Posts Tagged Securities

Secure Capital v Credit Suisse: Downstream holders of securities and third party redress.

As I seem to be in a mopping-up mode this morning, I might as well sneak in late review of Secure Capital SA v Credit Suisse AG, [2015] EWHC 388 (Comm) and at the Court of Appeal [2017] EWCA Civ 1486. Draft post of the latter has been in my ledger since 2017…

The cases essentially are concerned with characterisation; privity of contract, choice of law and dépeçage (bifurcation or severance).

My father-in-law OBE wonderfully sums up the world of international finance as fairy money. Harry (aka Tim Nice But Balding) & Paul express a similar feeling here. I can’t help but think of both when re-reading judgments in both cases.

Allen & Overy have most useful overview here, and RPC add useful analysis here. Claim related to eight longevity notes issued by Credit Suisse in 2008. The Notes were linked to life insurance policies, which meant that the prospect of the holder receiving payments for the Notes depended on mortality rates among a set of “reference lives”.  Secure Capital contended that Credit Suisse failed to disclose that the mortality tables used to generate the estimated life expectancies were shortly to be updated in a way that would significantly increase life expectancies, rendering the Notes effectively worthless. Secure Capital relied on a term in the issuance documentation that stated that Credit Suisse had taken all reasonable care to ensure that information provided in such documentation was accurate and that there were no material facts the omission of which would make any statements contained in those documents misleading.

The Notes were issued by Credit Suisse’s Nassau branch. Under the terms of the transaction documents, the Notes were deposited with the common depositary, Bank of New York Mellon, which held the securities on behalf of the clearing system, in this case Clearstream: which is Luxembourg-based.  The Notes were governed by English law and issued in bearer form.

Secure Capital essentially employ an attractive proposition in Luxembourg law reverse-engineering it either as the proper law of the contract in spite of prima facie clear choice of law, or alternatively as dépeçage: it argues that the provisions of a 2001 Luxembourg law on the Circulation of Securities, being the law that governed the operation of Clearstream through which the Notes were held, gave it an entitlement “to exercise the right of the bearer to bring an action for breach of a term of the…Notes“. In order to succeed, Secure Capital would have to circumvent the English law on privity of contract in respect of a transaction governed by English law.

Allen & Overy’s and RPC’s analysis is most useful for the unsuspected bystander like myself (thankfully I have a researcher, Kim Swerts, starting soon on a PhD in the area of conflict of laws and financial law).

In the High Court Hamblen J at 35 ff discusses the alternative arguments, wich would displace the suggestion that Secura Capital’s claim is a contractual claim. (Tort, as Betson LJ at the appeal stage notes at 24, was not advanced). This included a suggested property right (with discussion on the issue of the lex causae, whether e.g. this might be the lex situs), or, more forcefully, a right sui generis. None of these was upheld. Discussion on relevance of Rome I and /or the Rome Convention took place very succinctly at 53-54 – a touch too succinctly for Hamblen J’s swift reflection is that under both Rome and English conflicts rules, there was no suggestion of displacing the lex contractus. Depending on what counsel discussed, one would have expected some discussion of mandatory law perhaps, or indeed dépeçage – the latter was discussed summarily by Beatson LJ at the Court of Appeal under 54-55.

Geert.

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

 

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Assignment and applicable law. First reading of the EC’s proposal.

A former dean of ours reportedly once suggested that the last thing one should do with something urgent, is tackle it immediately. I have had a draft post on the EC’s assignment proposals in my ledger since 20 March 2018. Colleagues in private law (prof Matthias Storme, too) had already flagged the issues with the applicable law proposal COM(2018) 96 in particular. Now the need for a separate post has been overtaken by Alexander Hewitt’s excellent overview here, following EP first reading.

No more needs to be said.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3.

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Petrobas securities class action firmly anchored in The Netherlands. Rotterdam court applying i.a. forum non conveniens under Brussels Ia.

Many thanks to Jeffrey Kleywegt and Robert Van Vugt for re-reporting Stichting Petrobas Compensation Foundation v PetrÓleo Brasilieiro SA – PETROBRAS et al. The case, held in September (judgment in NL and in EN) relates to a Brazilian criminal investigation into alleged bribery schemes within Petrobras, which took place between 2004 and 2014. the Court had to review the jurisdictional issue only at this stage, and confirmed same for much, but not all of the claims.

The Dutch internal bank for Petrobas, Petrobas Global Finance BV and the Dutch subsidiary of Petrobas, Petrobas Oil and Gas BV are the anchor defendants. Jurisdiction against them was easily established of course under Article 4 Brussels Ia.

Issues under discussion, were

Firstly, against the Dutch defendants: Application of the new Article 34 ‘forum non conveniens’ mechanism which I have reported on before re English and Gibraltar courts. At 5.45: defendants request a stay of the proceedings on account of lis pendens, until a final decision has been given in the United States, alternatively Brazil, about claims that are virtually identical to those brought by the Foundation. They additionally argue a stay on case management grounds. However the court finds

with respect to a stay in favour of the US, that

the US courts will not judge on the merits, since there is a class settlement; and that

for the proceedings in which these courts might eventually hold on the merits (particularly in the case of claimants having opted out of the settlement), it is unclear what the further course of these proceedings will be and how long they will continue. For that reason it is also unclear if a judgment in these actions is to be expected at ‘reasonably short notice’: delay of the proceedings is a crucial factor in the Article 34 mechanism.

with respect to a stay in favour of Brasil, that Brazilian courts unlike the Dutch (see below) have ruled and will continue to rule in favour of the case having to go to arbitration, and that such awards might not even be recognisable in The Netherlands (mutatis mutandis, the Anerkennungsprognose of Article 34).

