Bank of Baroda v Maniar. The impact of the lex concursus on personal guarantees.

It was a year ago since I started writing up this post – I must have gotten distracted, for I continue to find the issues both relevant and interesting. In Bank of Baroda v Maniar & Anor [2019] EWHC 2463 (Comm) (not appealed to my knowledge),  Pearce J considered the attempt by an Indian Bank (with business activities in the UK) to enforce personal guarantees given in respect of the liability of an Irish-registered company (which had been set up by the guarantors) under a credit facility. The Irish company had entered into examinership under Irish law, and the Irish courts had approved a scheme of arrangement. Of interest to the blog is whether the bank had properly served notice on the guarantors, in accordance with the Companies Act 2014 (Ireland) s.549.

Claimant referred inter alia to the Gibbs rule, which I discussed in my posting on [2018] EWHC 59 (Ch) International Bank of Azerbaijan , since confirmed by the Court of Appeal. Defendants rely ia on Article 4 of the EIR 2000, Regulation 1346/2000, materially applicable to the proceedings:  “(1)…the law applicable to insolvency proceedings and their effects shall be the law of the Member State within the territory of which such proceedings are opened…(2) The law of the State of the opening of proceedings shall determine the conditions of the opening of those proceedings, their conduct and their closure. It shall determine in particular: .. j. The conditions for and the effects of closure of insolvency proceedings, in particular by composition; k. Creditors’ rights after the closure of insolvency proceedings.”

Claimant concedes that law of the State of the opening, namely Irish law, may be required to be given effect under the EIR, however argues that effect is limited to those aspects of Irish insolvency law which are necessary for the insolvency proceedings to fulfil their aim, and that Section 549 of the Irish Company Act (which concerns the preservation of the right to pursue guarantors) does not fall within the ambit of “the law applicable to insolvency proceedings” to which Article 4(1) of EIR applies.

In other words Claimant does not entertain the possibility of what was Article 13 in the 2000 EIR and is now Article 16 in the 2015 EIR, also applied by the CJEU in Nike, Kornhaas and Lutz. Rather, it more straightforwardly argues that relevant sections of the Irish Company Act are simply not within the scope of the lex concursus and that (at 84) the law governing the guarantees is English law per Article 4 Rome I.  At 109 Pearce J ultimately rather concisely holds

The important point here is the potential effect of a Section 549 offer on creditors’ meetings. The fact that the making of such an offer gives rise to the possibility of the guarantor accepting the offer and exercising the voting rights of the creditor at a members’ meeting creates a significant connection between the notice and the conduct of the examinership itself. This brings the procedure within the ambit of Article 4 of EIR. (now Article 7 EIR 2015 – GAVC)

Why the relation with the carve-out of Article 13 (now 16) was not discussed is not clear to me, particularly as at 156 ff there is discussion of Article 15 (now 18)’s provision : The effects of insolvency proceedings on a lawsuit pending concerning an asset or a right of which the debtor has been divested shall be governed solely by the law of the Member State of which that lawsuit is pending.”) 

Claimant not having discussed Article 13 (16), presumably did not raise the possibility of an appeal, either. 

The remainder of the discussion then turns to the validity of service under Irish law,  to be judged by an English judge. With Pearce J at 138 and 143 I see no reason why the EIR would stand in the way of an English judge so applying the lex concursus, even if an Irish judge would do so with an amount of discretion. At 152 and 154, after consideration, service was deemed not to have been valid.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5, Heading 5.7.

Bauer v QBE Insurance. Brussels IA, Rome I and Rome II in Western Australia.

It is not per se unheard of for European conflict of laws developments to be referred to in other jurisdictions. In Bauer v QBE Insurance [2020] WADC 104 however the intensity of reference to CJEU authority and EU conflicts law is striking and I think interesting to report.

