Duffy v Centraal Beheer Achmea. Interim payments qalified as procedural, not within the scope of Rome II.

Update 23 February 2021 see Gilles Cuniberti here on a related issue of the application of the lex causae to interim proceedings, with the French Supreme Court reversing decades of case-law to hold that interim measures are included in the lex causae, not subject to lex fori.

I am busy on many fronts and not complaining, yet I am sorry if some posts are therefore a little later than planned. A quick flag of Duffy v Centraal Beheer Achmea [2020] EWHC 3341 (QB) in which Coe J noted parties agreed that interim payments are included in the Rome II exemption of evidence and procedure: at 8:

The claim is brought in the English Court against a Dutch motor insurer and it is agreed that the law of the Netherlands applies to this claim in tort. The claimant, as a result of Dutch law has a direct right of action against the insurer and, following the decision in FBTO v Odenbreit [2007] C 463-06, the jurisdiction of the English Court is not an issue. The law of the Netherlands applies (pursuant to Article 41(1) of the Rome II Regulation on applicable law in tort (Regulation 864/2007)). Dutch law will govern limitation, breach of duty and causation as well as the existence of, the nature of and the assessment of damages to which the claimant might be entitled. Matters of procedure and evidence are nonetheless reserved to the forum court (see Article 15 (c) of the Rome II Regulation and Article 1(3)). This is an application for an interim payment which is a procedural application and thus governed by English law. However, when it comes to any assessment of the damages to which the claimant might be entitled on which to base the interim payment decision, Dutch law has to be applied.

Coe J has little reason to disagree however I imagine she would have entertained the issues more had the distinction between Dutch and English law on the interim payment issue been materially different, hence had counsel made diverging noise. For as I have signalled before, the extent of the evidence and procedure exemption is not clear at all.

Geert.

EU Private International Law. 3rd ed. 2021, Chapter 4, Heading 4.8.

 

Troke v Amgen. On lex causae for interest and the procedural exception of Rome II.

Troke & Anor v Amgen Seguros Generales Compania De Seguros Y Reaseguros SAU (Formerly RACC Seguros Compania De Seguros Y Resaseguros SA) [2020] EWHC 2976 (QB) is an appeal against a decision of the country court at Plymouth. It has a case-name almost as long as the name of some Welsh villages (that’s an observation, I mean no disrespect. I live in a country which has villages names such as Erps-Kwerps; but I stray).

For brevity’s sake I suspect it is best shortened to Troke v Amgen. The case involves only the rate of interest awarded on what were otherwise agreed awards of damages against the defendant insurer  to the  claimant, victims of a road traffic accident in Spain.

Spanish law is lex causae. Rome II like Rome I excludes “evidence and procedure…”. The extent of this exception is not settled as I have discussed before. Of particular recurring interest is its relation with Article 15 ‘scope of the law applicable’ which reads in relevant part for the case

 “15. The law applicable to non-contractual obligations under this Regulation shall govern in particular: (a) the basis and extent of liability… (…) (c) the existence, the nature and the assessment of damage or the remedy claimed; (d) within the limits of powers conferred on the court by its procedural law, the measures which a court may take to prevent or terminate injury or damage or to ensure the provision of compensation;”

Griffiths J refers in particular to Actavis v Ely Lilly and to KMG v Chen, and at 45 holds obiter that were the interest a contractual right, it would clearly not be covered by Rome I’s exclusion for procedural issues seeing as it would then clearly amount to a substantive right under the contract.

At play here however is Rome II. Griffiths J first refers to a number of inconclusive precedent on the interest issue under various foreign applicable laws, to then note at 65 ff that the judge in the county court whose findings are being appealed, was informed in the expert reports that the interest sought under Spanish law were not mandatory ones but rather discretionary ones: the terminology used in the expert report which determined that decision was ‘contemplates’.

This leads Griffiths J to conclude ‘I reject the argument that the Expert Report was describing a substantive as opposed to a procedural right to interest. It follows that the Judge was right not to apply the Spanish rates as a matter of substantive right to be governed by the lex causae.’

