Posts Tagged Brussels I recast

BUAK. The concept of ‘court’ (Article 267 TFEU), ‘civil and commercial’, and the social security exception in the Brussels I Recast.

I reported on Bot AG’s Opinion in  Case C-579/17 BUAK (Bauarbeiter-Urlaubs- u. Abfertigungskasse v Gradbeništvo Korana d.o.o.) here. He focussed on admissibility viz the preliminary review procedure. He left the questions on ‘civil and commercial’, and the social security exception unanswered, suggesting these are now acte claire. The Court at the end of February did answer all questions. (For completeness sake I already note that for the latter, the CJEU referred to secondary EU law to find the payment not to be one in social security).

First, on the issue of admissibility under Article 267 TFEU. In the absence of discussion by the original court on the applicability of Brussels Ia, by determining whether it is competent to issue the certificate under Article 53 Brussels Ia (replacing exequatur), the court of origin implicitly confirms that the judgment given in default which must be recognised and enforced in another Member State falls within the scope of application of that Regulation: for evidently the issue of the certificate is possible only on that condition. That procedure in those circumstances is judicial in character, with the result that a national court ruling in the context of such a procedure is entitled to refer questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling. (But only in those circumstances: for otherwise the issuing of the certificate becomes a potential anchor for stalling quick enforcement, via preliminary review to Luxembourg).

Next, on the issue of ‘civil and commercial’, some usual suspects are discussed including in particular Pula Parking. flyLAL, and Sapir (but not Fahnenbrock or Kuhn). What needs to be examined, is firstly the legal relationship between the parties to the dispute and secondly the basis and the detailed rules governing the bringing of the action.

As to the former, BUAK may be governed by public law however its calculations of wage supplements and annual leave, the formula for which is determined by decree, are superimposed upon wage negotiations which employers either negotiate entirely freely with employees or agree so on the basis of collective agreements between employers and employees to which employers freely consent. And at 54: ‘in so far as the employer’s obligation to pay the wage supplements is intrinsically linked with the rights, which are of a civil nature, of workers to annual leave pay, …BUAK’s claim and, therefore, an action for payment of that claim, is also of a civil nature.’ (Note that Eurocontrol, not too dissimilar in context (here too the root cause of the debt incurred is one of free will: whether to use certain airspace and airports or not), did lead to a finding of non-civil and commercial matters). I do not find this application straightforward at all; ‘the parties’ are the employer (Korana, a Slovenian company which had posted workers to Austria) and BUAK. Their legal relationship is removed from the contract and /or collective agreements negotiations.

As for the second criterion, the basis and the detailed rules governing the bringing of the action, unlike purely internal situations, in which BUAK may itself issue an execution title in the form of a statement of arrears, with respect to arrears relating to posted workers who do not have their habitual place of work in Austria it must initiate legal proceedings for the payment of unpaid wage supplements. However there is divergence of views between the referring court and Austria and the EC before the CJEU: the former maintains that its hands are tied and that it cannot pursue a de novo review of the application by BUAC; the latter suggest the court seized does carry out a full review of all of the elements of the application. The CJEU at 60 would seem to lean on the side of the referring court but leaves it to take the final decision.

I will turn to this again when I work on the third edition of the handbook this summer yet it is clear that the formula for deciding civil and commercial is still not entirely settled. The First chamber issued Fahnenbrock (Tizzano (Rapporteur), Rodin, Levits, Berger and Biltgen), and Kuhn (Silva de Lapuerta (Rapporteur), Bonichot, Regan, Fernlund and Rodin; the latter the only common denominator in both), which are arguably more like the Lechoritou formula, which in turn applies Eurcontrol: exclusion of certain legal actions and judicial decisions from the scope of Regulation No 1215/2012, by reason either of the legal relationships between the parties to the action or of the subject matter of the action.

The Second chamber (K. Lenaerts, A. Prechal, Toader, Rosas and Ilešič; quite a few conflicts scholars indeed including the President of the CJEU) now focuses on Sapir which was issued by the third Chamber, comprising at the time Toader (Rapporteur), Ilešič, Jarašiūnas, Ó Caoimh,  Fernlund. Toader and Ilešič are the common denominator with current judment in BUAK). Sapir has focus also firstly on the legal relationship between the parties to the dispute, but secondly the basis and the detailed rules governing the bringing of the action (not: the to my knowledge never applied criterion of ‘subject matter’ of the action).

To ponder over the summer.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16.1.1.

 

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Milivojević v Raiffeisenbank: Free movement of services yet also protected categories and rights in rem /personam.

The CJEU held in C-630/17 Milivojević v Raiffeisenbank on 14 February. The case in the main concerns Croatian legislation restricting financial services with Banks other than Croatian ones – a free movement of services issue therefore which the CJEU itself explains in its press release.

