Posts Tagged Hoge Raad

Ordre Public in Bankruptcy. The Dutch Supreme Court confirms non-recognition of Yukos liquidation order.

The Dutch Supreme Court late in January has confirmed the lower court’s decision (see my report here) in Yukos, not to recognise the Russian liquidation order of 1 August 2006 regarding OAO Yukos Oil Company. The decision to recognise or not evidently is based on residuary Dutch conflict of laws (the Insolvency Regulation is not engaged).

At 4.1.3 the Supreme Court emphasises that the principle of mutual trust does not apply, as it would do between EU jurisdictions. It then does not perform the entire ordre public exercise from scratch, rather assesses whether the lower court properly carried out said analysis (as befits its role as a Supreme Court). Which it finds, the Court of Appeals did. Its ordre public check did not in the abstract test Russian court proceedings, rather tested whether the precise conduct of all involved parties led to use of the judicial system in a way which compromises the core Dutch legal order (see for more detail on that, my earlier post).

Textbook ordre public.

Geert.

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Inversiones v Cancun. The Dutch Supreme Court on counterclaims and locus damni for diluted shareholdings.

This post can be classified under ‘better late than never’. Thank you Irina Timp for flagging in December, Inversiones v Cancun at the Dutch Hoge Raad. The case concerned alleged dilution of one company’s (Inversiones) shareholding in another as a result of increased emission of shares orchestrated by another shareholder (Cancun). Note that exclusive jurisdiction under Article 24(2), justifiably, was not suggested.

The Hoge Raad focused on the discussion concerning (now) Article 8(3)’s provision for counterclaims: courts even if not the court of domicile of the defendant have jurisdiction ‘on a counter-claim arising from the same contract or facts on which the original claim was based, in the court in which the original claim is pending;’ C-185/15 Kostanjevec is the main reference. Of particular note was the language issue: the Dutch version of the text employs ‘rechtsfeit’: suggestion a narrower interpretation than the English version (‘facts’) just quoted. The Hoge Raad justifiably followed the linguistic implications of the majority of language versions (e.g “facts”, “Sachverhalt”. “fait”) and held in favour of jurisdiction on the basis of a counterclaim.

The result of that finding is that it did not further entertain the consequences of Universal Music on the location of the locus damni for diluted shareholdings: what other factors are needed to have the shareholder’s corporate domicile qualify for same?

Geert.

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Defining ’employment ‘. CJEU confirms AG Opinion in Holterman: dual director /employee capacity.

The CJEU yesterday confirmed the Opinion of Cruz Villalón AG in Holterman: please refer to my posting on the Opinion for background.

In particular, a contract for employment needs to be distinguished from a contract for the provision of services. ‘Contract of employment’ was addressed in the abstract by the CJEU in Shenavai, Case 266/85, where the Court identified a double requirement for it referred to the need for a contract to be qualified as a contract of employment: there must be durable relation between individual and company: a lasting bond, which brings the worker to some extent within the organisational framework of the business; and a link between the contract and the place where the activities are pursued, which determines the application of mandatory rules and collective agreements. However precedent value of Shenavai for the Brussels I and recast Regulation is necessarily incomplete, for at the time employees as a protected category did not yet exist in the Regulation and the Court’s findings on contracts of employment took place within the need to identify a ‘place of performance’ under the Brussels Convention’s special jurisdictional rule on contracts.

The Jenard and Möller report to the 1988 Lugano Convention suggested the relationship of subordination of the employee to the employer.

In Holterman the Court throws into the mix reference to its interpretation of secondary EU law on health and safety at work as well as European labour law, holding that ‘the essential feature of an employment relationship is that for a certain period of time one person performs services for and under the direction of another in return for which he receives remuneration’ (at 41).

Consequently the national courts now have quite a number of criteria which they need to apply in practice: it is not for the CJEU to do so in an individual case. In Holterman the Court does seem to suggest that once a worker finds himself qualified as an employee, for the purposes of the application of the Jurisdiction Regulation, that qualification will trump any other roles which that individual may play in the organisation (at 49: ‘the provisions of Chapter II, Section 5 (Articles 18 to 21) of Regulation No 44/2001 must be interpreted as meaning that they preclude the application of Article 5(1) and (3) of that regulation, provided that that person, in his capacity as director and manager, for a certain period of time performed services for and under the direction of that company in return for which he received remuneration, that being a matter for the referring court to determine.’).

In light of the deference to the factual assessment of the national court, the CJEU does complete the analysis with respect to (now) Article 7(1): if the contract is not one of employment, then the special jurisdictional rule of Article 7(1) needs to be applied. The director of a company, the Court holds, provides a service to the company within the meaning of Article 7(1)b. In the absence of any derogating stipulation in the articles of association of the company, or in any other document, it is for the referring court to determine the place where Mr Spies in fact, for the most part, carried out his activities in the performance of the contract, provided that the provision of services in that place is not contrary to the parties’ intentions as indicated by what was agreed. For that purpose, it is possible to take into consideration, in particular, the time spent in those places and the importance of the activities carried out there, it being a matter for the national court to determine whether it has jurisdiction in the light of the evidence submitted to it (at 64).

