Posts Tagged Arbitration

The Prestige recognition tussle – ctd. On arbitration and state immunity.

A short update on the Prestige litigation. I reported earlier on the disclosure order in the recognition leg of the case. In that review I also listed the issues to be decided and the preliminary assessment under Title III Brussels Ia. That appeal is to be heard in December 2020 (see also 21 ff of current judgment). In The London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Ltd v Spain (M/T “PRESTIGE”) [2020] EWHC 1582 (Comm) Henshaw J on 18 June held on yet another set of issues, related to arbitration and State Immunity.

He concluded after lengthy analysis to which it is best to refer in full, that Spain does not have immunity in respect of these proceedings; that the permission to serve the arbitration obligation our of jurisdiction, granted earlier to the Club should stand; and that the court should appoint an arbitrator.

I am pondering whether to add a State immunity chapter to the 3rd ed. of the Handbook – if I do, this case will certainly feature.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.1, Heading 2.2.11.2, Heading 2.2.16.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Alexander bros v Alstom. A reminder of the relevance of EU law for New York Convention refusal of recognition of arbitral awards on ordre public grounds.

In Alexander Brothers Ltd (Hong Kong SAR) v Alstom Transport SA & Anor [2020] EWHC 1584 (Comm) Cockerill J discussed inter alia (at 177 ff) the impact of EU law on the ordre public assessment for potential refusal of recognition of an arbitral award under section 103 of the 1980 New York Convention.

CJEU authority are C-126/ 97 Eco Swiss (concerning EU competition law) and C-168/ 05 Claro (unfair terms in consumer contracts). At 183 Cockerill J does not suggest the CJEU authority should no longer stand. Indeed she suggests obiter that there is no reason to suggest the CJEU’s line of reasoning should not apply to wider issues than just competition law or consumer law. However, the burden of proof of showing that particular parts of EU law are of a nature to justify the ordre public exception, lies upon the party objecting to recognition. In casu Alstom have fallen short of that duty. Yes, there is scant reference to anti-corruption in the private sector; and yes there is EU money laundering law. However (at 186) ‘the EU has, in general terms, set its face against corruption. But aside from the area of money laundering it has not put in place mandatory laws or rules. In the context of international corruption of the kind in focus here it has left it to the individual member states to adopt what measures seem good to them. There is, in short, no applicable mandatory rule or public policy.’

An interesting discussion.

Geert.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

The lex causae for transfer of title in movable property. A gem of an award by the Iran-US claims tribunal, generally discussing choice of law in arbitration.

I am most grateful to Hans Baron van Houtte, my predecessor in the conflicts chair at Leuven, for alerting me to the partial award of the Iran-US claims tribunal of 10 March last (case No. A15 (II:A)). Hans is a former President of the tribunal, which was established by the ‘Algiers declarations’ following the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis.

The award (a mere 691 pages) and separate opinions can best be accessed here. In the 10 March award, the Tribunal discussed at length the issue of the applicable law for transfer of title in movable property. In doing so, however, it also gives scholars a most wonderful insight and expose on the private international law /choice of law process in arbitration.

The issue is relevant for under the Algiers Declarations, the US is obliged to transfer to Iran, ‘Iranian properties’ subject to the jurisdiction of the United States on 19 January 1981. Hence what exactly constitutes ‘Iranian properties’?

From p.67 (para 135) onwards of the main award, the Tribunal discusses the general process of choice of law in arbitration, referring to a wealth of scholarship on the issue, going back to the mixed arbitral tribunals of the early 20th century etc. For anyone interested in the issue, this is most compelling reading. Many greats of PIL are cited, including the late prof Francois Rigaux (pictured here at Leuven in 2010 with profs Weizuo Chen, Jacques Herbots, Marc Fallon, and myself).

The Tribunal’s conclusion on the issue is that under the ‘general principles of private international law’, the lex rei sitae of the movable governs the passing of title in movable property.

The Tribunal does not hide the further complexities of this rule, including of course the very determination of that situs, and the role of lex contractus.

Indeed for instance on p.272 ff (para 967 ff) the Award discusses one particular claim concerning a case where, under the default rule of the lex rei sitae —- here, the goods were manufactured by, and in the possession of, Zokor, which was situated in the State of Illinois, United States. The applicable lex rei sitae is therefore the law of Illinois  —-property is passed by delivery, and where, under the default rule of the lex contractus –– here arguably Iranian law –– title is already passed by the conclusion of the sales contract or as soon as the goods are manufactured.

At 973 the Tribunal notes the choice of law pro Iranian law, made by the parties, However, it holds ‘the situs was and remained, during all relevant points in time, Illinois. Consequently, according to the general principle of private international law, as identified earlier in this Partial Award, it was for Section 2-401(2) UCC in connection with other contract law of the situs to determine whether the parties had agreed to derogate from the fallback rule.’ (which the Tribunal found, they had not).

