Posts Tagged applicable law

Wallis v Air Tanzania. A good reminder of the (soon to be resurrected) UK reservation viz the Rome Convention.

In Wallis Trading Inc v Air Tanzania Company Ltd & Anor [2020] EWHC 339 (Comm), at stake is a claim by Wallis Trading, a Liberian company which carried on the business of acquiring and leasing aircraft, against Air Tanzania and the Government of Tanzania in respect of sums which Wallis says are due to it from the Defendants arising out of a lease of an aircraft by Wallis to ATCL.

Of interest to the blog is the discussion of the Rome Convention at 74 ff. Defendants contend that the Lease is invalid, and ‘null and void’ because it was entered into in breach of the Procurement Legislation. Butcher J holds that the Lease expressly provided that English law was to be its governing law. The putative law of the lease therefore is English law (the bootstrap of Article 8 Rome Convention, now Article 10 Rome I. The Procurement Legislation is not part of English law, and non-compliance with it does not, as a matter of English law, render the Lease invalid, null or void.

What however about the application of A7 Rome Convention’s rule on lois de police /mandatory law?

1. When applying under this Convention the law of a country, effect may be given to the mandatory rules of the law of another country with which the situation has a close connection, if and in so far as, under the law of the latter country, those rules must be applied whatever the law applicable to the contract. In considering whether to give effect to these mandatory rules, regard shall be had to their nature and purpose and to the consequences of their application or non-application.

2. Nothing in this Convention shall restrict the application of the rules of the law of the forum in a situation where they are mandatory irrespective of the law otherwise applicable to the contract]

Here, Butcher J points out that Article 7(1) of the Rome Convention does not have the force of law in the United Kingdom: the UK had entered an Article 22 reservation viz the lois de police rule. The impossibility of same viz Rome I led to the stricter language in Article 9. In the event of Rome I not being part of the future relations between the UK and the EU, the Convention and its reservation will once again be applicable.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.8, Heading 3.2.8.3.

 

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Lamesa Investments v Cynergy. Rome I-like ‘mandatory law’ provisions applied to US secondary sanctions.

Update 30 June 2020 the decision was upheld upon appeal,[2020] EWCA Civ 821, albeit for different reasons. Not much was added to the Rome discussion other than that the chancellor did not subscribe to the view that ‘mandatory’ had to be seen in a Rome /lois de police sense (at 35).

A long overdue post I fear (I hope in the next week and a half or so to turn to draft posts which for all sorts of reasons have gotten stuck in the queue, finally to be published) on Lamesa Investments Ltd v Cynergy Bank Ltd  [2019] EWHC 1877 (Comm). Latham and Watkins have had background for some time here.

The case concerns a standard clause in an English law governed contract on ‘mandatory law’ as an excuse for contractual non-performance. Here, the clause (in a (credit) facility agreement) read: clause 9.1: (party is not in breach of the agreement if) “… sums were not paid in order to comply with any mandatory provision of law, regulation or order of any court of competent jurisdiction”.

“Regulation” was defined in the Agreement as including “any regulation, rule, official directive, request or guideline … of any governmental, intergovernmental, or supranational body, agency, department or of any regulatory, self-regulatory or other authority or organisation”.

Lamesa argued that Cynergy could not rely on clause 9.1 because:

  • provision of law” meant a law that applied to a UK entity, acting in the UK, that had agreed to make a sterling payment pursuant to a contract governed by English law; and
  • mandatory” meant that the relevant law made it compulsory for Cynergy to refuse payment

‘In order to comply’ was the focus of discussions, in particular whether there was any territorial limit to it. Pelling J took a flexible approach, holding that Cynery could not reasonably be expected to have excluded the only type of sanction which it could have reasonably foreseen, namely secondary sanctions imposed by US sanctions law (at the time the parties entered into the Facility Agreement, Cynergy was aware that it was possible that US sanctions would be imposed on Lamesa).

Of interest to the blog is the brief reference to Rome I (and the Convention), at 23:

‘It was submitted on behalf of CBL and I agree that English lawyers during the period the FA was being negotiated and down to the date when it became binding would have understood a mandatory law to be one that could not be derogated from. The context that makes this probable includes the meaning given to the phrase “… mandatory provision of law …” in the Rome Convention 1980 and the Rome 1 Regulation on Choice of Law. It was not submitted by CBL that the construction for which they contend applies by operation of either regulation. It submits however and I accept that they provide some support for the submission that lawyers at the relevant time would have understood the effect of the word “mandatory” to be as I have described. It goes without saying that it was not open at any stage to either party to dis-apply the US statutes that purported to apply secondary sanctions by their agreement, nor did the parties attempt to do so either in the FA itself or afterwards.’

