Posts Tagged Article 35

Banca Turco: Popplewell J explains that worlwide freezing orders, particularly ex parte, are not extended willy-nilly.

In [2018] EWHC 662 (Comm) Banca Turco Romana, Popplewell J explained his reasons for discontinuing ex parte freezing orders, with reference among others to C-391/95 Van Uden. At 22-23 he discusses the not entirely clear application of the jurisdictional rules of Brussels I, which indicated that that Regulation was engaged either via Article 2 (now 4: domicile in Romania) or 4 (now 6): residual Member State (here: Romanian) jurisdictional rules, which go on to be sheltered under the Brussels I Regulation.

At 20 he refers to the earlier case of ICICI Bank UK plc v Diminco NV [2014] EWHC 3124 (Comm) in which he summarised the English Courts’ requirements for the issuing of ex parte freezing orders where the defendant is neither resident within the jurisdiction nor someone over whom the court has or would assume in personam jurisdiction for some other reason:

‘the court will only grant a freezing order extending to foreign assets in exceptional circumstances. It is likely to be necessary for the applicant to establish at least three things:

(a)        that there is a real connecting link between the subject matter of the measure sought and the territorial jurisdiction of the English court in the sense referred to in Van Uden;

(b)        that the case is one where it is appropriate within the limits of comity for the English court to act as an international policeman in relation to assets abroad; and that will not be appropriate unless it is practical for an order to be made and unless the order can be enforced in practice if it is disobeyed; the court will not make an order even within the limits of comity if there is no effective sanction which it could apply if the order were disobeyed, as will often be the case if the defendant has no presence within the jurisdiction and is not subject to the in personam of the English court;

(c)        it is just and expedient to grant worldwide relief, taking into account the discretionary factors identified at paragraph 115 of the Motorola case. They are (i) whether the making of the order will interfere with the management of the case in the primary court, e.g. where the order is inconsistent with an order in the primary court or overlaps with it; (ii) whether it is the policy in the primary jurisdiction not itself to make to make worldwide freezing/disclosure orders; (iii) whether there is a danger that the orders made will give rise to disharmony or confusion and/or risk of conflicting, inconsistent or overlapping orders in other jurisdictions, in particular the courts of the state where the person enjoined resides or where the assets affected are located; (iv) whether at the time the order is sought there is likely to be a potential conflict as to jurisdiction rendering it inappropriate and inexpedient to make a worldwide order; and (v) whether in a case where jurisdiction is resisted and disobedience may be expected  the court will be making an order which it cannot enforce.”

In Banca Turco discontinuation was ultimately mostly based not on any slip-up of jurisdictional basis, but rather on the absence of full disclosure by the requesting party: at 45: ‘The importance of the duty of disclosure has often been emphasised.  It is the necessary corollary of the court being prepared to depart from the principle that it will hear both sides before reaching a decision, which is a basic principle of fairness.  Derogation from that basic principle is an exceptional course adopted in cases of extreme urgency or the need for secrecy.  If the court is to adopt that procedure where justice so requires, it must be able to rely on the party who appears alone to present the evidence and argument in a way which is not merely designed to promote its own interests, but in a fair and even-handed manner, drawing attention to evidence and arguments which it can reasonably anticipate the absent party would wish to make.  It is a duty owed to the court which exists in order to ensure the integrity of the court’s process.  The sanction available to the court to preserve that integrity is not only to deprive the applicant of any advantage gained by the order, but also to refuse to renew it.’

Geert.

 

 

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Meroni: Mareva orders are compatible with EU law (ordre public).

For the facts of the case, and the reasoning of the AG in C-559/14 Meroni, I refer to my earlier posting. At the end of May (I am indeed still hoovering up the queue) the Court held very much alongside Kokott AG’s Opinion, I shall therefore not repeat its reasoning here. The CJEU does insist that if third parties rights are directly affected with the intensity as in the case at issue, that third person must be entitled to assert his rights before the court of origin (which English courts provide for), lest one runs the risk of the injunction being refused recognition under ordre public. As I had feared, the Court does not address the AG’s concern whether Mareva orders actually constitute a ‘judgment’ for the purposes of the Regulation.

Post Brexit, this considerable attraction of English courts in interlocutory proceedings might become a lot less real. (Like many of us, I am working on a short review of Brexit consequences for European private international law).

Geert.

(Handbook of) European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 2, 2.2.16.1.1, 2.2.16.1.4

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Kokott AG on the notion of ‘judgment’ and the compatibility of Mareva orders with EU law (ordre public).

