Droit international général

Recognition and Enforcement of Chinese Monetary Judgments in Australia based on Chinese Citizenship

Conflictoflaws - mer, 03/20/2019 - 23:34

The Australian common law does not require reciprocity for recognizing and enforcing foreign judgments. Therefore, although Chinese courts have never recognized and enforced an Australian monetary judgment, Australian courts have recognized and enforced Chinese judgments. Thus far, there have been two Chinese judgments recognized and enforced in Australia (both in the State of Victoria). In both cases, the Australian judges considered whether the Chinese courts had international jurisdiction based on the defendants’ citizenship/nationality. The first case is Liu v Ma.[1] The plaintiff sought to recognize and enforce a default Chinese judgment (worth RMB 3,900,000) against the defendants. The defendants defaulted in the Australian judgment recognition and enforcement (hereinafter ‘JRE’) proceedings. By applying Australian law, the Supreme Court of Victoria held that the Chinese court had international jurisdiction over the defendants because they were born in China and held a Chinese passport, they had substantial activities or financial affairs in China, and Chinese law does not recognize dual nationality. The second case, Suzhou Haishun Investment Management Co Ltd v Zhao & Ors, was rendered recently on 27 February 2019.[2] It is a summary judgment but, in contrast to Liu, the defendant thoroughly argued her case in the Australian JRE court. The plaintiff sought to recognize and enforce three Chinese judgments (worth RMB 20,000,000). The plaintiff brought Chinese proceedings against a Ms. Zhao and her company where she was the director and the sole shareholder. A few days before the Chinese proceeding was commenced, Ms. Zhao was informed that the plaintiff intended to sue her, and she left China with no intention to return. However, Ms. Zhao was still registered to an address in the Chinese court’s jurisdiction under the hukou system (China’s system of household registration). She possessed a Chinese identity card and held a Chinese passport. The plaintiff tried various ways to serve Ms. Zhao but was unsuccessful. Finally, the service was conducted by public announcement. Ms. Zhao defaulted in the Chinese proceedings. But at the first hearing, a man purporting to be an employee of Ms. Zhao’s company appeared before the Chinese judge. This man was asked by the Chinese judge whether he knew Ms. Zhao, to which he responded that she was ‘the boss.’ Although this man did not hold Ms. Zhao’s power of attorney, he nevertheless indicated that he had with him documents verifying that Ms. Zhao was diagnosed with depression which explained why she could not attend the hearing. The Chinese court held that Ms. Zhao was aware of the proceedings and service by the public announcement was effective. Chinese judgments were rendered against Ms. Zhao and her company. Her company had no assets in China, so the plaintiff went to Australia to locate Ms. Zhao. The Australian court held that service by the public announcement was legal according to Chinese Civil Procedural law and there was no denial of natural justice. The Australian court also held that the Chinese court had international jurisdiction. First, because the parties submitted to the Chinese court by a choice of court clause in the loan contracts. Second, Ms. Zhao was a citizen of China, possessed a Chinese passport, held an identity card and submitted to the jurisdiction of the Chinese Court by agreement, so it is not necessary to decide whether she was considered by Chinese law to be domiciled in China.

 

Although the defendant’s citizenship is not a ground for Australian courts to exercise direct jurisdiction, it remains to be ground in the Australian JRE proceedings to determine whether a foreign court has international jurisdiction. In Independent Trustee Services Ltd v Morris,[3] the plaintiff applied to enforce a UK judgment in Australia on the ground that the defendant had an active UK citizenship. The defendant was a UK citizen and held a UK passport issued in 2003 and current until 2013, and he used this passport to travel to Australia. The Supreme Court of New South Wales found that the defendant’s citizenship was not some relic of an early stage of his life but was an active part of his present situation on which he had relied for international travel and for other purposes. It held that the UK judgment should be recognized and enforced because citizenship of a foreign country means allegiance to the foreign country, and it is a recognized ground of international jurisdiction on which the effectiveness of foreign judgments is accepted under the common law. However, even the judge deciding Morris acknowledges the ‘absence of citation in the English authorities of any case in which this ground of jurisdiction has been contested and upheld after argument’.[4] Liu cites the English case Emanuel v Symon[5], which found that a foreign court has international jurisdiction if the defendant is a subject of the foreign country in which the judgment has been obtained. However, this is a dictum rather than a holding. As Dicey, Morris and Collins The Conflict of Laws indicates there is no actual decision in English common law which supports that the courts of a foreign country might have jurisdiction over a person if he was a subject or citizen of that country. Private International Law in Australia by Reid Mortensen and et al also considers active citizenship is a dubious ground of international jurisdiction.

The cases involving Chinese citizenship and Hukou are more complicated. First, the fact that China does not recognize dual citizenship does not mean China is necessarily a Chinese citizen’s domicile. A Chinese citizen automatically loses his/her Chinese citizenship only when a Chinese citizen has obtained foreign citizenship and resides overseas.[6] It is not uncommon that a Chinese citizen may reside overseas under a foreign permanent residency visa. Second, these groups of Chinese citizens still maintain a registered address in China (Hukou). This is because every Chinese citizen must have a Hukou even if s/he resides abroad. This Hukou may enable them to receive Chinese pension and voter registration. Third, under Chinese civil procedure law, a Chinese court has jurisdiction on a Chinese citizen when his or her Hukou is in its jurisdiction,[7] even if the Chinese citizen (defendant) is not present in China when the initiating process is commenced. If all other service methods are not successful, people’s courts can use a public announcement to effect service. The question is whether Australian courts recognize and enforce the consequent Chinese default judgment based on the defendant’s citizenship. I would suggest Australian courts to be cautious to follow Liu and Zhao regarding the issue of citizenship. The classical grounds for international jurisdiction are presence and submission. Service by a public announcement is hard to establish international jurisdiction on a defendant who is neither present nor submitted. Citizenship as a ground of international jurisdiction has been doubted by three English High Court judges[8] and rejected by the Irish High Court.[9] Additionally, Liu is a default judgment, so the citizenship issue has not been contested, and the defendant in Zhao submits to Chinese court by a choice of court clause.

 

 

 

[1] Liu v Ma & anor [2017] VSC 810.

[2] Suzhou Haishun Investment Management Co Ltd v Zhao & Ors [2019] VSC 110.

[3] Independent Trustee Services Ltd v Morris [2010] NSWSC 1218.

[4] Ibid, para 28.

[5] Emanuel v Symon[1908] 1 KB 302.