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.8, Heading 3.2.8.3.

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Petrobas securities class action. Applicable law update: Dutch court holds under Rome II on lex causae in tort for purely economic loss. Place of listing wins the day (and leads to Mozaik).

Thank you Matthias Lehmann for flagging and reviewing the Rotterdam Court’s judgment late in January on applicable law in the Petrobas case. I had earlier reviewed the jurisdictional issues, particularly the application of Brussels Ia’s Article 33-34.

The case relates to a Brazilian criminal investigation into alleged bribery schemes within Petrobras, which took place between 2004 and 2014. The court first, and of less interest for the blog, deals with a representation issue, holding that Portuguese speakers cannot be represented in the class, for the Portuguese version of the relevant dispute settlement provisions, unlike the English translation, was not faulty.

Turning then to applicable law at 5.39 ff. Events occurring on or after 12 January 2009 are subject to the Rome II Regulation. For those before that date, Dutch residual PIL applies which the Court held make Brazilian law lex causae as lex loci delicti commissi: for that is where the alleged fraud, bribery and witholding of information happened.

For the events which are covered by Rome II, the court does not wait for the CJEU finding in VEB v BP and squarely takes inspiration from the CJEU case-law on purely financial damage and jurisdiction: Kronhofer, Kolassa, Universal Music. The court notes that the CJEU in these cases emphasised a more than passing or incidental contact with a State (such as: merely the presence of a bank account) as being required to establish jurisdiction as locus damni. At 5.47 it rejects the place of the investor’s account as relevant (for this may change rapidly and frequently over time and may also be easily manipulated) and it identifies the place of the market where the financial instruments are listed and traded as being such a place with a particular connection to the case: it is the place where the value of the instruments is impacted and manifests itself. It is also a place that meets with the requirements of predictability and legal certainty: neither buyer nor seller will be surprised that that location should provide lex causae.

Conclusion therefore is one of Mozaik: Brasil, Argentina, Germany, Luxembourg are lex causae as indeed may be other places where Petrobas financial instruments are listed. (At 5.49: Article 4(2)’s joint domicile exception may make Dutch law the lex causae depending on who sues whom).

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed.2016, Chapter 4, Heading 4.4.

 

 

 

 

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GDE v Anglia Autoflow. Governing law for agency agreements under the Rome Convention.

Update 26 May 2020 for a Greek SC judgment discussing choice of court v choice of law in agency, and applying CJEU C-159/97 Trasporti Castelleti, see here.

In GDE LLC & Anor v Anglia Autoflow Ltd [2020] EWHC 105 (Comm) (31) the Rome I Regulation does not apply ratione temporis; the Agency Agreement was concluded on about 9 April 2009 which is a few months before the kick-off date of the Regulation (note there is no default rule for agency in Article 4 Rome I in the event of lack of lex voluntatis). Dias DJ therefore turns to the 1980 Rome Convention.

Parties are in dispute as to the governing law of the Agency Agreement by which the claims should be determined. AAL alleges that the governing law is that of Ontario while the Claimants allege that the Agency Agreement is governed by English law. The point is of critical importance because the Claimants concede that, if AAL is correct, their claim is time-barred under Ontario law: although this, as readers know, assumes statutes of limitation are subject to the governing law – which is far from certain: see Jabir v KIK and Spring v MOD.

Parties’ arguments are at 10 and 11 and of course they reverse engineer. In essence (at 20) claimants say that there was an implied choice of English law. Alternatively, if that is not correct, the presumption in Article 4(2) of the Rome Convention, which would otherwise point to Georgia law, falls to be disapplied in favour of English law. The Defendant says that there was no implied choice and that application of Article 4(2) leads to Ontario law. Alternatively, if (which it denies) the presumption in Article 4(2) leads to any other governing law, the presumption is to be disapplied in favour of Ontario.