The context is an application to serve out of jurisdiction – no ‘mini trail’ (Melville PR at 20) therefore but still a consideration of whether Western Australia is ‘clearly an inappropriate forum’ in a case relating to an accident in Australia following an Australian holiday contract, agreed between a German travel agent and a claimant resident (see also below) in Germany but also often present in Australia – which is where she was at the time the contract was formed. Defendant contests permission to serve ia on the basis of an (arguable) choice of court and governing law clause referring exclusively to Germany and contained in defendant’s general terms and conditions.

Two other defendants are domiciled in Australia and are not discussed in current findings.

In assessing whether the German courts have exclusive jurisdiction and would apply German law, the Australian judge looks exclusively through a German lens: what would a German court hold, on the basis of EU private international law.

Discussion first turns to the lex contractus and the habitual residence, or not, of claimant (who concedes she is ‘ordinarily’, but not habitually resident in Germany) with reference to Article 6 Rome I’s provision for consumer contracts. This is applicable presumably despite the carve-out for ‘contracts of carriage’ (on which see Weco Projects), seeing as the contract is one of ‘package travel’. Reference is also then made to Winrow v Hemphill.  Melville PR holds that claimant’s habitual residence is indeed Germany particularly seeing as (at 38)

she returned to Germany for what appears to be significant and prolonged  treatment after the accident rather going elsewhere in the world and after only apparently having left her employment in Munich in 2014, is highly indicative of the fact the plaintiff’s state of mind was such that she saw Germany as her home and the place to return to when things get tough, a place to go to by force of habit.

Discussion then turns to what Michiel Poesen has recently discussed viz contracts of employment: qualification problems between contract and tort. No detail of the accident is given (see my remark re ‘mini-trial’ above). Reference to and discussion is of Rome II’s Article 4. It leads to the cautious (again: this is an interlocutory judgment) conclusion that even though the tort per Article 4(3) Rome II may be more closely connected to Australia, it is not ‘manifestly’ so.

Next the discussion gets a bit muddled. Turning to jurisdiction, it is concluded that the exclusive choice of court is not valid per Article 25 Brussels Ia’s reference to the lex fori prorogati.

  • Odd is first that under the lex contractus discussion, reference is made to Article 6 Rome I which as I suggested above presumably applies given that the carve-out for contracts of carriage does not apply to what I presume to be package travel. However in the Brussels Ia discussion the same applies: contracts of carriage are excluded from Section 4’s ‘consumer contracts’ unless they concern (as here) package travel.
  • Next, the choice of court is held to be invalid by reference to section 38(3) of the German CPR, which to my knowledge concerns choice of court in the event neither party has ‘Gerichtsstand’ (a place of jurisdiction’) in Germany.  Whatever the precise meaning of s38(3), I would have thought it has no calling as lex fori prorogati viz A25 BIa for it deals with conditions which A25 itself exhaustively harmonises (this argument might be aligned with that of defendant’s expert, Dr Kobras, at 57). Moreover,  the discussion here looks like it employs circular reasoning: in holding on the validity of a ‘Gerichtsstand’, the court employs a rule which applies when there is no such ‘Gerichtsstand’.
  • Finally, references to CJEU Owusu and Taser are held to be immaterial.

In final conclusion, Western Australia is not held to be a clearly inappropriate forum. The case can go ahead lest of course these findings are appealed.

Geert.

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

The Hungarian Supreme Court on conduct in litigation resulting in implied choice of law.

An overdue post on the Hungarian Supreme Court’s judgment 2020.3.72.a, finding an implied choice of law pro Hungarian law, made by a Serbian and Hungarian party to a contract for agency and business counseling. In the absence of choice of law, per Article 4 Rome I, applicable law would have been Serbian law. Yet the SC held that the conduct of the Serbian business party in the litigation, made for implicit choice of law.

Under Rome I, choice of law may be made and changed at any time during the course of the contract. Whether it can also be made by conduct of litigation is somewhat disputed. Arguments pro rely heavily on a parallel with impromptu choice of court in Brussels Ia, by submission. The Hungarian courts had assessed the merits of the case on the basis of Hungarian law, and the Serbian defendant had engaged in that discussion in a detailed, substantive statement of defence without any objections to Hungarian law being the lex contractus. This, the courts held and the SC agreed, meant parties had made an implied choice of law by their conduct. A change of heart by defendant upon appeal was a unilateral change of law, which cannot bind the parties.

