Posts Tagged ECJ

BNP Paribas v TeamBank: the CJEU on third-party effects of an assignment of a claim in the case of multiple assignments.

In C-548/18 BNP Paribas v TeamBank, the CJEU held on the issue whether the Rome I Regulation can be interpreted as determining the applicable law with regard to the third-party effects of an assignment of a claim in the case of multiple assignments, for the purpose of determining the holder of that claim.

The factual matrix is very recognisable: a debtor gets into debt with multiple creditors, and assigns each of them the attachable share of current and future claims to wages and salary, including in particular claims to pension benefits. One of the creditors, first to have been assigned, is a German bank (TeamBank). The employer was not told of the assignment. The second creditor is a Luxembourg bank that does inform the employer as they are bound to under Luxembourg law.

The Amtsgericht Saarbrücken (Germany) opens insolvency proceedings against the debtor. The appointed trustee in insolvency received, from the debtor’s employer in Luxembourg, a share of her salary, in the amount of EUR 13 901.64, and deposited that amount with the District Court. The trustee was uncertain as to the identity of the creditor of the said amount, each of the two parties to the main proceedings asserting preferential rights relating, in the case of TeamBank, to a claim of EUR 71 091.54 and, in the case of BNP, EUR 31 942.95. TeamBank and BNP brought, respectively, an action and a counterclaim before the Landgericht Saarbrücken, requesting the lifting of the lodgement in respect of the entire amount of EUR 13 901.64. That court upheld TeamBank’s action and dismissed BNP’s counterclaim.

Jurisdiction is not at issue, Article 26 Bru Ia applies.

Can Article 14 Rome I Regulation (see text below) be interpreted as determining the applicable law with regard to the third-party effects of an assignment of a claim in the case of multiple assignments, for the purpose of determining the holder of that claim? Or should its silence on same be interpreted as having been intentional (excluding such cover, leaving it to residual national conflicts rules).

The CJEU first of all observes that the wording of Article 14 of the Rome I Regulation does not refer to the third-party effects of an assignment of a claim.

Further, at 32, it reviews the context in which Article 14 Rome I is set. It refers to recital 38 which states that ‘matters prior to’ an assignment of a claim, such as a prior assignment of the same claim in the context of multiple assignments, despite the fact that they may represent a ‘property aspect’ of the assignment of the claim, do not fall within the concept of a ‘relationship’ between the assignor and the assignee within the meaning of Article 14(1) of that regulation. That recital specifies that the term ‘relationship’ should be strictly limited to those aspects which are directly relevant to the assignment in question.

(Note that recitals are qualified merely as context, therefore. Readers are aware that I often take issue with material conflict of laws rules being included in recitals of EU Regulations).

At 33, the CJEU further refers to the legislative history: the EC had proposed a rule re third-party effect however that rule did not make it into the final text, indeed the Commission per Article 27(2) Rome I was required to submit ‘a report on the question of the effectiveness of an assignment or subrogation of a claim against third parties’ and, if appropriate, ‘a proposal to amend the [Rome I Regulation] and an assessment of the impact of the provisions to be introduced’. That proposal materialised in 2018.

In conclusion, under EU law as it currently stands, the absence of rules of conflict expressly governing the third-party effects of assignments of claims is a choice of the EU legislature. Residual rules take over.

Geert.

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

 

Article 14

Voluntary assignment and contractual subrogation

1.   The relationship between assignor and assignee under a voluntary assignment or contractual subrogation of a claim against another person (the debtor) shall be governed by the law that applies to the contract between the assignor and assignee under this Regulation.

2.   The law governing the assigned or subrogated claim shall determine its assignability, the relationship between the assignee and the debtor, the conditions under which the assignment or subrogation can be invoked against the debtor and whether the debtor’s obligations have been discharged.

3.   The concept of assignment in this Article includes outright transfers of claims, transfers of claims by way of security and pledges or other security rights over claims.