At 21 ff follows a rather creative (somewhat linked to the discussion of ex officio Rome Convention application in The Alexandros), certainly unexpected (yet clearly counsel will do what counsel must do) argument that essentially puts forward that under the common law approach of foreign law = fact hence must be proven, any discussion of a law as governing law, not suggested by the parties (here: the laws of (the US State of) Georgia) that is not English law (which clearly the English curia does ‘novit’), cannot go ahead. At 22 Dias DJ already signals that ‘once the wheels of the Convention had been put in motion, they could not be stopped short of their ultimate destination. The idea that the process dictated by the Convention should be hijacked halfway, as it were, on the basis of a pleading point was, to my mind, deeply unattractive.’

At 31 she sinks the argument. I think she is right.

Having at length considered the facts relevant to the contract formation, discussion then turns again to the Rome Convention with at 105 ff a debate on the role to be played by factors intervening after contract formation with a view to establishing [implicit, but certain: see at 117 with reference to the various language versions of the Convention and the Regulation essentially confirming the French version] choice of law or closest connection. (Dias J refers to the Court of Appeal in Lawlor v Sandvik Mining and Construction Mobile Crushers and Screens Ltd, [2013] EWCA Civ 365[2013] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 98 where, at paragraphs 21-27, it pointed out that the common law approach frequently blurred the distinction between the search for the parties’ inferred intention and the search for the system of law with which the contract had its closest and most real connection).

At 120: the hurdle is high: choice of law implicitly made must have nevertheless been made: ‘The court is not looking for the choice that the parties probably would have made if they had turned their minds to the question.’ at 122: In the present case the evidence established that there was no reference by the parties to the question of governing law at all. Choice of court for England (discussed ia with reference to Rome I and to Brussels Ia Article 25) does not change that. At 160 ff therefore follows the discussion of Article 4 of the Rome Convention, leading to a finding of the laws of Ontario as the lex contractus under Article 4(1). Article 4(5) does not displace it.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.4, Heading 3.2.6.

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Rahmatullah and Ali v MOD and FCO. The High Court on the law applicable in (allegedly) irregular rendition cases.

In [2019] EWHC 3172 (QB) Rahmatullah and Ali v Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office claimants argue on the basis of the torts of negligence and misfeasance in public office. They are Pakistani nationals both of whom allege that they were captured by British forces in Iraq in February 2004. They contend that they were subsequently handed over to United States’ control and, thereafter, taken to Afghanistan where they were subjected to prolonged detention, torture and mistreatment.

At issue in this civil case is whether the English PIL rule of locus damni (for personal injury cases) needs to be displaced in favour of English law, by virtue of the exceptions to this rule including, all else failing, ordre public. (For the relevant text, see the judgment).

Rome I does not apply given the case clearly is one of acta iure imperii. Note that this does not, in England and Wales, displace the residual rules of the Private International Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995.

Turner J keeps the discussion very to the point, holding that there is no reason to displace the general rule: the law of Iraq applies to the claims prior to the claimants’ rendition from Iraq to Afghanistan and that of Afghanistan thereafter. His clear application of the precedents is much enjoyable.

One particularly interesting point is raised at 34:

The claimants make the further point that transferring a detainee from one country to another in breach of Article 49 [of the Fourth Geneva Convention, GAVC] would legitimise forum shopping by illegal rendition. The defendants accepted during the course of oral submissions that circumstances could arise in which this was a legitimate concern where, for example, a detainee had been relocated in a rogue state selected for its lack of adequate legal protection for those within its geographical and jurisdictional boundaries. However, in this case there is no evidence to suggest that any consideration of the putative advantages of the application of Afghan jurisprudence lay behind the rendition decision or indeed to the effect that Afghan law would provide, as a matter of fact, a particularly suitable environment within which to achieve any such darker purpose.

Of note is also, at 29, claimants’

‘point that those in senior positions who are to be held accountable for the alleged failures under the return claim were based in England and were acting (or failing to act) in the exercise of state authority.’

An argument which, Turner J finds, has been found to be relevant in the authorities, however not striking with sufficient force in casu to meet the very high burden of proof for displacing the standard rule.

Geert.

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CeDe Group v KAN. Bobek AG on the intricate applicable law provisions of the Insolvency Regulation (here: concerning set-off for assigned claims).

Update 22 November 2019 the CJEU yesterday confirmed the AG’s Opinion.

Bobek AG opined end of May in C-198/18 CeDe Group v KAN. I am posting a touch late for well, readers will know I have not been fiddling my thumbs. The Opinion concerns the lex causae for set-off in accordance with the (2000) Insolvency Regulation – provisions for which have not materially changed in the current version of the EIR (Regulation 2015/848). At stake are Articles 4 cq 6 and 7 cq 9 in the two versions of the Insolvency Regulation.

