Posts Tagged Article 34

Petrobas securities class action firmly anchored in The Netherlands. Rotterdam court applying i.a. forum non conveniens under Brussels Ia.

Many thanks to Jeffrey Kleywegt and Robert Van Vugt for re-reporting Stichting Petrobas Compensation Foundation v PetrÓleo Brasilieiro SA – PETROBRAS et al. The case, held in September (judgment in NL and in EN) relates to a Brazilian criminal investigation into alleged bribery schemes within Petrobras, which took place between 2004 and 2014. the Court had to review the jurisdictional issue only at this stage, and confirmed same for much, but not all of the claims.

The Dutch internal bank for Petrobas, Petrobas Global Finance BV and the Dutch subsidiary of Petrobas, Petrobas Oil and Gas BV are the anchor defendants. Jurisdiction against them was easily established of course under Article 4 Brussels Ia.

Issues under discussion, were

Firstly, against the Dutch defendants: Application of the new Article 34 ‘forum non conveniens’ mechanism which I have reported on before re English and Gibraltar courts. At 5.45: defendants request a stay of the proceedings on account of lis pendens, until a final decision has been given in the United States, alternatively Brazil, about claims that are virtually identical to those brought by the Foundation. They additionally argue a stay on case management grounds. However the court finds

with respect to a stay in favour of the US, that

the US courts will not judge on the merits, since there is a class settlement; and that

for the proceedings in which these courts might eventually hold on the merits (particularly in the case of claimants having opted out of the settlement), it is unclear what the further course of these proceedings will be and how long they will continue. For that reason it is also unclear if a judgment in these actions is to be expected at ‘reasonably short notice’: delay of the proceedings is a crucial factor in the Article 34 mechanism.

with respect to a stay in favour of Brasil, that Brazilian courts unlike the Dutch (see below) have ruled and will continue to rule in favour of the case having to go to arbitration, and that such awards might not even be recognisable in The Netherlands (mutatis mutandis, the Anerkennungsprognose of Article 34).

Further, against the non-EU based defendants, this of course takes place under residual Dutch rules, particularly

Firstly Article 7(1)’s anchor defendants mechanism such as it does in Shell. The court here found that exercise of jurisdiction would not be exorbitant, as claimed by Petrobas: most of the claims against the Dutch and non-Dutch defendants are so closely connected as to justify a joint hearing for reasons of efficiency, in order to prevent irreconcilable judgments from being given in the event that the cases were heard and determined separately: a clear echo of course of CJEU authority on Article 8(1). The court also rejects the suggestion that application of the anchor mechanism is abusive.

It considers these issues at 5.11 ff: relevant is inter alia that the Dutch defendants have published incorrect, incomplete, and/or misleading financial information, have on the basis of same during the fraud period issued shares, bonds or securities and in that period have deliberately and wrongly raised expectations among investors. Moreover, at 5:15: Petrobras has itself stated on its website that it has a strategic presence in the Netherlands.

Against two claims ‘involvement’ of the NL-based defendants was not withheld, and jurisdiction denied.

Further, a subsidiary jurisdictional claim for these two rejected claims on the basis of forum necessitatis (article 9 of the Duch CPR) was not withheld: Brazilian authorities are clearly cracking down on fraud and corruption (At 5.25 ff).

Finally  and again for these two remaining claims, are the Netherlands the place where the harmful event occurred (Handlungsort) and /or the place where the damage occurred (Erfolgsort)? Not so, the court held: at 5.22: the Foundation has not stated enough with regard to the involvement of the Dutch defendants in those claims, for the harmful event to be localised in the Netherlands with some sufficient force. As for locus damni and with echos of Universal Music: at 5.24: that the place where the damage has occurred is situated in the Netherlands, cannot be drawn from the mere circumstance that purely financial damage has directly occurred in the Dutch bank accounts of the (allegedly) affected investors – other arguments (see at 5.24) made by the Foundation did not convince.