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Steady now. Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook. The CJEU on jurisdiction and removal of hate speech.

My interest in C-18/18 Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook as I noted in my short first review of the case, concerns mostly the territorial reach of any measures taken by data protection authorities against hosting providers. The Court held last week and o boy did it provoke a lot of comment.

The case to a large degree illustrates the relationship between secondary and primary law, and the art of reading EU secondary law. Here: Article 15 of the e-commerce Directive 2001/31 which limits what can be imposed upon a provider; and the recitals of the Directive which seem to leave more leeway to the Member States. Scant harmonisation of tort law in the EU does not assist the Institutions in their attempts to impose a co-ordinated approach.

The crucial issue in the case was whether Article 15 prohibits the imposition on a hosting provider (Facebook, in this case) of an obligation to remove not only notified illegal content, but also identical and similar content, at a national or worldwide level? The Court held the Directive does not as such preclude such order, and that as to the worldwide injunctive issue, EU law has not harmonised and that it is up to the Member States to direct in any such orders in compliance with public international law.

The judgment to a large degree concerns statutory interpretation on filtering content, which Daphne Keller has already reviewed pre the judgment succinctly here, Dan Svantesson post the judgment here, as did Lorna Woods, and a frenzied Twitter on the day of the judgment e.g. in this thread. A most balanced analysis is provided by Andrej Savin here. e-Commerce law is not the focus of this blog, neither my professed area of expertise (choices, choices). I do want to emphasise though

  • that as always it pays to bear in mind the CJEU’s judicial economy. Here: the need to interpret its judgment in line with the circumstances of the case. As Steve Peers noted, the Austrian court had ruled that the post was defamatory, which is a recognised basis for limiting freedom of expression; see also at 40: ‘In that regard, it should be made clear that the illegality of the content of information does not in itself stem from the use of certain terms combined in a certain way, but from the fact that the message conveyed by that content is held to be illegal, when, as in the present case, it concerns defamatory statements made against a specific person.‘ Nota bene, the same need to read the judgment in context goes for the earlier Google v CNIL case, applying Directive 95/46 and the GDPR, which I review here.
  • that speaking strictly as a member of the public who has seen the devastating effect of ‘social’ media on people close to me, the technical discussions on filtering (‘what filter does the CJEU think might possibly ever be available to FB to remove content in the way the Court wishes’) are emphatically beside the point. The public justifiably are not interested in the how. A service is offered which clearly has negative effects on EU citisens. Remedy those effects, or remove the service from those citisens. That is true for the negative impacts of goods (in 25 years of regulatory Bar practice I have seen plenty of that). There is no reason it should be any less true for services.

The jurisdictional issues are what interest me more from the blog’s point of view: the territorial scope of any removal or filtering obligation. In Google viz the GDPR and the data protection Directive, the Court confirmed my reading, against that of most others’, of Szpunar AG’s Opinion. EU law does not harmonise the worldwide removal issue. Reasons of personal indemnification may argue in specific circumstances for universal jurisdiction and ditto reach of injunctive relief on ‘right to be forgotten’ issues. Public international law and EU primary law are the ultimate benchmark (Google V CNIL). It is little surprise the Court held similarly in Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, even if unlike in Google, it did not flag the arguments that might speak against such order. As I noted in my review of Google, for the GDPR and the data protection Directive, it is not entirely clear whether the Court suggests EU secondary law simply did not address extraterritoriality or decided against it. For the e-commerce Directive in Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek the Court notes at 50-52

Directive 2000/31 does not preclude those injunction measures from producing effects worldwide. However, it is apparent from recitals 58 and 60 of that directive that, in view of the global dimension of electronic commerce, the EU legislature considered it necessary to ensure that EU rules in that area are consistent with the rules applicable at international level.  It is up to Member States to ensure that the measures which they adopt and which produce effects worldwide take due account of those rules.