The liquidator of PPUB Janson sp.j. (‘PPUB’), a Polish company the subject of insolvency proceedings in Poland, lodged before the Swedish courts an application against CeDe Group AB (‘CeDe’), a Swedish company, claiming payment for goods delivered under a pre-existing contract between PPUB and CeDe, which is governed by Swedish law. In the course of those proceedings, CeDe claimed a set-off in respect of a larger debt owed to it by PPUB. The liquidator had previously refused that set-off within the framework of the Polish insolvency proceedings. During the course of the procedure before the Swedish courts, PPUB’s liquidator assigned the claim against CeDe to another company, KAN sp. z o.o. (‘KAN’), which subsequently became insolvent. However, KAN’s liquidator refused to take over the claim at issue, with the result that KAN (in insolvency) is now party to the litigation

The Supreme Court, Sweden doubts the law applicable to such a set-off claim. Before the referring court, KAN claimed that the set-off claim should be heard under Polish law, whereas CeDe submitted that that issue should be examined under Swedish law. Both of course reverse-engineered their arguments to support opposing views.

The Advocate General in trademark lucid style navigates the facts and issues (not helped by the little detail seemingly given by the referring court). Complication is of course that the general Gleichlauf rule of the EIR is repeatedly tempered by ad hoc regimes for specific claims or claimants.

The AG advises on the main question (should the CJEU follow then his reply to the other questions becomes redundant), at 36, that ‘that Article 4(2) of the Insolvency Regulation makes reference to the conditions for invoking set-offs and to the effects of insolvency on current contracts cannot entail, in my view, that any claim relating to a contract where a party to that contract is subject to insolvency proceedings (and/or where a set‑off is invoked against that claimant) falls automatically within the concept of ‘insolvency proceedings and their effects’ for the purposes of determining which provision governs the applicable law. The mere fact that it is the liquidator who has lodged such an action does not, in my view, change that conclusion.. At 37 he adds powerful argument for same: ‘A case like the present one neatly demonstrates why any other conclusion would lead to unpredictable, or even bizarre, results. The law governing the contractual claim would not only differ from the one that the parties agreed on, but it would also change repeatedly, due to subsequent assignments and/or the assignees themselves eventually becoming subject to insolvency proceedings. All such changes to the applicable law would be based on events not only post-dating the conclusion of the contract and the choice of applicable law, but also largely unconnected to the contract. In addition, all this could be happening while proceedings are pending before the same court.’

Like the Commission, for the final, very interesting question [that question from the referring court boils down to the issue of whether the ‘non-permissibility’ of set-offs in the lex concursus under Article 4 EIR is to be addressed in concrete or abstract terms in order to trigger the exception laid down in Article 6(1)] Bobek AK focuses on the Regulation’s stated aim (recital 26 of the 2000 EIR; recital 70 in the 2015 EIR) of having the set-off regime fulfill its role as a guarantee for international commercial transactions: at 74: ‘adopting an approach focused on the concrete outcomes produced by the respective applicable laws in conflict in a given case, the test to be applied must zero in on the specific solution that would be arrived at by the law applicable to the main claim’.

An Opinion very much soaked in commercial reality.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5, Heading 5.7.

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Secure Capital v Credit Suisse: Downstream holders of securities and third party redress.

As I seem to be in a mopping-up mode this morning, I might as well sneak in late review of Secure Capital SA v Credit Suisse AG, [2015] EWHC 388 (Comm) and at the Court of Appeal [2017] EWCA Civ 1486. Draft post of the latter has been in my ledger since 2017…

The cases essentially are concerned with characterisation; privity of contract, choice of law and dépeçage (bifurcation or severance).

My father-in-law OBE wonderfully sums up the world of international finance as fairy money. Harry (aka Tim Nice But Balding) & Paul express a similar feeling here. I can’t help but think of both when re-reading judgments in both cases.

Allen & Overy have most useful overview here, and RPC add useful analysis here. Claim related to eight longevity notes issued by Credit Suisse in 2008. The Notes were linked to life insurance policies, which meant that the prospect of the holder receiving payments for the Notes depended on mortality rates among a set of “reference lives”.  Secure Capital contended that Credit Suisse failed to disclose that the mortality tables used to generate the estimated life expectancies were shortly to be updated in a way that would significantly increase life expectancies, rendering the Notes effectively worthless. Secure Capital relied on a term in the issuance documentation that stated that Credit Suisse had taken all reasonable care to ensure that information provided in such documentation was accurate and that there were no material facts the omission of which would make any statements contained in those documents misleading.