[6] Art. 9 of the Chinese Nationality Law, http://www.mps.gov.cn/n2254996/n2254998/c5713964/content.html.

[7] Under the Hague Service Convention, service on Hukou may not be upheld if the defendant can demonstrate that his habitual residence is different. If a Chinese citizen leaves its Hukou address and resides in another address continuously for more than one year, the latter address becomes his habitual residence and the court in that address also has jurisdiction.

[8] Blohn v Desser [1962] 2 Q.B. 116, 123Rossano v Manufacturers’ Life Insurance Co Ltd [1963] 2 Q.B. 352, 382–383Vogel v RA Kohnstamm Ltd [1973] Q.B. 133; see also Patterson v D’Agostino (1975) 58 D.L.R. (3d) 63(Ont). Dicey, Morris and Collins The Conflict of Laws (15th ed) 14-085.

[9] Rainford v Newell-Roberts [1962] I.R. 95.

Preparing for Brexit

Conflictoflaws - lun, 03/18/2019 - 19:35

At the moment this note is written, it is unclear whether there will be another vote in the House of Commons concerning Theresa May’s deal with the EU-27 at all (see here for the latest developments). Already on 18 January 2019, the European Commission recognized that “[i]n view of the uncertainties surrounding the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, all interested parties are reminded of legal repercussions which need to be considered when the United Kingdom becomes a third country”. In order to clarify matters, the Commission has published a so-called Preparedness Notice which is meant to give guidance to stakeholders with regard to the implications of a no-deal Brexit in the field of judicial cooperation and private international law. The full text of this notice is available here.

Cuadernos de Derecho Transnacional, Vol. 11, No 1 (2019)

Conflictoflaws - sam, 03/16/2019 - 10:17

The latest issue of Cuadernos de Derecho Transnacional, an open-access online journal focusing on private international law, is out.

It features some sixty papers (in Spanish, English and Italian) covering a broad range of topics, such as matrimonial property regimes, trade names, the legal framework of drones, child abduction, international data transfers, successions upon death and antitrust torts.

The current issue, like previous ones, can be accessed here.

Guide on the Law Applicable to International Commercial Contracts in the Americas has been approved by OAS

Conflictoflaws - ven, 03/15/2019 - 16:58

The Organization of American States (OAS) has announced that the Inter-American Juridical Committee (CJI) has approved the Guide on the Law Applicable to International Commercial Contracts in the Americas. See the summarized recommendations on p. 6, the actual Guide starts on p. 16.

The Rapporteur of the Guide is Dr José Antonio Moreno Rodríguez.

Importantly, one of the recommendations of the Guide is that “OAS Member States, regardless of whether they have or have not ratified, or do or do not intend to ratify the Mexico Convention, are encouraged to consider its solutions for their own domestic legislation, whether by material incorporation, incorporation by reference, or other mechanisms as applicable to their own domestic legal regimes, taking into consideration subsequent developments in the law applicable to international commercial contracts as expressed in the Hague Principles and as described in this Guide.”

Unfortunately, only two States are parties to the Mexico Convention: Mexico and Venezuela. See here.

While the OAS Guide takes into consideration and examines both instruments, it should be noted that the official article-by-article Commentary on the Hague Principles is available here.

The OAS news item is available here (Spanish version of the Guide is not yet available).

Unstunned slaughter and organic labelling. CJEU gets it wrong on Shechita (kosjer) and zabihah (halal).

GAVC - ven, 03/15/2019 - 12:12

“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made” is a quote widely attributed to German statesman Otto von Bismarck. It is not a wise perception. If, like laws,  we want sausages, then it is paramount we see how they are made, starting from the rearing of the animal, via the transport to and processing in abattoirs, through to food processing.

In Case C-497/17, Oeuvre d’assistance aux bêtes d’abattoirs the Court held that the particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites that are carried out without pre-stunning and that are permitted by Article 4(4) of Regulation No 1099/2009 (on which more here) are not tantamount, in terms of ensuring a high level of animal welfare at the time of killing, to slaughter with pre-stunning which is, in principle, required by Article 4(1) of that regulation. No organic label under Council Regulation 834/2007 and Commission implementing Regulation 889/2008 may therefore be attached to said meat.

The AG had opined the matter is outside the scope of harmonisation of the organic labelling rules. The CJEU however essentially employs Regulation 1099/2009 as a conjoined piece of law and holds that organic labelling must not be assigned to meat originating from animals unstunned prior to slaughter.

The Court is wrong.

At 41 the Court itself acknowledges that ‘no provision of Regulation No 834/2007 or Regulation No 889/2008 expressly defines the method or methods for the slaughtering of animals that are most appropriate to minimise animal suffering and, consequently, to give concrete expression to the objective of ensuring a high level of animal welfare’.

At 47, the Court refers to Wahl AG’s statement in para 43 of his opinion, suggesting the AG ‘ stated, in essence, in point 43 of his Opinion, scientific studies have shown that pre-stunning is the technique that compromises animal welfare the least at the time of killing.’

What the AG actually said is ‘In the first place, it seems to me to be accepted that, while every killing is problematic from the viewpoint of animal welfare, the use of pre-stunning methods when animals are slaughtered may, at least in theory, and as a considerable number of scientific studies show, [FN omitted, GAVC] help to minimise that suffering when those methods are used in the proper conditions. that unstunned slaughter, properly carried out, meets with the ethos of organic farming.’ (emphasis added).

The AG in footnote refers to 2 studies in particular (he suggests there are more). Other studies show the exact opposite. Yet the wider relevance of what he opined lies in the ‘slaughter in the books’ admission. ‘In theory at least’ a perfectly carried out pre-slaughter stun minimises pain. That is very much the same with a perfectly carried out shechita or halal incision, particularly where it is carried out with the religiously-inspired stewardship ethos in mind.

In practice, pre-stunning goes horribly wrong in a considerable amount of cases for small and large animals alike. I am not the only one to have witnessed that. And as frequently occurring footage of abattoirs shows, there is little respect for animal welfare in commercial abattoirs, regardless of an eventual stun or not.

Of wider relevance in my view therefore is the problematic enforcement by certification bodies of generally formulated standards  – admittedly not an issue that may be solved by a court case.

Consider Wahl AG’s point made at 45 of his Opinion: ‘the certification ‘halal’ says very little about the slaughtering method actually employed.’ That is exactly the same for pre-stunning. The EU but more particularly its Member States and regions (which given subsidiarity ough to have a big say in this) will not achieve animal welfare if they do not properly address the wider relationship between food professional and animal, between upscale agro-industry and mass meat production.

