Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank v Shetty. Rome II applicable law for fraud, misrepresentation, instructs forum non conveniens stay.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank Pjsc v Shetty & Ors [2022] EWHC 529 (Comm) engages Rome II by way of the applicable law to the claim playing a role in the forum non conveniens challenge. (Compare BRG Noal v Kowski for a similar discussion under Rome I). The case confirms the importance of retained Rome I and II discussion. The stage is set at [7]

at the heart of the jurisdiction challenge is an assertion that England is manifestly not the most suitable forum for the resolution of this dispute which all defendants maintain should be resolved by the UAE courts. Unsurprisingly, ADCB places significant reliance for its case that England is the most suitable forum for resolution of this dispute on the fact that Plc was a FTSE 100 quoted company, that the contracts by which the two most important of the Core Facilities were given contractual effect (the Syndicated Facility Agreement and the Club Facility Agreement) were drafted and completed in London by a prominent London law firm and were subject to London arbitration clauses and on its contention that England is the governing law of the dispute. Equally unsurprisingly the defendants emphasise that Plc was a holding company that carried on no active business activity, that the activity in London was essentially administrative in nature, that the lending which it is alleged lies at the heart of the scheme was lending by ADCB (a UAE registered entity trading in the UAE) to entities within the Group including principally Healthcare, all of which were based elsewhere than England and Wales. They maintain that if what is alleged is true then this was from first to last a conspiracy that was conceived and carried into effect in the UAE. They maintain that the governing law is beyond argument UAE law.

I shall limit the post to the Rome II element: Pelling J discusses this [64] ff, with the core element [68-69]:

the damage occurred when a UAE based company drew down against or otherwise benefitted from the Core Facilities offered by a UAE based bank. …ADCB … ultimately acted upon the representations in Abu Dhabi, from where the relevant loan funds were drawn down by NMC Healthcare“.

In the case of a misrepresentation or fraud, the locus damni is held to be the place where that misrepresentation is acted upon. UAE law as lex causae is in fact also and primarily confirmed by A4(2) Rome II: joint place of habitual residence, held [71] to be the UAE. Application of the A4(3) escape clause is dismissed [77], and a passing reference to a potential for A12 Rome II’s culpa in contrahendo leading to English law as the lex contractus, is summarily dismissed [78].

A stay is granted.

Geert.

Samsung Electronics. A forum non conveniens assessment of claims re the settlement of follow-on competition law damages, closes with a PS on transparency in EU antitrust findings..

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd & Ors v LG Display Co Ltd & Anor [2022] EWCA Civ 423 concerns follow-on damages claimed against non-EU based defendants. The European Commission had earlier found the existence of a cartel. The Court of Appeal confirms the refusal of service out of the jurisdiction on forum non conveniens grounds, holding, like the first instance judge, that England & Wales are clearly not the appropriate forum (Taiwan and /or South Korea are).

I report the case for it contains an interesting Ps on the confidentiality of the EC finding: Males LJ:

The parties were united in urging upon us that the Commission Decision is confidential and that reference to its recitals should not be made in open court. I have to say that, as a general proposition, this seems paradoxical. I find it hard to see how a Decision can at the same time be both confidential and binding in public follow-on proceedings. To that extent it appears that any requirement of confidentiality may be in tension with the fundamental constitutional principle of open justice. Moreover, this particular Commission Decision deals with events which are now in the distant past and has been extensively litigated in the years since it was made. It is hard to think that there is any real confidentiality left.

Nevertheless I have been careful to confine my citation from the Decision to what is necessary to explain the submissions made to us and the conclusions which I have reached. I have referred only to recitals which were alleged to explain and support the operative part of the Decision (cf. Emerald Supplies Ltd v British Airways Plc [2015] EWCA Civ, [2016] Bus LR 145 at [68]) and have omitted any reference to other participants in the cartel who were not represented before us.

This invites interesting reflections on the principles of open justice in EU competition law findings – a discussion I shall leave to others.

Geert.

BRG NOAL v Kowski. A debatable applicable law consideration under A4 Rome I decides a forum non stay.

BRG NOAL GP SARL & Anor v Kowski & Anor [2022] EWHC 867 (Ch) continues the current trend of forum non conveniens applications galore, following Brexit. In the case at issue, with Luxembourg suggested as the appropriate forum, applicable law determination, under (retained) Rome I’s ‘characteristic performance’ rule plays a core role.