The Notes were issued by Credit Suisse’s Nassau branch. Under the terms of the transaction documents, the Notes were deposited with the common depositary, Bank of New York Mellon, which held the securities on behalf of the clearing system, in this case Clearstream: which is Luxembourg-based.  The Notes were governed by English law and issued in bearer form.

Secure Capital essentially employ an attractive proposition in Luxembourg law reverse-engineering it either as the proper law of the contract in spite of prima facie clear choice of law, or alternatively as dépeçage: it argues that the provisions of a 2001 Luxembourg law on the Circulation of Securities, being the law that governed the operation of Clearstream through which the Notes were held, gave it an entitlement “to exercise the right of the bearer to bring an action for breach of a term of the…Notes“. In order to succeed, Secure Capital would have to circumvent the English law on privity of contract in respect of a transaction governed by English law.

Allen & Overy’s and RPC’s analysis is most useful for the unsuspected bystander like myself (thankfully I have a researcher, Kim Swerts, starting soon on a PhD in the area of conflict of laws and financial law).

In the High Court Hamblen J at 35 ff discusses the alternative arguments, wich would displace the suggestion that Secura Capital’s claim is a contractual claim. (Tort, as Betson LJ at the appeal stage notes at 24, was not advanced). This included a suggested property right (with discussion on the issue of the lex causae, whether e.g. this might be the lex situs), or, more forcefully, a right sui generis. None of these was upheld. Discussion on relevance of Rome I and /or the Rome Convention took place very succinctly at 53-54 – a touch too succinctly for Hamblen J’s swift reflection is that under both Rome and English conflicts rules, there was no suggestion of displacing the lex contractus. Depending on what counsel discussed, one would have expected some discussion of mandatory law perhaps, or indeed dépeçage – the latter was discussed summarily by Beatson LJ at the Court of Appeal under 54-55.

Geert.

(Handbook of) Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3.

 

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Assignment and applicable law. First reading of the EC’s proposal.

A former dean of ours reportedly once suggested that the last thing one should do with something urgent, is tackle it immediately. I have had a draft post on the EC’s assignment proposals in my ledger since 20 March 2018. Colleagues in private law (prof Matthias Storme, too) had already flagged the issues with the applicable law proposal COM(2018) 96 in particular. Now the need for a separate post has been overtaken by Alexander Hewitt’s excellent overview here, following EP first reading.

No more needs to be said.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3.

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Martins v Dekra Claims. Limitation periods as ‘overriding mandatory rules’ under Rome II.

Case C‑149/18 Martins v Dekra Claims gave the Court of Justice an opportunity (it held end of January) essentially to confirm its Unamar case-law, specifically with respect to limitation periods.

The Portuguese claimant’s vehicle was damaged in an accident in Spain in August 2015. He issued proceedings in Portugal in November 2016 to recover his uninsured losses. Under Portuguese law, the lex fori, the limitation period is 3 years. Under Spanish law, the lex causae per Rome II, limitation is fixed at 1 year.

The Court first of all re-emphasises the importance of co-ordinated interpretation of Rome I and II, here with respect to the terminology of the two Regulations which in the French version in particular differs with respect to the use of the term ‘lois de police’ (Article 9 Rome I) and ‘dispositions impératives dérogatoires’  (Article 16 Rome II). The lois de police of Rome I (albeit with respect to the Rome Convention 1980) had already been interpreted in Unamar, leading to the first of the two conditions discussed below.

The Court effectively held there is little limit content-wise to the possibility for courts to invoke the lois de police /overriding mandatory law provision of Article 9 Rome II. Despite Article 15 Rome II verbatim mentioning limitation periods as being covered by the lex causae (but see the confusion on that reported in my post on Kik this week), limitation periods foreseen in the lex fori may be given priority.