Finally, an argument was made that the Petrobas arbitration clause contained in its articles of association, rule out recourse to the courts in ordinary. Here, an interesting discussion took place on the relevant language version to be consulted: the Court went for the English one, seeing as this is a text which is intended to be consulted by persons all over the world (at 5.33). The English version of article 58 of the articles of association however is insufficiently clear and specific: there is no designated forum to rule on any disputes covered by the clause. Both under Dutch and Brazilian law, the Court held, giving up the constitutional right of gaining access to the independent national court requires that the clause clearly states that arbitration has been agreed. That clarity is absent: the version consulted by the court read

“Art. 58 -It shall be resolved by means of arbitration [italics added, district court], obeying the rules provided by the Market Arbitration Chamber, the disputes or controversies that involve the Company, its shareholders, the administrators and members of the Fiscal Council, for the purposes of the application of the provision contained in Law n° 6.404, of 1976, in this Articles of Association, in the rules issued by the National Monetary Council, by the Central Bank of Brazil and by the Brazilian
Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as in the other rules applicable to the functioning of the capital market in general, besides the ones contained in the agreements eventually executed by Petrobras with the stock exchange or over-the-counter market entity, accredited by the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission, aiming at the adoption of standards of corporate governance established by these entities, and of the respective rules of differentiated practices of corporate governance, as the case may be.”

A very relevant and well argued case – no doubt subject to appeal.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed.2016, Chapter 2, almost in its entirety.

 

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

Leave a comment

National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon. Branches’ activities, Article 7(5) Brussels I Recast and engagement of Article 30.

In [2017] EWHC 3512 (Comm)  National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon, Article 7(5) makes a rarish appearance, as does (less rarely) Article 30. Popplewell J summarises the main facts as follows.

‘The Second Claimant is the Republic of Kazakhstan (“ROK”). The First Claimant is the National Bank of Kazakhstan (“NBK”). The Defendant is a bank incorporated in Belgium with a branch in, amongst other places, London. Through its London branch it provides banking and custody services to NBK in respect of the National Fund of Kazakhstan (“the National Fund”), pursuant to a Global Custody Agreement dated 24th December 2001, (“the GCA”). The National Fund has been the target of proceedings brought by Mr. Anatolie Stati and others, (“the Stati Parties”), who are seeking to enforce a Swedish arbitration award against ROK for a sum, including interest and costs, in excess of US$ 500 million. The Stati Parties obtained attachment orders from the Dutch court and the Belgian court, which were served on the Defendant (“BNYM”). BNYM, after taking legal advice, decided to freeze all the assets comprising the National Fund, which it holds under the GCA, on the basis that it was bound to comply with the Belgian and Dutch orders, breach of which would expose it to the risk of civil liability for the amount of the Stati Parties’ claims and criminal liability in Belgium and the Netherlands.’

Effectively therefore the London Branch of a Belgian domiciled bank, has frozen claimant’s assets which it holds in London (although the exact situs is disputed), on the basis that it wishes to prevent exposure to BE and NL criminal proceedings.

Parties arguments on jurisdiction are included at 41 and 42 of the judgment. Core to the Brussels I Recast jurisdictional discussions is Article 7(5) which provides

“A person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State: […]

(5) as regards a dispute arising out of the operations of a branch, agency or other establishment, in the courts for the place where the branch, agency or other establishment is situated;’

Beyond Case 33/78 Somafer, to which the High Court refers, there is little CJEU precedent – C‑27/17 flyLAL is currently underway. Popplewell J at 53 refers to Lord Phillips’ paraphrasing of Somafer in [2003] EWCA Civ 147  as a requirement of ‘sufficient nexus’ between the dispute and the branch as to render it natural to describe the dispute as one which has arisen out of the activities of the branch.

At 54 he holds there is such nexus in the case at issue, particularly given the management of the frozen assets by the London branch, and the very action by that branch to freeze them. This is quite a wide interpretation of Article 7(5) and not one which I believe is necessarily supported by the exceptional nature of Article 7.

As to whether the English and Belgian proceedings are ‘related’, providing an opportunity for the English proceedings to be halted under Article 30 of the Recast (lis alibi pendens), the High Court refers at 57 ff to C-406/95 The Tatry to hold that there is no risk of conflicting decisions in this case: the argument specifically being that even if the issues addressed are the same, they are addressed in the respective (English, Dutch, Belgian) proceedings under different applicable laws (in each case the lex fori on sovereign immunity). I do not find that very convincing. The risk of irreconcilable outcome is the issue; not irreconcilability or not of reasoning. In the same para 60 in fine in fact Popplewell J advances what I think is a stronger argument: that the issue whether the National Fund was used or intended to be used for commercial purposes, requires to be determined or addressed in the English proceedings, with the result that there is no risk of conflict.