This is most odd. It could surely be argued that a discretionary substantive right is still a substantive right, and not a procedural incident. Whether the right is mandatory or discretionary does not in my view impact on its qualification as being substance or procedure.

The judge’s findings

It follows that I agree with the Judge that the award of interest in this case was a procedural matter excluded from Rome II by Article 1(3); that there was no substantive right to interest at Spanish rates to be awarded to the Claimants under the lex causae; that interest could be awarded under section 69 of the County Courts Act 1984 as a procedural matter in accordance with the law of England and Wales as the lex fori; and that he was entitled to award interest at English and not Spanish rates accordingly.

in my view surely therefore most be appealable.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 4, Heading 4.8.

Third edition forthcoming February 2021.

PJSC Tatneft v Bogolyubov. Privilege under English law as lex fori.

Update 24 02 2021 for the subsequent findings on the facts, applying Russian law, see Tatneft PJSC v Bogolyubov & Ors [2021] EWHC 411 (Comm) and my summary of issues here.

 

PJSC Tatneft v Bogolyubov & Ors [2020] EWHC 2437 (Comm) is another example of a case where privilege is firmly considered to be subject to lex fori, like in the New York courts but unlike the approach of the Dutch courts. Moulder J did discuss the extent to which the rule applies to foreign unregistered, in-house lawyers. However she does this purely from the English point of view and without any consideration of either Rome I or Rome II. That is not very satisfactory in my view. As I have signalled before, one can discuss whether privilege is covered by the evidence and procedure exception in the Rome Regulations, however it must be discussed and cannot be just brushed under the carpet.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Chapter 4.

(3rd ed forthcoming February 2021).

 

The governing law of privilege. The Dutch courts in re Shell.

This item has been in the queue a long time – apologies. Thank you Marco Vogels for reporting end of 2019 on the Rotterdam court’s approach re privilege in ECLI:NL:RBROT:2019:7856, a criminal prosecution involving Shell. Marco’s report is most complete and I am happy to refer.

Compare the Dutch approach to my earlier reports on the issue in England and in the US. The Rotterdam court takes the law of the place of establishment of the (self-employed) solicitors as the connecting factor, ditto for in-house lawyers (on which The Netherlands takes an unusual (bu continental European standards) position of professional privilege). However the court also held that privilege falls away for the whole in-house legal department and all its lawyers, foreign established or not, if the head of legal is member of the Executive Committee.

Geert.

Pandya v Intersalonika. Plenty of (appealable?) things to chew on re limitation periods and Rome II.

Many thanks 2TG for initially flagging the judgment, and for Maura McIntosh and colleagues not just for further reviewing it but also for sending me copy: for the case has not yet appeared on the usual sites.

In Pandya v Intersalonika [2020] EWHC 273 (QB), Tipples J held that proceedings were time-barred in accordance with Greek law as the lex causae, where the claim form was issued in the English courts before the expiry of the applicable Greek limitation period, but was not served until after that period had expired.

The claim arises out of a road traffic accident that happened in Kos, Greece on 29 July 2012. The claimant is a UK national and was on holiday in Kos with her family when she was struck by a motorcycle as she was crossing the road. The claimant suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and was then aged fifteen. Defendant is the Greek-registered insurance company which provided insurance to the motorcyclist or the motorcycle that he was riding.

That claimant is entitled to sue the insurer in England is not of course, contrary to Tipples J passing reference, a result of Rome II but rather of Brussels IA. Jurisdiction however at any rate was not under discussion.

Defendant then relies on A15(h) Rome II to argue a time bar under Greek law, the lex locus damni: service of the claim is a rule of Greek law in relation to limitation and a claim has to be issued and served to interrupt the limitation period. This means that the requirement of service cannot be severed, or downgraded, to a step which is simply governed by the rules of civil procedure under English law. Claimant by contrast argues that service of the claim is a point of pure procedure, which falls squarely within Article 1(3) and is governed by the rules of civil procedure under English law.

