Posts Tagged depecage

Secure Capital v Credit Suisse: Downstream holders of securities and third party redress.

As I seem to be in a mopping-up mode this morning, I might as well sneak in late review of Secure Capital SA v Credit Suisse AG, [2015] EWHC 388 (Comm) and at the Court of Appeal [2017] EWCA Civ 1486. Draft post of the latter has been in my ledger since 2017…

The cases essentially are concerned with characterisation; privity of contract, choice of law and dépeçage (bifurcation or severance).

My father-in-law OBE wonderfully sums up the world of international finance as fairy money. Harry (aka Tim Nice But Balding) & Paul express a similar feeling here. I can’t help but think of both when re-reading judgments in both cases.

Allen & Overy have most useful overview here, and RPC add useful analysis here. Claim related to eight longevity notes issued by Credit Suisse in 2008. The Notes were linked to life insurance policies, which meant that the prospect of the holder receiving payments for the Notes depended on mortality rates among a set of “reference lives”.  Secure Capital contended that Credit Suisse failed to disclose that the mortality tables used to generate the estimated life expectancies were shortly to be updated in a way that would significantly increase life expectancies, rendering the Notes effectively worthless. Secure Capital relied on a term in the issuance documentation that stated that Credit Suisse had taken all reasonable care to ensure that information provided in such documentation was accurate and that there were no material facts the omission of which would make any statements contained in those documents misleading.

The Notes were issued by Credit Suisse’s Nassau branch. Under the terms of the transaction documents, the Notes were deposited with the common depositary, Bank of New York Mellon, which held the securities on behalf of the clearing system, in this case Clearstream: which is Luxembourg-based.  The Notes were governed by English law and issued in bearer form.

Secure Capital essentially employ an attractive proposition in Luxembourg law reverse-engineering it either as the proper law of the contract in spite of prima facie clear choice of law, or alternatively as dépeçage: it argues that the provisions of a 2001 Luxembourg law on the Circulation of Securities, being the law that governed the operation of Clearstream through which the Notes were held, gave it an entitlement “to exercise the right of the bearer to bring an action for breach of a term of the…Notes“. In order to succeed, Secure Capital would have to circumvent the English law on privity of contract in respect of a transaction governed by English law.

Allen & Overy’s and RPC’s analysis is most useful for the unsuspected bystander like myself (thankfully I have a researcher, Kim Swerts, starting soon on a PhD in the area of conflict of laws and financial law).

In the High Court Hamblen J at 35 ff discusses the alternative arguments, wich would displace the suggestion that Secura Capital’s claim is a contractual claim. (Tort, as Betson LJ at the appeal stage notes at 24, was not advanced). This included a suggested property right (with discussion on the issue of the lex causae, whether e.g. this might be the lex situs), or, more forcefully, a right sui generis. None of these was upheld. Discussion on relevance of Rome I and /or the Rome Convention took place very succinctly at 53-54 – a touch too succinctly for Hamblen J’s swift reflection is that under both Rome and English conflicts rules, there was no suggestion of displacing the lex contractus. Depending on what counsel discussed, one would have expected some discussion of mandatory law perhaps, or indeed dépeçage – the latter was discussed summarily by Beatson LJ at the Court of Appeal under 54-55.

Geert.

(Handbook of) Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3.

 

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Dana Gas v Deutsche Bank et al. Islamic financing. Interest v usury (riba). Depecage, von Munchausen and overriding mandatory law. Partial unenforceability. All in the face of anti-suit.

In [2017] EWHC 2928 (Comm) Dana Gas v Deutsche Bank et al., Leggatt J treats his readers to a concise insight into islamic finance (particularly in para 10) which he needs to do to inform readers of the essence of the case. The operation essentially involves raising investment (with a view to restructuring), organised by the main agreement (of the ‘Mudarabah’ type), subject to UAE law, and supported by a purchase undertaking of the same date, subject to English law. The set-up therefore evidently is not one of dépeçage per se (this would require one and the same agreement being subject to different laws) however it comes close.

Inevitably following unfavourable market conditions, an anti-suit injunction was sought and obtained in the UAE, followed however by English proceedings which required the aint-suit to be lifted – something which Dana Gas did not succeed in as a result of shareholder opposition. The English proceedings were effectively saved from collapse by the involvement of a third party, BlackRock, who as a non-party to the UAE sharia proceedings, were not bound by the anti-suit injunction. The somewhat complicated result is that the English proceedings really can only limp along.