That is not entirely crystal clear, and indeed in his separate Opinion prof van Houtte, while generally happy with the Tribunal’s approach, points out some inadequacies:

At 13: ‘The Parties assumed for years that the determination of whether property was “Iranian” as between the seller and the buyer was a contractual issue between those parties governed, inter alia, by the proper law of the contract (lex contractus). It was only at the Hearing session on 9 October 2013 that – in response to a question from the bench – the Parties’ argumentation focused on the lex rei sitae; from that point on, the lex contractus was virtually no longer considered. (…) I regret that the contractual aspects of the transfer of property rights inter partes and the impact of the law of the contract thereupon were not further explored at the Hearing’.

at 15: ‘I observe that the Parties could also have further elaborated on the extent to which the legal situs necessarily coincides with the geographical location of assets in export sales or turn-key contracts.’

And at 18, specifically with respect to the Zokor case that I mention above, ‘One may wonder, de lege ferenda, whether in Claim G-111 (Zokor) it was necessary for the Tribunal to construe and apply its own “general principles of international private law”’ and whether it should not instead adopt the approach which Iranian courts would have applied. These would have had jurisdiction pre the 1979 agreement and the transfer of jurisdiction to the Tribunal, van Houtte argues, does not imply it should settle contractual disputes under different principles than the Iranian courts would have applied’.

A most, most interesting read.

Geert.

 

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Anti-suit and arbitration. Court of Appeal overturns in Enka v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al.

Update 04 July 2020 the Supreme Court will hear appeal in this case in July, as reported by Milbank.

The Court of Appeal in [2020] EWCA Civ 574 Enka Insaat Ve Sanayi AS v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” & Ors has overturned Baker J in [2019] EWHC 3568 (Comm) Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al. which I reviewed here.

The case is mostly about the proper law of the arbitration agreement (Flaux J using the shorthand the ‘AA law’) aka the lex arbitri. Given that this is excluded from Rome I, residual rules apply which of course under English common law has Sulamerica as its main authority. In this case Enka contends that the AA law is English law, and Chubb Russia that it is Russian law. It is common ground that the lex contractus is Russian law, but the route to that conclusion is also in issue.

The dispute in this case raises the question of the relative weight to be given to the curial law (that is, the law of the seat, GAVC) of the arbitration agreement and the main contract law, where they differ, in determining the AA law. At 69:  ‘It is a question on which it would be idle to pretend that the English authorities speak with one voice. It would appear that there are also differences of approach between other jurisdictions in international arbitration generally’.

At 109 Flaux J concludes that parties have impliedly chosen that the proper law of the arbitration agreement should coincide with the curial law and be English law, and further, at 119 that ‘there has been no delay by Enka in this case which provides any good reason for not granting injunctive relief. I would treat this as a classic case, like The Angelic Grace, in which the court should grant an injunction to restrain the further conduct of proceedings brought in breach of an English law arbitration agreement.’

Anti-suit therefore granted.

For those interested in choice of law in arbitration, the judgment is required reading.  None of the Rome I (let alone Brussels Ia) issues discussed at the High Court are further discussed here, hence for the purposes of this blog I shall leave the analysis here.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1. 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Province of Balochistan v Tethyan promises to highlight multilevel regulation issues in arbitration.

Province of Balochistan v Tethyan Copper Company [2020] EWHC 938 (Comm) concerns mostly a challenge to an arbitration tribunal ruling for reasons beyond the interest of the blog. In the underlying ICC arbitration (which has not yet concluded but has been stayed pending the present claim), the Defendant to the present claim (“TCC”), an Australian mining company, brings claims against Balochistan, a province of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, arising out of a mining joint venture. More specifically, the claims arise out of a contract known as the Chagai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement dated 29 July 1993 and governed by the law of Pakistan.

POB seek to contend that the ICC tribunal lacked jurisdiction because the contract containing the arbitration agreement was void for a number of reasons, one of which is that it was allegedly procured by corruption. POB also alleges serious procedural irregularity in a number of respects.

However the challenge is not just an ordinary challenge to an arbitration award. At 67 Henshaw J signals interesting private international law /arbitration /multilevel governance cum regulation issues. Claimants suggest ia that the arbitration

gives rise to a number of complex issues, such as questions of private international law raised in section III of the arbitration claim form about whether applying the English law concept of issue estoppel in the ICC arbitration to certain issues determined in the ICSID arbitration (which is governed by a hybrid of laws including international investment law, US law and public international law) is consistent with the parties’ agreement to apply the law of Pakistan to the substance of their dispute in respect of the CHEJVA. POB suggests that an exchange of pleadings to identify the precise issues in dispute is likely to be of real benefit to the parties and the court: otherwise there is a risk that, if the case proceeds on the basis of the three or so relevant pages of the arbitration claim form and the three or so relevant pages of the responsive witness statement of Ms Reid, the parties will fully understand the detail of each other’s cases only when they exchange skeleton arguments just before the final hearing.