At 25 ff Tipples J discusses the issue (I highlight the most relevant arguments; compare nb with the situation under the Rome Convention in Mineworkers):

  • starting with the principle of autonomous interpretation;
  • further, a need for wide interpretation of A15 which she derives from its non-exhaustive character. I do not agree that non-exhaustive listings necessarily equate broad interpretations;
  • thirdly the need, by contrast, to interpret A1(3) narrowly ‘because it is an exception’ to the general rule of lex locus damni in A4. This too I disagree with: A1(3) states it ‘it shall not apply to evidence and procedure, without prejudice to Articles 21 and 22’ (which concern formal validity and burden of proof). In my view A1(3) like A1(2) defines the scope of application, like A1(2). It is listed separately from the issues in A1(2) for unlike those issues, part of the excluded subject-matter is partially brought back into the scope of application. If anything therefore needs to be interpreted restrictively, it is the partial cover of evidence and procedure.  Seemingly between parties however this was not disputed.
  • Further support is found in Dicey & Morris 15th ed., which refers to Wall v Mutuelle de Poitiers a case which discusses the issues somewhat, yet if anything more in support of English law applying to the discussion in Pandya rather than the other way around. (A reference further on in Andrew Dickinson’s Rome II Volume with OUP in my mind, too, further underlines the opaqueness of the A1 /A15 distinction and does not clearly lend support pro the lex causae argument).
  • Fifth, predictability and certainty are cited in support however how these gazump exclusions from the scope of application is not clear to me.
  • Finally PJSC Tatneft v Bogolyubov is referred to but dismissed as irrelevant (which surprises me).

Held: the claim was time-barred and therefore dismissed.

I would suggest there is plenty of scope for appeal here.

Geert.

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

KMG v CHEN. The common law reflective loss rule held as being substance, not procedure, and not qualifying as either lois de police or ordre public under Rome II.

KMG International NV v Chen & Anor [2019] EWHC 2389 (Comm)  entertains a claim made in tort, based on a breach of duties allegedly owed as a matter of Dutch or alternatively English law. The wrongful acts of the Defendants are said to have resulted in a diminution of the assets of DPH, against which KMG had won a substantial arbitration award. It is asserted that the Defendants caused the DP Group to part with a valuable asset, namely the shares in a German company, which company was part of the DP Group. It is asserted that the purpose of the transfer was to disable DPH from satisfying the arbitration award.

The core legal issue that would apply under English law are the principles of reflective loss (‘RL’). Defendants argue that the English law rules as to reflective loss barred the Claimant’s claims, even under Dutch law, because: (1) The RL rule was a rule of procedure and not substance and was accordingly governed by the lex fori and not the lex causae; (2) The RL rule was a mandatory overriding rule of English law within the meaning of Article 16 of Rome II; (3) Any derogation from the RL rule would be manifestly incompatible with English public policy within the meaning of Article 26 of Rome II.

A first issue is whether the English RL rule is one of procedure that would fall outside the scope of Rome II. Reference is made on this issue to Actavis v Eli Lilly, with Hancock J at 36 deciding the RL rule is one of substance. I would agree with his suggestion that unlike the discussion of DNI requirements in Actavis, the RL ‘is not a precondition to an action, but is a bar to recovery of a particular type of loss. In my judgment, the RL rule is clearly one which affects the substantive rights and remedies of the Claimant and is not a procedural rule.’ However I disagree with his suggestion (for which he finds support in EC suggestions made in the travaux) that the procedural provision in A1(3) needs to be applied restrictively: A1(3) is not an exception: it is a determination of scope.

Attention then turns at 45 ff to whether the RL could count as overriding mandatory law under A16 Rome II. At 50 Hancock J holds that there is simply no support in any authority for holding that that the RL would meet the high bar of qualifying as lois de police. At 57 he then judges that the RL rule does not meet the requirements to qualify as ordre public either, with due refence to CJEU authority on the exceptional nature of ‘ordre public’ under EU conflict of laws.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 4, Heading 4.8, Heading 4.10.