Finally and evidently, this case is of no consequence to the acceptability of unstunned slaughter from the point of view of expression of freedom of religion.

Geert.

 

 

 

Book Launch: A Conceptual Analysis of European Private International Law

Conflictoflaws - ven, 03/15/2019 - 11:28

Dr. Felix M. Wilke (University of Bayreuth, Germany) recently published a new book titled “A Conceptual Analysis of European Private International Law”.

Here is an overview provided by the author.

The Regulations on Matrimonial Property and on the Property Consequences of Registered Partnerships having entered into force at the end of January, European Union private international law in the strict sense now comprises six regulations. Meanwhile, many Member States have been busy overhauling their domestic private international law codifications. In fact, in the last twenty-five years, twelve Member States have enacted substantial new private international law legislation, most recently Hungary (in force since 1 January 2018) and Croatia (in force since 29 January 2019).

The book A Conceptual Analysis of European Private International Law sets out to take both the EU and the national perspective into account and addresses what is often called the “general” issues of the field. The author has combed through legislation and academic contributions from all Member States in order to arrive at the conclusion that there is much more conceptual consensus than generally assumed.

In fact, none of the aforementioned codifications from the last twenty-five years does not have a chapter on “general provisions” and the like. The author charts the similarities and differences among these chapters (albeit without the too-recent Croatian reform), and compares them with positions from Member States without a private international law codification. He goes on to argue that the commonalities ought to ease apprehensions about the potential introduction of general rules of EU private international law – and that, in many cases, the EU is already halfway there, having created (near-)identical provisions for several or all of its regulations: e.g. for public policy, renvoi, overriding mandatory provisions, or non-unified legal systems. Furthermore, he submits that the conceptual-theoretical insights gained from the comparative analysis can easily and also should be transferred to the EU level.

From the foreword by Ralf Michaels: “This is a thoroughly researched work that is both comparative-empirical and prescriptive in nature, a study that both surveys existing law and makes proposals on the basis of its findings. … The fact that the book is written in English provides the discipline with a formidable opportunity to learn about and engage with a specific kind of position towards conceptual issues of private international law.”

The front matter and the table of contents can be found here.

More information can be found here.

TPS-NOLO (Geobal): CJEU on take-back of ‘waste’, relation with REACH.

GAVC - ven, 03/15/2019 - 08:08

As I discussed with Stephen Gardner in Bloomberg Environment, the CJEU held yesterday in C-399/17 EC v Czech Republic, where the question is whether the Czech Republic has infringed the waste shipments Regulation 1013/2006 by refusing to take back a substance known as TPS-NOLO (or Geobal) that had been shipped to Poland without respecting the requisite formalities of the Waste Shipment Regulation.

Approximately 20 000 tonnes of TPS-NOLO (Geobal) and composed of tar acid, a remnant after refining oil (code 05 01 07* of the European waste catalogue), of carbon dust and of calcium oxide. Poland considered the substance to be hazardous waste classified in Annex IV to the Waste Shipment Regulation (‘Waste tarry residues (excluding asphalt cements) arising from refining, distillation and any pyrolitic treatment of organic materials’).  The Czech citizen responsible for the shipment to Poland presented the standards adopted by the company as well as proof that the substance in question was registered under the REACH Regulation and that it was used as fuel.

Wahl AG had suggested inadmissability, as I discuss here. The Court however disagreed, and on substance dismissed the EC action in five steps summarised very well in its case-summary. Of note in particular with respect to the REACH /WFD relation is that the Court holds that while the EC is right in being sceptical about WFD evasion via REACH (not that straightforward an assumption, given the cumbersome implications of REACH compliance), the Commission needs to bring specific evidence to the table rather than mere speculation.

Not an earth-shattering case yet a relevant one also with a view to circular economy debates, where REACH’ data requirements are an important concern for recyclers.

Geert.

Handbook of EU Waste law, 2nd ed. 2015, OUP, i.a.at para 1.201.

The 31st annual conference on private international law at the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law

Conflictoflaws - jeu, 03/14/2019 - 20:58

This year’s Journée de droit international privé of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law will be devoted to Interim Measures in International Commercial Litigation, and will take place on 23 May 2019, in Lausanne.

Speakers include George A. Bermann, Andrea Bonomi, Lawrence Boo, Sabine Corneloup, Gilles Cuniberti, Karim El Chazli, Sandrine Giroud, Laurent Hirsch, Alexander Layton, Ilaria Pretelli, and Gian Paolo Romano.

The detailed program, with further information on registration and fees, can be found here.

Disciplining abuse of anchor defendants in follow-up competition law cases exceedingly difficult. Borgarting Court of Appeal (Norway) applies CDC in Posten /Bring v Volvo.

GAVC - jeu, 03/14/2019 - 12:12

After the French Cour de Cassation in MJI v Apple Sales, the Brussels Court of Appeal in FIFA/UEFA, and the Court at Amsterdam in Kemira, (as well as other courts undoubtedly, too; and I have highlighted more cases on the blog), Ørjan Salvesen Haukaas has now reported an application of CDC in a decision of December 2018 by a Norwegian Court of appeal, LB-2018-136341 Posten /Bring v Volvo. The court evidently applies Lugano (Article 6), not Brussels Ia, yet the provision  is materially identical.

Norwegian and foreign companies in the Posten/Bring group (mail services) had sued companies in the Volvo group for alleged losses incurred when purchasing trucks from Volvo after certain companies in the Volvo group had been fined for participating in a price-fixing cartel. Posten/Bring also sued a Norwegian company in the Volvo group, which had not been fined for participating in the price-fixing cartel.

Borgarting Court of Appeal held that Norwegian courts have jurisdiction pursuant to Article 6(1) Lugano even if the anchor defendant is sued merely to obtain Norwegian jurisdiction. The court solely had to determine whether the claims were so closely connected that there was a risk of irreconcilable judgments, in the absence of any suggested collusion between the anchor defendant and claimants per CDC.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law. 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.12, Heading 2.2.12.1.