This is subject to two conditions:

firstly, the national court cannot interpret any odd lex fori provision as being covered by the lois de police exception: here the Court re-emphasises the Rome I /II parallel by making the Unamar test apply to Rome II: at 31: ‘the referring court must find, on the basis of a detailed analysis of the wording, general scheme, objectives and the context in which that provision was adopted, that it is of such importance in the national legal order that it justifies a departure from the applicable law.’ Here, the fact that limitation periods are mentioned in so many words in Article 15, comes into play: at 34: given that express reference, the application of the overriding mandatory law exception ‘would require the identification of particularly important reasons, such as a manifest infringement of the right to an effective remedy and to effective judicial protection arising from the application of the law designated as applicable pursuant to Article 4 of the Rome II Regulation.’

secondly, and of course redundantly but worth re-emphasising: the rule at issue must not have been harmonised by secondary EU law. As Alistair Kinley points out, the Motor Insurance Directive (MID) 2009/103 is currently being amended and a limitation period of minimum 4 years is being suggested – subject even to gold plating. That latter prospect of course opens up all sorts of interesting discussions particularly viz Article 3(4) Rome I.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.8, Heading 3.2.8.3.

 

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Danilina v Chernukin: how a very Russian case triggers the proper law of the contract under the Rome Convention.

A little bit of factual background is required to understand [2019] EWHC 173 (Comm) Danilina v Chernukin. It concerns a valuable site in Central Moscow (readers of the blog and students of mine will now no longer wonder why this is being litigated in England) which is, indirectly, the subject of a Shareholder Agreement dated 31 May 2005 (the “SHA”). The issue is whether Vladimir Chernukhin, who is not named as a party to the SHA is in fact party to the SHA as a disclosed principal of Lolita Danilina, who is named as a party to the SHA. Mr. Chernukhin and Mrs. Danilina had been in a relationship; it is Mr. Chernukhin’s case that she was a named party because she was acting as his nominee or agent.

That is the purely business side of the litigation – there is also a family assets angle: Ms Danilina has a claim arising out of what she argues to have been an agreement between her and Mr. Chernukhin in 2007 for the division of their assets after their relationship had come to an end.

The latter issue is the ‘2007 Agreement’ and it is this which is of interest to the blog: Teare J at 324: Mrs. Danilina seeks to prove alleges the following, quite detailed, agreement: a) TGM would remain (as it always was) as an asset belonging to Mrs. Danilina and her alone; b) the assets accumulated between them jointly and which they regarded as family assets would be distributed between them on an effectively equal basis with: i) Mrs. Danilina retaining and/or taking those residential real property assets located within Russia, ii) Mr. Chernukhin having those residential real property assets located outside of Russia and iii) save for certain chattels such as cars and the weapon collection (which were to be owned by Mr. Chernukhin) and jewellery and artwork in Russia (which were to be owned by Mrs. Danilina), the balance of their assets would be split equally and Mrs. Danilina’s 50% share held in a trust for her benefit; c) a new structure would be required to reflect these agreements; and d) Mr. Chernukhin would be responsible for taking the necessary steps to give effect to the agreement.

Teare J starts with the bootstrap /von Munchausen: at 325: it is necessary to begin by considering what would be the governing law of the 2007 agreement, if it was made on the terms alleged by Mrs. Danilina. The reason for this is that it is submitted on behalf of Mr. Chernukhin that the agreement, if made, would be governed by Russian law, and that there are provisions of Russian law that affect the admissibility of witness testimony in proving the existence of an oral agreement. Being a contract entered into prior to 16 December 2009, the proper law of the 2007 Agreement would be determined under the Rome Convention on the law applicable to contractual obligations – not the later Rome Regulation.

Was there choice of law “expressed or demonstrated with reasonable certainty by … the circumstances of the case’ (per Article 3(1) Rome Convention? [I have included Articles 3 and 4 in relevant part below]

At 327 are cited (i) the fact that “Mr. Chernukhin had fled Russia in 2004 in an effort to make a clean break from Russian law and jurisdiction”; (ii) that Mrs. Danilina assisted him in moving to England, including by sending legal documents there; (iii) in 2007 Mr. Chernukhin was seeking English matrimonial law advice in relation to his assets, prior to his marriage to Mrs. Chernukhin. With Teare J I do not think this is sufficient to amount to a choice for the purposes of article 3. They do not amount to a positive choice of law “expressed or demonstrated with reasonable certainty.”

Consequently Article 4 is engaged.