Of relevance to the blog is the issue of jurisdiction under the consumer title and Article 24(1)’s exclusive jurisdictional rule.

The Croatian legislation at issue, in the context of disputes concerning credit agreements featuring international elements, allows debtors to bring an action against non-authorised lenders either before the courts of the State on the territory of which those lenders have their registered office, or before the courts of the place where the debtors have their domicile or registered office and restricts jurisdiction to hear actions brought by those creditors against their debtors only to courts of the State on the territory of which those debtors have their domicile, whether the debtors are consumers or professionals.

Croatian law therefore first of all infringes Article 25(4) juncto Article 19 Brussels Ia. Their combined application does not rule out choice of court even between a business and a consumer (subject to limitations which I do not discuss here). It moreover infringes Article 25 (and Article 4) in and of itself for it precludes choice of court even in a B2B context.

Next, may a debtor who has entered into a credit agreement in order to have renovation work carried out in an immovable property which is his domicile with the intention, in particular, of providing tourist accommodation services be regarded as a ‘consumer’ within the meaning of Article 17(1) Brussels Ia? Reference is made ex multi to Schrems, emphasising the difficult balancing exercise of keeping exceptions to Article 4’s actor sequitur forum rei rule within limits, yet at the same time honouring the protective intention of the protected categories.

A person who concludes a contract for a dual purpose, partly for use in his professional activity and partly for private matters, can rely on those provisions only if the link between the contract and the trade or profession of the person concerned was so slight as to be marginal and, therefore, had only a negligible role in the context of the transaction in respect of which the contract was concluded, considered in its entirety (per Schrems following C-464/01Gruber). Whether Ms Milivojević can so be described as a ‘consumer’ is for the national court to ascertain.

Finally, does Article 24(1)’s rule on an action ‘relating to rights in rem in immovable property’, apply to an action for a declaration of the invalidity of a credit agreement and of the notarised deed relating to the creation of a mortgage taken out as a guarantee for the debt arising out of that agreement and for the removal from the land register of the mortgage on a building?

Reference here is made to all the classics, taking Schmidt v Schmidt as the most recent portal to earlier case-law. At 101: with regard to the claims seeking a declaration of the invalidity of the agreement at issue and of the notarised deed related to the creation of a mortgage, these ‘clearly’ (I assume based on the national law at issue) are based on a right in personam which can be claimed only against the defendant.

However at 102: re the request for removal from the land register of the registration of a mortgage, it must be noted that the mortgage, once duly constituted in accordance with the procedural and substantive rules laid down by the relevant national legislation (see indeed my comment above re passerelle of national law), is a right in rem which has effects erga omnes. Such an application does fall within Article 24(1). At 104 the Court again inadvertently or not highlights the potential for a procedural strategy, opening up forum connexitatis hinging unto A24(1) exclusivity: ‘in the light of that exclusive jurisdiction of the court of the Member State in which the immovable property is situated to the request for removal from the land register for the registration of mortgages, that court also has a non-exclusive jurisdiction based on related actions, pursuant to Article 8(4) of Regulation No 1215/2012, to hear claims seeking annulment of the credit agreement and the notarised deed related to the creation of that mortgage, to the extent that these claims are brought against the same defendant and are capable, as is apparent from the material in the file available to the Court, of being joined.’ (idem in Schmidt v Schmidt).

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.6, Heading 2.2.8.2.

 

 

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Happy Flights v Ryanair. Belgian Supreme Court (only) confirms proper lex causae for validity of choice of court under Article 25 Brussels Ia.

Thank you alumna and appreciated co-author Jutta Gangsted for flagging Charles Price’s (former learned colleague of mine at Dibb Lupton Alsop) and Sébastien Popijn’s alert on the Belgian Supreme Court’s ruling of 8 February last in C.18.0354.N Happy Flights v Ryanair. Happy Flights are a Belgium-based online claim agency to which disgruntled passengers may assign claims for compensation under Regulation 261/2004.

At issue is the validity of Ryanair’s choice of court in its general terms and conditions, referring consumers to Irish courts. The Brussels Commercial court on 30 May 2018 seemingly first of all did not assess whether the agency may be considered a ‘consumer’ within the terms of the consumer title of Brussels Ia, having been assigned the consumers’ claims. This decision is unreported <enters his usual rant about the lack of proper reporting of Belgian case-law>.

The Supreme Court (at 2, line 47) notes this lack of assessment by the lower court. It does not however complete the analysis sticking religiously to its role to interpret the law only, not the facts. Per CJEU Schrems mutatis mutandis I would suggest an affirmative answer (the agency having been assigned the consumers’ rights): in which case the Article 25 analysis becomes redundant.