A King without Land – the Assignee under the Commission’s Proposal for a Regulation on the law applicable to the third-party effects of assignments of claims

Conflictoflaws - jeu, 03/14/2019 - 10:33

Professor Dr. Robert Freitag, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen, has kindly provided us with his thoughts on the proposal for a Regulation on Third-Party Effects of Assigment:

Article 14 para. (1) of Regulation Rome I subjects the relationship between assignor and assignee under a voluntary assignment of a claim to the law that applies to the contract between the assignor and assignee. Pursuant to recital (38) of the regulation, the relevant law is to govern the “property aspects of an assignment, as between assignor and assignee”. It is a much debated question whether article 14 para. (1) of Regulation Rome I also applies to the third-party effects of assignments, i.e. to “proprietary effects of assignments such as the right of the assignee to assert his legal title over a claim assigned to him towards other assignees or beneficiaries of the same or functionally equivalent claim, creditors of the assignor and other third parties” (for this definition see article 2 lit. (2) of the Commission’s 2018 proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the law applicable to the third-party effects of assignments of claims, COM(2018)096 final). Only a short time ago, a German court has asked the CJEU for guidance on the matter, see here under http://conflictoflaws.net/2018/the-race-is-on-german-reference-to-the-cjeu-on-the-interpretation-of-art-14-rome-i-regulation-with-regard-to-third-party-effects-of-assignments/). The Commission clearly assumes that article 14 of Regulation Rome I leaves the matter to the autonomous conflict-rules of the Member States and has already expressed this view in its follow up-report under article 27 para. (2) of Regulation Rome I presented in 2016 (see COM(2016)626, p. 3). It has repeated this position in recital (11) of the aforementioned proposal for a regulation on the third-party effects of assignments dated 12 March 2018 and the Parliament has followed suite by demanding merely editorial changes to recital (11) of the proposed regulation (see Parliament resolution on the proposal adopted in the first reading on 13 February 2019, document P8_TA(2019)0086, as well as the Explanatory Statement by the Committee on Legal Affairs dated 16 July 2018, document A8-0261/2018, p. 18). It is not astounding that the Council, whose reluctance to accept a different stance of Regulation Rome I on third-party effects of assignments has caused the aforementioned legal uncertainty, at least implicitly subscribes to this position by discussing “only” the conflict of laws-rules proposed by article 4 of the proposal (see namely the Presidency’s suggestions in Council document 13936/18 dated 8 November 2018).

Ultimately, the answer to this question as well as the outcome of the proceedings before the CJEU are not decisive when dealing with the Commission’s 2018 proposal. The European legislator may at any time either complement or ? explicitly or at least implicitly ? modify article 14 of Regulation Rome I. The Commission has therefore proposed to start a legislative procedure destined to lead to the adoption of a new regulation exclusively addressing the conflict of laws-issues pertaining to the third-party effects of assignments. Under the proposal, the relevant conflict-rules shall be placed completely outside the realm of Regulation Rome I which shall not be touched at all. This approach is due to the wish of the Commission to cover the assignment of and pledges relating to “financial collateral” within the meaning of article 1 para. (4) of Directive 2002/47/EC and including inter alia, the assignment or pledge of securities (especially of shares and bonds). An integration of the new conflict rules into Regulation Rome I would therefore collide with the latter’s article 1 para. (2) lit. (d) and lit. (f) exempting matters relating to tradeable securities and to company law from the scope of its application.

As to the law which is to govern the third-party effects of assignments, article 4 para. (1) of the Commission’s proposal designates the law of the habitual reference of the assignor (at least as a general rule). The Parliament has mainly endorsed this approach (see document P8_TA(2019)0086 cited above), whereas the debates in the council on this point were so controversial as to hinder that an agreement on a common position could be reached as yet (see Council document 14498/18 dated 23 November 2018). Without having to dwell on this discussion, it is worth stressing one issue of major importance which, until now, has been left out of the equation: The Commission’s proposal as well as any other solution favoring the application of any law other than that designated by the existing article 14 para. (1) of Regulation Rome I will lead to a situation under which the proprietary effects of an assignment will be subjected to a split legal regime: As regards the relationship between assignor and assignee, article 14 para. (1) Rome I will continue to apply and the assignee will become “owner” of the claim (if only in relation to the assignor) under the condition that the assignments complies with the law which governs the obligation which gave rise to the assignment. In contrast, with regard to competing assignments and any other third-party effects of the assignment, including the question whether in case of insolvency of the assignor the assigned claim will be part of the insolvent assignor’s estate administered by an insolvency administrator, the assignee will only be considered owner of the claim if the assignment is validly executed under the law designated by the new regulation.

It is mandatory that this duplicity of legal regimes is to be avoided for dogmatic as well as for practical reasons. On the dogmatic level, it is not conceivable to speak of “proprietary effects” of an assignment under article 14 para. (1) of Regulation Rome I if these effects are exclusively limited to the relationship between the assignor and the assignee. It is the essence of any property right that the owner’s title in the asset is effective erga omnes, i.e. that it prevails over any competing right or claim of any third party. There undoubtedly exist exceptions to this rule, namely it is conceivable to consider a transfer of property ineffective in relation to a limited number of persons (the transfer being “relatively ineffective” in this case). However, a “transfer” of title is no transfer in the legal sense if it only were to be valid exclusively in relation to the transferor (the transfer being only “relatively effective” in this case). An “owner” of property who can rely on his “title” neither in relation to competing assignees nor in relation to the creditors of the assignor but only inter partes has not received any proprietary position exceeding a position under a merely obligatory agreement between those parties. This finding has significant practical consequences: First of all, it is out of the question for the assignee to activate in his balance sheet a claim “validly assigned” to him solely under article 14 para. (1) of Regulation Rome I, but not under the conflict rules of the proposed new regulation. Second, if one considers that an assignment under article 14 para. (1) of Regulation Rome I will render the assignee “proprietor” of the claim at least inter partes, the assignor will have fulfilled his obligation to transfer the relevant claim to the assignee. It is most unfortunate for the assignee that, although performance has been duly rendered to him, he will not have received any valuable title in the claim. It is highly debatable whether the assignee may claim damages from the assignor in case his legal position is successfully contested under the law applicable to the third-party effects despite the fact that performance has been duly rendered to him under the law relevant in his relation to the assignor. It is also unclear whether, unless the parties have explicitly agreed otherwise, the assignee may beforehand request that the assignor also complies with the law applicable under the new regulation at all.