Dana Gas seek confirmation that the transaction is unlawful and all the relevant contractual obligations are unenforceable as a matter of UAE law. Leggatt J with neither emotion nor hesitation refers essentially to Rome I’s universal application: the Mudarabah agreement is subject to UAE law and he is happy to assume it is invalid under UAE law – hence not enforceable by an English court. See in this respect Article 10(1) Rome I.

That however leaves the viability of the purchase undertaking. (at 46) The fact in and of itself that the contract or its performance would be regarded as invalid or unlawful under the law of some other country than England (for example, a country where one of the parties is domiciled or carries on business) is generally speaking irrelevant (reference is made to Kleinwort, Sons & Co v Ungarische Baumwolle Industrie AG [1939] 2 KB 678.

At 48, Dana Gas sets out its case for unenforceability of the purchase agreement under English law. This includes reference to ordre public but also inevitably an attempt to ‘contaminate’ the purchase agreement with the Mudarabah agreement. Leggatt J justifiably turns this around: at 54: it is apparent from the purchase agreement’s terms that the risks against which the Purchase Undertaking is intended to protect the Certificateholders include the risk that the mudarabah and the transaction documents governed by UAE law will turn out to be invalid. That is why they needed to be separated. (In that respect merging the two agreements into one and applying dépeçage might give even stronger force to this argument: however I do not know whether under UAE law such construction would be acceptable).

Further arguments swept aside, the Court turns to ordre public.

Dana Gas nb had employed both ordre public and, earlier Article 9(3) Rome I: overriding mandatory law: a rare treat indeed. Relevant English precedent is Ralli Brothers: Ralli Brothers v Cia Naviera Sota y Aznar [1920] 1 KB 614: an English court will not enforce an obligation which requires a party to do something which is unlawful by the law of the country in which the act has to be done. Rome’s Article 9(3) operates in a similar context. However Dana Gas later abandoned that claim for (at 80) those rules of law are only applicable if and in so far as the obligations in question have to be performed in the UAE – quod non.

A switch was then made to ordre public, now with Foster v Driscoll [1929] 1 KB 470 as leading precedent. However, here too, it is only if a contract has as its object and intention the performance in a friendly foreign country of an act which is illegal under the law of that country that the contract will be considered (at 82 in fine) contrary to English public policy.

Conclusion:  the Purchase Undertaking is valid and enforceable.

Without claiming anything near proper competence in Islamic finance law, it would seem that Dana Gas does not introduce new principles in that area. However in diligently applying conflicts analysis, Leggatt J in my view does practice a great service: he re-emphasises the need for parties clearly to identify locus implementi: the place of performance of an obligation. When obligations are marked out for a seperate lex causae, such clear identification of place of performance will insulate them from collapse.

Geert.

(Handbook) of Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016: essentially, almost every section of Chapters 2 and 3.

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B.win v Emerald Bay. Article 34 Brussels I Recast (as well as dépeçage and lex causae for jurisdiction clauses)

Update May 2017. Judgment upheld on appeal.

Thank you David Lewis QC for signalling B.WIN v Emerald Bay at the courts of Gibraltar. The dispute arises between Bwin, the internet gaming company, and various former shareholders of Bwin, domiciled at Gibraltar and England (as well as Israel). The former shareholders had advanced a claim in the New Jersey Courts alleging that Bwin made fraudulent, alternatively negligent misrepresentations in relation to the opportunity for internet gaming in New Jersey, as a result of which they divested their shares for lower value prior to a lucrative take-over of Bwin.

Bwin Gibraltar in the proceedings at issue are seeking an anti-suit injunction in respect of the existing New Jersey proceedings (an earlier EU-wide and Lugano States anti-suit request was wisely dropped, seeing as it runs counter CJEU authority (Owusu).

Jack J, considers first of all the issue of dépeçage or bifurcation for choice of court made in two successive agreements with differing choice of court provisions (distinguishing recourse for regulatory as opposed to purely contractual issues).  At 38 the court misses the ball on lex causae for choice of court. While it is true that Rome I exempts choice of court agreements from its scope, going straight to the ordinary rules of English and Gibraltarian conflict of laws ( under which in general the proper law of the contract will govern the jurisdiction clause), negates Brussels I a’s new Article 25 rule combined with the recitals. These oblige the court to apply lex fori prorogati with renvoi. This may have had an impact on the complex analysis of the choice of court provisions made in the 2010 as opposed to the 2014 agreement (with an interesting side-step made into the potential reflexive effect of Article 25’s choice of court provisions).

Briefly then the new lis alibi pendens /related actions regime of Articles 33-34 Brussels I Recast is discussed. (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.

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