In FX Claims v Natwest Markets ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2023:1789, the first instance court at Amsterdam has rejected jurisdiction against the non-Dutch incorporated defendants (from the UK, the US, and Switserland) in a follow-on cartel damages case triggered by the European Commission’s decisions re manipulation of Forex Trading (known as Three Way Banana Split, Essex Express, and Sterling Lads, after the chatrooms in which the rigging was organised).
Stichting FX Claims was established by the US law firm that acts as third party litigation funder.
[6.3] the jurisdictional analysis takes place under Brussels IA for the Dutch-incorporated anchor defendant, Lugano II (referred to by the court as EVEXII) for the Swiss-incorporated defendant, and residual Dutch rules for all the others. However other than for the anchor defendant, the test is always the same (Dutch residual PIL instructs (see the Dutch Supreme Court in ‘Moldavia’) the courts to assess the claims using EU rules and CJEU authority): whether the claims against all defendants are so closely connected so that the sound administration of justice suggests it is expedient to hear them together, unless the claim is solely brought for the purpose of taking the defendant concerned away from their natural, domicile jurisdiction. Claimant resorts ia to the economic unit theory from EU competition law (see eg CJEU ENI) to support its anchoring unto a Dutch corporate vehicle of Natwest.
However [6.19] the Dutch Natwest SPV at the time of the infringements was not a direct daughter of the Natwest vehicle to whom the EC Decisions were addressed, and the claimant’s attention to the anchor defendant’s activities in their claim, is far underdeveloped [6.20]. With both the legal and the factual circumstances of anchor defndant being so radically different to those of the other defendants, the court finds [6.23] that the claims against it or not ‘closely related’ let alone so closely related so as to trigger expediency of joinder.
[6.31] Claimant’s argument that the cartelists’ activities concerned the whole of the EEA, including The Netherlands, is found not to suffice to identify Handlungsort (locus delicti commissi) in The Netherlands, neither [6.36] to locate locus damni Erfolgort in The Netherlands (here the court referred to CJEU CDC, flyLAL, and Volvo Trucks: damage needs to be shown for each individual claimant) other than for 3 of the parties represented in the claim, who have their corporate domicile in The Netherlands.
[6.37] a call upon the effet utile of the Damages Directive 2014/104 is rejected for that Directive is held not to include jurisdictional rules.
Finally the Stichting [6.43] attempts to establish jurisdiction under the Dutch forum necessitatis rule, referring to the practical challenges in suing outside the EU, the impossibility for non-EU, including UK courts to refer if need be to the CJEU (compare, in subsidiary fashion, Butcher J in Mercedez-Benz), the high costs involved in claiming in the UK, and, again, the effet utile of the Damages Directive. None of these impress the court which, referring to the need to apply forum necessitatis strictly, referring to there not being a serious suggestion that no fair trial will be guaranteed in the UK, and to the absence in EU statutory law or CJEU authority of a rule that EU competition law claims ought to always be judged by a court in the EU.
The judgment illustrates that much as the anchor defendant mechanism offers interesting opportunities, it cannot be used opportunistically.
EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 18.104.22.168.