Further, against the non-EU based defendants, this of course takes place under residual Dutch rules, particularly

Firstly (Dutch CPR) Article 7(1)’s anchor defendants mechanism such as it does in Shell. The court here found that exercise of jurisdiction would not be exorbitant, as claimed by Petrobas: most of the claims against the Dutch and non-Dutch defendants are so closely connected as to justify a joint hearing for reasons of efficiency, in order to prevent irreconcilable judgments from being given in the event that the cases were heard and determined separately: a clear echo of course of CJEU authority on Article 8(1). The court also rejects the suggestion that application of the anchor mechanism is abusive.

It considers these issues at 5.11 ff: relevant is inter alia that the Dutch defendants have published incorrect, incomplete, and/or misleading financial information, have on the basis of same during the fraud period issued shares, bonds or securities and in that period have deliberately and wrongly raised expectations among investors. Moreover, at 5:15: Petrobras has itself stated on its website that it has a strategic presence in the Netherlands.

Against two claims ‘involvement’ of the NL-based defendants was not upheld, and jurisdiction denied.

Further, a subsidiary jurisdictional claim for these two rejected claims on the basis of forum necessitatis (article 9 of the Duch CPR) was not upheld: Brazilian authorities are clearly cracking down on fraud and corruption (At 5.25 ff).

Finally  and again for these two remaining claims, are the Netherlands the place where the harmful event occurred (Handlungsort) and /or the place where the damage occurred (Erfolgsort)? Not so, the court held: at 5.22: the Foundation has not stated enough with regard to the involvement of the Dutch defendants in those claims, for the harmful event to be localised in the Netherlands with some sufficient force. As for locus damni and with echos of Universal Music: at 5.24: that the place where the damage has occurred is situated in the Netherlands, cannot be drawn from the mere circumstance that purely financial damage has directly occurred in the Dutch bank accounts of the (allegedly) affected investors – other arguments (see at 5.24) made by the Foundation did not convince.

Finally, an argument was made that the Petrobas arbitration clause contained in its articles of association, rule out recourse to the courts in ordinary. Here, an interesting discussion took place on the relevant language version to be consulted: the Court went for the English one, seeing as this is a text which is intended to be consulted by persons all over the world (at 5.33). The English version of article 58 of the articles of association however is insufficiently clear and specific: there is no designated forum to rule on any disputes covered by the clause. Both under Dutch and Brazilian law, the Court held, giving up the constitutional right of gaining access to the independent national court requires that the clause clearly states that arbitration has been agreed. That clarity is absent: the version consulted by the court read

“Art. 58 -It shall be resolved by means of arbitration [italics added, district court], obeying the rules provided by the Market Arbitration Chamber, the disputes or controversies that involve the Company, its shareholders, the administrators and members of the Fiscal Council, for the purposes of the application of the provision contained in Law n° 6.404, of 1976, in this Articles of Association, in the rules issued by the National Monetary Council, by the Central Bank of Brazil and by the Brazilian
Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as in the other rules applicable to the functioning of the capital market in general, besides the ones contained in the agreements eventually executed by Petrobras with the stock exchange or over-the-counter market entity, accredited by the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission, aiming at the adoption of standards of corporate governance established by these entities, and of the respective rules of differentiated practices of corporate governance, as the case may be.”

A very relevant and well argued case – no doubt subject to appeal.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed.2016, Chapter 2, almost in its entirety.

 

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Kaynes v BP PLC. A good Canadian illustration of forum non conveniens to shareholder pursuit of non-disclosure.

With many conflict of laws classes fresh underway, it is good to be reminded of the classics. Forum non conveniens was at issue in Kaynes v BP, at the Court of Appeal for Ontario. There is a pending class action in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas. The class in that proceeding includes current plaintiff and other Canadian investors who purchased BP securities on the NYSE.

The judgment has ample and concise background, please refer to it for same. The Court of appeal has now lifted a stay, previously put in place on forum non conveniens ground, in light of changed circumstance. The U.S. District Court judge ruled that as the moving party and his proposed Canadian class were members of the class represented by the lead plaintiffs, he was not entitled to now assert a separate class action based upon a claim that the lead plaintiffs had not pursued. Second, the U.S. District Court judge ruled that the moving party’s claim was time-barred under the Ontario Securities Act. Plaintiff and other members of his proposed class are free to pursue individual claims in the U.S. District Court (not already represented in the class action) based on Ontario securities law, subject to any defences BP may advance, including a limitations defence. (Note that the US court therefore holds limitations to be part of the lex causae, not lex fori).

Since the US court do not claim exclusive jurisdiction over the litigation, and given that if a case were to go ahead in the US, it would be subject to Ontario law, the stay was lifted.

The case is a good illustration that forum non conveniens is live and evolving, not static.

Geert.

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