Arica Victims v Boliden Mineral (Sweden). Lex causae and export of toxic waste. Relevant for the business and human rights /CSR debate.

I reported earlier on the decision at first instance in Arica Victims v Boliden Mineral. The Court of Appeal has now reversed the finding of Chilean law as lex causae, opting instead for Swedish law. Lindahl has good review here and I rely on it quite heavily for I do no speak Swedish.

Boliden Mineral exported toxic waste to Chile in the ’80s, prior to either Basel or EU or OECD restraints (or indeed bans) kicking in. A first issue for consideration was determination of lex causae. Rome II does not apply ratione temporis (it only applies to tortious events occurring after its date of entry into force) – residual Swedish private international law applies. My understanding at first instance was that the applicable law rule referred to lex loci damni, Chile. The Court of Appeal has gone for lex loci delicti commissi: whether this was by use of an exception or whether the court at first instance had simply misunderstood Swedish PIL, I do not know.

Having opted for lex loci delicti commissi, the Court of Appeal then considered where this was. Readers of the blog will know that this is relevant for CSR /business and human /environmental rights discussions. Lindahl’s Linda Hallberg and Tor Pöpke summarise the court’s approach:

In order to determine which country’s law applied to the case, the court examined a sequence of events that had influenced, to varying degrees, what had led to the alleged damage. According to the court, the decisive factor in the choice of law were acts and omissions that could be attributed to the Swedish mining company, as the case concerned this company’s liability for damages.

Instead of determining the principal location of the causative events using quantitative criteria, the court considered it to be where the qualitatively important elements had their centre of gravity. Further, in contrast with the district court’s conclusion, it held that the Swedish mining company’s alleged negligence had its centre in Sweden and therefore Swedish tort law should be applied in this case (the law of the place in which a delict is committed).

Unlike more ‘modern’ CSR cases the fact do not concern mother /daughter company relations yet the considerations of locus delicti commissi are nonetheless interesting.

The Court of first instance had employed Chilean’s longer statute of limitation. The Court of Appeal tried to stretch Sweden’s shorter one of 10 years (the case concerns a potentially tortious act which occurred more than 30 years ago): any subsequent damage that had been caused by the mining company’s failure to act during the period after the toxic waste had been shipped to Chile would advance the starting point for the limitation period. However this was at the latest 1999 and the 2013 action therefore had been taken too late.

On 25 June last the Supreme Court rejected further consideration, the Court of Appeal’s finding therefore stands.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 4, Heading 4.6.3, Chapter 8.

 

 

Back to the 80s. Arthur Scargill, submission (voluntary appearance) under Brussels Ia and applicable law for statutes of limitation.

In [2019] EWHC 1359 (Comm) National Union of Mineworkers v Organisation Internationale de l’energie et des mines defendant is French-domiciled and represented by its chair, Arthur Scargill. That’s right, many of us whether Brits or not will remember him from the 1970s and 1980 mine strikes. (Unlike what some think, he did not though feature in the Tracey Ullman cover of Madness’ ‘my girl’: that was Neil Kinnock.

Of more immediate relevance for the blog is the discussion at 19 ff on jurisdiction and applicable law.

Defendant is an international body to which a number of trade unions are affiliated. Those unions operate in different countries but all represent workers engaged in the fields of mining and/or energy supply. The name the Defendant uses in English is the International Energy and Mineworkers’ Organisation (“the IEMO”) and it is the successor to the International Mineworkers’ Organisation (“the IMO”) following a merger in 1994.

The proceedings relate to the parties’ respective rights in relation to sums recovered by the Defendant from Mr. Roger Windsor in August 2012 after prolonged legal proceedings in the French Republic and in England. Those proceedings were undertaken in the name of the Defendant but funded in part by the Claimant. There is a shortfall between the sums recovered and the amounts of the principal debt and the legal costs of the proceedings. The parties are in dispute as to the distribution of the sums recovered from Mr. Windsor; as to which should bear any shortfall between the sums recovered and the costs incurred in the proceedings; and as to the amounts which each has paid by way of costs in those proceedings.