This being premised, the European legislator, when deciding on a conflict of laws-rules on the third-party effects of assignments, must extend its scope of application also to the “proprietary” effects of the assignment as between the assignor and the assignee. One option would be to implement the rule to be agreed on for the new regulation also in article 14 para. (1) of Regulation Rome I. This approach would, however, lead to legal uncertainty as to the respective scope of application of the regulations dealing with assignments. The preferable approach therefore consists of creating a unique conflict of laws-regime for assignments outside Regulation Rome I. This regime would cover all assignments regardless of the legal cause of the transfer as well as all proprietary aspects of the transfer inter partes and erga omnes which would be subjected them to the same law. Consequently, article 14 of Regulation Rome I would have to be abolished and the contents of article 14 para. (2), (3) of Regulation Rome I would have to be implemented in the new regulation.

Alan Uzelac on the current challenges to investor-state arbitration in Europe

Conflictoflaws - mer, 03/13/2019 - 19:23

Prof. Uzelac has published recently an article on the current challenges to investor-state arbitration in Europe. The article comes almost as a birthday present, to celebrate one year after the CJEU published its famous Achmea ruling. The summary of the article reads as follows:

This paper addresses the current challenges to investor-state arbitration in Europe. Two parallel developments are outlined: the current change in the EU policy towards arbitration provisions in multilateral and bilateral investment treaties, and the consequences of the Achmea case decided by the Court of Justice of the European Union in March 2018. The author analyses the critical arguments behind the current European anti-arbitration stance and concludes that while some of them (but not all) may have some foundation, a sufficient number of reasons speak against the radical dismantling of the system of international investment arbitration. An analysis of the proposed alternatives shows that they fail to deliver viable solutions for diagnosed problems. In particular, the replacement of ad hoc tribunals by a multilateral investment court (MIC) seems to be a step in the wrong direction. The ISDS has played an important role in the global fostering of international investment by securing a basically fair system of dispute resolution in a very specific field. Its deficiencies are not beyond repair; on the other hand, the alternatives offered suffer from flaws that are the same or much more troubling. The author concludes that the consequences of the ‘change of tide’ in the approach to investor-state dispute resolution are likely to be detrimental to the very goals of those who advocate the abandoning of investment arbitration.

The article was published in the journal Access to Justice in Eastern Europe (AJEE), and is available in full text here.

Milivojević v Raiffeisenbank: Free movement of services yet also protected categories and rights in rem /personam.

GAVC - mer, 03/13/2019 - 12:12

The CJEU held in C-630/17 Milivojević v Raiffeisenbank on 14 February. The case in the main concerns Croatian legislation restricting financial services with Banks other than Croatian ones – a free movement of services issue therefore which the CJEU itself explains in its press release.

Of relevance to the blog is the issue of jurisdiction under the consumer title and Article 24(1)’s exclusive jurisdictional rule.

The Croatian legislation at issue, in the context of disputes concerning credit agreements featuring international elements, allows debtors to bring an action against non-authorised lenders either before the courts of the State on the territory of which those lenders have their registered office, or before the courts of the place where the debtors have their domicile or registered office and restricts jurisdiction to hear actions brought by those creditors against their debtors only to courts of the State on the territory of which those debtors have their domicile, whether the debtors are consumers or professionals.

Croatian law therefore first of all infringes Article 25(4) juncto Article 19 Brussels Ia. Their combined application does not rule out choice of court even between a business and a consumer (subject to limitations which I do not discuss here). It moreover infringes Article 25 (and Article 4) in and of itself for it precludes choice of court even in a B2B context.

Next, may a debtor who has entered into a credit agreement in order to have renovation work carried out in an immovable property which is his domicile with the intention, in particular, of providing tourist accommodation services be regarded as a ‘consumer’ within the meaning of Article 17(1) Brussels Ia? Reference is made ex multi to Schrems, emphasising the difficult balancing exercise of keeping exceptions to Article 4’s actor sequitur forum rei rule within limits, yet at the same time honouring the protective intention of the protected categories.

A person who concludes a contract for a dual purpose, partly for use in his professional activity and partly for private matters, can rely on those provisions only if the link between the contract and the trade or profession of the person concerned was so slight as to be marginal and, therefore, had only a negligible role in the context of the transaction in respect of which the contract was concluded, considered in its entirety (per Schrems following C-464/01Gruber). Whether Ms Milivojević can so be described as a ‘consumer’ is for the national court to ascertain.

Finally, does Article 24(1)’s rule on an action ‘relating to rights in rem in immovable property’, apply to an action for a declaration of the invalidity of a credit agreement and of the notarised deed relating to the creation of a mortgage taken out as a guarantee for the debt arising out of that agreement and for the removal from the land register of the mortgage on a building?

Reference here is made to all the classics, taking Schmidt v Schmidt as the most recent portal to earlier case-law. At 101: with regard to the claims seeking a declaration of the invalidity of the agreement at issue and of the notarised deed related to the creation of a mortgage, these ‘clearly’ (I assume based on the national law at issue) are based on a right in personam which can be claimed only against the defendant.

However at 102: re the request for removal from the land register of the registration of a mortgage, it must be noted that the mortgage, once duly constituted in accordance with the procedural and substantive rules laid down by the relevant national legislation (see indeed my comment above re passerelle of national law), is a right in rem which has effects erga omnes. Such an application does fall within Article 24(1). At 104 the Court again inadvertently or not highlights the potential for a procedural strategy, opening up forum connexitatis hinging unto A24(1) exclusivity: ‘in the light of that exclusive jurisdiction of the court of the Member State in which the immovable property is situated to the request for removal from the land register for the registration of mortgages, that court also has a non-exclusive jurisdiction based on related actions, pursuant to Article 8(4) of Regulation No 1215/2012, to hear claims seeking annulment of the credit agreement and the notarised deed related to the creation of that mortgage, to the extent that these claims are brought against the same defendant and are capable, as is apparent from the material in the file available to the Court, of being joined.’ (idem in Schmidt v Schmidt).

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.6, Heading 2.2.8.2.

 

 

The meaning of economic freedoms of movement

Conflictoflaws - mer, 03/13/2019 - 08:47

Following a call for papers announced on this blog a few months ago, the University of Nice will host on 23 and 24 May 2019 a conference exploring the meaning of economic freedoms of movement (Le sense des libertés économiques de circulation).

The event, part of the IFITIS Project led by Jean-Sylvestre Bergé, is the third in a series of multidisciplinary, international and comparative doctoral workshops devoted to the study of movement phenomena.

The goal is to foster discussion on the capacity of the various disciplines represented (including law, economics, management, philosophy, sociology, history and computer science) to question the meaning – reasons for being, justifications, purposes – of economic freedoms of movement (free trade, international trade and European freedoms of movement).