In conclusion, Member States may order a host provider to remove information covered by the injunction or to block access to that information worldwide within the framework of the relevant international law. To my knowledge, the Brussels Court of Appeal is the only national court so far to consider public international law extensively viz the issue of jurisdiction, and decided against it, nota bene in a case against Facebook Inc.

Any suggestion that the floodgates are open underestimates the sophisticated engagement of national courts with public international law.

In general, the CJEU’s approach is very much aligned with the US (SCOTUS in particular) judicial approach in similar extraterritoriality issues (sanctions law; export controls; ATS;…). There is no madness to the CJEU’s approach. Incomplete: sure (see deference to national courts and the clear lack of EU law-making up its legislative mind on the issues). Challenging and work in progress: undoubtedly. But far from mad.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.2, Heading 2.2.8.2.5.

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Blaise and others: The CJEU on precaution and regulatory approval.

Starting with the infamous and fundamentally flawed Laws of Fear by Cass Sunstein, Europe’s precautionary principle has been under constant attack by industry both within and outside of the EU. My postings on the principle here and the section on it in my Handbook of EU environmental law with Leonie Reins attempt to show that despite industry propaganda against it, the principle has never been a blind ‘when in doubt, don’t do it’ approach to risk management.

In C-616/17 Blaise and others, the Court once again shows its measured approach. Defendants in national criminal proceedings, argued that they should be let off in a criminal damage prosecution. They are environmental activists and are charged with causing criminal damage to containers of herbicidal products (specifically ‘Roundup’) containing the chemical glyphosate. In their defence, they argue that the products present an unacceptable potential risk to human health and the environment and that the EU approval process is defective and therefore unlawful.

The Court found that the approval process on the basis of EU law is entirely in line with EU law, including the precautionary principle. Steptoe have excellent overview here and I am happy to refer entirely.

Geert.

EU environmental law (with Leonie Reins), Edward Elgar, 2018, p.28 ff.

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Skarb Państwa v Stephan Riel (qq insolvency trustee Alpine Bau).

Salzburg-based Alpine Bau had been carrying out a considerable amount of roadwork engineering for the Polish State. The courts at Vienna started insolvency proceedings in 2013, appointing Mr Riel as what is now called the ‘insolvency practitioner’. Austria is the centre of main interests, the Austrian procedure the main proceedings. A little later a secondary proceeding is opened in Poland. Skarb Państwa, the Polish finance ministry or treasury, seeks in those proceedings the payment of debt it claims is outstanding vis-a-vis the Polish State. It also seizes the Austrian courts in a separate proceeding, asking it to confirm the existence of debt owed to it (the amount almost exactly the amount it specified in the Polish secondary proceedings) and at the same time a stay in its pronouncement until the Polish courts have ruled on the fate of the claim in Poland. Essentially therefore the Austrian action is a conservatory action, a hedging of the treasury’s bets.

An interesting angle is that in the Austrian proceedings the Treasury claims application of the Brussels Ia Regulation, particularly its Article 29 lis alibi pendens rule. The Austrian courts reject the existence of the debt and they do not entertain the lis alibi pendens request (the request for a stay).

The first question in C-47/18 (judgment 18 September) was whether Brussels Ia or the Insolvency Regulation are engaged. The CJEU (at 33) emphasises the need for both avoidance of overlap and of non-cover by either (‘doivent être interprétés de façon à éviter tout chevauchement entre les règles de droit que ces textes énoncent et tout vide juridique’), in the relation between the two Regulations: the infamous dovetail which as I have flagged in earlier posts, the Court in my view does not get entirely right. References are to Valach, Wiemer & Trachte, Feniks, Nickel & Goeldner). Here, the Treasury bases its action on Article 110 of the Austrian insolvency act (allowing, and urging first-tier creditors (such as, inevitably, Inland Revenue) to have their claims properly registered so as to ensure the priority in the picking order against the other creditors). The claim therefore is subject to the Insolvency Regulation 1346/2000.

