Posts Tagged anti-suit

Dana Gas v Deutsche Bank et al. Islamic financing. Interest v usury (riba). Depecage, von Munchausen and overriding mandatory law. Partial unenforceability. All in the face of anti-suit.

In [2017] EWHC 2928 (Comm) Dana Gas v Deutsche Bank et al., Leggatt J treats his readers to a concise insight into islamic finance (particularly in para 10) which he needs to do to inform readers of the essence of the case. The operation essentially involves raising investment (with a view to restructuring), organised by the main agreement (of the ‘Mudarabah’ type), subject to UAE law, and supported by a purchase undertaking of the same date, subject to English law. The set-up therefore evidently is not one of dépeçage per se (this would require one and the same agreement being subject to different laws) however it comes close.

Inevitably following unfavourable market conditions, an anti-suit injunction was sought and obtained in the UAE, followed however by English proceedings which required the aint-suit to be lifted – something which Dana Gas did not succeed in as a result of shareholder opposition. The English proceedings were effectively saved from collapse by the involvement of a third party, BlackRock, who as a non-party to the UAE sharia proceedings, were not bound by the anti-suit injunction. The somewhat complicated result is that the English proceedings really can only limp along.

Dana Gas seek confirmation that the transaction is unlawful and all the relevant contractual obligations are unenforceable as a matter of UAE law. Leggatt J with neither emotion nor hesitation refers essentially to Rome I’s universal application: the Mudarabah agreement is subject to UAE law and he is happy to assume it is invalid under UAE law – hence not enforceable by an English court. See in this respect Article 10(1) Rome I.

That however leaves the viability of the purchase undertaking. (at 46) The fact in and of itself that the contract or its performance would be regarded as invalid or unlawful under the law of some other country than England (for example, a country where one of the parties is domiciled or carries on business) is generally speaking irrelevant (reference is made to Kleinwort, Sons & Co v Ungarische Baumwolle Industrie AG [1939] 2 KB 678.

At 48, Dana Gas sets out its case for unenforceability of the purchase agreement under English law. This includes reference to ordre public but also inevitably an attempt to ‘contaminate’ the purchase agreement with the Mudarabah agreement. Leggatt J justifiably turns this around: at 54: it is apparent from the purchase agreement’s terms that the risks against which the Purchase Undertaking is intended to protect the Certificateholders include the risk that the mudarabah and the transaction documents governed by UAE law will turn out to be invalid. That is why they needed to be separated. (In that respect merging the two agreements into one and applying dépeçage might give even stronger force to this argument: however I do not know whether under UAE law such construction would be acceptable).

Further arguments swept aside, the Court turns to ordre public.

Dana Gas nb had employed both ordre public and, earlier Article 9(3) Rome I: overriding mandatory law: a rare treat indeed. Relevant English precedent is Ralli Brothers: Ralli Brothers v Cia Naviera Sota y Aznar [1920] 1 KB 614: an English court will not enforce an obligation which requires a party to do something which is unlawful by the law of the country in which the act has to be done. Rome’s Article 9(3) operates in a similar context. However Dana Gas later abandoned that claim for (at 80) those rules of law are only applicable if and in so far as the obligations in question have to be performed in the UAE – quod non.

A switch was then made to ordre public, now with Foster v Driscoll [1929] 1 KB 470 as leading precedent. However, here too, it is only if a contract has as its object and intention the performance in a friendly foreign country of an act which is illegal under the law of that country that the contract will be considered (at 82 in fine) contrary to English public policy.

Conclusion:  the Purchase Undertaking is valid and enforceable.

Without claiming anything near proper competence in Islamic finance law, it would seem that Dana Gas does not introduce new principles in that area. However in diligently applying conflicts analysis, Leggatt J in my view does practice a great service: he re-emphasises the need for parties clearly to identify locus implementi: the place of performance of an obligation. When obligations are marked out for a seperate lex causae, such clear identification of place of performance will insulate them from collapse.

Geert.

(Handbook) of Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016: essentially, almost every section of Chapters 2 and 3.

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Team Y&R v Ghossoub. Choice of court and third parties.

In [2017] EWHC 2401 (Comm) Team Y&R v Ghossoub, Laurence Rabinowitz QC discussed a number of issues, most particularly anti-suit in the context of an exclusive jurisdictional clause (anti-suit not granted). He summarised the applications as follows:

‘The first application, brought by the claimants to the anti-suit claim, is for an interim injunction seeking to restrain Mr Ghossoub, the defendant to those proceedings, from pursuing related proceedings commenced by him in Hong Kong against four of those claimants until the trial of the anti-suit claim. The second application, brought by Mr Ghossoub as defendant to the anti-suit claim, seeks to set aside two orders made by the Court related to service on him of the anti-suit claim. The first, made by Phillips J dated 20 May 2015, granted permission to serve the anti-suit claim out of the jurisdiction. The second, made by HHJ Waksman QC sitting as a High Court judge dated 8 September 2016, granted permission to serve the claim form and other documents by an alternative method of service. The third application, brought by Mr Ghossoub as defendant to the defaulting shareholder claim, in effect mirrors his application in the anti-suit claim to set aside the service out and service by an alternative method orders.’