Richard Schmidt sent me the judgment and has additional analysis here– on which I relied for I do not read Hungarian. Scholarship has engaged with the issue and this SC judgment will be highly relevant material for that discussion.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.4.

 

 

Sodmilab. The Paris Court of Appeal on lois de police, Rome I, II and commercial agency.

Thank you Maxime Barba for flagging the judgment in the Paris Court of Appeal Sodmilab et al. (Text of the judgment in Maxime’s post). The case concerns the ending of a commercial relationship. Part of the contract may be qualified as agency with lex causae determined under the 1978 Hague Convention. On this issue, the Court of Appeal confirmed French law as lex causae.

Things get messy however with the determination of that part of the contract that qualifies as distribution (a mess echoing DES v Clarins), and on the application of Rome II.

The Court of Appeal first (at 59) discusses the qualification of A442-6 of the French Code du commerce, on unfair trading practices (abrupt ending of a commercial relationship), dismissing it as lois de police /overriding mandatory law under Article 9 Rome I. As I noted in my review of DES v Clarins, this is a topsy turvy application of Rome I. The qualification as lois de police is up to the Member States, within the confines of the definition in Rome I. The Court of Appeal holds that A442-6 only serves private interests, not the general economic interest, and therefore must not qualify under Rome I. Hitherto much of the French case-law and scholarship had argued that in protecting the stability of private interests, the Act ultimately serves the public interest.

Next (as noted: this should have come first), the Court reviews the application of A4f Rome I, the fall-back position for distribution contracts – which would have led to Algerian law as lex causae. It is unclear (62 ff) whether the Court reaches its conclusion as French law instead either as a confirmation of circumstantial (the court referring to invoicing currency etc.) but clear choice of law under Article 3, or the escape clause under Article 4(3), for that Article is mentioned, too.

Rome I’s structure is quite clear. Why it is not properly followed here is odd. That includes the oddity of discussing French law under Article 9 if the court had already confirmed French law as lex causae under A3 or 4.

Finally, corners are cut on Rome II, too. Re the abrupt ending of the relationship (at 66ff). French law again emerges victorious even if the general lex locus damni rule leads to Algerian law. The court does not quite clearly hold that on the basis of Article 4(3)’s escape clause, or circumstantial choice of law per A14. The court refers to ‘its findings above’ on contractual choice of law, however how such fuzzy implicit choice under Rome I is forceful enough to extend to choice of law under Rome II must not be posited without further consideration. Particularly seeing as Article 6 Rome II excludes choice of law for acts of unfair trading.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.2, Heading 2.2.11.2.9; Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.8, Heading 3.2.8.3; Chapter 4).

 

Anti-suit and arbitration. Court of Appeal overturns in Enka v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al.

Update 04 July 2020 the Supreme Court will hear appeal in this case in July, as reported by Milbank.

The Court of Appeal in [2020] EWCA Civ 574 Enka Insaat Ve Sanayi AS v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” & Ors has overturned Baker J in [2019] EWHC 3568 (Comm) Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al. which I reviewed here.

The case is mostly about the proper law of the arbitration agreement (Flaux J using the shorthand the ‘AA law’) aka the lex arbitri. Given that this is excluded from Rome I, residual rules apply which of course under English common law has Sulamerica as its main authority. In this case Enka contends that the AA law is English law, and Chubb Russia that it is Russian law. It is common ground that the lex contractus is Russian law, but the route to that conclusion is also in issue.

The dispute in this case raises the question of the relative weight to be given to the curial law (that is, the law of the seat, GAVC) of the arbitration agreement and the main contract law, where they differ, in determining the AA law. At 69:  ‘It is a question on which it would be idle to pretend that the English authorities speak with one voice. It would appear that there are also differences of approach between other jurisdictions in international arbitration generally’.

