Posts Tagged Forumclausule

Be careful what you ask for! Barclays v ENPAM: the High Court again employs Article 27/28 to neutralise Italian torpedo.

Barclays v ENPAM has been travelling in my briefcase for some time – apologies. Reminiscent of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Alexandros, and the High Court in Nomura , Blair J in October 2015 employed national courts’ room under Article 27/28 of the Brussels I Regulation (the lis alibi pendens and related actions rules) to refuse a stay of English proceedings in favour of proceedings in (of course) Italy. Litigation like this will be somewhat less likely now that the Brussels I Recast applies. As readers will be aware, the current version of the Regulation has means to protect choice of court agreements against unwilling partners (see however below).

Claimant, Barclays Bank PLC, is an English bank. The defendant, Ente Nazionale di Previdenza ed Assistenza dei Medici e Degli Odontoiatri (“ENPAM”) is an Italian pension fund. A dispute has arisen between them as to a transaction entered into by way of a Conditional Asset Exchange Letter from ENPAM to Barclays dated 21 September 2007 by which ENPAM exchanged fund assets for securities which were in the form of credit-linked notes called the “Ferras CDO securities”. ENPAM’s claim is that it incurred a major loss in the transaction, and that it is entitled in law to look to Barclays to make that loss good.

On 18 May 2015, Barclays issued a summary judgment application on the basis that there is no defence to its claim that the Milan proceedings fall within contractual provisions giving exclusive jurisdiction to the English courts. ENPAM began proceedings against Barclays and others in Milan on 23 June 2014. Barclays says that this was in breach of provisions in the contractual documentation giving exclusive jurisdiction to the English courts. It issued the proceedings reviewed here seeking a declaration to that effect and other relief on 15 September 2014. On 20 April 2015, ENPAM applied pursuant to Article 27 or Article 28 of the Brussels I Regulation for an order that the English court should not exercise its jurisdiction in these proceedings on the basis that Milan court was first seised.

The High Court refused. Reference is best made to the judgment itself, for it is very well drafted. Read together with e.g. the aforementioned Alexandros and Nomura judgments, it gives one a complete view of the approach of the English courts viz lis pendens under the Regulation. (E.g. Blair J has excellent overview of the principles of Article 27 (Article 29 in the Recast) under para 68).

Discussion of what exactly Barclays could recover from the English cq Italian proceedings, was an important consideration of whether these two proceedings were each other’s mirror image. (see e.g. para 82 ff). This is quite an important consideration for litigators. Statements of claims are an important input in the lis pendens analysis. Be careful therefore what you ask for. Restraint in the statement of claims might well serve you very well when opposed with recalcitrant opposing parties, wishing to torpedo your proceedings. (Let’s face it: the likelihood of such opposition is quite high in a litigious context).

Finally, it is often assumed that precedent value of the case discussed here and other cases with it, has diminished drastically following the Brussels I Recast. It instructs all courts not named in a choice of court agreement, to step back from jurisdiction in favour of the court named (Article 31(2)). Yet what is and what is not caught by a choice of court agreement (starting with the issue of non-contractual liability between the parties) depends very much on its wording and interpretation. Article 31(2) is not the be all and end all of litigation between contracting parties.

Geert.

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EU to become party to The Hague Choice of Court Convention. Not necessarily a good idea.

Update 21 May 2018. Denmark has now also acceded. Update 2 October 2015. The Convention entered into force on 1 October. Update 5/12/2014: Approval is now final (p.16) and (update 10/12) has been published in OJUpdate 16/10/2014:

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The European Commission has adopted its proposal for a Council decision on the approval, on behalf of the EU, of the Hague Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements. The Convention, which has not yet entered into force (but will be, once the EU ratifies), contains three basic rules that give effect to choice of court agreements (from the Convention’s website):

1.The chosen court must in principle hear the case (Art.5);
2. Any court not chosen must in principle decline to hear the case (Art.6); and
3. Any judgment rendered by the chosen court must be recognised and enforced in other Contracting States, except where a ground for refusal applies (Arts 8 and 9).

The Commission does propose that the EU make a declaration, excluding the application of the Convention to insurance contracts (unlike the recast Brussels I Regulation’s provisions re consumers and employees, insurers not domiciled in the EU continue to fall outside the Regulation), in spite of objections.

The downside of the complete exclusion of insurance contracts, from the point of view of European insurers, is that choice of court clauses they have negotiated with non-European policyholders would not be recognised and enforced in third States which are Contracting Parties to the Convention. From the perspective of the European policyholders, these would lose the advantage of having the decisions of EU courtsʼ (chosen by the parties) recognised and enforced outside the Union under the Convention – the EC is however more concerned about the position of the European insureds (as opposed to the insurers): if the Convention were to be concluded without excluding insurance contracts, there would be a lack of parallelism with the protective policy established in the Brussels I Regulation which allows the insured party to sue an EU insurer (or a EU branch of third State insurer) in his own place of domicile irrespective of any other jurisdiction available under a choice of court agreement. not all Member States agree with the Commission hence one will have to wait and see how this issue will be decided.