Presumption of characteristic performance. It was submitted on behalf of Mrs. Danilina (at 328) that England is the “most closely connected” country, under the presumption in article 4(2). It is said that the characteristic performance under the agreement was to create the relevant trust structure for dividing, managing and investing the assets. The performer of these obligations was Mr. Chernukhin, who was and is resident in England. Teare J agrees: at 330: the characteristic performance of the agreement was primarily to be performed by Mr. Chernukhin. On Mrs. Danilina’s case, Mr. Chernukhin was entrusted to divide, invest and structure significant liquid and illiquid assets, of which Mrs. Danilina was in large part unaware.

Displacement of the presumption? Mrs. Danilina then submits that this presumption should not lightly be displaced.

This section discusses a core challenge to Article 4, which is the continental European but mostly EU-driven quest for predictability, with the more common law oriented search for the ‘proper’ law of the contract. In Article 4 terms (similarly under the current Article  Rome I): per Samcrete Egypt Engineers v Land Rover Exports Ltd [2001] EWCA Civ 2019, at [41], “unless art.4(2) is regarded as a rule of thumb which requires a preponderance of contrary connecting factors to be established before that presumption can be disregarded, the intention of the Convention is likely to be subverted.” Nonetheless, “the presumption may most easily be rebutted in those cases where the place of performance differs from the place of business of the party whose performance is characteristic of the contract” (See Bank of Baroda v Vysya Bank Ltd. [1994] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 87, 93, in the context of a bank’s place of central administration).

Teare J leans on Samcrete Egypt Engineers and rejects the suggestions made (at 329) to displace the presumption. There were that “the principal subject-matter was assets based in Russia / assets acquired using money generated in Russia and while the parties were resident in Russia.” Further, the Agreement is said to be “akin” to a divorce arrangement pursuant to the Russian Family Code, and of a relationship which occurred primarily or exclusively in Russia. Finally, the Agreement as alleged would have involved performance by both Mrs. Danilina and Mr. Chernukhin, distributing (including, where relevant, by re-registration of shares and real property) their various assets. However (at 330) ‘there are indeed some factors that might otherwise point to Russia being “most closely connected” (and other factors pointing to other jurisdictions, such as the use of Channel Islands trusts and the fact that the agreement was allegedly concluded in Zurich), these factors are not, in my judgment, sufficient to displace the presumption in article.4(2).’

Proper law of the contract is English law (discussion of the Russian oral evidence issue is made obiter at 332 ff). Tear J does signal at 331 that per Article 4(3) at the merits stage, provision may have to be made for Russian law as the lex rei sitae, for some parts of the agreement. Eventually the High Court finds on the basis of English law that there was no 2007 Agreement – although there is an issue of breach of a trust agreement and that may be litigated.

Fun with Rome.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.4, Heading 3.2.6.

 

 

Article 3 Freedom of choice

1. A contract shall be governed by the law chosen by the parties. The choice must be expressed or demonstrated with reasonable certainty by the terms of the contract or the circumstances of the case. By their choice the parties can select the law applicable to the whole or a part only of the contract.

2. …

3. The fact that the parties have chosen a foreign law, whether or not accompanied by the choice of a foreign tribunal, shall not, where all the other elements relevant to the situation at the time of the choice are connected with one country only, prejudice the application of rules of the law at the country which cannot be derogated from by contract, hereinafter called ‘mandatory rules`.

4. …

Article 4 Applicable law in the absence of choice

1. To the extent that the law applicable to the contract has not been chosen in accordance with Article 3, the contract shall be governed by the law of the country with which it is most closely connected. Nevertheless, a separable part of the contract which has a closer connection with another country may by way of exception be governed by the law of that other country.

2. Subject to the provisions of paragraph 5 of this Article, it shall be presumed that the contract is most closely connected with the country where the party who is to effect the performance which is characteristic of the contract has, at the time of conclusion of the contract, his habitual residence, or, in the case of a body corporate or unincorporate, its central administration. However, if the contract is entered into in the course of that party’s trade or profession, that country shall be the country in which the principal place of business is situated or, where under the terms of the contract the performance is to be effected through a place of business other than the principal place of business, the country in which that other place of business is situated.

3. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 2 of this Article, to the extent that the subject matter of the contract is a right in immovable property or a right to use immovable property it shall be presumed that the contract is most closely connected with the country where the immovable property is situated.

4. …

5. Paragraph 2 shall not apply if the characteristic performance cannot be determined, and the presumptions in paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 shall be disregarded if it appears from the circumstances as a whole that the contract is more closely connected with another country.

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