In Kokott AG’s words, ‘following the West Tankers case…in the present case the Court is once again confronted with a specific procedural feature of the Anglo-American legal system.’

Article 34 of the Brussels I Regulation (Article 35 in the recast) enables a court, by way of derogation from the principles and objectives of the Regulation, to refuse to recognize a judgment given by a court of another Member State. The whole starting point of the Regulation and its antecedents was to avoid much recourse to refusal of recognition. Free movement of judgments lies at the very core of the foundations of European private international law.

Little wonder then that the Regulation leaves limited freedom for Member States authorities (including courts) who are asked to recognise and enforce another State’s judgment. As I noted at the time, in Trade Agency the CJEU insisted that refusal of recognition on the basis of ordre public is only possible after review of the individual merits of the case. Courts in other EU Member States may not decide that the English system as such as contrary to public policy in the state of enforcement. Relevant case-law was most recently summarised by (the same) Kokott AG in fly LAL and also in Diageo.

The exequatur procedure of the Brussels I Regulation has been amended in the Brussels I Recast. However it is exactly on issues of the rights of the defence that exequatur can never be entirely automatic, even among EU Member States.

In Case C-559/14 Meroni, at issue are Mareva injunctions: (sometimes) worldwide freezing orders issued by English courts (among others), designed to prevent a creditor being deprived of access to the debtor’s assets as a result of a prior disposal of those assets. However, as is often the case, the reputation of Mareva injunctions far exceeds their actual bite. There is no one size fits all such injunction and a number of tools are at the disposal of both the debtor affected, and third parties, to have the order varied or indeed lifted. The rights of third parties in particular are quite relevant in the current review with the CJEU. Part of the injunction are often the debtor’s participations in companies: for the recalcitrant debtor may find all sorts of useful ways to spirit value away from his companies and into vaults safe from prying English or European eyes – especially if the debtor is sole or majority shareholder.

In the case at issue, Mr A.L. is prohibited, inter alia, from disposing of assets which can be attributed directly or indirectly to his property. The injunction extends to  interests in the Latvian company VB. Mr A.L. has a direct interest in that company with only one share. According to the referring court, however, he is also the ‘beneficial owner’ of shares in at least one other company (‘Y’), which itself has substantial interests in VB. Mr Meroni is part of the management of Y. Following a seizure ordered by the relevant Latvian office, he also acts as the bailee for the interests in Y. for which Mr A.L. is the beneficial owner. Mr Meroni claims that the freezing injunction prevents the shareholder Y. from exercising its voting rights in respect of VB. This affects constitutionally protected property rights, especially since the company was not heard in the English proceedings. This, it is argued, is contrary to the principle of the right to a fair trial.

The AG Opined differently. At 44, she argues that it is not clear to what extent that injunction might be contrary to basic principles of Latvian substantive law or procedural law, especially since, as the referring court acknowledges, the Latvian legal order does permit judgments as provisional measures without a prior hearing of the party against whom enforcement is sought. Consequently measures such as Mareva orders cannot be said to be fundamentally against the Latvian ordre public. At 45: ‘ Aside from this, the English freezing injunction at issue does not provide for any irreversibly drastic measures for its enforcement overseas, in particular in so far as third persons who were not parties to the proceedings in England are concerned. Rather, the freezing injunction claims legal effects on third persons resident in other countries — and thus the companies controlled by Mr A.L. — only subject to strict requirements: first, it is to have legal effects on a without notice basis only where this is permitted by the foreign law; second, anyone served with the freezing injunction may apply to the court to vary or discharge it; and, third, compliance with contractual obligations in other countries is still to be possible notwithstanding the freezing injunction.‘ (footnotes omitted)

There is no evident breach of basic principles of the legal order of the State in which enforcement is sought – breach of ordre public must therefore be rejected.

Now, earlier in the judgment, the AG also considers albeit more or less obiter (the CJEU is certain not to entertain it) what may in fact be the more important (for it tends to be less sub judice at the CJEU) part of her Opinion: whether the Mareva orders actually constitute a ‘judgment’ for the purposes of the Regulation. Ms Kokott suggests that the Denilauler criteria (easily fulfilled in the case at issue: see para 31) ought to be relaxed under the Regulation, as opposed to the stricter approach under the 1968 Convention. That is because following judgment in ASML, notwithstanding defects in service, if the person concerned fails to commence proceedings in the State of origin of the judgment to challenge the judgment issued upon default, when it was possible for him to do so, recognition may not be refused. The AG suggests to extend the ASML rule to provisional measures.

Geert.

