San Francisco, giving CAL a strong link to the case. Under CAL law,  parties generally cannot waive a jury trial before the commencement of a lawsuit unless they use one of two methods approved by the legislature. New York law does not have the same provision and choice of court clauses in favour of New York do not include reference to the only options available under CAL law.

In the case at issue, the boilerplate choice of court clause was set aside by the Court of Appeal. The lower court had denied a substantial enough Californian interest in the case – the CA disagreed. The relevant part of the judgment runs until p.22.

That comparative conflicts binder is filling out nicely.

Geert.

 

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Conflict of laws post Brexit. The Commons’ report. And the likely deaf ears.

Update 21 April 2017 many thanks to Gordon Nardell QC for alerting me to the Bar Council’s Brexit papers which includes one on jurisdiction and enforcement.

The House of Commons’ report on ‘negotiating priorities for the justice system’ reviews more than conflict of laws, indeed it is a tour d’horizon of most (if not all) issues relevant to Justice and Home Affairs in the EU. Martha Requejo makes a number of valid points on the report and indeed plenty of these, and others, have been made by a number of conflicts commentators: I will not review all here. There is a scholarly cottage industry on post-Brexit issues and the area of private international law is no exception.

The report mentions among others that a role for the CJEU in respect of essentially procedural legislation concerning jurisdiction, applicable law, and the recognition and enforcement of judgments, is a price worth paying to maintain the effective cross-border tools of justice discussed throughout our earlier recommendations. That is a very sensible approach, not just within the overall context of UK /continent judicial co-operation: it is also an obvious lifeline for London’s legal services market. Without proper integration into the EU’s civil procedure corpus, judgments from UK courts will immediately lose a lot of their appeal. The Government however have manoeuvred itself into a cul-de-sac by rejecting a role for the European Court of Justice post Brexit. The report’s call, and many with it, therefore is likely to fall upon deaf ears. Both for the UK and for EU conflicts rules, this will be a great loss. Few continental courts live up to the same standards as their UK counterparts when it comes to applying the intricate detail of conflict of laws, whether EU based or not.

Geert.

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Supply Chain Liability: The French Model

Closely linked to my post this morning re Chiquita and CSR, here’s a review of the French CSR corporate vigilance /duty of care Act. I had planned to do my own review but hey, why re-invent the wheel when Ms Bergkamp’s is ticking over nicely.
See also a follow up post here http://bit.ly/2ofirlK on the French Constitutional court seeing little issue with the civil liability side of the Act.

Corporate Finance Lab

chain

On 21 February 2017, the French Parliament adopted a law (the “Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law” or “Law”) that creates novel corporate supply chain liability. Specifically, the Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law imposes a duty of vigilance on large companies to prevent serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and serious environmental damage in their supply chain. In a previous post, I discussed the concept of supply chain liability. As I pointed out there, the concept had not been defined by law makers yet. The French legislature has now attempted to operationalize the concept through new legislation.

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Help, I am going bananas. US courts and Chiquita.

The title of this post is a result of my confusion on the state of various suits against Chiquita, on alleged collusion in or perpetration of human rights abuses in Columbia. I had reported earlier (scroll down to ‘update on linked development’; this hyperlinks to all relevant links) that the US Supreme Court had denied certiorari in a ruling of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Miami. This left that ruling standing (a strict application of SCOTUS’ view in Kiobel).

End November (I had tweeted it at the time; my ledger has not left me an opportunity to post on it since) the Southern District court of Florida dismissed an application on forum non conveniens grounds in what must be related litigation. Except my limited knowledge of jurisdictional levels in the US leaves me in doubt where the link is between these two developments (US readers please assist if you can).

At any rate, the ruling reviewed here is a textbook example of forum non conveniens (motion dismissed, nota bene) and a great source for a comparative conflicts class. Such as I teach at Monash :-).

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.14.5.

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Not the Muppet show. FREP, FREP, FREP and Frogmore. Determination of COMI for groups and SPVs. The High Court pushes head office approach.

In [2017] EWHC 25 (Ch) the Frogmore Group,  there are three relevant companies: FREP (Knowle) Limited. FREP (Ellesmere Port) Limited and FREP (Belle Vale) Limited all of which were incorporated in and have their registered office in Jersey. The Companies form part of Frogmore group (of which the ultimate parent is Frogmore Property Company Limited). The Frogmore group specialises in real estate investment and management in the UK and each of the Companies owns a shopping centre located at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, Belle Vale in Liverpool and Knowle in Bristol respectively. Each of these shopping centres is managed by Frogmore Real Estate Investment Managers Limited (“FREPIM”), a company formed in England and Wales with its registered office and base for operations at London.