Article 30 not being engaged for that reason, obiter then follows an interesting discussion on whether there can be lis alibi pendens if the court originally seized had no jurisdiction under the Regulation: here: because the Belgian and Dutch proceedings are arbitration proceedings.

Does Article 30 apply to Regulation claims where there was a related action in a Member State in which the related action did not itself come within the Regulation? Referring to the new Article 34 lis alibi pendens rule for proceedings pending ex-EU, ex absurdum, would there not be an odd lacuna if Article 34 required a stay where there were related non-Regulation foreign proceedings in a third party State and the position were not to be the same for equivalent foreign proceedings in a Member State? I do not believe there would be such lacuna: the Article 34 rule applies to concurrent proceedings which are in fact in-Regulation, except international comity requires the EU to cede to foreign proceedings with a strong (typically exclusive) jurisdictional call. For intra-EU proceedings, the comity argument holds no sway – mutual trust does.

Like Poplewell J however I reserve final judgment on that issue for another occasion.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11, Heading 2.2.14.

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

Leave a comment

Booze bikes banned from Amsterdam. Time for a pousse-cafe:the EU law analysis that never was.

At the end of October the Rechtbank Amsterdam held that ‘booze bikes’ can be kept from parts of Amsterdam. The municipality had resorted to the ban both to address congestion (the bikes are slow and chunky; the roads in the part of Amsterdam concerned, narrow) and rowdiness (the bikes are often used for stag parties and let’s just say that the ‘bike’ part of the trip is not the one that attracts its users). In my experience (from a resident’s point of view) these bikes are a bit like Brexit: attractive for five minutes to some; a right nuisance for the remainder of the journey.

In 2009 I wrote a short piece reflecting on use restrictions from an EU point of view. In it I refer ia to C-142/05 Mickelsson and to C-110/05 Commission v Italy (motorcyle trailers) – my analysis and that of Peter Oliver may be applied here mutatis mutandis. The degree to which lawfully marketed products may be restricted in their use has so far not entertained the Court of Justice in great numbers. Yet the use of such restrictions is bound to increase, with local authorities in particular imposing restrictions for environmental, public health and other ‘sustainable development’ purposes. Witness e.g. Venice banning wheeled suitcases, historic city centres banning diesel cars etc.

In the booze bike case the Court at Amsterdam (at 2.9) simply said that applicants should have provided detail of their argument as to why the ban might contravene EU law. Expect a second round on similar cases at some point.

Geert.

 

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

B.win v Emerald Bay. Article 34 Brussels I Recast (as well as dépeçage)

Update May 2017. Judgment upheld on appeal.

Thank you David Lewis QC for signalling B.WIN v Emerald Bay at the courts of Gibraltar.

Jack J, considers not just the issue of dépeçage under Rome I (here: an attempt at distinguishing applicable law for regulatory as opposed to purely contractual issues) but also, albeit briefly the new lis alibi pendens /related actions regime of Articles 33-34 Brussels I Recast. (In a much more succinct way than Zavarco).

At 73 in particular: ‘I am doubtful whether any part of the [FNC] doctrine survives in cases where this Court has jurisdiction under the Brussels I-Recast Regulation. [reference to Owusu]. Instead the extent to which this Court can and should say the current proceedings is likely to be limited by Arts 33 and 34 of Brussels I-Recast.’ This is an interesting reflection on Article 34 Brussels I Recast, despite inevitable parallel particularly experienced by common law courts, not amounting to a forum non conveniens light.

Continued then at 74 ff:

‘However, I do not need to determine that issue. Gibraltar is a perfectly appropriate venue for the determination of the dispute between the parties. The business of Bwin Gibraltar is run from here. All the parties reside here. The misrepresentations relied on were made in Gibraltar or London. Most of the lay witnesses are either in Gibraltar or in Europe.
75. It is true that the New Jersey courts will be more familiar with New Jersey gaming law. However, given that a trial there would be with a civil jury, that may not be such an advantage. In terms of disclosure of documents from the DGE, this is neutral in my
judgment. If the proceedings continue in Gibraltar, the parties can apply in the federal courts of New Jersey…for disclosure of documents…
76. In my judgment, neither Gibraltar nor New Jersey is a forum non conveniens. In exercising my discretion as to whether to grant an anti-suit injunction, I consider that there is nothing substantial to weigh against Bwin Gibraltar’s contractual entitlement not to be sued in New Jersey. Accordingly, I will grant an anti-suit injunction.’

