A quick note on mutual trust and judicial co-operation: Rantos AG on Brussels IIa in SS v MCP.

Last week’s Opinion of Advocate General Rantos (successor to Sharpston AG) in C-603/20 PPU SS v MCP is of note for its emphasis on the principle of mutual trust that lies at the foundation of European Private International Law. Brussels IIa is not staple diet for the blog and I shall leave more intense analysis to others. In short, the AG opined that a Member State retains jurisdiction under the Regulation, without limit of time, if a child habitually resident in that Member State was wrongfully removed to, or retained in, a non-Member State where it in due course became habitually resident.

The third country at issue is India, a non-Hague Convention State, as opposed to the UK, now also a third country but a Hague State. Note that in future A97(2) Brussels IIa Recast give clear priority to A13 Hague Convention’s lis alibi pendens rule, in cases where the conditions for that article are fulfilled: see Cusworth DJ today in AA & BB [2021] EWFC 17 at 27).

Of note to the blog is the AG’s emphasis on mutual trust, at 62 ff:

all Member States comply, in principle, with EU law justifies recognising, subject to certain conditions, the jurisdiction of the courts of the Member State to which a child was abducted and where he or she has acquired a habitual residence. By contrast, if a child has been abducted to a non-Member State, the cooperation and mutual trust provided for in EU law cannot apply. Therefore, having regard to the context of Article 10 of Regulation No 2201/2003, there is no justification for accepting the jurisdiction of the courts of that non-Member State, including in the case where the abducted child has acquired his or her habitual residence in the latter State.

and at 84

Regulation No 2201/2003 is based on cooperation and mutual trust between the courts of the Member States, which allows, subject to certain conditions, jurisdiction to be transferred between those courts. Since provision is not made for cooperation and mutual trust in the case of courts of a non-Member State, it appears to me entirely justified and consistent with that regulation for the courts of the Member State in which a child was habitually resident before his or her abduction to a non-Member State to continue to have jurisdiction for an unlimited period of time, with a view to ensuring that the best interests of that child are protected.

With this he dismissed the view of the referring court,  that A10 BIIA should be interpreted as having a territorial scope confined to the Member States because otherwise the jurisdiction retained by the Member State of origin would continue to exist indefinitely. In that court’s view, that Member State would thus be in a stronger position jurisdictionally vis-à-vis a non-Member State than a Member State.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, various places (see Index: ‘Mutual Trust’).

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.

Glaxo v Sandoz. Collateral use of evidence. Discovery (‘disclosure’) shopping at the High Court.

Update 22 March 2019 for a similar application in the US, see Postalis, No. 18-mc-497 (JGK), analysed by Laura Kelly.

Glaxo Welcome v Sandoz et al  [2018] EWHC 3229 (Ch),  puts the spotlight on an important part of international forum shopping, namely discovery /disclosure, in particular collateral use of document obtained in one jurisdiction, in litigation in another. What is fundamentally at stake is that the launch of proceedings in a discovery friendly jurisdiction, may be simply employed as a jack for obtaining evidence to be used in a discovery-heavy jurisdiction. (A few months back the principles were also applied in Buzzfeed v Gubarev [2018] EWHC 1201 (QB)

Claimants apply for an order permitting the second claimant to use certain documents disclosed by some of the defendants (“the Sandoz Defendants”) in the claim in the English courts, in a claim in Belgium between the second claimant and Sandoz NV (“Sandoz Belgium”). The two claims are part of global litigation between members of the GlaxoSmithKline and Sandoz groups of companies. In Europe there are claims in several jurisdictions including England and Wales, The Republic of Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. The disclosure exercise between the claimants and the Sandoz Defendants has been very substantial. It involved the Sandoz Defendants reviewing 406,300 documents using 50 legally qualified reviewers. This led to the subsequent disclosure of slightly in excess of 75,000 documents to the claimants.

As Marsh CM notes at 11, ‘There is a marked contrast in the manner in which litigation is conducted in England and Wales on the one hand and Belgium (and most other Civil law countries) on the other hand. In England and Wales, the ability to obtain disclosure that is adverse to the other party’s claim is an important feature of litigation. However, the evidence provided in connection with the application shows that disclosure is only available in a very limited form in Belgium. One of the issues to be determined is whether disclosure obtained in this jurisdiction should be made available to a party that is engaged in litigation in a jurisdiction where disclosure, if not unknown, is very limited in scope.’

He is of course spot on: obtaining relevant documentation from the other party is not easily done in Belgium (and elsewhere) and often needs to be deduced from final filings of submissions or indeed at the hearing stage.

Relevant authority is discussed at 22 ff., and is really quite relevant: the discussion shows among others great consideration of rule of law concerns, mutual trust between EU Member States and Council of Europe parties, and the relevance of applicable law in the assessment (at 22(5): ‘The Belgian Claim proceeds under harmonised EU law as set out in the Trade Mark Directive. It follows that the English court is in a better position to consider initial relevance of the documents to the issues in the Belgian Claim than would be the case were the claim to be one brought under domestic Belgian law’).’