The Court subsequently and unsurprisingly holds that Brussels Ia’s lis alibi pendens rule cannot somehow apply deus ex machina. At 43: insolvency is excluded from the Regulation; this exclusion is all or nothing: if the Regulation does not apply, none of it applies, including its procedural rules. These have, in BIa context, the clear purpose of ruling out as much as possible procedures pending in more than one Member State on the same issue. The Insolvency Regulation, by contrast, allows for concurrent proceedings, albeit primary and secondary ones, and (in Article 31 of the old Regulation; tightened in the current version 2015/848) encourages co-operation and exchange of information to avoid irreconcilable judgments.

(The further question asked refers to debt documentation requirements).

Geert.

Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5 Heading 5.4.1. Chapter 2 Heading 2.2.2.10.1

 

 

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BVC v EWF. The High Court on personality rights, internet and centre of interests in echoes of Bolagsupplysningen and e-Date. Suggests court with full jurisdiction is required for orders restraining further publication.

In BVC v EWF [2019] EWHC 2506 (QB) claimant applied for summary judgment in a claim for misuse of private information and harassment. The privacy claim arises from internet publication, on a website created by the defendant, of his account of his relationship with claimant. The harassment claim arises from a series of email communications from the defendant to claimant over a period of some two years, and from publication of the website itself.

An ex parte injunction had been granted earlier. The Defendant was restrained from contacting or harassing claimant, from publishing the website or any of its contents to the world at large, and from publishing any of the information set out in a confidential schedule, or any information which was liable to or might identify the claimant as a party to the proceedings or as the subject of the confidential information

In current proceedings defendant (a UK national) submits he is domiciled in Switserland. This triggers the Lugano Convention.

Parkes J clearly had to consider Article 5(3) Lugano’s special jurisdictional rule for tort (the BIa equivalent of course is now Article 7(2), hence also applying e-Date and BolagsupplysningenSteyn DJ had earlier rejected defendant’s arguments. At 33: ‘She held, in short, that the Claimant had a good arguable case that this jurisdiction was the state in which he had the centre of his interests, and that in any event a real and substantial tort (namely misuse of private information) had been committed within the jurisdiction. She also ordered that the steps already taken to bring the Claim Form and orders of 27 June and 4 July 2018 to the Defendant’s attention (namely, service by email) constituted good service on him, notwithstanding that he claimed he was domiciled in Switzerland at the date of receipt of the documents, not (as had been believed) in this jurisdiction.’

Defendant (praised nb by Parkes J for his ‘brief but enlightening written submissions’) however continues to challenge the jurisdiction, jumping at the chance to bring it up again when claimant referred to his centre of interests in his PoC (Particulars of Claim), and employing the distinction which the CPR makes between challenges to existence and exercise of jurisdiction (notwithstanding authority (see at 39) that despite the distinction claims viz the two need to be brought concurrently).

He essentially (at 43) posits the court reconsider

‘whether Article 7(2) RJR is ‘to be interpreted as meaning that a natural person who alleges that his personality rights have been infringed by the publication of information concerning him on the internet may have his centre of interests in a Member of State where he is not habitually resident, where he has no ongoing professional connections or employment, no home, no income and no immediate family’. In his letter to the court of 18 June 2019, the Defendant puts it this way: ‘… with no permission to appeal the judgment of Karen Steyn QC, if the court continues to accept the Claimant’s centre of interests is in England and Wales despite very clear evidence to the contrary then it is necessary to refer the question of interpretation to the ECJ pursuant to Article 267 of the TFEU’.

At 44 Parkes J dismisses the suggestion of preliminary review to Luxembourg. That route is ‘not designed to provide a route of appeal against judicial evaluation of evidence of fact.’ In conclusion, re-opening of the discussion on jurisdiction is rejected, referring finally to Lord Green in Kaefer:”it would not be right to adjourn the jurisdiction dispute to the full trial on the merits since this would defeat the purpose of jurisdiction being determined early and definitively to create legal certainty and to avoid the risk that the parties devote time and cost to preparing and fighting the merits only to be told that the court lacked jurisdiction“.