European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 2, 2.2.16.1.1, 2.2.16.1.4

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Lis alibi pendens rule does NOT apply (to the court seized second having such jurisdiction) in the event of exclusive jurisdictional rules – The ECJ in Weber v Weber

In Weber v Weber the ECJ gave helpful clarification of the non-application of the strict lis alibi pendens rules of the Jurisdiction Regulation in the event of infringement of the Regulation’s exclusive jurisdictional rules. This to my knowledge at least had not yet been clearly established by the Court.

Ms I. Weber (I’) and Ms M. Weber (‘M’), are co-owners to the extent of 6/10 and 4/10 of a property in Munich.  On the basis of a notarised act of 20 December 1971, a right in rem of pre‑emption over the four-tenths share belonging to M was entered in the Land Register in favour of I. By a notorial contract of 28 October 2009, M sold her four-tenths share to Z. GbR, a company incorporated under German law, of which one of the directors is her son, Mr Calmetta, a lawyer established in Milan. According to one of the clauses in that contract, M, as the seller, reserved a right of withdrawal valid until 28 March 2010 and subject to certain conditions.

Being informed by the notary who had drawn up the contract in Munich, I exercised her right of pre-emption by letter of 18 December 2009. On 25 February 2010, by a contract concluded before that notary, I and M once more expressly recognised the effective exercise of the right of pre-emption by I and agreed that the property should be transferred to her for the same price as that agreed in the contract for sale signed between M and Z. GbR. However, the two parties asked the notary not to carry out the procedures for the registration of the transfer of property in the Land Register until M had made a written declaration before the same notary that she had not exercised her right of withdrawal or that she had waived that right arising from the contract concluded with Z. GbR within the period laid down, which expired on 28 March 2010. On 2 March, I paid the agreed purchase price of EUR 4 million.

By letter of 15 March 2010, M declared that she had exercised her right of withdrawal from the contract of 28 October 2009. By an application of 29 March 2010, Z. GbR brought an action against I and M, before the District Court, Milan, seeking a declaration that the exercise of the right of pre-emption by I was ineffective and invalid, and that the contract concluded between M and that company was valid.

On 15 July 2010, I brought proceedings against M before the Landgericht München, seeking an order that M register the transfer of ownership of the four-tenths share with the Land Register.

The Court of Justice first of all had to decide whether an action seeking a declaration that a right in rem in immovable property has not been validly exercised, falls within the category of proceedings which have as their object right in rem in immovable property, within the meaning of Article 22(1) of Regulation No 44/2001. It held that it did, with the required amount of deference to national law: a right of pre-emption, such as that provided for by Paragraph 1094 of the BGB, which attaches to immovable property and which is registered with the Land Register, produces its effects not only with respect to the debtor, but guarantees the right of the holder of that right to transfer the property also vis-à-vis third parties, so that, if a contract for sale is concluded between a third party and the owner of the property burdened, the proper exercise of that right of pre-emption has the consequence that the sale is without effect with respect to the holder of that right, and the sale is deemed to be concluded between the holder of that right and the owner of the property on the same conditions as those agreed between the latter and the third party.

The next core question was whether Article 27’s lis alibi pendens rule applies in the event of the court second seized having exclusive jurisdiction. Here, the ECJ distinguished Gasser, in which it declined freedom for the court second seized to assume priority on the basis of a choice of court agreement. (A particular use of torpedoeing which is now addressed by the Brussels I-bis Regulation). It refers in particular to the positive obligation included in Article 35 of the Jurisdiction Regulation for courts not to recognise earlier judgments which were held in contravention of Article 22’s exclusive jurisdictional rules. Article 23’s choice of court agreements, by contrast, does not feature in Article 35.

The ECJ’s reference to Article 35  in my view means that the Court’s reasoning extends to all jurisdictional rules included in that article, including the protected categories of consumers and insureds (not, strangely, employees. This will change however following the Brussels I recast). There is lingering doubt however over the impact of the judgment on the application of Article 22(4)’s rule on intellectual property. In Weber (at 56) the Court holds that ‘ In those circumstances, the court second seised is no longer entitled to stay its proceedings or to decline jurisdiction, and it must give a ruling on the substance of the action before it in order to comply with the rule on exclusive jurisdiction.‘ In the application of Article 22(4), this continues to raise the question whether ‘the substance of the action before it’ only concerns the validity of the intellectual property, or also the underlying issue of infringement of such property.

Weber v Weber is a crucial further step in clarifying the lis alibi pendens rule. Sadly, family tussles do often advance the state of the law.

Geert.

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