DTEK Energy: Grounds for the Rome I issue of Schemes of Arrangement to be heading for the Court of Appeal.

In DTEK Energy BV, Re [2021] EWHC 1551 (Ch) Norris J yesterday expanded on his reason to sanction this scheme of arrangement of a Dutch corporation. I had referenced an earlier DTEK scheme in my post here. The judge firstly pointed out the straddle position of the E&W courts, in assessing the sanction of the scheme from the jurisdictional point of view: [30]:

for the purposes of testing whether the Judgments Regulation presented a jurisdictional bar to the English Court exercising jurisdiction over EU domiciled scheme members or creditors it was assumed to apply (and an appropriate gateway identified). But for the purposes of testing international effectiveness it was not assumed to apply, and the English Courts looked for expert evidence which demonstrated alternative bases.

He also points out [31] what I have repeatedly mentioned: the analysis was never extensive, for the schemes tended eventually to be unopposed. Summary of the default position is done [31] with reference to Van Gansewinkel (in which I acted as one of the experts) seeing as, like DTEK, it involved recognition and enforcement in The Netherlands.

At [37], importantly, the judge refers to a report produced by Prof. Dr. Christoph Paulus and Prof. Dr. Peter Mankowski as to the likelihood of the recognition of the Bank Scheme by EU Member States. They seemingly are of opinion that the Bank Scheme would be given effect in every Member State by virtue of Art 12(1)(d) Rome I. This provides that the law applicable to a contract (in the instant case, English law) shall govern the various ways of extinguishing obligations: and that rule covers all modes of extinguishing obligations (including those operating against dissentient creditors). At [38] this conclusion is said to have been supported by a number of relevant E&W precedents (all of which  I have reported on the blog; see eg Lecta Paper) however these all merely scratched the surface.

Gazprombank however oppose this conclusion and refer in support to a report produced (I have not seen it) by Dr Peters (sic; it’s Prof Dr Niek Peters) for the Dutch situation and, at [44] by Mr Vorkas for the Cypriot situation. Both question the opposability of the scheme to recalcitrant creditors in light of amended choice of law. I have not studied the issue in the detail these reports have, and I have not seen any of them. However my own view on this is that there is certainly merit in what is here the opponents’ input:  the position of certain English schemes under Rome I is really quite vulnerable.

At [41] the judge on balance sides with the Paulus /Mankowiski report for ‘it is common ground that I cannot decide between the rival Dutch views’ (later repeated for the Cypriot report). I do not think that is necessarily correct, or at least it deserves some discussion: Brussels Ia may not be retained EU law yet Rome I is, therefore this is arguably not an issue of ‘foreign law’ (and certainly not ‘Dutch law’).  

Conclusion [46]: If sanctioned, the Bank Scheme will certainly be effective as regards 95% of Energy’s creditors. There is a reasonable prospect that the sole dissentient creditor will be unable to mount any challenge to it. Even in the event of a challenge, uncontested evidence demonstrates that the Bank Scheme will be effective in the jurisdiction in which operations are undertaken and assets located.

Seeing as this is one of the first times the BIa and particularly the Rome I situation is discussed in greater detail, I do hope this case is heading for the Court of Appeal.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 5.35 ff.

Apcoa scheme of arrangement: Convening hearing gives firm but considered go-ahead for English Scheme of Arrangement following change in governing law

Postscript January 2016 in Codere the High Court at an earlier stage had expressed its concern at the ‘extreme forum shopping going on (creating a special purpose vehicle with COMI in England but no prior connection to the territory) however for reasons expertly summarised by Iain White, Newey J eventually sanctioned. (The application was made by Codere Finance (UK) Ltd., an English incorporated subsidiary of Codere SA, a Spanish company. Codere SA is the ultimate parent of a group of companies that carries on business by way of gaming and similar activities in Latin America, Italy and Spain. Codere SA’s shares are listed on a number of Spanish stock exchanges). Update 14 September 2020 forum shopping was again referred to in a 2020 scheme application by Codere ( [2020] EWHC 2441 (Ch)  and sanction in Codere Finance 2 (UK) Ltd, Re Companies Act 2006 [2020] EWHC 2683 (Ch)– and likewise not considered to be too big an obstacle. Jurisdiction was accepted on the basis of domicile in England: A4 BIa grounds, linked to A8, the anchor ‘defendant’ mechanism.

Postscript July 2015 Forum shopping possibilities were further expanded in [2015] EWHC 2151 (Ch) Van Gansewinkel, which had the additional peculiarity that the only territorial link with England was the establishment of (only) one creditor there (full disclosure: I was the expert heard on the Belgian side of recognition and enforcement).

Postcript 8 May 2015 in DTEK, a challenge was made by one disgruntled creditor to the change of governing law from New York law to English law. However reportedly this challenge was withdrawn in the nick of time, leaving this point as far as I am aware at this stage unaddressed by the English courts. (Not that in my view that change ought to be problematic). (Update 11 June: judgment is now available here).

Postscript 25 November 2014. Hildyard J’s judgment in both convening and sanction hearings was released 19 November 2014, [2014] EWHC 3849 (Ch), with leave to appeal granted. (Hearing at the CA is scheduled for December 2014).

The title of this piece is as considered as Hildyard J’s approval of the application for an order to convene scheme meetings for the purpose of considering, and if thought fit approving, schemes of arrangement, nine in all, pursuant to Part 26 of the Companies Act 2006, in a scheme of arrangement relating to the Apcoa group of companies.

At the time of writing Bailii did not yet feature a transcript of the hearing however I have a copy for those interested. Hildyard J aptly lists the potential booby traps given the international context of the case (the Scheme Companies comprise two English incorporated companies, a holding company and another company incorporated in Germany, and five other subsidiaries incorporated elsewhere in Europe): jurisdiction under English private international law (not all companies having COMI in England); related to this, establishment of jurisdiction only following a change on governing law of the initial finance agreements, approved by a majority but not all creditors; and, as a related pre-condition to English approval, the likelihood of recognition and enforcement of the Scheme, once adopted, elsewhere in the EU (full disclosure: I was the expert heard on the Belgian side of recognition and enforcement).

The application to convene hearings was approved, justifiably. Schemes of arrangement are, arguably, excluded from the Insolvency Regulation. Recognition and enforcement much facilitated by the Brussels I Regulation. The one big sticky point in any future challenge is likely to be the change in governing law which enabled English jurisdiction in the first place. This was not sub judice in the current proceedings and the scheme at this stage is not opposed by any of the creditors.

Apcoa is not insolvent; it is being restructured. The case highlights the relevance of the ongoing amendments to the Insolvency Regulation. (At the time of writing waiting for first reading by Council; not likely to appear any time soon, given the European elections). The jury is out (and case-law increasing; see e.g. Zlomrex International) whether it would be better for Schemes of Arrangement to be included in the Annex to the Insolvency Regulation. In my view cover by Brussels I is much preferred.

No doubt to be continued.

Geert.