Final conclusion is in favour of collateral use of a substantial amount of documents. It is worth copying Marsh CM’s reasons in full: at 60:

(1)    The parties to this claim, and associated companies, are engaged in litigation on a very wide scale in many jurisdictions. They are part of very substantial businesses with equal resources. There is no suggestion that the application is oppressive.

(2)    Although the legal basis for this claim and the Belgian Claim are markedly different, there are similarities between some of the issues that are engaged.

(3)    The claimants have been able to satisfy the court that the majority of the documents they seek to use are likely to be relevant to the Belgian Claim. The interests of justice would therefore militate in favour of the claimants having an opportunity to obtain advice about their use in the Belgian Claim.

(4)    Use of the documents to enable the second claimant to consider whether, having obtained advice, a claim against additional parties should be pursued is, to my mind, more compelling than use of documents in connection with the Belgian Claim. There are no risks of adversely affecting the existing proceedings. The court should be slow to stand in the way of a party who wishes to obtain advice about pursuing a lawful course of action.

(5)    There is now an agreed procedure for the orderly progress of the appeal in Brussels with the second claimant filing an additional brief followed by Sandoz Belgium. The disruption, if any, by the introduction of additional documents has been minimised.

(6)    The number of documents the claimants seek to use is relatively small. Those that may be used in the Belgian Claim are not disproportionate in volume to what is at stake in those proceedings. There is no real danger that the Belgian Claim will be overwhelmed with additional documents even if all of them are deployed and Sandoz Belgium considers it is necessary to file additional documents to counter documents having been ‘cherry picked’ by the claimants.

(7)    The difference of approach between litigation in England and Belgium is a factor, but one of limited weight. There is no suggestion that the use of documents obtained in disclosure is an abuse of this court’s process. The risk of the Belgian Court’s process being subverted by the introduction of disclosure documents is marginal, particularly bearing in mind the involvement of the Belgian lawyers and the procedure that has been agreed.

(8)    I accept Mr Hickman’s submission in relation to the documents exhibited to Morris 7. The documents that are exhibited were extensively discussed in the witness statement which was read by the Deputy Judge. Although the claimants do not make an application for a declaration that they are permitted to use those documents as of right, the documents have been legitimately deployed for the purposes of an application heard in open court (subject only to the pro tem confidentiality order).

(9)    It is not open to the Sandoz Defendants to say, and they have not submitted, that if the order permitting use of the documents is made, their position in the Belgian Claim is prejudiced, in the sense that the likelihood of them successfully prosecuting the claim and/or defending the counterclaim is reduced. The interests of justice require that material which is likely to be relevant should be permitted for proper purposes. A reduction in their prospects of success is an immaterial consideration in their favour and, if anything, it weighs in the balance in favour of the claimant.

 

Geert.

Altun: Fraud and social dumping. The CJEU emphasises the double sides of the mutual trust coin.

Postscript 19 July 2018 in C-356/15 EC v Belgium, the Court runs through its Altun judgment, confirming the possibility of rejection of ‘A1 certificates’, however emphasising the ad hoc nature and the need to respect the procedures running via the European Commission.

When I reported on Saugmandsgaard ØE’s Opinion in C-359/16 Altun, I emphasised the issue of mutual trust. I noted that the AG effectively flipped the coin: sincere co-operation requires sincerity on both sides (my words, not the AG’s). The AG had recalled the Halifax case-law of the CJEU: EU law cannot be relied on for abusive or fraudulent ends and that national courts may, case by case, take account — on the basis of objective evidence — of abuse or fraudulent conduct on the part of the persons concerned in order, where appropriate, to deny them the benefit of the provisions of EU law, in the light of the objectives pursued by the provisions of EU law concerned. In November 2017 the CJEU confirmed in C-251/16 Cussens that this principle has direct effect and is directly applicable: it is a general principle of EU law which does not require a national measure transposing it.

In the case at issue, the facts point to non-fulfillment of one of the substantive criteria for the E101 certificate to be issued, namely that only an undertaking which habitually carries on significant activities in the Member State in which it is established may be issued an E101 of that State.

The Court today has confirmed the AG’s view (only the Dutch and French version were available at the time of writing). Mutual trust implies responsibilities on both sides. Upon receiving indications of fraud, the Member State of origin is duty-bound to investigate diligently and either confirm or refute the suspicions. (In the event of continuing divergence, there is an appeals procedure within the relevant secondary law, and if need be the possibility for the host State to pursue infringement proceedings with the home State). Like its AG, the Court emphasises that the fraud must be established in the context of adversarial proceedings with legal guarantees for the persons concerned and in compliance with their fundamental rights, in particular the right to an effective remedy enshrined.

This remains relevant even after the planned changes to the posted workers Directive. In the future system, too, Member States will issue certificates, feed data into the newly created register etc.

Geert.

Saugmandsgaard ØE in Altun: Detection of fraud /fighting social dumping trumps mutual trust.

Update 15 January 2018: Judgment on 6 February.

Saugmandsgaard ØE’s would seem fast to become the CJEU’s Advocate General of choice in matters of social dumping – witness the recent Ryanair litigation. In C-359/16 Altun, at issue is the binding nature of the E101 certificate. This certifies that a worker moving within the EU is covered by the social security scheme of the Member State (‘MS’) to which the issuing institution belongs. Standing case-law is that the host MS is not entitled to scrutinise the validity of an E101 certificate in the light of the background against which it was issued: this is the result of the mutual trust built into the relevant secondary law.

In current case the Belgian Supreme Court queries whether that case-law applies where a court of the host MS finds that an E101 certificate was obtained or invoked fraudulently.

The AG summarises the relevant investigation at 10: ‘The Sociale Inspectie (Social Inspectorate, Belgium) conducted an investigation into the employment of the staff at Absa NV, an undertaking governed by Belgian law active in the construction sector in Belgium. That investigation established that from 2008 Absa had practically no staff in its employ and outsourced all manual labour to Bulgarian undertakings under subcontracting agreements. Those Bulgarian undertakings had no activities to speak of in Bulgaria and posted workers to work under subcontracting agreements in Belgium for Absa, partly with the involvement and cooperation of other Belgian companies. The employment of the workers concerned was not notified to the Belgian institution responsible for the collection of social security contributions, as they held E 101 certificates issued by the competent Bulgarian authority, certifying that they were covered by the Bulgarian social security system.’

What follows is essentially the Belgian authorities alleging that their Bulgarian counterparts, having been asked to withdraw the certificates, only answered halfheartedly if at all. The Court of Appeal found that the certificates had been obtained by fraud.

Saugmandsgaard ØE emphasises that the EU social security rules at issue effectively establish a private international law system for social security. They assign authorities competent to issue certificates; they designate the social security law applicable. The principle of mutual trust /sincere co-operation, laid down in Article 4(3) TEU, ensures that authorities in the host MS respect the certificates issued in the home MS. However, the AG then effectively flips the coin: sincere co-operation requires sincerity on both sides (my words, not the AG’s).

The AG recalls the Halifax case-law of the CJEU: EU law cannot be relied on for abusive or fraudulent ends and that national courts may, case by case, take account — on the basis of objective evidence — of abuse or fraudulent conduct on the part of the persons concerned in order, where appropriate, to deny them the benefit of the provisions of EU law, in the light of the objectives pursued by the provisions of EU law concerned. [Postscript 22 November 2017: The CJEU confirmed today in C-251/16 Cussens that this principle has direct effect and is directly applicable: it is a general principle of EU law which does not require a national measure transposing it).

The AG does not just refer to case-law on the very secondary law at issue. He opens up the debate to the wider implications of social dumping and regulatory competition:

At 46: ‘socio-economic considerations likewise support priority being given to the combating of fraud in such a situation. In the context of the system of conflict of laws established by … Regulation No 1408/71, fraud linked to the issue of E 101 certificates represents a threat to the coherence of the Member States’ social security schemes. In that regard, I consider that Member States have a legitimate interest in taking appropriate steps to protect their financial interests and to ensure the financial balance of their social security systems. In addition, the use of E 101 certificates obtained or invoked fraudulently is, in my view, a form of unfair competition and calls into question the equality of working conditions on national labour markets.‘ (footnotes omitted)

At 49, the AG suggest a finding of fraud requires the satisfaction of an objective criterion and of a subjective criterion. The objective criterion consists in the fact that the conditions for obtaining the advantage sought are not in fact satisfied. At 51, the subjective factor:  it is to be established that the persons concerned had the intention of concealing the fact that the conditions for the issue of the E 101 certificate were not in fact met, in order to obtain the advantage stemming from that certificate. Proof of the existence of such fraudulent intent may consist in an intentional act, in particular an inaccurate presentation of the true situation of the posted worker or of the undertaking posting that worker, or in an intentional omission, such as the non-disclosure of relevant information.

(In the case at issue, the facts point to non-fulfillment of one of the substantive criteria for the E101 to be issued, namely that only an undertaking which habitually carries on significant activities in the Member State in which it is established may be issued an E101 of that State).

The fraud must be established in the context of adversarial proceedings with legal guarantees for the persons concerned and in compliance with their fundamental rights, in particular the right to an effective remedy enshrined (at 52).

If the AG’s Opinion is followed, and taking into account Commissioner Thyssen’s recent progress on the reform of the relevant laws, the social dumping window is closing yet a bit more.

Geert.

 

 

EU Civil procedure geeks: Time to sit up. Max Planck Luxembourg have their mutual trust study out. Supports arguments against further harmonisation.

Under the leadership of prof Hess, MPI Luxembourg have collated a treasure chest of data on what, in practice, continues to hold up recognition and enforcement of judgments in the EU Member States. The Study, released last week, was conducted for the European Commission. Its main conclusion suggests that in particular the service of documents could do with streamlining.

That all in all modest recommendation suggests that the very variety of civil procedure rules in the EU Member States in and of itself is not the main obstacle in recognition and enforcement. I insert a big caveat here for I have so far only read the exec summary and the main recommendations, however if they are anything to go by, the study in effect has to serve as a strong argument against more harmonisation of civil procedure rules at the EU level.

Debate no doubt to be continued.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16.