At 109 Flaux J concludes that parties have impliedly chosen that the proper law of the arbitration agreement should coincide with the curial law and be English law, and further, at 119 that ‘there has been no delay by Enka in this case which provides any good reason for not granting injunctive relief. I would treat this as a classic case, like The Angelic Grace, in which the court should grant an injunction to restrain the further conduct of proceedings brought in breach of an English law arbitration agreement.’

Anti-suit therefore granted.

For those interested in choice of law in arbitration, the judgment is required reading.  None of the Rome I (let alone Brussels Ia) issues discussed at the High Court are further discussed here, hence for the purposes of this blog I shall leave the analysis here.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1. 

Lamesa Investments v Cynergy. Rome I-like ‘mandatory law’ provisions applied to US secondary sanctions.

Update 30 June 2020 the decision was upheld upon appeal,[2020] EWCA Civ 821, albeit for different reasons. Not much was added to the Rome discussion other than that the chancellor did not subscribe to the view that ‘mandatory’ had to be seen in a Rome /lois de police sense (at 35).

A long overdue post I fear (I hope in the next week and a half or so to turn to draft posts which for all sorts of reasons have gotten stuck in the queue, finally to be published) on Lamesa Investments Ltd v Cynergy Bank Ltd  [2019] EWHC 1877 (Comm). Latham and Watkins have had background for some time here.

The case concerns a standard clause in an English law governed contract on ‘mandatory law’ as an excuse for contractual non-performance. Here, the clause (in a (credit) facility agreement) read: clause 9.1: (party is not in breach of the agreement if) “… sums were not paid in order to comply with any mandatory provision of law, regulation or order of any court of competent jurisdiction”.

“Regulation” was defined in the Agreement as including “any regulation, rule, official directive, request or guideline … of any governmental, intergovernmental, or supranational body, agency, department or of any regulatory, self-regulatory or other authority or organisation”.

Lamesa argued that Cynergy could not rely on clause 9.1 because:

  • provision of law” meant a law that applied to a UK entity, acting in the UK, that had agreed to make a sterling payment pursuant to a contract governed by English law; and
  • mandatory” meant that the relevant law made it compulsory for Cynergy to refuse payment

‘In order to comply’ was the focus of discussions, in particular whether there was any territorial limit to it. Pelling J took a flexible approach, holding that Cynery could not reasonably be expected to have excluded the only type of sanction which it could have reasonably foreseen, namely secondary sanctions imposed by US sanctions law (at the time the parties entered into the Facility Agreement, Cynergy was aware that it was possible that US sanctions would be imposed on Lamesa).

Of interest to the blog is the brief reference to Rome I (and the Convention), at 23:

‘It was submitted on behalf of CBL and I agree that English lawyers during the period the FA was being negotiated and down to the date when it became binding would have understood a mandatory law to be one that could not be derogated from. The context that makes this probable includes the meaning given to the phrase “… mandatory provision of law …” in the Rome Convention 1980 and the Rome 1 Regulation on Choice of Law. It was not submitted by CBL that the construction for which they contend applies by operation of either regulation. It submits however and I accept that they provide some support for the submission that lawyers at the relevant time would have understood the effect of the word “mandatory” to be as I have described. It goes without saying that it was not open at any stage to either party to dis-apply the US statutes that purported to apply secondary sanctions by their agreement, nor did the parties attempt to do so either in the FA itself or afterwards.’

Geert.

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

Are proclamations of lois de police an absolute prerogative of the Member States? Italy’s response to Covid19 /Corona and the package travel sector.

Update 11 May 2020 see further review by Caterina Benini here.

Update 15 April 2020 for similar Greek measures see here.

Thank you Ennio Piovesani for signalling and reviewing one of the first conflicts-specific developments on the Corona /Covid 19 landscape. Update 28 March 2020 see the comments on and Ennio’s comprehensive response to his own post and comments, for further interesting discussion going beyond the immediate Corona context.