Applicable law needs to be determined essentially viz an undertaking as I understand it, by a, validly removed, investment fund General Partner, not to torpedo the subsequent orderly continuation of the fund. The core commitment reads

“I, [name], hereby acknowledge that [NOAL GP] is the managing general partner (“General partner”) of [the Fund] with effect from 27 August 2021 and unconditionally and irrevocably undertake (a) not to assert otherwise, or to induce or procure an assertion to the contrary or otherwise challenge or question the validity of its appointment or induce or produce such challenge or question, in any applicable forum and (b) to cooperate with and assist the General Partner in completing a full, orderly and timely transfer of the control of the Partnership and all of its assets and any obligations to the General Partner”.

Claimant [57] suggests the specific Undertaking in and of itself meets the CJEU Handte definition of a stand alone contractual obligation, however Smith J does not specifically hold on this for in her view even if this were correct, the overall contractual construction would have an impact on the applicable law consideration, seeing as in her view:

no choice of law was made; no default ‘passe partout’ contract as listed in A4(1) Rome I applies; A4(2) Rome I’s ‘characteristic performance’ test does not lead to an answer ([61]: there is no ‘characteristic performance’] and at any rate even if there were, the judge would have applied A4(3)’s escape clause to lead to Luxembourg law; and the ‘proper law of the contract’ per A4(4) Rome I ‘clearly’ [63-64] leads to Luxembourgish law.

In conclusion, a stay is ordered and the forum non application is successful. In my view the judge jumped too easily to Articles 4(3) and (4), denying Article 4(2)’s or even Article 3 choice of law’s effet utile. It is not unusual for judges to let their predetermination to apply A4(3) and /or (4) determine their A4(2) search for a lex contractus. Yet that frequency does not make the judgment right.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed, 2021, Heading 3.2.6.2.

ValueLicensing v Microsoft. The High Court, in rejecting forum non conveniens, puts great emphasis on only English courts determining the course of English law post Brexit.

In JJH Enterprises Ltd (Trading As ValueLicensing) v Microsoft Corporation & Ors [2022] EWHC 929 (Comm) Picken J makes a debatable point in his discussion of a forum non conveniens application by defendants, Microsoft.

In the proceedings ValueLicensing claim damages arising from alleged breaches of competition law by Microsoft. The claim is a ‘stand alone’ one, not a ‘follow-on’ one. There is no underlying infringement decision of the European Commission (or any domestic competition regulator) on which ValueLicensing can rely to establish that an infringement of competition law has been committed.

Some of the Microsoft entities firstly seek summary dismissal of the case against them, arguing they cannot be held liable for an alleged infringement of either Article 101 or 102 TFEU as a result of an overall Microsoft ‘campaign’ in which they did not demonstrably take part. Here [31] ff there is interesting discussion ia of Provimi (Roche Products Ltd. & Ors v Provimi Ltd [2003] EWHC 961 (Comm)), which held that an entity that implements an agreement in breach of A101 to which a member of the same undertaking is a party can be held liable for the infringement even though the implementer itself does not know of the infringement. Specifically, whether Provimi was wrongly decided following from Cooper Tire Europe Ltd v Bayer Public Co Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 864  – this is an issue for which CJEU referral is not possible post Brexit.

The judge however refers to the broader concept of ‘undertaking’ in the A101-102 sense following eg CJEU C-882/19 Sumal SL v Mercedes Benz Trucks Espana SL. Sumal, Picken J holds [44], is relevant authority both pre and post Brexit.

Quite how parties see a difference in the lex causae for the competition law infringement pre and post Brexit is not clear to me. Pre Brexit it is said to be ‘English law’ (held to include 101-102 TFEU prior to Brexit), full stop, while post Brexit that law is said to be determined by (retained) Article 6 Rome II, which for same of the claim will be English law as being one of the ‘affected markets’ per A6 Rome II.

It is in the forum non application that the judge posits [78] that an important consideration of England as the more appropriate forum, is

it is clear that Microsoft UK’s position at trial will be that in certain material respects English law has taken a divergent path from EU law. In such circumstances, it would be wholly inappropriate, and certainly undesirable, for a court in Ireland to be determining whether Microsoft UK is right about this. On the other hand, there would be no difficulty with the Court here applying EU competition law, either as part of English law (in respect of the pre-Brexit period and, if that is what the Court determines is the case, also in respect of the post-Brexit period) or as part of the laws of other EU/EEA member states, since the Court here is very experienced in doing just that.

If it is true that under forum non, only English courts can be held properly to determine the direction of English law post Brexit, the hand of many a claimant in forum non applications will surely be strengthened.

Geert.