Anti-suit would be aimed at courts ex-EU hence the Brussels I antimony against them (per Gasser, among others) does not apply. Incidentally, I do not think that necessarily needs to exclude any EU /CJEU grip on the substantive issue at all: in the current, Recast Regulation, neither party needs to be domiciled in the EU for choice of court to be made in favour of a court established in the EU. This does create an EU interest in the issue of third-party impact of choice of court, and consequently on the use of anti-suit to support or reject such impact.

Now, at para 78 ff Mr Rabinowitz considers the issue of third parties. Not at issue is whether choice of court is binding upon, or may be invoked by such parties (in EU law considered eg in Refcomp, Profit Sim, Assens HavnLeventis). Rather, whether an exclusive jurisdiction clause should be understood to oblige a contractual party to bring claims relating to the contract in the chosen forum even if the claim is one against a non-contracting party. This would support the idea of ‘one-stop shopping’ which is prevalent eg in English law albeit mostly vis-a-vis the various litigious relations between two and the same parties.

One can see merit in obliging parties bound by choice of court, to bring all related claims to one and the same court. Except of course, as Mr Rabinowitz points out, third parties are quite likely to be in a position to be able to bring the case before a different court, thus putting the contractual party at a disadvantage; moreover, even if the contractual party does bring the claim to the courts at England, these may not in fact have jurisdiction: in such circumstances, insisting on third-party proceedings to be brought before the English courts becomes silly. (My words, not Mr Rabinowitz’).

Taking these and also the entire contractual context into account, the High Court holds that choice of court in the contract at issue does not extend to claims against non-contracting third parties, and dismisses anti-suit.

Take your time to read the judgment: it gives very good context to what to some might seem like a very awkward starting point.

Geert.

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

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Ecobank Transnational v Tanoh: Parallel application of EU and English rules on submission.

In Ecobank Transnational v Tanoh, the Court of Appeal refused an anti-enforcement injunction because of the applicant’s delay in filing it. Nigel Brook reviews the judgment’s findings on the issue of the anti-enforcement injunction here. The issue in this appeal is whether the High Court was wrong to refuse to grant Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (“Ecobank”), an injunction restraining Mr Thierry Tanoh (“Mr Tanoh”) from enforcing two judgments which he had obtained in Togo and Côte d’Ivoire. In substance the case concerned the relationship between arbitration, proceedings in the court in ordinary, and submission: it is to the latter that I turn my attention in this posting.

The Brussels regime does not apply – at stake is the application of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982, which reads in relevant section

33 For the purposes of determining whether a judgment given by a court of an overseas country should be recognised or enforced in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, the person against whom the judgment was given shall not be regarded as having submitted to the jurisdiction of the court by reason only of the fact that he appeared (conditionally or otherwise) in the proceedings for all or any one or more of the following purposes, namely

(a) to contest the jurisdiction of the court;

(b) to ask the court to dismiss or stay the proceedings on the ground that the dispute in question should be submitted to arbitration or to the determination of the courts of another country.

Whilst the section states that a person shall not be regarded as having submitted by reason only of the facts there mentioned it is silent as to what additional facts are sufficient to establish submission. The Court of appeal confirms the feeling expressed in earlier case-law that Section 33 needs to be applied in parallel with Article 18 of the Brussels Convention, now Article 26 of the Brussels I Recast (and before that, Article 24 in the Brussels I Regulation). That is because Section 33 is largely derived from Article 18 of the Brussels Convention.

In the High Court judgment Burnton LJ said that it would be unfortunate if the principles applied by the courts of England and Wales on whether a litigant had submitted to the jurisdiction of a foreign court in non-EU cases were different from the principles applied by the Court of Justice, and therefore those courts, in cases under the Brussels and Lugano Conventions and now the Judgments Regulation.

In current appeal, Clarke LJ held (at 66) ‘I would go further. The decision of the court in Harada in relation to section 33 was heavily influenced by the decision of the European Court in relation to Article 18 of the Brussels Convention. But, now that section 33 has been interpreted in the way that it has, it cannot be right that it should bear a different meaning in cases outwith the European context.

Submission was not found to exist.

Do be aware of the limits to the relevant findings: Section 33 was largely borrowed, it appears, from the Brussels Convention. Many parts of English private international law, statutory or not, are no so borrowed. In those areas, the courts of England happily continue to follow their own course.

Geert.

 

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