In an effort to safeguard the economic position of the travel sector, the Italian Government by decree has essentially frozen the travel sector’s statutory duty to reimburse travellers whose package travel has become impossible due to the pandemic. Ennio reports that the decree refers specifically to Article 9 Rome I’s overriding mandatory law provisions (earlier applied in Unamar), (in his translation): ‘“The provisions of the present article constitute overriding mandatory provisions within the meaning of Article 17 of Law of 31 May 1995, No. 218 [“Italian PIL Act”] [5, 6] and of Article 9 of Regulation (EU) No. 593/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 17 June 2008 [“Rome 1 Regulation”]”.

Ennio signals and important issue: how much leeway may be given to Member States to push their own definition of the concept of ‘lois de police’ /overriding mandatory law in light of the CJEU definition in Joined Cases C-369/96 and C-376/96 Arblade. In Brussels Ia of course the CJEU has pushed the concept of ordre public in a limited direction. Lois de police however are different from ordre public and Rome I is not Brussels Ia, and I am therefore not so pessimistic as Ennio when it comes to leaving a lot of discretion to Member States. What to me looks a touch more problematic is the relation with the package travel Directive 2015/2302 which applies to many of the travel arrangements concerned and which is the source of many of the protections for travellers.

No doubt to be continued.

Geert.

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

 

GDE v Anglia Autoflow. Governing law for agency agreements under the Rome Convention.

Update 26 May 2020 for a Greek SC judgment discussing choice of court v choice of law in agency, and applying CJEU C-159/97 Trasporti Castelleti, see here.

In GDE LLC & Anor v Anglia Autoflow Ltd [2020] EWHC 105 (Comm) (31) the Rome I Regulation does not apply ratione temporis; the Agency Agreement was concluded on about 9 April 2009 which is a few months before the kick-off date of the Regulation (note there is no default rule for agency in Article 4 Rome I in the event of lack of lex voluntatis). Dias DJ therefore turns to the 1980 Rome Convention.

Parties are in dispute as to the governing law of the Agency Agreement by which the claims should be determined. AAL alleges that the governing law is that of Ontario while the Claimants allege that the Agency Agreement is governed by English law. The point is of critical importance because the Claimants concede that, if AAL is correct, their claim is time-barred under Ontario law: although this, as readers know, assumes statutes of limitation are subject to the governing law – which is far from certain: see Jabir v KIK and Spring v MOD.

Parties’ arguments are at 10 and 11 and of course they reverse engineer. In essence (at 20) claimants say that there was an implied choice of English law. Alternatively, if that is not correct, the presumption in Article 4(2) of the Rome Convention, which would otherwise point to Georgia law, falls to be disapplied in favour of English law. The Defendant says that there was no implied choice and that application of Article 4(2) leads to Ontario law. Alternatively, if (which it denies) the presumption in Article 4(2) leads to any other governing law, the presumption is to be disapplied in favour of Ontario.

At 21 ff follows a rather creative (somewhat linked to the discussion of ex officio Rome Convention application in The Alexandros), certainly unexpected (yet clearly counsel will do what counsel must do) argument that essentially puts forward that under the common law approach of foreign law = fact hence must be proven, any discussion of a law as governing law, not suggested by the parties (here: the laws of (the US State of) Georgia) that is not English law (which clearly the English curia does ‘novit’), cannot go ahead. At 22 Dias DJ already signals that ‘once the wheels of the Convention had been put in motion, they could not be stopped short of their ultimate destination. The idea that the process dictated by the Convention should be hijacked halfway, as it were, on the basis of a pleading point was, to my mind, deeply unattractive.’

At 31 she sinks the argument. I think she is right.

