Galapagos Bidco v DE. The CJEU fails to clarify whether move of COMI by mere market notice, may be effective.

Krzysztof Pacula reported end of March on CJEU C-723/20 Galapagos Bidco v DE and justifiably highlighted the Brexit issue. The case concerns a move of COMI – centre of main interest within the context of the Insolvency Regulation 2015/848 and it is on the element of impromptu move that my post will focus.

Galapagos SA is a Luxembourg holding company whose centre of administration (‘effective place of management‘ according to the former directors) was moved in June 2019, at least so contend previous directors, to England. At the end of August 2019, they apply to the High Court in England and Wales to have insolvency proceedings opened.

Echos of the tussle are here and of course also in Galapagos Bidco SARL v Kebekus & ors [2021] EWHC 68 (Ch). The day after the move of centre of administration, the former directors were replaced with one other, who moved centre of administration to Dusseldorf and issued relevant market regulation statements to that effect. This move was subsequently recognised  by the Courts at Dusseldorf as having established COMI there. The High Court action in London was never withdrawn and would seem to have been dormant since.

Applicant in the proceedings is Galapagos BIDCO Sarl, a creditor of Galapagos SA. It is I understand (but I am happy to be corrected by those in the know) Luxembourg based. As Krzysztof reports, it contests that the German move has effected move of COMI which it argues lies in England (although I fail to see how its reasoning should not also apply to the earlier instant move from presumably Luxembourg to England).

The question that arises is whether, in the determination of the centre of a debtor company’s main interests, specific requirements must be imposed to prevent abusive conduct. Specifically, in the light of the Regulation’s stated aim of preventing forum shopping, whether ‘on a regular basis’ in the second sentence of the first subparagraph of Article 3(1) Insolvency Regulation 2015, presupposes an adequate degree of permanence and is not present if the establishment of a centre of administration is pursued at the same time as a request to have insolvency proceedings opened. Respondents in the appeal, which include the insolvency administrator (trustee) contend that the requirement of administration ‘on a regular basis’ is fulfilled if the administration is permanent.

The CJEU unfortunately fails to answer that question, choosing to reply instead with a hierarchical answer which encourages race to court: [36]

the court of a Member State with which a request to open main insolvency proceedings has been lodged retains exclusive jurisdiction to open such proceedings where the centre of the debtor’s main interests is moved to another Member State after that request is lodged, but before that court has delivered a decision on that request, and that, consequently, where a request is lodged subsequently for the same purpose before a court of another Member State, that court cannot, in principle, declare that it has jurisdiction to open such proceedings until the first court has delivered its decision and declined jurisdiction.

However in the case at issue, the Withdrawal Agreement has the effect that if the High Court has not, as it would seem, taken its decision on the opening of proceedings prior to the end of Brexit Implementation Day 1 January 2021 (CET), the German courts need no longer apply that consequence of mutual trust and are at liberty to determine the existence of COMI.

The CJEU ends by suggesting Q1 no longer needs answering. Yet I think it does. Perhaps not so much for the case at issue (which explains why the judicially economical CJEU does not offer a reply). The German courts, as Zacaroli J notes in his decision [14], held in October 2019 that COMI for GAS has successfully moved to Germany as from 25 August 2019, the day the capital market and bondholders were informed that the centre of administration had been moved to Düsseldorf. Yet the file does not suggest that COMI prior to the attempted move, existed in Germany: it was established there following the new director’s decision. In accordance with the Regulation’s presumptions, it would have previously existed in Luxembourg. The element of ‘on a regular basis’ therefore still matters. Is the CJEU suggesting that a mere information of the capital markets suffices to move COMI?

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 5.6.1.

 

Easygroup v Beauty Perfectionists. No huge make-over for acquired EU law on trademark jurisdiction.

In Easygroup Ltd v Beauty Perfectionists Ltd & Ors [2021] EWHC 3385 (Ch) defendants argue that even though the proceedings were initiated prior to IP completion day (31 December 2020), the English courts no longer have jurisdiction to grant a pan-EU injunction or other remedies in respect of alleged infringement of EU trade marks (“EUTMs”).  The suggestion is that lack of such jurisdiction post 1 January 2021 is a consequence of the relevant statutory UK instrument, the Trade Marks Amendment etc (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

The jurisdictional impact  of the EU Trademark Regulation 2017/1001 was previously considered i.a. in another Easygroup case which I discuss here. In current case, defendants argue that as a result of (potentially an omission in) the 2019 UK Statute, the High Court no longer is an ‘EU Trade Mark Court’ and, that EU Regulation 2017/1001 was not part of EU retained law under section 2(1) of the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. Their submission is based entirely on statutory construction, involving ia reading of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Act 2020 and its alleged impact on Withdrawal Agreement rights.