Al Assam v Tsouvelekakis. Yet another lengthy forum non conveniens discussion, keeping the case in E&W and not Cyprus.

Al Assam & Ors v Tsouvelekakis [2022] EWHC 451 (Ch) shows the way many claims involving EU Member States facts or defendants are likely to go, until the novelty of newly found forum non freedom wears off perhaps: with intensive forum non conveniens-based jurisdictional challenges.

The defendant is domiciled in England and Wales. The claimants are the settlors of 2 Cypriot trusts who claim for the losses suffered in connection with the trusts’ investments. The trusts were both established under the International Trusts Law of the Republic of Cyprus.

As in Klifa v Slater, the forum non test, following Spiliada and VTB v Nutritek, [12] involves two limbs: Under limb 1 of the test, the Defendant must establish that the courts of Cyprus are both (i) “available” and (ii) are clearly or distinctly more appropriate than the English courts as a forum for determining the dispute. If the Defendant can establish that limb 1 of Spiliada is satisfied, it becomes necessary to consider limb 2. Limb 2 requires a consideration of whether, even if the courts of Cyprus are an available forum that is clearly or distinctly more appropriate for the trial of the action than the courts of England, justice nevertheless requires that a stay of the English proceedings should not be granted.

On availability, there is a bit of to and fro and each other’s Cypriot law legal experts, particularly on the territorial jurisdiction under residual Cypriot rules. However the conclusion [26] is that the Cypriot courts are ‘available’.

Obiter, Richards DJ discusses whether if there is no availability under Cypriot law, there might be availability if there is a submission to jurisdiction and/or an agreement /choice of court.

Discussion here was first whether A26 Brussels Ia could remedy the lack of territorial jurisdiction under Cypriot law. Unlike A25 choice of court, A26 does not include language making the defendant’s domicile in the EU a precondition for its application. At [32] the conclusion for the purpose of these proceedings is that there is a real risk that the Cypriot courts will not have jurisdiction on the basis of A26.

The discussion then [33ff] turns to the Cypriot courts being the clearly or distinctly a more appropriate forum with the conclusion being in the negative.

Helpfully, and suggested by counsel, the judge puts the following structure to the analysis:

a) personal connections ([39]: defendant’s residence in England remains a relevant factor pointing towards the English courts being the appropriate forum);

b) factual connections (held: correspondence between the parties will be of more relevance than the physical location of parties in Cyprus);

c) evidence/convenience/expense (conflicting factors here but none leading overwhelmingly to Cyprus);

d) applicable law (most likely Cypriot law for many of the claims however ia given the similarity with English law, this is not an overwhelmingly relevant issue [56] and some Swiss law will have to be applied anyways); and

e) the “overall shape of the litigation”, held [59] not to be Cypriot.

Limb 2, the requirements of justice, is considered obiter under two angles [61]: delays and the possibility of statutes of limitation kicking in. On the delays, [67] comity and caution to express chauvinistic views upon a friendly jurisdiction argue against a finding of unavailability of justice on this ground, particularly as the experts’ views on this were inconclusive; the possibility of statute of limitation is held [68] largely to be of the claimants’ own making (ia because they had started but discontinued proceedings in Cyprus. Limb 2 therefore, had it mattered, would not have been satisfied and had limb 1 been met, a stay of the proceedings in England would have been ordered.

Geert.

Klifa v Slater. Post Brexit, a forum non challenge (for the courts of France) rejected ia on the basis of costs recovery.

In Klifa v Slater & Anor [2022] EWHC 427 (QB), concerning a ski accident in Courchevel, France, the Claim Form was issued on 14 January 2021, just within the three year limitation period of England and Wales but just after the Brexit “Exit Day” also know as IP day (Brexit implementation day) (of 31 December 2020). Defendants take advantage of that to argue a forum non conveniens defence (which readers will know would have been impossible under Brussels Ia). France is suggested to be the ‘most appropriate forum’.

The skiing accident took place on 27 January 2018 and when (and as still is the case) the Claimant was domiciled and resident and habitually resident in France, the First Defendant was domiciled and resident (they being on holiday) in England & Wales, and the Second Defendant (the insurance company) was domiciled in England & Wales. Under Rome II, French law is the applicable law, other than for procedural law, including as to recovery of legal and other costs of the litigation, which is subject to English law, lex fori.

That latter element returns (with reference to ia Wall v Mutuelle de Poitiers) [25] as part of the forum non conveniens assessment, seeing as (Dagnall M) ‘in consequence of the difference in their methods of adducing expert evidence, the English & Welsh jurisdiction procedural approach is likely to be considerably more expensive than that in France, and which is reflected in the costs rules and approach of each country.’