Having at length considered the facts relevant to the contract formation, discussion then turns again to the Rome Convention with at 105 ff a debate on the role to be played by factors intervening after contract formation with a view to establishing [implicit, but certain: see at 117 with reference to the various language versions of the Convention and the Regulation essentially confirming the French version] choice of law or closest connection. (Dias J refers to the Court of Appeal in Lawlor v Sandvik Mining and Construction Mobile Crushers and Screens Ltd, [2013] EWCA Civ 365[2013] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 98 where, at paragraphs 21-27, it pointed out that the common law approach frequently blurred the distinction between the search for the parties’ inferred intention and the search for the system of law with which the contract had its closest and most real connection).

At 120: the hurdle is high: choice of law implicitly made must have nevertheless been made: ‘The court is not looking for the choice that the parties probably would have made if they had turned their minds to the question.’ at 122: In the present case the evidence established that there was no reference by the parties to the question of governing law at all. Choice of court for England (discussed ia with reference to Rome I and to Brussels Ia Article 25) does not change that. At 160 ff therefore follows the discussion of Article 4 of the Rome Convention, leading to a finding of the laws of Ontario as the lex contractus under Article 4(1). Article 4(5) does not displace it.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.4, Heading 3.2.6.

Anti-suit and arbitration. Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al.

[2019] EWHC 3568 (Comm) Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al. is the very swift follow-up to [2019] EWHC 2729 (Comm) which I review here. I flag the case mostly for:

  • at 8, Baker J siding with Males J (and myself) per Nori Holding, that West Tankers is still good authority following Brussels Ia despite Wathelet AG’s suggestions in Gazprom;
  • the brief reference at 9, as to whether under Rome I injunctive relief for threat of contractual breach is covered by lex fori or lex contractus. Baker J concludes that issue simply by reminding us that Rome I does not apply to arbitration agreements;
  • At 47 ff the discussion of choice of law in spite of no express clause having been included to that effect. Specifically, with reference to Sulamerica, whether choice of seat may imply choice of law.

Anti-suit was denied.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1. 

Rahmatullah and Ali v MOD and FCO. The High Court on the law applicable in (allegedly) irregular rendition cases.

In [2019] EWHC 3172 (QB) Rahmatullah and Ali v Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office claimants argue on the basis of the torts of negligence and misfeasance in public office. They are Pakistani nationals both of whom allege that they were captured by British forces in Iraq in February 2004. They contend that they were subsequently handed over to United States’ control and, thereafter, taken to Afghanistan where they were subjected to prolonged detention, torture and mistreatment.

At issue in this civil case is whether the English PIL rule of locus damni (for personal injury cases) needs to be displaced in favour of English law, by virtue of the exceptions to this rule including, all else failing, ordre public. (For the relevant text, see the judgment).

Rome I does not apply given the case clearly is one of acta iure imperii. Note that this does not, in England and Wales, displace the residual rules of the Private International Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995.

Turner J keeps the discussion very to the point, holding that there is no reason to displace the general rule: the law of Iraq applies to the claims prior to the claimants’ rendition from Iraq to Afghanistan and that of Afghanistan thereafter. His clear application of the precedents is much enjoyable.

One particularly interesting point is raised at 34:

The claimants make the further point that transferring a detainee from one country to another in breach of Article 49 [of the Fourth Geneva Convention, GAVC] would legitimise forum shopping by illegal rendition. The defendants accepted during the course of oral submissions that circumstances could arise in which this was a legitimate concern where, for example, a detainee had been relocated in a rogue state selected for its lack of adequate legal protection for those within its geographical and jurisdictional boundaries. However, in this case there is no evidence to suggest that any consideration of the putative advantages of the application of Afghan jurisprudence lay behind the rendition decision or indeed to the effect that Afghan law would provide, as a matter of fact, a particularly suitable environment within which to achieve any such darker purpose.

Of note is also, at 29, claimants’

‘point that those in senior positions who are to be held accountable for the alleged failures under the return claim were based in England and were acting (or failing to act) in the exercise of state authority.’

An argument which, Turner J finds, has been found to be relevant in the authorities, however not striking with sufficient force in casu to meet the very high burden of proof for displacing the standard rule.

Geert.