At any rate and more generally, were the EU to accede, this does of course put into question the relationship between the Brussels I Regulation, the Convention, and the Lugano Convention. The EC notes that Brussels I does not “govern the enforcement in the Union of choice of court agreements in favor of third State courts”. (Ignoring, incidentally, the judgment in Gothaer, which does achieve the same result in specific circumstances).

This would, in the EC’s view, rather be achieved by the Convention. The amendments to the Brussels I regulation introduced with the recast of 2012 “have strengthened party autonomy” and now “ensure that the approach to choice of court agreements for intra-EU situations is consistent with the one that would apply to extra-EU situations under the Convention, once approved by the Union”.

A ‘disconnection clause’ set out in Article 26(6) provides that the Convention shall not affect the application of the regulation “where none of the parties is resident in a Contracting State that is not a Member State” of the Union and “as concerns the recognition or enforcement of judgments as between Member States”.  “(T)he Convention affects the application of the Brussels I regulation if at least one of the parties is resident in a Contracting State to the Convention”, and shall “prevail over the jurisdiction rules of the regulation except if both parties are EU residents or come from third states, not Contracting Parties to the Convention”.

As regards the recognition and enforcement of judgments, the Regulation “will prevail where the court that  made the judgment and the court in which recognition and enforcement is sought are both located in the Union”.

Hence in summary, according to the proposal, the Convention will “reduce the scope of application of the Brussels I regulation”, but “this reduction of scope is acceptable in the light of the increase in the respect for party autonomy at international level and increased legal certainty for EU companies engaged in trade with third State parties”.

Hum. I am not convinced. The above signals a fairly complex regime of scope of application of Convention cq Regulation. The Regulation continues to differ from the Convention. (E.g. in not requiring written agreement for choice of court). Neither does it clearly (in contrast with the recast Regulation) settle applicable law to determine validity of the clause: is it lex fori prorogati?). In my view it adds a layer of complexity rather than removing some.

Geert.

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Exclusive court of choice clause counts against use of court’s room under ‘related actions’

In a case on this point reminiscent of the Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in the Alexandros, the High Court held in Nomura v Banco Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS) against a grant of a stay of the English proceedings in favour of proceedings in Italy. The stay would have been granted on the basis of Article 28’s proviso for ‘related’ actions, in particular Article 28(1): ‘where related actions are pending in the courts of different Member States, any court other than the court first seized may stay its proceedings.’

A ‘mandate’ agreement exists between parties, which includes a non-exclusive jurisdiction clause in favour of the English courts. The ISDA Master agreement (this is different from the mandate agreement) is subject to English law and as such (see para 16 of the judgment) contains an exclusive choice of court clause. BMPS fired the first shot in litigation, in Italy. The Italian claims are a mixture of contractual liability, liability in tort, and liability ensuing from a criminal offence. BMPS essentially claim that its former senior management colluded with Nomura in covering op losses incurred on financial operations with Nomura. Nomura started proceedings in England with a view to establishing that the agreements at issue are valid and binding. Parties agree that the Italian court was first seized.

As further explained inter alia in my posting on the Alexandros, Article 28 gives the court much more leeway than Article 27’s lis alibi pendens rules. The High Court made full use of this flexibility, inter alia in finding that in reviewing whether actions are ‘related’ within the meaning of Article 28, account must be taken not just of the claims of plaintiff but also the defence raised by defendant. This is in contrast with the ECJ’s position on Article 27 in Gantner Electronic: in deciding identity of action under Article 27, account should be taken only of the claims of the respective applicants, to the exclusion of the defence submissions raised by a defendant.

Eder J held that the two proceedings were not likely to lead to irreconcilable judgments. Nomura’s claims in England are contractual. BMPS’ claims are based mostly on tort (para 26). It should not be excluded that the findings in one court will influence the other. Proximity or convenience does not plead in favour of Italy. Finally and importantly, the High Court found that ‘the case against the grant of a stay is strongly fortified because of the existence of the exclusive jurisdiction clause in the (  ) Master Agreement. (   ) the Court should, so far as possible, give effect to the parties’ bargain and be very slow indeed to exercise a discretion in a manner the effect of which would be to destroy such bargain‘.

The High Court justifiably did not entertain parties’ arguments on the basis of the new Jurisdiction Regulation, which enters into force in January 2015 and includes a new rule, granting better protection to choice of court agreements (priority for the court assigned to have a first go at establishing its jurisdiction).

Geert.

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