At [40] Master Dagnall sums up the many issues leading to the case being very ‘French’ in nature, deciding on balance however [42] that the defendants have not met the (high hurdle) of proving that France is “distinctly” or “clearly” the more appropriate forum.

At [44] ff he holds obiter that even if they had met that test, a stay in favour of proceedings in France would not assist with “achieving the ends of justice”L the second part of the forum non test. At [48] two factors are singled out: enforcement will have to take place in England; and a lot of work prior to the claim form being issued was carried out prior to IP day, when forum non was not an issue. Recovering those costs would be impossible in France.

The point has been made ad nauseam by many and this case is a good illustration: post Brexit, forum non is back with a vengeance and it is a time-consuming and costly business.

Geert.

James Finlay business and human rights suit potentially puts forum non conveniens and its Brussels’ cousin to the test.

Update 3 February 2022 thank you Russell Hopkins for alerting us to the judgment of Lord Weir [2022] CSOH 1, [29] that the suit meets with Scottish collective action /group proceedings rules. Forum non conveniens arguments will be heard later.

I posted the Tweet below in October,  and am posting mostly to report that I do not as yet have more to go by. The suit is against James Finlay and follows in the footsteps of one brought in 2017, pre-Brexit therefore.  The 2017 action per CJEU Owusu v Jackson cannot be subject to a forum non conveniens challenge, and I am as yet not aware of an Article 33-34 Brussels IA ‘forum non light’ defence. This new, 2021 action has already been said to be met with a forum non challenge. It will be interesting to see first of all whether the forum non challenge in the latest suit will be impacted by the unavailability in principle of forum non in the 2017 suit; additionally, whether defendants are aiming to have the 2017 suit thrown out on the basis of A33-34 BIa (so far I have not seen indications that they will).

As I point out in the Tweet, had the UK been allowed to join Lugano, forum non would not be available to this newest suit.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Chapter 7.

Mixing the blank rounds with the live bullets. The Court of Appeal (obiter) on Article 33 Brussels Ia, forum non conveniens light, in Ness Global Services.

In Perform Content Services Ltd v Ness Global Services Ltd [2021] EWCA Civ 981 the Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed the appeal against the High Court judgment which I discussed here.

Two grounds of appeal were at play [34]:

(1) The Court was wrong as a matter of law to interpret Article 33 to mean that jurisdiction was not “based on” domicile by reason of a non-exclusive English court jurisdiction clause that conferred prorogated jurisdiction on the English Court pursuant to Article 25;

(2) The Court was wrong to conclude that a stay was not necessary for the proper administration of justice within the meaning of Article 33(1)(b). The court wrongly failed to place any or any sufficient weight on the fact that the NJ and English proceedings were mirror image proceedings giving rise to the risk of irreconcilable judgments, the core purpose of Article 33 and a core feature of the concept of the administration of justice under the Article. The court wrongly took account of the non-exclusive English court jurisdiction clause and/or an English governing law clause and/or wrongly took account of its assessment that the centre of gravity was Slovakia and/or failed to place any or any sufficient weight on the material connections between the parties and the United States and/or wrongly placed significant reliance on connections between the parties, the dispute and the UK.

On the first issue Flaux C refers ia to UCP and to Citicorp (the latter had not been referred to by the first instance judge, I suggested it could have been), to hold that choice of court under A25 BIa being exclusive or not has no relevance. Like the first instance judge, he rules that A33-34 cannot apply if choice of court has been made in favour of an EU court, exclusive or not.

He then deals obiter, like the judge had done, with the issue whether an A33-34 stay would have been in the interest of the sound administration of justice. He emphasises [66] the wide catchment area of ‘all the circumstances of the case’ per recital 24, and suggests this must potentially also include the connections which the case has with the EU Member State and indeed the specific court (per the choice of court clause) concerned.

On that he is right. But he is wrong in my view to support Turner J’s analysis at [67] in Municipio, without any nuance.

Turner J and Flaux C are both right that, the fact itself that the factors which a judge considers in holding that the proper administration of justice does not require a stay, might theoretically have also been relevant in a common law forum non conveniens exercise, does not invalidate the judge’s approach under A33-34. However the problem with the judge’s A33-34 analysis in Municipio is,

Firstly, that it is a case of the tail wagging the dog. The proper administration of justice analysis, exclusively populated by forum non criteria indeed with full reference to that forum non analysis, was put to the front without proper engagement with the substantive conditions for A33-34 to apply at all.