The underlying indebtedness which resulted in recovery being made against Mr. Windsor derived from a loan of £29,500 which the Claimant made to him in 1984. He was then the Claimant’s Chief Executive Officer and the loan was made by way of assistance with house purchase following the relocation of the Claimant’s headquarters from London to Sheffield in 1983. There was a repayment of that loan in November 1984 but it is common ground that to the extent that there was such a repayment it came from funds which had been lent to Mr. Windsor. In 1986 the right to recover payment from Mr. Windsor (either of the original loan or of the subsequent loan) was assigned to the IMO.

Claimant argues the courts of England and Wales have jurisdiction by reason of Articles 7(1) and 25(1)(b) Brussels Ia (by virtue of an agreement made in 1990), and that in any event defendant is to be treated as having accepted that the court has jurisdiction to try this matter (an Article 26 ‘prorogation’, ‘submission’ or ‘voluntary appearance’ in other words).

Eyre J at 24 agrees that submission has taken place: CPR rules (Pt11) provide the details the procedure to be followed by a defendant contesting jurisdiction. Defendant did make an application to the court within 14 days of filing the acknowledgement of service, as requested by CPR 11. However, it expressly accepted that the application was to be regarded as relating to the questions of limitation and of the effect of the Release Agreement. In its application it made extensive reference to Brussels Ia but did so in that context. In particular that material was put forward in support of the contention that the claim was statute-barred either by reference to the Limitation Act 1980 or by reference to the French limitation provisions. There was in other words no wider or more fundamental challenge to the court’s jurisdiction and the realisation probably in hindsight that jurisdiction may not be that straightforward, cannot impact on that original application.

Had there not been submission, interesting discussions could have ensued I suspect on the place of performance of the agreement (unless clear choice of court had been made), England as a forum contractus, and I for one shall be using the case in my classes as a good illustration of the ‘conflicts method’ (looking over the fence)

Attention then turns to the issue of applicable law for the time-barred argument: at 26: ‘Defendant also argued that the proceedings were to be regarded as subject to French law and in particular the French limitation provisions which impose a time limit of three years for claims. The Defendant made reference to the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 and the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984. The contention was that French law was applicable because the judgments against Mr. Windsor were obtained in France and then registered in England and Wales. That argument was misconceived. Such an argument might have relevance if the issue were one of the enforcement of the judgments against Mr. Windsor though I make no finding on that question. The current proceedings are not concerned with the enforcement of the judgments against Mr. Windsor but with the distribution of the sums which have been received by the Defendant as a result of the litigation against Mr. Windsor. It follows that the provisions to which the Defendant made reference can have no relevance to the current proceedings. The Defendant made passing reference to the fact that it is domiciled in France but this was not the principal basis of the contention that French law was applicable and without more it would not cause the parties’ dealings to be governed by French law. In those circumstances the parties’ rights and liabilities are to be determined by reference to the law of England and Wales and any questions of limitation are governed by the Limitation Act 1980.

I am not privy to the submissions on applicable law, but I am assuming that there must have been some discussion of the impact of the 1980 Rome Convention. Not the Rome I Regulation which would not have applied ratione temporis. That Regulation like Rome II has not altogether straightforward provisions (as I have noted on other occasions) on procedure being covered by the lex contractus. Whether Eyre J classifies the limitation issue as being covered by English law per lex fori or alternatively as lex causae (lex contractus of the 1990 agreement) is not clear.

Back in the 80s I would have never dreamed of bumping into Mr Scargill again in the context of an interesting conflict of laws issue.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 1, Heading 1.3.1, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.7.

 

 

 

 

Martins v Dekra Claims. Limitation periods as ‘overriding mandatory rules’ under Rome II.