A further, brief, consideration of Article 34.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law – 2nd ed. 2016 , Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.14.5.

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Cheers to that! The CJEU on excise duties, alcohol, packaging and regulatory autonomy in Valev Visnapuu.

Postscript 10 December 2015 For a similar exercise, see Sharpston AG in C-472/14 Canadian Oil.

Less is sometimes more so I shall not attempt to summarise all issues in Case C-198/14 Valev Visnapuu. The case makes for sometimes condensed reading however it perfectly illustrates the way to go about dealing with obstacles to trade put in place for environmental, public health or, as in this case, both reasons.

Mr Visnapuu essentially forum shops Estonia’s lower prices on alcohol by offering Finnish clients home delivery of alcoholic beverages purchased there. No declaration of import is made to Finish customs and excise, thereby circumventing (accusation of course is that this is illegal) a variety of excise duties imposed for public health and environmental reasons, as well as a number of requirements relating to retail licenses and container requirements (essentially a deposit-return system) for beverages.

Confronted with a demand to settle various tax debts, as well as with a suspended prison sentence, Mr Visnapuu turns to EU law as his defence in a criminal proceeding. The CJEU then had to settle a variety of classic trade and environment /public health questions: whether the packaging and packaging waste Directive is exhaustive on the issue of deposit-return system (answer: no and hence the system additionally needs to be assessed vis-a-vis EU primary law: Article 34 ff TFEU or Article 110 TFEU); whether in the context of that Directive excise duties on packaging may be imposed (yes) and packaging integrated into a functioning return system exempt (yes; in the absence of indications that imported systems are less likely to enjoy the exemption); whether the relevant excise duties fall under Article 34 ff TFEU or Article 110 TFEU (answer: it is part of an internal system of taxation hence needs to be judged vis-a-vis Article 110 TFEU); and finally whether the retail licence requirement needs to be judged viz Article 34 or Article 37 TFEU (answer: mixed, given the various requirements at stake). Final judgment on proportionality is down to the Finnish courts.

Readers in need of a tipple would be advised to postpone until after reading the judgment. Again though the case shows that if one keeps a clear head, classic structures of applying EU law go a long way in untangling even complex matters of law and fact.

Geert.

 

 

 

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

Leave a comment

Zavarco: Donaldson DJ emphasises difference between Article 34 Brussels I Recast and forum non conveniens. And considers Article 24(2)’s exclusive jurisdictional rule.

Petra Blomqvist v Zavarco PLC [2015] EWHC 1898 (Ch) is to my knowledge the first serious consideration of the new lis alibi pendens and related actions provisions of Articles 33-34 Brussels I Recast.

The defendant company has applied for a stay on the basis of forum non conveniens and/or lis alibi pendens founded on the pendency of the action in Kuala Lumpur.

Donaldson DJ first considers whether claimant’s action falls within Article 24(2)’s exclusive jurisdictional rule for company matters. Article 34 has no application where jurisdiction is assigned by Article 24.

Precedent referred to includes Reichert as well as BVG. The claim founds on the claimant, Mr Blomqvist’s allegation that the company has failed to comply with its obligation under applicable English corporate law to call a meeting at the request of a member registered as the holder of more than 5% of the paid-up shares so as to enable consideration of resolutions to replace the directors, thus entitling him to convene such a meeting himself.  The company contests that the court is obliged to focus on the defence that the shares were not paid up, which he suggests is the only real matter in dispute and turns solely on whether the terms of the relevant purchase agreement were complied with, a matter outside Article 24.

At 25: CJEU Case-law and the Jenard report exclude ‘from the reach of Article 24 a contractual claim to which questions of corporate governance were advanced by way of defence. It is however equally important not to remove from its ambit a claim seeking redress for failures of corporate governance on the basis of a defence which is purely contractual.’

Turning then to Article 34. Donaldson DJ suggests at 34 that ‘The clear purpose of Article 34 is to liberate the court from the constraint imposed by the Regulation in earlier versions, exemplified in Owusu , as regards stay in favour of the courts of non-Member States.’ I am not convinced. Articles 33-34 may now allow for a stay in relations with third States. Yet forum non conveniens is one thing – and indeed one ruled out by the CJEU under the Brussels regime. Articles 33-34 are quite another.