Finally, should national law also allow for an action in tort against the director of a company, the locus delicti commissi is the place where the director carries out his duties for the company (at 76). The locus damni is the place where the damage alleged by the company actually manifests itself; it cannot be construed so extensively as to encompass any place where the adverse consequences can be felt of an event which has already caused damage actually taking place elsewhere (at 77-78).

All in all, a useful completion of the Shenavai criterion, and in the main a referral to the national court for factual analysis.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.3.

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Defining ’employment’. CRUZ VILLALÓN AG in Holterman on applying Brussels I to defendant with dual director/employee capacity

CRUZ VILLALÓN AG Opined yesterday in C-47/14 Holterman (no EN version of the Opinion was available at the time of writing). What if a defendant is pursued both on the basis of his capacity as a director of the company, and for alleged failure properly to have carried out his duties as employee?

Applicant Holterman is incorporated in The Netherlands. Defendant is Mr Spies, a German national, domiciled in Germany. He was employed by applicant between 2001 and 2005/06, first as employee, subsequently also as director of Holterman’s establishments in Germany. Applicant alleges that defendant has caused damage as a result of improper fulfillment of his duties, indeed intentional recklessness, as director. Application is made at the court at Arnhem, where Spies successfully argues that the court has no jurisdiction on the basis that application has to be made of the protective category of ‘individual contracts of employment’.

Questions referred, were

1.    Must the provisions of Section 5 of Chapter II (Articles 18-21) of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 1 be interpreted as precluding the application by the courts of Article 5(1)(a) or of Article 5(3) of that Regulation in a case such as that at issue here, where the defendant is held liable by the company not only in his capacity as director of that company on the basis of the improper performance of his duties or on the basis of unlawful conduct, but quite apart from that capacity, is also held liable by that company on the basis of intent or deliberate recklessness in the execution of the contract of employment entered into between him and the company?

2    (a) If the answer to question 1 is in the negative, must the term ‘matters relating to a contract’ in Article 5(1)(a) of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 then be interpreted as also applying to a case such as that at issue here, where a company holds a person liable in his capacity as director of that company on the basis of the breach of his obligation to properly perform his duties under company law?

(b) If the answer to question 2(a) is in the affirmative, must the term ‘place of performance of the obligation in question’ in Article 5(1)(a) of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 then be interpreted as referring to the place where the director performed or should have performed his duties under company law, which, as a rule, will be the place where the company concerned has its central administration or its principal place of business, as referred to in Article 60(1)(b) and (c) of that Regulation?

3    (a) If the answer to question 1 is in the negative, must the term ‘matters relating to tort, delict or quasi-delict’ in Article 5(3) of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 then be interpreted as also applying to a case such as that at issue here, where a company holds a person liable in his capacity as director of that company on the basis of the improper performance of his duties under company law or on the basis of unlawful conduct?

(b) If the answer to question 3(a) is in the affirmative, must the term ‘place where the harmful event occurred or may occur’ in Article 5(3) of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 be interpreted as referring to the place where the director performed or should have performed his duties under company law, which, as a rule, will be the place where the company concerned has its central administration or its principal place of business, as referred to in Article 60(1)(b) and (c) of that Regulation?

Spies essentially argues that the employment section of the Regulation trumps concurrent jurisdiction on the basis of contract. ‘Contract of employment’ so far has not been addressed in the abstract by the ECJ, other than incompletely in Shenavai Case 266/85, where it referred to the need for a durable relation between individual and company. In particular of course, a contract for employment needs to be distinguished from a contract for the provision of services. The Advocate General takes inspiration from the protective intent of the employment contracts heading, to suggest that supervision and instruction, jointly summarised as ‘subordination’, are determining factors for positions of employment. Even higher management can find itself in such position, given that and provided its actions, notwithstanding a wide independent remit, are subject to control and direction of the companies’ bodies. Review of the company’s by-laws should reveal the existence of such control vis-a-vis higher management, read together with the terms and conditions of the contract of employment at issue (at 32). It is only, per Asscher, C‑107/94, if management itself through its shareholding, exercises control over those bodies, that the position of subordination disappears.

Once the national court, on the basis of ad hoc analysis, holds that there is a position of employment, the national court has to apply Brogsitter per analogia: namely whether the action concerned follows from an alleged improper fulfillment of that agreement (as opposed to an improper fulfillment of duties as a director).

In subsidiary fashion only, does the AG entertain the questions relating to Article 5(1) and 5(3) (now 7(1) and 7(2) respectively). Spies’ duties as a director (again, should the ECJ find against applicability of the employment section) have to be considered ‘contractual’ within the meaning of the Regulation. The place of performance of the obligation in the view of the AG needs to be determined using Article 7(1)b, ‘the place in a Member State where, under the contract, the services were provided or should have been provided;’. Using Car Trim and Wood Floor Solutions and quoting Stephanie Francq, the AG suggests the national court identify the location where the service was mainly provided.

The AG’s views on the employment heading, however, seem solid and I would be surprised were the ECJ to have to go into the subsidiary questions.

Geert.

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