Case C‑149/18 Martins v Dekra Claims gave the Court of Justice an opportunity (it held end of January) essentially to confirm its Unamar case-law, specifically with respect to limitation periods.

The Portuguese claimant’s vehicle was damaged in an accident in Spain in August 2015. He issued proceedings in Portugal in November 2016 to recover his uninsured losses. Under Portuguese law, the lex fori, the limitation period is 3 years. Under Spanish law, the lex causae per Rome II, limitation is fixed at 1 year.

The Court first of all re-emphasises the importance of co-ordinated interpretation of Rome I and II, here with respect to the terminology of the two Regulations which in the French version in particular differs with respect to the use of the term ‘lois de police’ (Article 9 Rome I) and ‘dispositions impératives dérogatoires’  (Article 16 Rome II). The lois de police of Rome I (albeit with respect to the Rome Convention 1980) had already been interpreted in Unamar, leading to the first of the two conditions discussed below.

The Court effectively held there is little limit content-wise to the possibility for courts to invoke the lois de police /overriding mandatory law provision of Article 9 Rome II. Despite Article 15 Rome II verbatim mentioning limitation periods as being covered by the lex causae (but see the confusion on that reported in my post on Kik this week), limitation periods foreseen in the lex fori may be given priority.

This is subject to two conditions:

firstly, the national court cannot interpret any odd lex fori provision as being covered by the lois de police exception: here the Court re-emphasises the Rome I /II parallel by making the Unamar test apply to Rome II: at 31: ‘the referring court must find, on the basis of a detailed analysis of the wording, general scheme, objectives and the context in which that provision was adopted, that it is of such importance in the national legal order that it justifies a departure from the applicable law.’ Here, the fact that limitation periods are mentioned in so many words in Article 15, comes into play: at 34: given that express reference, the application of the overriding mandatory law exception ‘would require the identification of particularly important reasons, such as a manifest infringement of the right to an effective remedy and to effective judicial protection arising from the application of the law designated as applicable pursuant to Article 4 of the Rome II Regulation.’

secondly, and of course redundantly but worth re-emphasising: the rule at issue must not have been harmonised by secondary EU law. As Alistair Kinley points out, the Motor Insurance Directive (MID) 2009/103 is currently being amended and a limitation period of minimum 4 years is being suggested – subject even to gold plating. That latter prospect of course opens up all sorts of interesting discussions particularly viz Article 3(4) Rome I.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.8, Heading 3.2.8.3.

 

National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon. Branches’ activities, Article 7(5) Brussels I Recast and engagement of Article 30.

Update 22 April 2020 today’s judgment discusses the merits of the case: [2020] EWHC 916 (Comm).

 

Thank you Ali Malek QC who acts for claimants (and who as I have noted, is a busy and efficient bee in international litigation land) for alerting me to a further episode of Kazakhstan v BNYM. This current jurisdictional challenge is part of a long-running saga relating to the enforcement of a Swedish arbitration award dated 19 December 2013 in favour of the “Stati parties”, the Second to Fifth Defendants, and against the Second Claimant, the Republic of Kazakhstan (“RoK”).

Many of the issues are ex-Brussels I Recast and /or Lugano Convention yet I report on them anyway for they reveal interesting issues on the relationship between foreign courts relevant to attachment (and enforcement generally), and courts with jurisdiction on the merits.

In [2017] EWHC 3512 (Comm) National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM) which I reviewed here, Popplewell J had dismissed claims essentially designed to establish that BNYM is not obliged or entitled to freeze assets of the National Fund by reason of Belgian and Dutch court attachment orders.

Teare J has now held a few weeks back – helpfully in [2018] EWHC 3282 (Comm) also summarising the many proceedings which the blog has not always reported on. Trigger for this latest instalment of proceedings is claimants having sought to challenge a Belgian conservatory attachment before an “Attachment Judge” of the Belgian court. The Attachment Judge upheld the attachment order in a judgment dated 25 May 2018.