The Brussels Commercial court subsequently and again from what one can infer from the Supreme Court’s ruling, discussed the validity of choice of court under Article 25 Brussels Ia, reviewing its formal conditions (formation of consent) yet judging the material validity under the lex fori, Belgian law, not the lex fori prorogati, Irish law. This is a clear violation of A25 juncto recital 20 Brussels Ia. The Supreme Court suggests that the relevant Irish implementation of the unfair consumer terms Directive 93/13 does imply invalidity of the clause (again: if the claim is held to fall under the consumer title, this analysis will become superfluous).

Note that the SC ommits recital 20’s renvoi instruction: clearly misapplying the Regulation.

The Court’s judgment unlike the understandably enthusiastic briefing by Happy Flight’s counsel does not quite yet mean that Ryanair’s terms and conditions on this issue have been invalidated. However it is likely they will be upon further assessment on the merits. As I note above first up there will be the issue of assignment rather than the issue of A25.

For your interest, I gave a Twitter tutorial on a related issue (consumer law, lex causae, compulsory referral to arbitration) recently.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.9, Heading 2.2.9.4.

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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.

 

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French Supreme Court on cover by Lugano of legal fees in criminal proceedings – and the proper limits of the ordre public test.

Thank you Hélène Péroz (by now a firmly established reliable source for French PIL case-law) for alerting me to French Supreme Court Case no. 17-28.555, judgment issued late January.

The criminal courts at Geneva have condemned claimant, domiciled at France, to pay a criminal fine of 3,600.00 Swiss Francs, a well as 36,000.00 Swiss Francs towards defendant’s legal fees. The latter were incurred given that defendant in current legal proceedings had entered a civil claim in the Swiss criminal proceedings: a claim which the Geneva judge ordered to be settled through the Swiss courts in civil cases.

Upon fighting the request for exequatur, claimant first of all argues that the French courts’ acceptance of exequatur via the Lugano Convention is outside the scope of that Convention. The matter, he argues, is not civil or commercial seeing as the civil claim was not even entertained.

This of course brings one to the discussion on the scope of application of Lugano (and Brussels Ia) and the perennial difficulty of focusing on nature of the claim v nature of the underlying facts and exercised powers. Now, for civil claims brought before criminal courts there is not so much doubt per se, seeing inter alia that Article 7(3) Brussels Ia (Article 5(4) Lugano 2007) has a specific head of jurisdiction for such civil claims. Claimant’s point of argument here evidently is that this should not cover this particular claim seeing as the legal representation at issue turned out to be without purpose. Not being privy to the discussions that took place at the Geneva court, I evidently do not know the extent of discussion having taken place there (there is no trace of it in the Supreme Court judgment) however one assumes that the Geneva proceedings in theory could have dealt with the civil side of the litigation yet for a factual or legal reason eventually did not. Over and above the intensity of discussions being difficult to employ as a decisive criterion, one can also appreciate the difficulty in separating the civil from the criminal side of the argument made by defendant’s lawyers.

Of perhaps more general interest is the Supreme Court’s rebuke of the lower courts’ treatment of ordre public. Exequatur was granted because, the lower courts had held, the judge in the substantial proceedings has the sovereign right to establish costs under the relevant national procedure. This, it was suggested by these lower courts, shields it from ordre public scrutiny – a clear misunderstanding of the ordre public test. Part of the ordre public considerations had also been that the relative slide in the strength of the Swiss Franc v the Euro, and the generally higher costs of living in Switzerland, put the cost award in perspective. Moreover the judges found that there was insufficient information on the length of the proceedings in Switserland, and the complexity of the arguments. That, however, is exactly the kind of data which the judge in an exequatur assessment ough to gauge.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2n ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.2.2.

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Ashley v Jimenez: Jurisdiction upheld despite choice of court ex-EU. No locus damni, locus delicti commissi or trust jurisdiction viz EU defendant.

In [2019] EWHC 17 (Ch) Ashley et anon v Jimenez et anon service out of jurisdiction was granted against a Dubai-based defendant, despite choice of court pro the UEA. That clause was found by Marsh CM not to apply to the agreement at issue. Jurisdiction was found on residual English PIL, which are of less relevance to this post. Forum non conveniens was rejected.

Service out of jurisdiction was however denied against the Cyprus-based (corporate) defendant in the case. Claimants had argued jurisdiction on the basis of Brussels I Recast Articles 7(2) (tort) or (6) (trust). Note Marsh CM  using the acronym BRR: Brussels Recast Regulation. As I noted earlier in the week  Brussels Ia is now more likely to win the day.

