DTEK Energy: Grounds for the Rome I issue of Schemes of Arrangement to be heading for the Court of Appeal.

In DTEK Energy BV, Re [2021] EWHC 1551 (Ch) Norris J yesterday expanded on his reason to sanction this scheme of arrangement of a Dutch corporation. I had referenced an earlier DTEK scheme in my post here. The judge firstly pointed out the straddle position of the E&W courts, in assessing the sanction of the scheme from the jurisdictional point of view: [30]:

for the purposes of testing whether the Judgments Regulation presented a jurisdictional bar to the English Court exercising jurisdiction over EU domiciled scheme members or creditors it was assumed to apply (and an appropriate gateway identified). But for the purposes of testing international effectiveness it was not assumed to apply, and the English Courts looked for expert evidence which demonstrated alternative bases.

He also points out [31] what I have repeatedly mentioned: the analysis was never extensive, for the schemes tended eventually to be unopposed. Summary of the default position is done [31] with reference to Van Gansewinkel (in which I acted as one of the experts) seeing as, like DTEK, it involved recognition and enforcement in The Netherlands.

At [37], importantly, the judge refers to a report produced by Prof. Dr. Christoph Paulus and Prof. Dr. Peter Mankowski as to the likelihood of the recognition of the Bank Scheme by EU Member States. They seemingly are of opinion that the Bank Scheme would be given effect in every Member State by virtue of Art 12(1)(d) Rome I. This provides that the law applicable to a contract (in the instant case, English law) shall govern the various ways of extinguishing obligations: and that rule covers all modes of extinguishing obligations (including those operating against dissentient creditors). At [38] this conclusion is said to have been supported by a number of relevant E&W precedents (all of which  I have reported on the blog; see eg Lecta Paper) however these all merely scratched the surface.

Gazprombank however oppose this conclusion and refer in support to a report produced (I have not seen it) by Dr Peters (sic; it’s Prof Dr Niek Peters) for the Dutch situation and, at [44] by Mr Vorkas for the Cypriot situation. Both question the opposability of the scheme to recalcitrant creditors in light of amended choice of law. I have not studied the issue in the detail these reports have, and I have not seen any of them. However my own view on this is that there is certainly merit in what is here the opponents’ input:  the position of certain English schemes under Rome I is really quite vulnerable.

At [41] the judge on balance sides with the Paulus /Mankowiski report for ‘it is common ground that I cannot decide between the rival Dutch views’ (later repeated for the Cypriot report). I do not think that is necessarily correct, or at least it deserves some discussion: Brussels Ia may not be retained EU law yet Rome I is, therefore this is arguably not an issue of ‘foreign law’ (and certainly not ‘Dutch law’).  

Conclusion [46]: If sanctioned, the Bank Scheme will certainly be effective as regards 95% of Energy’s creditors. There is a reasonable prospect that the sole dissentient creditor will be unable to mount any challenge to it. Even in the event of a challenge, uncontested evidence demonstrates that the Bank Scheme will be effective in the jurisdiction in which operations are undertaken and assets located.

Seeing as this is one of the first times the BIa and particularly the Rome I situation is discussed in greater detail, I do hope this case is heading for the Court of Appeal.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 5.35 ff.