[48] ff Flaux C takes a much shorter approach to siding with claimants, holding [50] that the clear intention of Article 67 of the Withdrawal Agreement, which has full legal effect, is that the High Court should retain the same jurisdiction under EU Regulation 2017/1001 as it had before IP completion day. He finds support in a more common sense reading of the various Statutes in the context of Brexit with arrangements (as opposed to the potential of a no-deal Brexit).

The application for strike-out was therefore dismissed.

I do not know whether appeal has been sought. The case is a good illustration of the many layers of complexity provoked by the presence of the Withdrawal Agreement (with UK commitment to provide direct effect in the same circumstances as would apply under EU law), the Trade and Co-operation Agreement, and all the statutory provisions designed to cater for both a deal and a no-deal Brexit.

Geert.

 

Heslop v Heslop. A reminder of the constraints of the Moçambique rule for rights in rem, and (obiter) on joining a pre-Brexit with a post-Brexit claim under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Heslop v Heslop & Anor [2021] EWHC 2957 (Ch) essentially queries whether Deceased testator actually had any estate or interest in Jamaican Property which she could pass by will.

Under the Moçambique rule (after British South Africa Co v Companhia de Moçambique [1893] AC 602) an English court will not, as a matter of its own limits to jurisdiction, by and large determine matters of title to foreign land. The purpose of the rule is the maintenance of comity and the avoidance of conflict with foreign jurisdictions. The rule has been discussed on the blog before and it finds its EU equivalent of course in Article 24  Brussels Ia.

After considering the rule and the facts of the case, Dray DM holds it is not triggered here for [51-52]

the relief sought (across the two claims) is relief of an in personam nature in a dispute between the two central protagonists, the Second Defendant (the asserted trustee) and the Claimant (the asserted beneficiary) under the asserted trust. The fact that the land in question is situated in Jamaica does not preclude this court from having jurisdiction to hear the claim. The proceedings do not involve any determination of rights in rem. They do not assert a property right which is by its nature enforceable against third parties and they do not purport to bind strangers/third parties. For instance, no possession order, effective against the world at large, is sought (and none could be granted by this court). Neither is any order directed to the Jamaican Land Registry claimed (ditto). The court is only asked to resolve a dispute between those before it, the proceedings being based on an alleged personal (trust) relationship between the Claimant and the Defendants.

Obiter he then [57ff] considers forum non conveniens (argued in fact by neither parties), with the complication [63] that the two claims before the court have not been consolidated and are thus separate claims, albeit proceeding together, and that the first claim was commenced before the end of the Brexit transition period whereas the second claim was commenced afterwards. The judge holds (again: obiter) [68] (seeing also that no consolidation has been sought) that the former claim needs to be assessed viz BIa and the latter viz the post-Brexit rules, [74 ff] that under BIa A24 is not engaged for the same reason as the Moçambique rule, and [72] that if it had been, he would have been minded to follow (with all the necessary caveats  Kennedy v National Trust for Scotland‘s reflexive application.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 2.208.

Lipton v BA City Flyer. EU flight delay law following Brexit.

Update 27 July 2021 see the most interesting Q by Jack Williams whether the  CA is not getting its retained EU law mixed up with acquired EU law and therefore whether the judgment might have been per incuriam.

A short flag of the Court of Appeals finding yesterday in Lipton & Anor v BA City Flyer Ltd [2021] EWCA Civ 454 in which Coulson LJ, in discussing whether the airline had given proof of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ justifying flight delay, gives a perfectly clear overview of the provisions in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement – TCA and relevant statutory provisions in the UK itself. In the case itself, the impact of these rules on passengers’ claims under the Flight Delay Regulation was at issue.

Geert.

Swissport Fuelling. Another Scheme of arrangement, with a slight twist.

Swissport Fuelling Ltd, Re [2020] EWHC 1499 (Ch) at 59 ff repeats the classic (see Lecta Paper for the status quo), unresolved issue of jurisdiction for schemes of arrangement under under BIa (hence also: Lugano 2007). The case is worth reporting for slightly unusually, the scheme company, UK incorporated, acts as guarantor rather than borrower. Borrowers are mainly incorporated in Luxembourg and Switserland. Under the Credit Agreement, the Borrowers do not have a right of contribution or indemnity against the guarantors, so a claim against them would not ricochet against the UK incorporated Company.