Further information, including as regards registration, may be found here.

The Italian Supreme Court rules on the effects of the opposition to a European Order for Payment

Conflictoflaws - mar, 03/12/2019 - 21:00

In case of opposition to a European Order for Payment, Article 17 (1) of Regulation (EC) No 1896/2006 (latest consolidated version) states: “the proceedings shall continue before the competent courts of the Member State of origin unless the claimant has explicitly requested that the proceedings be terminated in that event. The proceedings shall continue in accordance with the rules of: (a) the European Small Claims Procedure laid down in Regulation (EC) No 861/2007, if applicable; or (b) any appropriate national civil procedure”.

Moreover: 1) the transfer to civil proceedings is governed by the law of the State where the order has been issued, 2) this law must not prejudice the claimant’s position in the subsequent proceedings, and 3) the claimant is to be informed both of the opposition and of any transfer to civil proceedings.

Recital 24 of Regulation (EC) No 1896/2006 makes it clear that the opposition leads “to an automatic transfer of the case to ordinary civil proceedings”, adding that “the concept of ordinary civil proceedings should not necessarily be interpreted within the meaning of national law”.

The effects of the opposition in the CJEU’s case-law

The CJEU in turn has consistently stressed, on the one hand, that Article 17 produces only said effects and, on the other hand, that the transfer to ordinary civil proceedings is automatic (13 June 2013, Case C-144/12, Goldbet, para. 31; see also 4 September 2014, Joined Cases C-119/13 and C-120/13, eco cosmetics, para. 38).

In Flight Refund (10 March 2016, Case C-94/14), the Court sketched a slightly different scenario when holding that “the proceedings automatically continue […] in the Member State of origin of the order […]”, but further confirming that the continuation occurs “in accordance with the rules of ordinary civil procedure […]” (para. 52; emphasis added).

No national provisions for the transfer: how to fill the gap according to the Italian Supreme Court

What seems definite from the foregoing is that, if the claimant were not to request the termination of the proceedings, the opposition triggers the transfer to ordinary national civil procedure (or to the European Small Claims Procedure) under the law of the Member State of origin.

But, what if the lex fori does not provide rules as to the transfer?

An answer comes from the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) in a recent judgment (31 January 2019 no 2840). Although the Corte di Cassazione has reasoned under the initial version of the Regulation (EC) No 1896/2006, it infers from this latter certain principles which may be also applied to the latest version.

The Italian Court holds, in fact, that the continuation of the proceedings is not a matter left to national law, but it is directly governed by the Regulation through the reference to the national provisions that apply to ordinary civil proceedings.

The Member State has to apply the ordinary, normal form of national proceedings which apply to the disputed claim as if the claimant resorted directly to them.

In case the national legal order lacks rules to govern the transfer and determine the specific ordinary civil proceeding triggered by the opposition, the Corte di Cassazione puts forward the following solution.

First, the judge who issued the order is entitled not only to inform the claimant of the opposition, but also to give him a term to bring the action under the ordinary procedural rules. Second, the claimant may choose, among the ordinary civil proceedings, those that better suit the claim for which he resorted to the European procedure.

The Regulation does not allow the judge to lead the transfer, especially by determining the national rules governing the ordinary proceeding.

On the contrary, a national rule in case the claimant does not comply with the term to bring the action exists whereby the proceeding is extinguished (Article 307 (3), Italian Code of Civil Procedure).

A new “choice” for the claimant

The Italian Supreme Court finds in the Regulation the ground for providing the claimant with a sort of “choice of proceedings”.

Recalling the emphasis that both the Regulation and the CJEU put on the automatism in the “continuation/transfer” to the ordinary civil proceeding, what automatically comes out from the judgment of the Corte di Cassazione seems such “choice of proceedings” rather than the very “continuation/transfer”.

Moreover, on closer inspection, since the would-be ordinary proceeding is extinguished if the claimant makes the term to bring the action expire, the real “choice” lies between the continuation or the termination of the whole proceeding.

Perhaps the “choice” is not well founded in the Regulation, but…

The Italian Supreme Court’s effort to counterweigh the lack of national provisions is certainly worthwhile. As is it that to forge the transfer regime in compliance with the Regulation.

However, just reasoning with the Regulation in mind, one may wonder whether the aforementioned “choice” is actually well founded.

According to the Italian Supreme Court, the Regulation entitles the claimant to “explicitly” choose what national proceeding is to be applied. Furthermore, even though the claimant has not explicitly requested under the Regulation to terminate the proceedings following the debtor’s opposition, he is again requested, this time under Italian law, to possibly reveal such willingness by making the term expire without bringing the action.

Where is in the Regulation the room for such “choices”? Actually, where is the room for “choices” other than that to explicitly oppose to the transfer?

These doubts increase under the latest version of the Regulation.

Pursuant to Article 7 (4), the claimant may indicate to the court “which, if any, of the procedures listed in points (a) and (b) of Article 17(1) he requests to be applied to his claim in the subsequent civil proceedings”, unless he indicates to the court that “he opposes a transfer to civil proceedings […] in the event of opposition by the defendant”.

Article 17, which gives the claimant the alternative between the European Small Claims Procedure and any appropriate national civil procedure, adds that where the claimant has not indicated one of these procedures (or he has requested the application of the European Small Claims Procedure to a claim that does not fall within the scope of Regulation (EC) No 861/2007), “the proceedings shall be transferred to the appropriate national civil procedure” (para. 2; emphasis added).

Consequently, the Appendix 2 to the Application for a European Order for Payment (form A) puts in the claimant’s hand the option to request: 1) the discontinuance of the proceedings, or 2) the continuation in accordance with the rule of the European Small Claim Procedure, if applicable, or 3) the continuation in accordance with any appropriate national civil procedure.

Once again, where is the room for “choices” other than that to explicitly oppose to the transfer, or to request that the proceedings be continued under the European Small Claim Procedure or under the appropriate national civil procedure? Moreover, may the judgment as to the “appropriateness” of the national civil procedure be left to the claimant? May it be left to him even when the request to apply the European Small Claim Procedure is ungrounded because the claim falls outside the scope of Regulation (EC) No 861/2007? Who decides about the lack of “appropriateness”? Accordingly, what happens in case the claimant brings an action for civil proceedings that are not “appropriate” or suitable for the claim he sought to satisfy through the European Order for Payment procedure?