(A solution suggested is ia to hold bifurcation of the issues considered in the challenge to the award). Henshaw J held that the issues are too complex to be held at the current stage and orders there should be a hearing on the substantive issues.

That promises to be an interesting hearing.

Geert.

 

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

The Prestige recognition tussle puts the spotlights on (now) Article 45 Brussels Ia, and on the relation between competing arbitral awards and judgments in ordinary.

Spain v The London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Ltd [2020] EWHC 142 (Comm) reports on the CMR (case management conference) re what promises to be interesting litigation. A Spanish judgment concerning liability for the pollution damage caused when the vessel PRESTIGE broke in two off the coast of Spain in 2002, needs to be enforced in the UK. Brussels Ia’s contestation of recognition is involved: particularly Articles 34(1) and (3).

At 2 Teare J summarises the story so far:

The parties have been in dispute about liability for many years. Criminal proceedings were brought against the master of PRESTIGE in Spain in 2002 and, after the conclusion of the investigative stage of the proceedings, civil proceedings were brought against the master, the Owners of PRESTIGE and the Club, as liability insurer of the Owners, in 2010. (I am told that in addition to Spain there are some 264 other claimants.) In 2012 the Club commenced arbitration proceedings in London against Spain and in February 2013 obtained an award from the sole arbitrator Mr. Alistair Schaff QC which declared that, as a result of the “pay to be paid” clause in the policy the Club had no liability to Spain. In this court Spain challenged the jurisdiction of the arbitrator but the court (Hamblen J. as he then was) held in 2013 that the arbitrator had jurisdiction. Later that year the court in La Coruna dismissed the civil claim against the master, Owners and Club but convicted the master of the crime of disobeying orders by the Spanish authorities to accept a tow of the vessel. In 2015 the English Court of Appeal upheld the decision of Hamblen J. In 2016 the Spanish Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court in La Coruna and held that the master had been seriously negligent and that the Owners and Club were liable for the damage caused. In execution proceedings in Spain, the court in La Coruna declared the Spanish State entitled to enforce a claim up to approximately €2.355 billion against the defendants in the Spanish proceedings and declared the master, Owners and the Club liable in respect of the claims, although subject (in the case of the Club) to a global limit of liability in the sum of approximately €855 million.’

Thus the Club has an arbitration award in its favour but Spain has a judgment of the Spanish Supreme Court in its favour. Spain obtained an order from Master Cook pursuant to which the Spanish judgment was registered so that it could be enforced here against the Club. The Club seeks to appeal from that order. One of the grounds on which it seeks to appeal is that the Spanish judgment is irreconcilable with the judgment of Hamblen J. and the Court of Appeal (A34(3) BIa). Another ground is that recognition of England is contrary to the public policy of England (A34(1)).

This particular CMS concenrs disclosure requirements: the Club’s seeking of disclosure from Spain is resisted by the latter on grounds that is clashes with BIa’s intention of swift recognition.

One of the issues on which disclosure is sought, is Spain’s position under the insurance title of BIa: “Are the English Judgments not qualifying judgments within article 34(3) because the English Judgments conflict with Section 3 of Chapter II of the Brussels 1 Regulation ? In particular …(b) Is the respondent [Spain] entitled to rely on the exclusive rules for jurisdiction in Section 3 of Chapter II. In particular: (i) Is the respondent [Spain] a qualifying party that is entitled to the protective rules in Section 3 ?” Reference is made to Aspen Underwiting: the Club states that it is necessary for Spain to show that it is a member of the class protected by Section 3, which (per Aspen Underwriting, GAVC] excludes “professionals in the insurance sector or entities regularly involved in the commercial or otherwise professional settlement of insurance related claims who voluntarily assumed the realisation of the claim as part of its commercial or otherwise professional activity”. Aspen Underwriting in the meantime (Teare J’s judgment was issued in January; it has been in the blog queue) has been varied by the Supreme Court.

It will therefore be necessary, submitted counsel for the Club, for Spain to disclose documents which show “the class of business” conducted by it. If it is a member of the relevant class it can rely on section 3. If it is not, it cannot.