Arguments on submission to the jurisdiction where not entertained: whether service of a defence, and the making of an application to strike out qualify as ‘submission’ becomes otiose when that jurisdiction has already been unsuccessfully challenged.

Then follows extensive discussion of the factual substance of the matter, which is less relevant for the purposes of this blog. Hence fast forward to 150 ff where the issue of jurisdiction to issue an injunction prohibiting re-publication of the material is discussed (in case: re-offering of the website on WordPress or elsewhere). At 158 ff this leads to a re-discussion of Bolagsupplysningen where the Court held that where a claimant seeks an injunction to rectify or remove damaging material from the internet, he can only do so only in a State with full jurisdiction. Parkes J at 160 suggests this is only in the state where the defendant is domiciled (the general rule, as stated by Art 2(1) Lugano and Art 4(1) RJR), or (by virtue of the special jurisdiction: Art 5(3) Lugano and Art 7(2) RJR) in the state where he has his centre of interests, and not before the courts of each member state in which the information is accessible.

I believe Parkes J on that point omits locus delicti commissi. At the time of my review of Bolagsupplysningen I suggested the judgment was bound to create a need for further clarification: Shevill and e-Date confirm full jurisdiction for the courts of the domicile of the defendant, and of the locus delicti commissi, and of the centre of interests of the complainant. These evidently do not necessarily coincide. With more than one court having such full jurisdiction positive conflicts might arise.

Of more importance here is that Parkes J (obiter) at 163 suggests that the requirement of full jurisdiction, also applies to orders restraining any further publication and not just as the Grand Chamber held limited by the facts in Bolagsupplysningen, to orders for rectification and removal. In doing so he follows the in my view correct suggestion made by Dr Tobias Lutzi (‘Shevill is dead, long live Shevill!’, L.Q.R. 2018, 134 (Apr), 208-213) viz divisible cq indivisible remedies – update 28 September 2019 although the issue is not free of discussion. Graham Smith for instance suggests the potential for geo-blocking as a valid argument to grant jurisdiction for restraining further publication on an Article 7(2) locus damni basis.

Note also the cross-reference to Saïd v L’Express on the limitation of Bolagsupplysningen to injunctive relief: for damages, the full mosaic implications remain.

Conclusion: Claimant is entitled to summary judgment for a final injunction to restrain further misuse of his private information

Geert.

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

 

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Court of Justice in Google sees no objection in principle to EU ‘Right to be forgotten’ leading to worldwide delisting orders. Holds that as EU law stands, however, it is limited to EU-wide application, leaves the door open to national authorities holding otherwise.

Many commentators were wrong-footed on reading Advocate-General Szpunar’s Opinion in C-505/17 Google Inc v Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), concerning the territorial limits to right to have search results delisted, more popularly referred to as ‘the right to erasure’ or the ‘right to be forgotten’ (‘RTBF’ – a product of the CJEU in Google Spain). Far from ruling out ‘extraterritorial’ or worldwide force of the right, the AG saw no objection to it in principle, even if he suggested non-application to the case at issue (he did so again in his Opinion in C-18/18 Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook, which I review here and on which judgment is forthcoming next week).

The Court yesterday held (the Twitter storm it created was later somewhat drowned by the UK Supreme Court’s decision in the prorogation case) and overall confirmed the AG’s views. As with the AG’s Opinion, it is important to read the Judgment for what it actually says, not just how the headlines saw it. For immediate analysis, readers may also want to read Daphne Keller’s and Michèle Finck’s threads and Dan Svantesson’s impromptu assessment.

It is again important to point out that the French data protection authority’s (CNIL) decision at issue, 2016/054 is a general CNIL instruction to Google to carry out global delisting in instances where natural persons request removal; not a case-specific one. 

I have a case-note on the case and on C-137/17 (judgment also yesterday) forthcoming with Yuliya Miadzvetskaya, but here are my initial thoughts on what I think is of particular note.