RoK seeks a declaration that the debts or assets held by BNYM(London) and said to be subject to the attachment order are in fact held by BNYM(L) solely for the National Bank of Kazakhstan (“NBK”), the First Claimant. They therefore submit that the attachment order has no subject-matter, because there are no assets to attach. The Claimants contend that this question was referred to this court by the Belgian court.

A provision of Belgian law cited by the Attachment Judge, article 1456(2) of the Belgian Judicial Code, provides as follows: “If the third-party debtor disputes the debt claimed by the creditor, the case is brought before the competent trial judge or, as the case may be, the case is referred to the competent trial judge by the enforcement court.” Further proceedings are now pending in Belgium, in which the Stati parties seek to convert the ‘conservatory’ attachment order into an ‘executory’ attachment order. In those proceedings, the Stati parties have raised a number of arguments in support of their contention that the GCA assets are properly held for RoK (rather than merely NBK). These include Belgian-law arguments relating (inter alia) to piercing of legal personality, sham trusts, and “abuse of law”.

The crucial consideration discussed by Teare J in current proceeding is that the Stati parties submit that there is no “serious issue to be tried” (hence no jurisdiction) as between the Claimants and the Second to Fourth Defendants, (i.a.) because “the declarations sought […] will not affect the Belgian Court’s decision” since that Court “faces a number of Belgian law arguments unrelated to the GCA with regard to the ROK debt question”.

There was a dispute between Belgian law experts as to precisely what had been remitted by the Attachment Judge to the High Court and it is worth repeating each assertion in full: at 28-29

‘The evidence of Mr Brijs (the Stati parties’ Belgian law expert [GAVC fellow Leuven Class of 1993] ) is that “a pure question of English contractual law will not resolve the core dispute” because “a Belgian enforcement court would still have to evaluate – amongst other things – the arguments raised by the Stati parties under Belgian attachment law” such as piercing legal personality, sham trusts, and abuse of law. Further, “the Belgian Enforcement court did not decide the arguments – not because the judge “envisaged” that these arguments should be resolved by an English Court or because the Belgian Enforcement Court found that it could not decide them (when in fact it can) – but solely because the Belgian Enforcement Court considered that it did not need to decide them… It is difficult to conceive why an English court should decide on e.g. matters that concern Belgian public policy, or on the question whether there is a sham trust structure to the prejudice of the creditors and what the sanction/effect thereof is on the Belgian attachment.”

The evidence of Mr Nuyts (the Claimants’ Belgian law expert [GAVC colleague and learned friend extraordinaire ) is that “[t]here is nothing in the Belgian judgment to show that the Belgian Court envisaged the English court deciding only some of the issues, and not the arguments raised by the Stati parties such as piercing of legal personality, sham trust, and abuse of law. These arguments had been raised at length by the Stati parties in written submissions in the Belgian proceedings, and the Belgian Court has distinctly decided not to address any of these arguments, leaving them to be decided by the English Court… The Belgian Judgment holds in general that the “challenge” relating to “the debt of the third party” must be referred to the English court… [and] that it is for the English court to decide in general “whether or not a debt exists from BNYM towards Kazakhstan”.”

It is Mr Nuyts’ evidence that convinced Tear J. At 31 ‘In this case, however [GAVC despite Meester Brijs’ correct statement that there are circumstances in which the enforcement court is competent to decide on the merits], the enforcement court has clearly decided that the English court is the competent court to decide the merits.’ At 35 the relevant passages of the Belgian Court are copied:

“The seized-debtor is entitled to challenge the declaration from the garnishee before the attachment judge. However, this challenge relates to the debt of the third party and must be referred to that trial court in the proceedings on the merits, under article 1456, 2nd para. BJC. The competent trial court is, as stated by Kazakhstan itself, the English court who must apply its own national substantive law. […] Both requests relate to the subject-matter of the attachment, notably whether or not a debt exists from BNYM towards Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan disputes the existence of such debt. The attachment judge cannot and may not settle such dispute, but only the judge on the merits. The judge on the merits is, as already mentioned above, the English court who must apply its own national law.”