Recognition under New York law is discussed – not yet the issue of recognition under Luxembourgish and Swiss law. That, one imagines, will follow at the sanctioning hearing, which will ordinarly follow the meeting of the scheme creditors which Miles J orders in current judgment.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd edition 2016, Chapter 2, Chapter 5.

 

Lecta paper. Scheme of arrangements in the Brexit transition period, and the Brussels IA elephants in the room continue to be undisturbed.

Update 24 June 2020 see also Swissport Fuelling Ltd, Re [2020] EWHC 1499 (Ch) at 59 ff for the further unresolved issue of jurisdiction under BIa.

In Lecta Paper [2020] EWHC 382 (Ch), Trower J picks up where Zacarolii J left off in [2019] EWHC 3615 (Ch) (which I briefly flagged in my post here and which is referred to in current judgment 12) and goes through the usual matrix for assessing the international impact of an English scheme of arrangement on the European continent.

Ultimate parent company is a Luxembourg company, with further controlling interests held by yet another Luxembourg and a Spanish company. A 10-11 Trower J flags a sensitive issue for credit and other financial arrangements: financial instruments subject to New York law, where amended to English law as governing law and the courts at England as non-exclusive jurisdiction. This was done in accordance with New York law, and approved by over 90% of the instruments’ holders. Yet again therefore a crucial question viz schemes of arrangement and the Brussels jurisdictional and applicable law regimes remains unaddressed, namely the event of opposition of a sizeable stake of creditors.

At 33 ff the issue of jurisdiction is discussed along the lines of Apcoa, Codere and NN2 Newco. Under residual private international law, the sufficient connection to England, engineered by the aforementioned change of governing law and jurisdiction in line with the law governing the instruments at the time (New York law, at 38), was held not to be unfair viz the creditors even in the case of the mother company with COMI in Luxembourg. At 44 ff Trower J returns to the issue of whether Brussels Ia can apply at all to the case, particularly via Article 4 juncto Article 8(1), holding for application of Article 25 in the end. However as in the authority he applies, there continue to be a lot of assumptions in this analysis which, failing substantial opposition by creditors, still have not been settled by either UK, CJEU or continental authority.

At 40 follows the equally standard reference to national experts testifying to the scheme’s recognition in the jurisdictions concerned: France, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg.

At 41 Trower J then briefly mentions Brexit (see my reference to similar cases here). Referring again to the national experts but also to his own insight, Justice Trower simply notes that

‘The Recast Judgments Regulation will continue to apply to the recognition of an English judgment in EU member states, notwithstanding the occurrence of Brexit, provided that the judgment has been given in proceedings which were instituted before 31 December 2020, being the end of the transition period. This follows from Article 67(2) of the Withdrawal Agreement. It follows that any sanction order made in this case should be recognised in EU member states, pursuant to the Recast Judgments Regulation, as will their own domestic law dealing with the recognition of judgments. It is also the case that the application of the Rome I Regulation ought to be unaffected by Brexit in any event. As I read the expert reports, they each confirm that that Regulation will continue to apply after the end of the transition period so that the law of the jurisdiction in respect of which they give evidence will recognise the governing law of the relevant contracts, in this case English law, as applying to the variation and discharge of rights under that contract.’

Note as I did above, the continuing Brussels IA cover assumptions, as well as the position post Brexit (whether under Lugano 2007 or not, remains to be seen).

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd edition 2016, Chapter 2, Chapter 5.

 

Brexit in transit. Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council v KC et al. Exequatur insisted on.

Update II 8 April 2020 : just after my earlier update, Lecta Paper’s scheme of arrangement sanction hearing was published on BAILII: Trower J considers the end of the transition period at 40.

Update 8 April 2020 compare Crossley & Ors v Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft & Ors [2020] EWFC 28 in which Waksman J succinctly holds at 12

‘On 31 January 2020, shortly after the conclusion of the trial, the UK withdrew from the EU. I asked the parties whether this would make any difference to any of the arguments made before me. I received written submissions on that topic on 4 and 9 March 2020. It is clear from those submissions that it is common ground that Brexit makes no difference here because EU Law (including the jurisdiction of the CJEU) will continue to have effect as if the UK was still a Member State until the end of the “transition period” which is 31 December 2020. This includes the general obligations which the UK owes qua Member State. Accordingly, for the purpose of this judgment, the position is as it was before 31 January 2020.’

(update ctd) and note VB v TR [2020] EWFC 28 where Mostyn J at 6 refers to the (until the end of the transition period) exclusive EU external competence to recognise (on the basis of reciprocity) countries as being on the accession list for the Hague 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction – which Bermuda is not even if the UK itself had recognised it as being part of the Hague regime. At 12: ‘In my judgment the law needs to be changed as between the United Kingdom and its overseas territories to provide that the 1980 Hague Convention operates between them. It is an embarrassment that if a child were taken from Bermuda to United States of America the Convention would apply, but if the child is brought here it does not. Alternatively, the law needs to be changed so that the automatic recognition of orders within the United Kingdom under the Family Law Act 1986 is extended to orders made in the Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies.’