Further, the DNA of A33-34 as I have reported before ( I am preparing an overview for publication), is much, much different from the forum non DNA. By cutting and pasting of the criteria indeed by cross-reference to the forum non criteria without further ado, the A33-34 analysis is irreparably broken. It becomes a case of mixing the blank rounds with the live bullets.

It is worth emphasising that the limited A33-34  analysis are obiter findings only.

Geert.

European Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, 2.539 ff.

WWWRT v Tyshchenko. Interesting if contestable engagement with Brussels IA’s Article 34’s forum non-light regime.

In WWRT Ltd v Tyshchenko & Anor [2021] EWHC 939 (Ch) and following an earlier Worldwide Freezing Order, Bacon J engages with Article 34 Brussels Ia’s forum non conveniens ‘light’ regime.

The proceedings are brought by WWRT ltd against Mr Serhiy Tyshchenko and his ex-wife, Mrs Olena Tyshchenko. The claim is founded on an allegation that the Defendants carried out an extensive fraud on the Ukrainian bank, JSC Fortuna Bank during which time the bank was (it is claimed) ultimately owned by Mr Tyshchenko. The bank was subsequently declared insolvent and was liquidated, in the course of which a package of its assets, including the disputed loans, was sold to Ukrainian company Star Investment One LLC.  Star in turn sold those rights and assets to WWRT in March 2020. WWRT’s case is that following those two assignments it has now acquired the rights to bring the claim relied upon in the present proceedings, which is one in tort under Article 1166 of the Ukrainian Civil Code.

In current proceedings, defendants contest jurisdiction, on the basis of 3 alternative grounds:

Firstly, the principle of ‘modified universalism’ (which I have discussed ia here) which should ground a stay under common law so as to prevent WWRT from bypassing the Ukrainian insolvency proceedings. The suggestion is that CJEU Owusu did not deal with a potential stay to allow the judge in one EU Member State to stay proceedings so as to support insolvency proceedings in another Member State. Bacon J held [57], in my view justifiably, that even if indeed the CJEU in Owusu did not specifically deal with this issue, its reasoning (particularly the insistence on predictability and legal certainty) extends to the current scenario. Insolvency proceedings may well (and indeed clearly) fall outside BIa’s scope, however the claim at issue is one in tort, which falls squarely within it. At 62 ff he discusses obiter that even if such stay would have been theoretically possible, he would not have exercised his discretion to grant it.

Secondly, at 89 ff, a stay by analogy with A34 BIa. It is seemingly common ground between the parties and the judge that the bankruptcy exclusion in A1 BIa precludes the express application of A34 if the pending action in the third State is in the nature of bankruptcy or insolvency proceedings. Support is found in Baker J’s views in BB Energy. This is not a settled issue. Neither is much discussion, pro or contra, of the in my view unjustifiable finding of reflexive application of A28 Lugano in JSC Commercial Bank v Kolomoisky [2019] EWCA Civ 1708. The more sound rejection of an A34 stay in the case at issue  in my view lies in the judge’s obiter finding at 95 that the proceedings in E&W are not ‘related’ to those in the Ukraine.

Thirdly, a more straightforward argument of lack of domicile of one of the defendants in the UK, hence room for a forum non conveniens stay. This argument was in fact dealt with first, at 38 ff, with Bacon J  holding on the basis of a pattern of settled residence that domicile was in fact established. At 98 ff he holds obiter that even if A4 hence BIa had not been engaged, he would not have allowed a stay on forum non grounds.

In conclusion, the freezing orders were continued.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed 2021, para 2.539 ff

Suing ‘Norsk Hydro’ in The Netherlands. No engagement it seems of Article 33-34 BIa ‘forum non conveniens light’.

A quick note on the suit in The Netherlands against “Norsk Hydro” of Norway, for alleged pollution caused by aluminium production in Brasil. No court decisions or orders are available as yet hence I write simply to log the case. I have put Norsk Hydro in inverted commas for the suit really is against Norsk Hydro subsidiaries incorporated in The Netherlands, who are said to control the Brazilian entities. The jurisdictional basis therefore is A4 BIa. As far as the reporting on the case  indicates, there seems little likelihood of A33-34 BIa’s forum non conveniens light making an appearance seeing as no Brazilian proceedings are reported to be underway which could sink the Dutch proceedings like the High Court did in Municipio de Mariana. That is not to say of course that the defendants might not discover some.

Geert.

EU Private International Law., 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 7.3.1.

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