…the “choice” logically is the best way not to prejudice the claimant

All things considered, a room in the Regulation (EC) No 1896/2006 seems to unfold more for further judge’s burdens than for further claimant’s “choices” when it comes to governing the transfer under Article 17 in absence of specific national provisions.

However, it’s worth recalling that Article 17 (3) provides that “where the claimant has pursued his claim through the European order for payment procedure, nothing under national law shall prejudice his position in subsequent civil proceedings”.

It goes without saying that the claimant is not prejudiced, but fully protected, if he may even choose the national civil proceedings after the debtor’s opposition and benefits from a second choice between continuing or terminating the whole proceeding.

What about the defendant?

Despite being inclined to safeguard the claimant, the Regulation pays close attention also to the rights of the defendant.

Therefore, it should not be underestimated, as a concluding remark, that “[i]n the European order for payment, the defendant shall be informed that […] where a statement of opposition is lodged, the proceedings shall continue before the competent courts of the Member State of origin in accordance with the rules of ordinary civil procedure […]” (Article 12 (4)(c)).

It is debatable whether, from the defendant’s standpoint, the “accordance” with the rules of ordinary civil procedure may also include – in the silence of the Regulation and in absence of national rules governing the transfer – the “accordance” with the claimant’s choice of the national procedure that the defendant may eventually undergo.

The doubts increase if one considers that, unlike the claimant, who would benefit from a series of choices, the defendant has only two means (except for the remedies) to impinge on the procedural destiny of the disputed claim (to pay the amount or to oppose the order), which both result in the European procedure’s closing.

Ultimately, the idea that the claimant may choose the national civil proceeding and profits from a second choice between continuing or terminating the whole proceeding seems to unbalance the position in which the Regulation has placed the claimant and the defendant after the order has been issued.

 

 

 

 

Diversity in Unity: The Succession Regulation in Hungary and Beyond – International conference and workshop on the EU Succession Regulation

Conflictoflaws - lun, 03/11/2019 - 16:14

On Friday, 12 April 2019, the EU Justice funded project GoInEu (Governing Inheritance Statutes after the Entry into Force of EU Succession Regulation) and the Hungarian Chamber of Civil Law Notaries’ will organize a conference and a workshop on the first three (and half) years of application of the EU Succession Regulation (650/2012/EU).

The conference and workshop will be held in Budapest (Hungary). The complete programme is available here. 

Participation is free of charge. The conference language will be Hungarian, with simultaneous English translation.

Those who wish to attend are kindly requested to register by filling out the registration form available here.

For questions and inquiries please contact Ádám Fuglinszky (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest) at fuglinszky@ajk.elte.hu.

Happy Flights v Ryanair. Belgian Supreme Court (only) confirms proper lex causae for validity of choice of court under Article 25 Brussels Ia.

GAVC - lun, 03/11/2019 - 12:12

Thank you alumna and appreciated co-author Jutta Gangsted for flagging Charles Price’s (former learned colleague of mine at Dibb Lupton Alsop) and Sébastien Popijn’s alert on the Belgian Supreme Court’s ruling of 8 February last in C.18.0354.N Happy Flights v Ryanair. Happy Flights are a Belgium-based online claim agency to which disgruntled passengers may assign claims for compensation under Regulation 261/2004.

At issue is the validity of Ryanair’s choice of court in its general terms and conditions, referring consumers to Irish courts. The Brussels Commercial court on 30 May 2018 seemingly first of all did not assess whether the agency may be considered a ‘consumer’ within the terms of the consumer title of Brussels Ia, having been assigned the consumers’ claims. This decision is unreported <enters his usual rant about the lack of proper reporting of Belgian case-law>.

The Supreme Court (at 2, line 47) notes this lack of assessment by the lower court. It does not however complete the analysis sticking religiously to its role to interpret the law only, not the facts. Per CJEU Schrems mutatis mutandis I would suggest an affirmative answer (the agency having been assigned the consumers’ rights): in which case the Article 25 analysis becomes redundant.

The Brussels Commercial court subsequently and again from what one can infer from the Supreme Court’s ruling, discussed the validity of choice of court under Article 25 Brussels Ia, reviewing its formal conditions (formation of consent) yet judging the material validity under the lex fori, Belgian law, not the lex fori prorogati, Irish law. This is a clear violation of A25 juncto recital 20 Brussels Ia. The Supreme Court suggests that the relevant Irish implementation of the unfair consumer terms Directive 93/13 does imply invalidity of the clause (again: if the claim is held to fall under the consumer title, this analysis will become superfluous).

The Court’s judgment unlike the understandably enthusiastic briefing by Happy Flight’s counsel does not quite yet mean that Ryanair’s terms and conditions on this issue have been invalidated. However it is likely they will be upon further assessment on the merits. As I note above first up there will be the issue of assignment rather than the issue of A25.

For your interest, I gave a Twitter tutorial on a related issue (consumer law, lex causae, compulsory referral to arbitration) recently.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.9, Heading 2.2.9.4.

It is possible! Another milestone for the Hague Conference: the Intercountry Adoption Convention has 101 Contracting Parties

Conflictoflaws - dim, 03/10/2019 - 14:03

Another HCCH Convention has recently reached the number of 100 Contracting Parties. In February and March 2019, two States joined the HCCH Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Intercountry Adoption Convention): Guyana (by accession) and Honduras (by ratification).

The Intercountry Adoption Convention will enter into force for Guyana and Honduras on 1 June 2019 and 1 July 2019, respectively. The status table is available here.

As announced, Guyana and Honduras are the first States in the Americas to become a party to all four modern HCCH Children’s Conventions. In addition to the Intercountry Adoption Convention, the other modern HCCH Children’s Conventions are:

  • the HCCH Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Child Abduction Convention);
  • the HCCH Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (Child Protection Convention); and
  • the HCCH Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (Child Support Convention).

There is also a Protocol of 23 November 2007 on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations but neither of them is yet a party.

The other two Hague Conventions that have reached 100 or more Contracting Parties are the Child Abduction Convention (see my previous post here) and the HCCH Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (Apostille Convention). The latter has 117 Contracting Parties, the latest one being the Philippines (to enter into force on 14 May 2019 see here).

The HCCH news item is available here.

Conflictoflaws.net editor Ralf Michaels appointed Director of the Max Planck Institute Hamburg

Conflictoflaws - mar, 03/05/2019 - 07:00

We are happy to report that one of our editors, Ralf Michaels from Duke University, has been appointed a new Director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg. Succeeding Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. must. Jürgen Basedow, who retired in 2016, Ralf assumed the position part-time in January 2019 and will take on his duties full-time in summer 2019.