 

In Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council v KC et al [2020] EWFC 20, Dancey J at  62 ff is the first UK judge to my knowledge to discuss the implications of the UK’s separation from the EU’s civil procedure /justice and home affairs agenda, particularly in the transition period. It includes a discussion of the UK’s Brexit (EU Exit) Regulations 2019/2003, reg 3, and the European Commission notice on transition provisions.

The care proceedings concern W, a girl aged 9, nearly 10. W’s parents, who were married, are Polish nationals and W was born there. Following the separation of the parents in Poland in April 2016, contested contact proceedings there resulted in an order providing that W live with the mother with contact to the father. The father’s parental responsibility was limited to decisions about medical treatment and education. Following the breakdown of the father’s contact with W, the mother brought her to the UK in June 2018 where they have remained since. That was done without the father’s agreement, although he was aware the mother planned to relocate and acquiesced once the move had taken place. The mother did not tell the father of her and W’s location within the UK.

The legal framework, therefore, is Brussels IIa, Regulation 2201/2003. Dancey J at 63 concedes that by reg 8 of 2019/2003, dealing with saving/transitional provisions, the UK’s revocation from Brussels IIa does not apply to proceedings before a court in a Member State seised before 31 December 2020. However he then refers to the EC Notice to Stakeholders: Withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU Rules in the Field of Civil Justice and Private International Law: 18/1/2019, and suggests it means that EU rules on recognition and enforcement will not apply to a UK judgment, even if the judgment was given, or enforcement proceedings started, before 1 January 2021 unless the judgment has been exequatured (declared enforceable by the courts of the Member State where recognition or enforcement is required) before 1 January 2021. Support for his opinion is found I suspect mostly in Heading 2.2 of that Notice – although I should warn against the matter of factly nature of that notice without much justification given for the positions it takes. Update 29 03 2020 and as Xavier Lewis has pointed out to me, the notice was put out there in the eventuality of a no deal – Dancey J does not refer to the Withdrawal Agreement at all.

At 66 Dancey J suggests in practice the consequence should not be too dramatic in the case at issue for ‘one or other of the parents should apply promptly in Poland for a declaration recognising this judgment and the order that will follow (exequaturing the judgment).’ That absence of real delay in the case at issue may well be true (it is confirmed by a letter from the Polish consulate) however the  implications are already clear and no surprise. Enforcement of UK judgments will be a lot less smooth post Brexit.

Geert.

Forum shopping and personal insolvency. The High Court (briefly) in Wilson and Maloney (in re McNamara). Is this the last UK reference to the CJEU?

Update 6 May 2022 the CJEU handed down judgment on 11 November 2021 (C-168/20) and Nugee LJ’s judgment following that CJEU ruling [Wilson & Anor v McNamara & Ors [2022] EWHC 243 (Ch)] discusses ia the modus operandi for an EU Member  State court (here: an ex-EU MS court instructed by the Withdrawal Agreement to abide by the CJEU view) to address the issues of fact and interpretation left by the CJEU.

[2020] EWHC 98 (Ch) Wilson and Maloney (bankruptcy trustees of Michael McNamara), concerns mostly Article 49 TFEU (freedom of establishment) and Article 24(1) of the Citizens’ Rights Directive 2004/38 (equal treatment). (At 114) the critical question is whether the exclusion of pension rights on bankruptcy is something that can impact on the right of establishment, or is otherwise within the scope of Art 49 TFEU.

The substantive case at issue concerns the inclusion or not of in investment in a certain pension scheme, into the bankruptcy. My interest in the judgment lies in the succinct reference to forum shopping under insolvency regimes.

Mr McNamara was made bankrupt on 2 November 2012 on his own petition, presented that day. Prior to his bankruptcy Mr McNamara had been a high profile property developer operating primarily, if not exclusively, in the Republic of Ireland. But he and his wife had moved to London in July 2011, and the Court accepted that he had moved his centre of main interests (or COMI) from Ireland to England by the date of presentation of the petition.

Nugee J decided to refer to the CJEU for preliminary review (this having happened on 23 January, clearly one of the last if not the last UK reference to go up to the CJEU). Whether COMI was moved for forum shopping purposes is not likely to feature in the eventual judgment – for there does not seem to be any suggestion that the move of COMI to England had not been properly established.

Geert.

 

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