That finding on the scope of referral to the English courts, also plays a role in the assessment of abuse: at 46: ‘I do not consider that it is an abuse of process for the Claimants to raise in these proceedings issues not argued before Popplewell J or the Court of Appeal in the earlier English proceedings. First, those proceedings served a different purpose, namely, the determination of BNYM(L)’s contractual entitlement to freeze the GCA assets and in particular the scope of clause 16(i). Second, it appears that the Claimants did in fact seek to raise the wider issue, or something like it, before Popplewell J. but were not permitted to because the Stati parties were not before the court. Third, it would be odd, to say the least, for this court to hold that these proceedings were an abuse of process in circumstances where the issues raised by the proceedings had been referred to it by the Belgian court. It cannot, I think, be in the public interest to frustrate the order of the Belgian court. On the contrary, comity and the public interest point to these proceedings serving a legitimate and proper purpose.’

Finally, a cursory look a the forum conveniens issue is warranted: at 58-61:

  1. Mr Sprange, for the Stati parties, submitted that “England is not a proper forum for a claim against the Second to Fourth Defendants, where that claim seeks (on the Claimants’ case) to conclusively determine issues of the validity of a Belgian executory attachment, which are properly the subject of Belgian attachment law for a Belgian attachment judge to decide”.
  2. Mr Malek, for the Claimants, submitted that the real dispute is not about “the validity of a Belgian executory attachment”, but rather “whether there is an obligation owed by BNYM London to RoK capable of forming the subject-matter of a Belgian attachment.” Further, he submitted that the effect of the Belgian Attachment Judge’s decision was to determine that England was the appropriate forum. Mr Malek relied upon this decision as giving rise to “an estoppel of a particular, autonomous, EU kind”; in the alternative, he submitted that it was a strong factor to be weighed in the analysis of the appropriate forum. Finally, Mr Malek submitted that the only realistic alternative to the jurisdiction of the English court would be the Belgian court, and that “the Belgian court is materially worse placed than this Court because it would be investigating matters by reference to an English-law governed contract, the GCA (so far as issues of Kazakh law, or facts in relation to the relationship between NBK and RoK, are concerned, the Belgian court enjoys no advantage over this Court).”
  3. I am unable to accept Mr. Sprange’s submission. This court will not be asked to determine the validity of the conservatory attachment order made in Belgium. Rather, it will be asked to determine what, if any, assets constitute the subject-matter of that order. The Belgian Attachment Judge plainly considered that a dispute concerning the content of the attachment – which, on its terms, constitutes only such assets (if any) as are held by BNYM(L) for RoK under the GCA – is a question for this court.
  4. The fact that the Belgian court has referred the dispute to this court is a cogent reason, indeed a compelling reason, for concluding that this court is a proper forum for determining the dispute. It would not be in accordance with comity to send the dispute back to Belgium. There is no need to consider Mr. Malek’s further submissions.

I quite like Ali Malek QC’s idea of “an estoppel of a particular, autonomous, EU kind”; linked to considerations of mutual trust, one assumes.

Finally, one of the defendants is based in Gribraltar and against it, (now) Article 8(2) Brussels I Recast applies, re third party proceedings. There is little to none CJEU authority. At 68 ‘I consider that the wording of article [8](2) is wide enough to encompass a situation in which a person is a proper party to a dispute between other parties to which he has a “close connection”, so long as that dispute has not been “instituted solely with the object of removing him from the jurisdiction of the court which would be competent in his case” and at 69 ‘This is a case in which “the efficacious conduct of proceedings” demands the presence of Terra Raf in this jurisdiction. I therefore find the requirements of article [8](2) to be satisfied.’

Teare J’s findings on this point also mean he need not consider (now) Article 7(5)’s jurisdiction for activities arising our of branch activity on which as I noted, I also have my doubts.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11, Heading 2.2.14.