The Nationwide seeking enforcement of security, the group sought a declaration that COMI was at Jersey.

Marshall DJ held with reference to the familiar precedents of Eurofood and Interedil, both featuring heavily in my earlier postings on COMI, but also to Northsea Base Investments in which Birss J paid particular attention to the largest shareholders. Of note is that this reference to the largest shareholders does not entail (and indeed is not so constructed in either Northsea Base or Frogmore) that these get the pick of what COMI might entail. Rather, that the dealings with and experience of one place as being the place where the company’s interest are being managed from, is of particular interest for the Interedil emphasis on ascertainability by third parties. Marshall DJ also rekindles the discussion on whether Interedil’s emphasis is on identifying the ‘Head office’ of the companies: a conclusion which one needs to treat with caution for even in Interedil’s tacit support for the head office approach, the emphasis continues to lie with the combination of factors, all leading to transparency and publicity.

The High Court in the end held with reference to the following: (at 39; all wording as  the judgment but with one or two words left out)

(1) Day- to-day conduct of the business and activities of the Companies has been in the hands of an agent appointed in England, namely FREPIM. Under the Advisory Agreement (which was itself governed by English law and had an English exclusive jurisdiction clause) FREPIM was to take on full responsibility for providing a very large range of services to the Companies, including day-to-day management of the Shopping Centres and dealing with their financing, accounting, marketing and formulation of their business strategy. FREPIM  itself acknowledged that it worked on investment strategy and business plans for the Companies; instructed lawyers, surveyors and consultants for them; negotiated the purchase and sale of properties on their behalf; dealt with their borrowing requirements; and attended to the provision of accounting systems and the preparation of management and annual accounts. These actions were not just limited commercial activities but included the types of function that one would expect a head office to discharge.

(2) Day-to-day dealings with third parties are carried out from the offices of FREPIM at London. This is confirmed by the evidence of the activity of FREPIM described above but it is also supported by, for example, the Companies’ VAT returns where their business address is stated to be those offices. In their day-to-day dealings with third parties regarding expenditure these offices are given as the address for invoices.

(3) If one has regard to the point of view of the largest creditor, Nationwide, the Facility Agreement and the Nationwide Debentures are governed by English law and have an English jurisdiction clause. Under the Facility Agreement the Shareholder is the service agent for the Companies. In the case of the Nationwide Debentures, they have express reference to the power to appoint administrators under the 1986 Act. FREPIM took over the day-to-day contact with Nationwide as well as providing Nationwide with various pieces of information (such as quarterly compliance packs and accounts for borrowers) and did so from London. FREPIM also accepted that the management of the relationship between the Companies and Nationwide had been carried out by [the group treasurer] and the Chairman of the Frogmore group, who was also based in London.

(4) I also note that under the terms of the debentures securing the advances made by the Shareholder that the governing law is English, there is an English exclusive jurisdiction clause, that FREPIM is appointed the service agent of the Companies and there is express provision for the appointment of administrators under the 1986 Act.

The case is a good reminder that even intricate SPV structures should not detract from COMI finding on well-established principles. And that COMI determination always depends on a basket of criteria.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5, Heading 5.6.1.2., Heading 5.6.1.2.4.

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A new draft Hague ‘Judgments’ project. Where’s Wally?

I reported earlier on the November 2015 draft ‘Judgments project’ of the Hague Conference on private international law, otherwise known as the draft convention on the recognition and enforcement of judgments relating to civil and commercial matters. The working group now has a February 2017 draft out. (The project nota bene has even increased in relevance given Brexit).

I could have titled this post ‘spot the differences’ for of course there are changes in formulation between current and previous version. However my main point of concern remains: the absence of Wally: some type of institutional redress which will assist courts in the interpretation of the Convention. Article 23 now calls for uniform interpretation, and there will, one assumes, be a report accompanying its adoption. (Judging by the size of commentaries on the EU mirror, Brussels I Recast, this could turn out to be a very sizeable report indeed). However without a court system ensuring uniformity of application, the Convention in my view will risk being a dead duck in the water.

Geert. (Not by nature pessimistic. But probably realistic).

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

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