1. The Court of Justice (in Grand Chamber) first of all, unusually, examines the questions in the light of both Directive 95/46, applicable to the facts at issue, and the GDPR Regulation ‘in order to ensure that its answers will be of use to the referring court in any event’ (at 41).

2. Next, at 52, the Court dismisses a fanciful distributive approach towards the computing reality of data processing:

Google’s establishment in French territory carries on, inter alia, commercial and advertising activities, which are inextricably linked to the processing of personal data carried out for the purposes of operating the search engine concerned, and, second, that that search engine must, in view of, inter alia, the existence of gateways between its various national versions, be regarded as carrying out a single act of personal data processing. The referring court considers that (and the CJEU clearly agrees, GAVC), in those circumstances, that act of processing is carried out within the framework of Google’s establishment in French territory.

3. At 55, the Court points out that de-referencing carried out on all the versions of a search engine would meet the objective of data protection in full, particularly (at 56) given the fact that ‘(t)he internet is a global network without borders and search engines render the information and links contained in a list of results displayed following a search conducted on the basis of an individual’s name ubiquitous (the Court restating here its finding in both Google Spain and Bolagsupplysningen). 

At 58 the Court employs that finding of ubiquitousness to ‘justify the existence of a competence on the part of the EU legislature to lay down the obligation, for a search engine operator, to carry out, when granting a request for de-referencing made by such a person, a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine.’ No grand statements on public international law’s views on adjudicative extraterritoriality /universality. Just a simple observation.

The Court subsequently however (at 59-60) notes other States’ absence of a right to de-referencing and their different views on the balancing act between privacy and freedom of speech in particular. At 61-62 it then notes

While the EU legislature has, in Article 17(3)(a) of Regulation 2016/679, struck a balance between that right and that freedom so far as the Union is concerned (see, to that effect, today’s judgment, GC and Others (De-referencing of sensitive data), C‑136/17, paragraph 59), it must be found that, by contrast, it has not, to date, struck such a balance as regards the scope of a de-referencing outside the Union.

In particular, it is in no way apparent from the wording of Article 12(b) and subparagraph (a) of the first paragraph of Article 14 of Directive 95/46 or Article 17 of Regulation 2016/679 that the EU legislature would, for the purposes of ensuring that the objective referred to in paragraph 54 above is met, have chosen to confer a scope on the rights enshrined in those provisions which would go beyond the territory of the Member States and that it would have intended to impose on an operator which, like Google, falls within the scope of that directive or that regulation a de-referencing obligation which also concerns the national versions of its search engine that do not correspond to the Member States.

In other words the Court has adopted the same approach as the United States Supreme Court has done in Morrison v. National Australia Bank; and Kiobel: there is a presumption against extraterritoriality, however it is not excluded. In the absence of indications of the legislator wish to extend the right to delisting extraterritorially it does not so exist in the current state of the law.

4. At 63 the Court hints at what might be required as part of such future potential extraterritorial extension: EU law does not currently provide for cooperation instruments and mechanisms as regards the scope of a de-referencing outside the Union – in contrast with the regime it has intra-EU. This also hints at the CJEU taking a more multilateral approach to the issue than its SCOTUS counterpart.

5. At 69 the Court then adds that intra-EU, a delisting order covering all of the search engine’s EU extensions is both possible and may be appropriate: co-operation between authorities may lead to ‘where appropriate, a de-referencing decision which covers all searches conducted from the territory of the Union on the basis of that data subject’s name.’

6. A final twist then follows at 72:

Lastly, it should be emphasised that, while, as noted in paragraph 64 above, EU law does not currently require that the de-referencing granted concern all versions of the search engine in question, it also does not prohibit such a practice. Accordingly, a supervisory or judicial authority of a Member State remains competent to weigh up, in the light of national standards of protection of fundamental rights (references to CJEU authority omitted, GAVC), a data subject’s right to privacy and the protection of personal data concerning him or her, on the one hand, and the right to freedom of information, on the other, and, after weighing those rights against each other, to order, where appropriate, the operator of that search engine to carry out a de-referencing concerning all versions of that search engine.