Claimants (“Mr Ashley” and “St James”) allege that £3 million has been misappropriated by the defendants (“Mr Jimenez” and “South Horizon”). In summary the claimants say that: (1) Mr Ashley and Mr Jimenez orally agreed in early 2008 that upon payment of the euro equivalent of £3 million, Mr Ashley would acquire, via a shareholding in Les Bordes (Cyprus) Limited, a holding of approximately 5% in the ownership of a golf course in France called Les Bordes and that the shares would be registered in the name of St James. (2) On 13 May 2008, Mr Ashley instructed his bank to transfer the requisite sum to the bank account specified by Mr Jimenez and the transfer was made. In breach of the agreement, the shares were never registered in the name of St James. (3) The agreement and/or the payment were induced by fraudulent misrepresentations made by Mr Jimenez. The claimants say that Mr Jimenez knew South Horizon did not hold the shares and was not in a position to transfer, or procure transfer, upon payment of the agreed sum and that, in representing that South Horizon held the shares, or could procure transfer, Mr Jimenez acted dishonestly. (4) In the alternative, the payment of £3 million gave rise to a Quistclose trust (on that notion, see below) because the payment was made for an agreed purpose that only permitted use of the money for securing transfer of the shares.

(At 82) qualifying strands relevant to the jurisdictional issues, are (1) representations were made by Mr Jimenez to Mr Ashley to induce him to invest in Les Bordes which he relied on; (2) an oral contract was made between Mr Jimenez and Mr Ashley in early 2008 under which Mr Ashley invested £3 million in Les Bordes; and (3) the creation of a Quistclose trust relating to the investment. Note a Quistclose trust goes back to Barclays Bank Ltd v Quistclose Investments Ltd [1968] UKHL 4, and is a trust created where a creditor has lent money to a debtor for a particular purpose. Should the debtor use the money for any other purpose, it is held on trust for the creditor.

On Article 7(2), the High Court held that a breach of trust is properly seen as a tortious claim for the purposes of Brussels Ia. As for locus delicti commissi, the Court notes the question of where the harmful event occurred is less straightforward. Claimants rely on the Cypriot defendant, South Horizon, having paid away the investment money it received in breach of the relevant trust. That event took place in Cyprus where the bank account is based. There might be an obligation to restore the money in England, yet that does not make England the locus delicti commissi: at 128: ‘It seems to me, however, that the claimants in this case are seeking to conflate the remedy they seek with the tortious act which was paying away the investment. The obligation to make good the loss is the result of the wrong, not a separate wrong.

The High Court does not properly consider the locus damni strand of the claim against South Horizon. Given the test following from Universal Music, England’s qualification as locus damni given the location of the bank accounts is not straightforward yet not entirely mad, either. The Court did consider England to be the locus damni in its application of English residual rules for the claim between Ashley and Jimenez (who is domiciled in Dubai): at 101: ‘the dealings between Mr Ashley and Mr Jimenez concerning an investment of £3 million in Les Bordes took place in England in the early part of 2008. Loss was sustained in England because the payment was made by Mr Ashley from an account held in England’ (reference made to VTB capital).

On (a rare application of) Article 7(6): are any of the claims relating to the Quistclose trust claims brought against “… the trustee … of a trust … created orally and evidenced in writing” and which is domiciled in England and Wales?: Marsh CM at 129-130:

Article 7(6) does not assist the claimants. They need to show that there is (a) a dispute brought against a trustee of a trust (b) the trust was created orally and was evidenced in writing and (c) the claim is made in the place where the trust is domiciled. The difficulty for the claimants concerns the manner in which the trust came into being. As I have indicated previously, although the oral agreement between Mr Ashley and Mr Jimenez gives rise to the circumstances in which the Quistclose trust could come into being, there was (i) no express agreement that the investment would be held on trust and (ii) South Horizon was not a party to the agreement. The trust came into being only upon the payment being made by Mr Ashley to South Horizon at which point, and assuming South Horizon was fixed with knowledge of the agreement, the investment was held upon a restricted basis.

I also have real difficulty with the notion of the Quistclose trust having a domicile in England. It seems to me more likely that the domicile is the place of receipt of the money, because that is where the trust came into being, rather than the place from which the funds were despatched.’

Geert.

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

 

 

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Court confirms: tortious suit brought by liquidator (‘Peeters /Gatzen’) is covered by Brussels I Recast.

I am hoping to catch-up with my blog backlog this week, watch this space. I’ll kick off with the Court of Justice last week confirming that the Peeters /Gatzen suit is covered by Brussels I Recast. Citing similar reasons as Bobek AG (whose Opinion I reviewed here), the Court at 34 concludes that the ‘action is based on the ordinary rules of civil and commercial law and not on the derogating rules specific to insolvency proceedings.’

This reply cancelled out the need for consideration of many of the issues which the AG did discuss – those will have to wait for later cases.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5, Heading 5.4.1, Heading 5.7.

 

 

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