Posts Tagged Brussels I
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 upheld, 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 upheld: 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.
(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed.2016, Chapter 2, almost in its entirety.
French Supreme Court on cover by Lugano of legal fees in criminal proceedings – and the proper limits of the ordre public test.
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.
(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2n ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 22.214.171.124.
Ashley v Jimenez: Jurisdiction upheld despite choice of court ex-EU. No locus damni, locus delicti commissi or trust jurisdiction viz EU defendant.
In  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  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.’
(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 126.96.36.199.
No VAR needed here. French Supreme Court on choice of court ex-EU in employment contracts. X v AS Monaco.
Update 30 January 2019 many thanks to François Mailhé who contacted me to point out that the reasoning re Article 1412-1 in fact was only made by claimant but not entertained by the Court, who only applied Brussels I Recast. An ‘attendu que’ which was however followed by ‘selon le moyen que’, in my haste overlooked by me. Apologies – and a first correction on any post on the blog since its launch in 2012. I have amended the post to correct this.
Thank you Hélène Péroz for flagging 17-19.935 X v AS Monaco at the French Supreme Court, held December 2018. Claimant is a former physiotherapist employed by AS Monaco. His contract included choice of court ex-EU (not further specified in the judgment but one assumes, Monaco. Monaco is one of those micro-States with a complex arrangement with the EU).
The Supreme court first of all could have addressed the application of France’s jurisdictional rule R. 1412-1 of the Code du Travail. This assigns territorial jurisdiction in principle to the employment courts of the area where the employee habitually carries out the employment, with fall-back options which are similar to yet not quite the same as the provisions of Brussels I Recast:
Art. R. 1412- 1 L’employeur et le salarié portent les différends et litiges devant le conseil de prud’hommes territorialement compétent. Ce conseil est :
1 Soit celui dans le ressort duquel est situé l’établissement où est accompli le travail ;
2 Soit, lorsque le travail est accompli à domicile ou en dehors de toute entreprise ou établissement, celui dans le ressort duquel est situé le domicile du salarié.
Le salarié peut également saisir les conseils de prud’hommes du lieu où l’engagement a été contracté ou celui du lieu où l’employeur est établi. — [ Anc. art. R. 517- 1, al. 1er à 3.]
These provisions cast a slightly wider jurisdictional net than Brussels I Recast. That gap was even wider before Brussels I Recast had extended its jurisdictional reach to parties (the employer, or the business in the case of the consumer title) domiciled ex-EU. It is particularly its existence pre Brussels I Recast for which the provision is ranked among France’s exorbitant jurisdictional rules.
Now, coming to the case at issue. Claimant had suggested the Supreme Court address the nature of the provision as lois de police, in particularly by severely curtailing same in the event of choice of court ex-EU. Claimant argued ‘ce n’est que si le contrat est exécuté dans un établissement situé en France ou en dehors de tout établissement que les dispositions d’ordre public de l’article R. 1412-1 font échec à l’application d’une telle clause.’ : it is argued that only if the contract is performed in an establishment of the employer in France, or entirely outside such establishment (from the employee’s home or ‘on the road’) does Article R.1412-1 trump choice of court ex-EU. The lower court’s judgment had failed to assess these circumstances and therefore, it was suggested, infringes the Article.
The Supreme Court unfortunately does not however dot the i’s and cross the t’s on this issue at all: it only (not unjustifiably, if an expression of judicial economy) looks at Brussels I Recast. Reportedly the application of Brussels I to the issue is not something the Court has properly done in the past.
Article 21 Brussels I Recast requires assessment of the place of habitual carrying out of the work. Claimant worked mostly from the club’s training ground, which is in Turbie, France, and accompanied the club at fixtures. These however by reason of the football calendar clearly took place in Monaco only one out of two games (see the Count of Luxembourg for similar identification of the relevant criteria). Core of the employment therefore is France, notably in the Nice judicial area and therefore the lower court was right to uphold its jurisdiction.
Addressing Article 1412-1 will have to be for future judgment, outside the Brussels I Recast context.
(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 188.8.131.52.
Liberato: violation of lis alibi pendens rules does not justify refusal of enforcement on grounds of ordre public.
I reviewed Bot AG’s Opinion in C-386/17 Liberato here. The Court confirmed last week. Whether lis alibi pendens applies, entails applying jurisdictional rules (in essence an assessment as to whether parties are the same etc.). Except in the very rare cases of (now) Article 45 1(e) Brussels I Recast, infringement of jurisdictional rules does not feature among the reasons for refusal of recognition. Alleged infringement of the lis alibi pendens rule does not therefore qualify as ordre public.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 184.108.40.206.3, 220.127.116.11.4.