Congratulations!

For more on Ralf’s appointment and his research agenda see here.

Admissibility of a reference for a preliminary ruling regarding the issue of a certificate under Article 53 of Regulation No 1215/2012: On the legal nature of the judgment delivered

Conflictoflaws - lun, 03/04/2019 - 12:46
Case C-579/17 BUAK Bauarbeiter-Urlaubs- u. Abfertigungskasse v GRADBENIŠTVO KORANA

The CJEU published last week a judgment on a request for a preliminary ruling by the Vienna Labour and Social Security Court. The facts of the case are presented under recitals 21-31. The Austrian court referred the following question to the Court:

‘Is Article 1 of Regulation … No 1215/2012 … to be interpreted as meaning that proceedings involving the assertion of claims by [BUAK] for wage supplements against employers as a result of the posting to Austria of workers without a habitual place of work in Austria for the purposes of performing work or in connection with the hiring-out of workers, or against employers established outside Austria as a result of the employment of workers with a habitual place of work in Austria, constitute “civil and commercial matters” to which the aforementioned regulation applies, even where such claims by BUAK for wage supplements concern employment relationships governed by private law and serve to cover workers’ claims to annual leave and payment in respect of annual leave, governed by private law and arising from employment relationships with employers, but nevertheless

–        both the amount of the workers’ claims against BUAK for annual leave pay and that of BUAK’s claims against employers for wage supplements are determined not by contract or collective bargaining agreement but, instead, by decree of a Federal Minister,

–        the wage supplements owed by employers to BUAK serve to cover not only the expenses for the payment in respect of annual leave payable to workers but also BUAK’s expenses for administrative costs, and

–        in connection with the pursuit and enforcement of its claims for such wage supplements, BUAK has more extensive powers by law than a private person, in that

–        employers are required to submit reports to BUAK on specific occasions as well as at monthly intervals, using communication channels set up by BUAK, to take part in and allow BUAK’s inspection measures, grant BUAK access to wage and business records and other documents, and provide information to BUAK, failing which a fine may be imposed, and

–        in the event that an employer breaches its obligations to provide information, BUAK is entitled to calculate the wage supplements owed by the employer on the basis of BUAK’s own investigations, whereby, in that case, BUAK has a claim for wage supplements in the amount calculated by BUAK, irrespective of the actual circumstances of the posting or employment?’

 

1. The admissibility of the request

Prior to answering the question referred, the Court examined the admissibility of the request. The novelty of the matter lies on the existence or non-existence of a judicial character for the issue of a certificate under Article 53 of Brussels I bis Regulation. In other words, the question was raised after the termination of the proceedings and the publication of the judgment. It came to the surface due to the reservations of the competent Austrian body to issue the above certificate, thus labelling the case with a civil or commercial nature. The answer was given in recital 41:

Consequently, the procedure for the issue of a certificate under Article 53 of Regulation No 1215/2012, in circumstances such as those at issue in the main proceedings, is judicial in character, with the result that a national court ruling in the context of such a procedure is entitled to refer questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling.

 

2. On the civil or commercial nature of the dispute

Following the affirmative answer to the admissibility issue, the Court proceeded to the examination of the legal nature of the case at hand. Its analysis extends to recitals 46-64, wherefrom the following could be highlighted:

  • The exercise of public powers by one of the parties excludes a case from civil and commercial matters within the meaning of Article 1(1) of Regulation No 1215/2012 [Recital 49].
  • The CJEU held that the Austrian court’s powers were limited to a simple examination of the conditions for the application of Paragraph 33h (2b) of the BUAG, with the result that, if those conditions are satisfied, the court cannot carry out a detailed examination of the accuracy of the claim relied on by BUAK [Recital 57].
  • In so far as Paragraph 33h (2b) of the BUAG places BUAK in a legal position which derogates from the rules of general law regulating the exercise of an action for payment, by attributing a constitutive effect to the determination by it of the claim and by excluding, according to the referring court, the possibility for the court hearing such an action to control the validity of the information on which that determination is based, it must be concluded that that body acted, in that case, under a public law prerogative of its own conferred by law [Recital 60].
  • In such a case, BUAK should be considered to be acting in the exercise of State authority in the context of a dispute such as that which led to the judgment delivered on 28 April 2017, which would have a major influence over the modalities for the exercise of that procedure, and therefore over its very nature, such that that dispute does not come within the concept of ‘civil and commercial matters’ or, therefore, within the scope of application of Regulation No 1215/2012 [Recital 61].

The Court dedicated only six recitals for the concept of social security and its exclusion pursuant to Article 1(2) (c) Brussels I bis Regulation [Recitals 65-70], concluding that, on the basis of facts delivered, the case does not come within the concept of social security for the purposes of the provision aforementioned.

 

3. Some thoughts on the ruling

The significance of the judgment is self-explanatory: Unlike its predecessor, the certificate under Art. 53 Brussels I bis is one of the core documents needed for direct enforcement in the country of destination. The previous exequatur stage is abolished; hence, the issue on the legal nature of the case is transferred to the court which would try the application for refusal. Therefore, the decision of the Austrian court to refer the matter to the CJEU should be endorsed; the same goes for the position of the latter in regards to the admissibility issue.

The case resembles a recent judgment of the Thessaloniki Court of 1st Instance, which refused to grant exequatur to a German Notice of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians against a doctor of Greek origin, active in the region of Rhineland-Palatinate. As in the case of the Austrian BUAK, the notice was issued ex parte, but no court proceedings ensued in the country of origin. Moreover, the German authorities issued a certificate without questioning the legal nature of the matter at hand. Given that the case fell under the scope of Brussels I Regulation, the Greek judge denied exequatur, stating that the above notice was of an administrative nature, thus falling out of the Regulation’s ambit. The case is published in its original text in: Armenopoulos 2018, pp. 812 et seq. It is also reported in a case note I prepared for the German journal Praxis des Internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts, see: Nichtanwendung der EuGVVO 2001 auf den Bescheid einer deutschen kassenärztlichen Vereinigung in Griechenland – LG Thessaloniki, 19.12.2017 – 19865/2017, IPRax (forthcoming).

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

GAVC - lun, 03/04/2019 - 08:08

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 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 withheld, 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 withheld: 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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