The second class of document of which disclosure is sought is very different and relates to the public policy defence. Did the Spanish Courts refuse to allow the master to participate in an underwater investigation of the strength of the vessel’s hull and refuse to disclose the results of the investigation (so that there was a breach of the master’s right to equality of arms and to be able to prepare a defence) or were the results disclosed to the master in sufficient time to allow him to prepare his defence. The Club therefore seeks disclosure of the documents relating to that question held by Spain. Here Teare J at 21 assumes that Spain’s evidence can be expected to support its case and to rely upon the documents which show when the results were disclosed to the master and in what terms. If the evidence does not deal with this issue then Spain will be unable to advance its factual case. ‘I therefore consider it very likely that no disclosure under this head will be required. In the unlikely event that it is required a focused application can be made after Spain has provided its evidence.’

The Order eventually imposes a timetable for exchange of evidence (including expert reports) and later settlement of disclosure issues should they arise. Hearing in principle in December 2020.

This could turn out to be a most relevant case.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.1, Heading 2.2.11.2, Heading 2.2.16.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Applicable law and arbitration. Sulamerica extensively discussed in Kabab-Ji SAL v Kout Food Group.

Update 3 July 2007 for the opposite view in the same case, opting for the curial law as lex arbitri, see Paris Court of Appeal on 23 June 2020, discussed here. Quite the tale of conflicting views in the same case!

Thank you Filbert Lam for yet again flagging an important case. In [2020] EWCA Civ 6 Kabab-Ji SAL v Kout Food Group Flaux LJ extensively discussed the application of Sulamerica as to the governing law of an arbitration agreement which provides for arbitration in Paris but which is contained in a main agreement which is expressly governed by English law; and as to whether the respondent became a party to the main agreement and/or the arbitration agreement notwithstanding the presence of No Oral Modification provisions in the main contract.

Parties’ choice of English law for the underlying contract was found to also be an express choice of the law governing the arbitration agreement. This meant there was no need to consider the implications (particularly viz a possible implied choice of law) of a choice of Paris as seat or other aspects of the Sulamérica test. Recognition and enforcement of the award which applied French law, was refused.

Jonathan Lim suggests here that the judgment is a departure from the understanding of separability in previous CA decisions, although the ensuing discussion on his feed also suggests that the factual interpretation of the clauses might suggest the exact opposite. I tend to agree with Jonathan: the generic nature of the clauses and the lack of (reported at least) other strong indications seem to suggest the finding of express choice of law was optimistic.

Geert.

 

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Anti-suit and arbitration. Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al.

[2019] EWHC 3568 (Comm) Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al. is the very swift follow-up to [2019] EWHC 2729 (Comm) which I review here. I flag the case mostly for:

  • at 8, Baker J siding with Males J (and myself) per Nori Holding, that West Tankers is still good authority following Brussels Ia despite Wathelet AG’s suggestions in Gazprom;
  • the brief reference at 9, as to whether under Rome I injunctive relief for threat of contractual breach is covered by lex fori or lex contractus. Baker J concludes that issue simply by reminding us that Rome I does not apply to arbitration agreements;
  • At 47 ff the discussion of choice of law in spite of no express clause having been included to that effect. Specifically, with reference to Sulamerica, whether choice of seat may imply choice of law.

Anti-suit was denied.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1. 

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

A v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al. Anti-suit pro arbitration does have its limits.

In A v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” [2019] EWHC 2729 (Comm), Carr J refused an ex parte application for interim relief seeking (i.a.) anti-suit and discontinuation of Russian proceedings, pro agreed arbitration in London. Defendants are domiciled at Russia, France and Switserland. At 33 ff Carr J lists five reasons for refusal, despite as readers will know the English courts’ general willingness to assist arbitration. Three of her reasons jump out: the lack of full and frank disclosure (ia relating to contractual provisions); the lack of immediate urgency requiring ex parte application; and some of the measures sought being more than just interim measures (assessment of that nature required evidence by a Russian law expert on the further continuation, if any, of Russian proceedings following anti-suit).

A good reminder that these applications are neither straightforward nor should be taken for granted.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1.

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Hiscox v Weyerhaeuser. The High Court is not easily impressed by pending foreign proceedings in anti-suit application (pro arbitration).

A quick note on Hiscox v Weyerhaeuser [2019] EWHC 2671 (Comm), in which Knowles J was asked to continue an anti-suit injunction restraining Weyerhaeuser from continuing proceedings in the US courts and ordering parties to turn to arbitration. He obliged.

In April 2018 Weyerhaeuser filed proceedings in the US District Court (Western District of Washington at Seattle)for a declaratory judgment in respect of certain of its insurance excess policies in the tower of excess liability. Weyerhaeuser sought, among other things, a declaration that there is no valid arbitration agreement applicable to any coverage disputes between itself and various defendant insurers and that the US District Court is the appropriate forum for any such disputes.

Knowles J lists the various proceedings pending in the US however particularly in the light of all parties being established businesses, is not impressed by arguments of comity or fairness to restrain the English courts from further involvement in the matter. He expresses the hope and expectation that the US courts will come to the same conclusion as himself, in light of the contractual provisions.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1.

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: