Ecobank Transnational v Tanoh: Parallel application of EU and English rules on submission.

In Ecobank Transnational v Tanoh, the Court of Appeal refused an anti-enforcement injunction because of the applicant’s delay in filing it. Nigel Brook reviews the judgment’s findings on the issue of the anti-enforcement injunction here. The issue in this appeal is whether the High Court was wrong to refuse to grant Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (“Ecobank”), an injunction restraining Mr Thierry Tanoh (“Mr Tanoh”) from enforcing two judgments which he had obtained in Togo and Côte d’Ivoire. In substance the case concerned the relationship between arbitration, proceedings in the court in ordinary, and submission: it is to the latter that I turn my attention in this posting.

The Brussels regime does not apply – at stake is the application of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982, which reads in relevant section

33 For the purposes of determining whether a judgment given by a court of an overseas country should be recognised or enforced in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, the person against whom the judgment was given shall not be regarded as having submitted to the jurisdiction of the court by reason only of the fact that he appeared (conditionally or otherwise) in the proceedings for all or any one or more of the following purposes, namely

(a) to contest the jurisdiction of the court;

(b) to ask the court to dismiss or stay the proceedings on the ground that the dispute in question should be submitted to arbitration or to the determination of the courts of another country.

Whilst the section states that a person shall not be regarded as having submitted by reason only of the facts there mentioned it is silent as to what additional facts are sufficient to establish submission. The Court of appeal confirms the feeling expressed in earlier case-law that Section 33 needs to be applied in parallel with Article 18 of the Brussels Convention, now Article 26 of the Brussels I Recast (and before that, Article 24 in the Brussels I Regulation). That is because Section 33 is largely derived from Article 18 of the Brussels Convention.

In the High Court judgment Burnton LJ said that it would be unfortunate if the principles applied by the courts of England and Wales on whether a litigant had submitted to the jurisdiction of a foreign court in non-EU cases were different from the principles applied by the Court of Justice, and therefore those courts, in cases under the Brussels and Lugano Conventions and now the Judgments Regulation.

In current appeal, Clarke LJ held (at 66) ‘I would go further. The decision of the court in Harada in relation to section 33 was heavily influenced by the decision of the European Court in relation to Article 18 of the Brussels Convention. But, now that section 33 has been interpreted in the way that it has, it cannot be right that it should bear a different meaning in cases outwith the European context.

Submission was not found to exist.

Do be aware of the limits to the relevant findings: Section 33 was largely borrowed, it appears, from the Brussels Convention. Many parts of English private international law, statutory or not, are no so borrowed. In those areas, the courts of England happily continue to follow their own course.

Geert.

 

Gazprom. Arbitral anti-suit injunctions and the Judgments Regulation. Grand Chamber holds they are outside the scope, but not therefore invincible.

The ECJ today has held in C-536/13 Gazprom in a matter of factly manner (I had suspected the Court would be brief), that the enforcement of arbitral awards falls outside the Brussels I-Regulation, where that enforcement by the court of that State, effectively prohibits the party concerned from taking the case to a court in that very Member State. Rich was the main formula referred to, among the various precedents: ‘reference must be made solely to the subject-matter of the dispute‘ to assess the scope of Brussels I’s arbitral exclusion.

Importantly, West Tankers was distinguished particularly on the basis that in the facts at issue, there was no competing court in another Member State, hence no scope for the principle of mutual trust to be violated. The AG’s review of the impact of the recitals newly added by the Brussels I recast, was not addressed at all by the Court.

The judgment does not solve all outstanding issues, however. Firstly, the Court’s reasoning seems to suggest that where competition with a court in another Member State is at issue, effet utile of the Brussels I Regulation might take the upper hand, as it did in West Tankers. Recognition of the award arguably in such case would amount to anti-suit. Further, the Court (this was a Grand Chamber judgment) points out that the award still has to go through the national court’s standard recognition and enforcement process, outside the framework of Title III of the Regulation, instead governed by national residual law as well as the New York Convention. Both of these (including through ordre public) might still offer quite a remit for the Lithuanian courts to refuse recognition.

Geert.

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