Here I do not follow the Court: one could argue that the harmonised EU’s approach is currently not to extend the right to delisting extraterritorially. The Court on the other hand seems to be suggesting that the extraterritoriality issue was not discussed in the Directive or Regulation, that EU law does not occupy (‘pre-empt’) that regulatory space and consequently leaves it up to the Member States to regulate that right. (Update 27 September 2019: Other interpretations are collated here).

I shall need more detailed reading of the GDPR’s preparatory works to form a view as to whether the extraterritorial element was considered, and rejected, or simply not discussed. However I also want to already point out that if the decision is left to the Member States, the case-law and theory of pre-emption clarifies that such national action has to be taken in full compatibility with EU law. including free movement of services, say, which Google may rightfully invoke should there be a disproportionate impact on the Internal Market.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.2, Heading 2.2.8.2.5.

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Saugmandsgaard ØE on Rome I’s lex societatis exception applied to trusts /’Treuhand’ in Verein für Konsumenteninformation v TVP Treuhand.

Advocate General Saugmandsgaard ØE in C-272/18 Verein für Konsumenteninformation v TVP Treuhand opined early September (I have been busy) that the Rome Convention’s and Rome I’s lex societatis exception does not apply to ‘Treuhand’ (a trust-like construction) contracts between investors and the corporation they entrust to manage investment in real estate companies located in Germany. The relevant choice of court rule follows the standard Rome I (cq Convention) rules.

At the time of adoption of the Rome Convention, the Giuliano Lagarde Report went into a bit more detail as to what is and is not excluded:

Confirming this exclusion, the Group stated that it affects all the complex acts (contractual administrative, registration) which are necessary to the creation of a company or firm and to the regulation of its internal organization and winding up, i. e. acts which fall within the scope of company law. On the other hand, acts or preliminary contracts whose sole purpose is to create obligations between interested parties (promoters) with a view to forming a company or firm are not covered by the exclusion.

The subject may be a body with or without legal personality, profit-making or non-profit-making. Having regard to the differences which exist, it may be that certain relationships will be regarded as within the scope of company law or might be treated as being governed by that law (for example, societe de droit civil nicht-rechtsfahiger Verein, partnership, Vennootschap onder firma, etc.) in some countries but not in others. The rule has been made flexible in order to take account of the diversity of national laws.

Examples of ‘internal organization’ are: the calling of meetings, the right to vote, the necessary quorum, the appointment of officers of the company or firm, etc. ‘Winding-up’ would cover either the termination of the company or firm as provided by its constitution or by operation of law, or its disappearance by merger or other similar process.

At the request of the German delegation the Group extended the subparagraph (e) exclusion to the personal liability of members and organs, and also to the legal capacity of companies or firms. On the other hand the Group did not adopt the proposal that mergers and groupings should also be expressly mentioned, most of the delegations being of the opinion that mergers and groupings were already covered by the present wording.

Particularly in KA Finanz, the Court could have done a lot to clarify the scope of the Convention, but did not. Current case however offered a lot less beef to that particular bone for only with a stretch in my view could the issue be considered to fall under the corporate exception. The argument made was that given that the contracts instruct the Treuhand to manage the companies, and that there was ‘alignment’ (‘imbrication’ is the word used in the French version of the Opinion at 36; no English version yet exists) between the contacts and the by-laws of the companies concerned: these were geared in part specifically to facilitate the investment in the companies by the Treuhand.

The AG points out that there is no European code for company law hence no possibility to use harmonised substantive law to help interpret private international law. He relies therefore on the general interpretative rules, including predictability, and sides in my view justifiably with the issue, in essence, being about contractual obligations: not life and death of companies. A link alone with questions relating to corporate law (at 53) is not enough.

Geert.

 

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