Consideration is then made of the rather awkward first condition of Article 34 that a stay requires that ‘it is expedient to hear and determine the related actions together’. At 38: ’it is hard to see how the actions could in practice ever be heard and determined together and hence how such a course could ever be expedient. This result can, as I see it, only be avoided by a purposive construction which treats the words “is expedient” as equivalent to “would have been expedient”. I beleive this is right: this condition is likely to have to be interpreted at an abstract level: as in that it would have been expedient to hear the actions together (typically, by use of Article 8(1)’s anchor mechanism), had the considerations involved competition between two (or more) EU courts: seeing as an EU judge is evidently in no position to demand a related action be handed over from a third State court.

The bar for the application of Article 34 is necessarily high – and was arguably applied so in Zavarco: at 41 ff convincing arguments are displayed to that effect.

Finally, at 44 ff Donaldson DJ entirely justifiably, and emphatically, rejects the suggestion that with lis alibi pendens having failed, a stay could be issued on case-management grounds: (the Owusu) prohibition cannot be circumvented by re-labelling the exercise as one of case management so as to “achieve by the back door a result against which the ECJ has locked the front door”(per Lewison J in Skype technologies SA v Joltid Ltd [2009] EWHC 2783 (Ch) ).

This is the first proper consideration of Article 34 of the Recast. No doubt it will not be the last.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law – 2nd ed. 2016 (forthcoming), Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.6.5, Heading 2.2.14.5.

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

Leave a comment

Thank you for not displaying. Objections to tobacco display ban go up in smoke.

I have previously referred to the display ban case which Philip Morris took to the EFTA Court. I have only just recently stumbled across the eventual holding of the court which had referred the case to Luxembourg. (The Norwegian court held a year after EFTA’s judgment). Not GAVClaw style to report close to 2 years after date of issue: blame the inadequate (read lack of) system by which EFTA and indeed EU Member States report back on their eventual findings in preliminary review.

The District Court had been instructed by the EFTA Court to review whether the display ban actually affects the sale of domestic products and sale of goods from other EEA States equally. If there is de facto equal treatment, the law surfs on Keck & Mithouard’s exception for ‘selling arrangements’: no infringement of the core prohibition on quantitative restrictions to trade in the first place. (See Alberto Alemanno’s analysis of the EFTA ruling for background).

The national court suggested that the EFTA Court had not been entirely clear on how that test had to be constructed: not at any rate, it held, as a market hindrance test: i.e. that new products’ chances of entering the Norwegian tobacco market should be decisive for the question of whether a restriction exists.  It referred inter alia (at p.35 of the copy referred to above) to the fact that the Norwegian Government in its submission to the EFTA Court had suggested that even though such hindrance for new products at the time did not actually exist, it could be expected indeed hoped that this would be the case. The District Court held that in the light of this acknowledgement by the Government, had the EFTA Court found this problematic, it would and should have said so explicitly. (This in some ways might be seen as a risk for the EFTA Court’s tradition, in line with the ECJ’s approach, to practice judicial economy).

The District Court in the end decided to continue the case on the basis of whether national products have a more favourable position due to local habits and customs linked to tobacco use (at p.35): the burden of proof whether the ban actually and not just potentially affects the marketing of imported tobacco products differently than domestic tobacco products lies with PMI, the Court held. That, it said, was not established with clarity: the de facto discriminatory effect of the display ban was found to be too uncertain to be considered a trade barrier.

The Court then somewhat inconsistently (do Norwegian courts practice wide obiter?) did review suitability and proportionality (not needed if Keck & Mithouard applied). Here, without naming the precautionary principle, the Court applies an important consequence often associated with it: the reversal of burden of proof. The Court essentially wanted PMI to show clear evidence for the display ban not being suitable for restricting the consumption of tobacco in Norway, at any rate in the long term (p.48). The Court essentially relies on previous case-law on tobacco advertising and equates suitability of the display ban with relevant studies and case-law on advertising restrictions. This was bound to (although the court took some length to establish it) lead to a finding of suitability.

Finally, as for proportionality proper, the court (with cross-reference i.a. on the effect of these bans elsewhere) did not find less trade restrictive alternatives (within the context of access to information or branding at point of sale).

This judgment just has to be staple fodder for risk classes and the interaction between risk analysis and trade law.

Geert.

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

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: