Droit international général

No execution of a Baltimore expired money judgment, even if previously given full faith and credit in Greece

Conflictoflaws - il y a 12 heures 22 min

Creditors in international business transactions need to follow a three step plan in order to secure the satisfaction of their claims: Secure an enforceable judgment in their jurisdiction; declare the latter enforceable in the country of the judgment debtor; and proceed swiftly or at least timely to execution measures. Practice shows that the problems are usually appearing in steps 1 or 2. A recent ruling of the Greek Supreme Court demonstrates that potential pitfalls are to be expected even beyond.

 

THE FACTS

The parties are a Greek [GR] and an American company [US]. Following litigation before the courts of Baltimore, Maryland, US was in possession of an enforceable money judgment against G issued in October 1999. US moved to recognize the above judgment in Greece. Its application was successful, and no appeal was lodged by GR against the judgment of the Athens Court of 1st instance [Nr. 4138/2002, unreported].

For reasons not clarified in the ruling, US entered the enforcement stage only in June 2013, i.e. nearly 14 years after the Baltimore court had issued its judgment. Soon afterwards, i.e. early July same year, US rushed to the Baltimore court’s clerk, requesting the judgment’s renewal. The clerk granted the request late July. January 2014 GR filed an application to revoke the renewal which was sustained. In particular, the Baltimore court considered the request for renewal as inadmissible, because it was not filed timely, i.e. within 12 years following the judgment’s date of entry, in accordance with Rule 2-625 Maryland Rules, Title 2. Civil Procedure–Circuit Court.

Nevertheless, US moved ahead with enforcement in Greece. As it was to be expected, GR applied for stay of execution, which was however dismissed by the Athens 1st Instance Court [Nr. 6235/2015, unreported]. US appealed successfully [Athens CoA Nr. 3074/2016, unreported].

THE RULING

The reasoning of the Supreme Court’s ruling may be summarized as follows:

  • An expired foreign judgment previously declared enforceable in Greece does not affect the exequatur proceedings ex post.
  • The judgment debtor may however file an application for reversal or request the court to confirm the foreign judgment’s lack of enforceability in the state of origin. If enforcement has already begun, the judgment debtor may file an application for stay of execution.
  • The validity and enforceability of the foreign judgment are examined in accordance with the law of the country of origin, i.e. the country where the judgment was rendered.
  • The domestic judgment, i.e. the one issued in the exequatur proceedings, does not replace the original enforceable title; moreover, it simply extends its enforceability in the country of destination. If the foreign judgment is no longer enforceable in the country of origin, execution may not begin in the country of destination.
  • If execution may not take place for the main claim, it is equally forbidden for subsequent claims included in the foreign judgment, such as interest claims.
  • The fact that Greek law provides for a longer limitation time (20 years) may not lead to the assumption that the same rule should apply for the foreign judgment, simply because it has been recognized by a Greek court of law.
  • There’s no contradiction between the fact that the recognition of the foreign judgment in Greece is final and conclusive, and the fact that the US judgment may not be enforced due to its expiry pursuant to the rules of the law of origin.

AREIOS PAGOS Nr. 767/2019, unreported.

COMMENTS

I start with the provision which was the game-changer in the ordinary process of execution:

RULE 2-625. EXPIRATION AND RENEWAL OF MONEY JUDGMENT: A money judgment expires 12 years from the date of entry or most recent renewal. At any time before expiration of the judgment, the judgment holder may file a notice of renewal and the clerk shall enter the judgment renewed.

US showed negligence and paid for it. It is somehow questionable, why the clerk at the Baltimore court decided to grant renewal: The wording of the rule is clear and the maths could be done easily even by a child in elementary school.

The ruling of the Supreme Court is in line with standard case law in the country, which covers all foreign judgments irrespective of their origin.

 

 

Gama on the UNIDROIT Principles and the Law Governing International Contracts

EAPIL blog - il y a 15 heures 32 min

The Hague Lectures of Lauro Gama (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro) on the Unidroit Principles and the Law Governing International Commercial Contracts (Les principes UNIDROIT et la loi régissant les contrats de commerce international) were published in volume 406 of the Collected Course of the Hague Academy of International Law.

The book is written in French, but the author has kindly provided the following abstract in English:

This course outlines the challenges related to the application of the UPICC as the law governing international commercial contracts. It examines the UPICC both in the context of disputes submitted to State courts and arbitration, and how and why the UPICC differ from domestic law and international conventions in the role of governing law. It also analyses cases in which the UPICC apply as primary or subsidiary governing law. In addition, the course highlights the limits of the current rules of private international law to deal with the new kind of normativity represented by the UPICC. Traditional conflict rules tend to prevent both the choice and application of a non-state law such as the UPICC, as well as the concomitant use of multiple normative instruments as law applicable to the merits of a dispute. As a substantive non-state law in motion, a “work in progress” in permanent dialogue with domestic law and international conventions, the UPICC remains a challenge from the point of view of private international law.

New decision from the ICCP

European Civil Justice - il y a 22 heures 33 min

The International Commercial Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Paris (France) delivered a few days ago (15 September 2020) a decision (RG 19/09518) on abrupt termination of established commercial relationships.

The summary: “In this liability case based on the abrupt termination of established commercial relationships, the ICCP-CA found admissible the action brought against the French subsidiary of the Asus group, alongside its Singaporean subsidiary, which had signed a partnership agreement with Sodexpo for the distribution of ASUS branded products in the French overseas departments and territories, in view of its interference in the establishment, execution and development of the said partnership, which created the appearance of a legitimate belief that the two Asus companies were partners in the commercial relationship (§§ 17 – 26). 

The ICCP-CA found the French and Singaporean subsidiaries of the Asus group liable of the abrupt termination of the commercial relationship. It ruled that the relationship was well established and that it had lasted for 25 months, among others in view of the development of the partnership between 2014 and 2016 and the granting of an exclusivity right at the end of 2016, suggesting a continuity of business flow for 2017 (§§ 30-37). The ICCP-CA held that the abruptness of the termination was characterized by the failure to give sufficient notice. It considered that in view of the 25-month duration of the commercial relationship, the constantly growing business volume (representing 40% of Sodexpo’s sales in 2016), the brand’s reputation and positioning in the global market, as well as the loss of a market that Sodexpo contributed to create in the French overseas departments and territories and the difficulty for the company to develop new business, the notification of termination should have been given 6 months in advance, rather than 7 days. 

The ICCP-CA has set the compensation for the abruptness of the termination on the basis of the loss of gross margin on the discounts granted by the Asus companies within the framework of their partnership with Sodexpo, specifying that the loss could not be calculated by reference to the margin earned by Sodexpo on its sales with wholesalers, third parties to the relationship, but only on the loss of the advantage resulting from the partnership with Asus (§§ 46-51). The ICCP-CA held that the abruptness of the termination also gave rise to a distinct harm affecting the image and commercial credibility of Sodexpo, taking into account the reputation of the Asus brand and the development of its distribution in the French overseas departments and territories.

The ICCP-CA furthermore rejected Sodexpo’s claim for compensation for the misappropriation of know-how in the absence of any proof establishing both wrongful acts committed by the Asus companies and a distinct loss resulting from the abruptness of the termination (§§ 54). It also rejected Sodexpo’s claim for reimbursement of unsold stock because of the lack of proof of an impossibility of selling it (§§ 57)”.

The decision is attached to this post.

15 sept 2020 CCIP- CA RG 1909518Download

Explanatory Report on the Judgments Convention now available

European Civil Justice - il y a 22 heures 44 min

The Explanatory Report on the HCCH Convention of 2 July 2019 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters has been approved yesterday. You can find it attached .

HCCH Judgments Convention – Explanatory ReportDownload

Legal Status of a Child Born Through Surrogacy – Latest From Poland

EAPIL blog - mer, 09/23/2020 - 08:00

The Supreme Administrative Court in Poland (Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny – NSA) issued on 10 September 2020 two judgments concerning the legal status in Poland of a child born by a surrogate mother in the US.

Transcription – No!  

A US birth certificate indicated a Polish national as the father and also contained information that the child was born through surrogacy (without mentioning the surrogate mother’s name).

Two judgments were issued as a result of two separate administrative proceedings instituted by the father. One concerned the application for the transcription of the US birth certificate into Polish civil status registry. The other was resulted from the application for a confirmation that the child acquired Polish nationality by birth.

In both cases administrative authorities had rejected the requests based on grounds of public policy, stating that surrogacy arrangements are against fundamental principles of the legal order in Poland. One of these fundamental principles is that the mother is always a woman, who gave birth to the child, whereas paternity results from a scheme of legal presumptions. This argument is not new, as similar cases were dealt with before by administrative authorities and administrative courts.

This argument was also upheld by the NSA in the first judgement (signature: II OSK 1390/18) where it underlined that a foreign birth certificate, which does not indicate the mother, but only the father may not be transcribed into Polish civil status registry.

Acquisition of Nationality  – Yes!

What shows a slight evolution in the Court’s attitude is the second judgment (signature: II OSK 3362/17), where the NSA stated that a foreign birth certificate is the only proof of an occurrence mentioned in it and its probative force may not be questioned in the course of an administrative proceeding concerning acquisition of the nationality. For a confirmation to be produced, it suffices that the foreign birth certificate indicates a Polish national as a parent.

Here it might be reminded that an opposite view of the NSA with respect to nationality of children born by a surrogate mother resulted in a claim filed to the European Court of Human Rights against Poland in 2015 (communicated in 2019 – see cases nos. 56846/15 and 56849/15: here).

If Not Transcription – What?

The two commented cases show that in NSA’s view surrogacy arrangements are against public order in Poland, but at the same time the fact of being born by a surrogate mother should not impact the legal status in every respect and consequently quality of life of the child in Poland. In the first mentioned judgement, the NSA underlined that even without Polish birth certificate the child should be able to obtain a PESEL number (explained below), a national ID card and a passport. The practical question is whether the above is a wishful thinking of the NSA or this will happen in practice.

It must be explained that for an everyday life and functioning in Poland one should have a PESEL number (which name comes from the first letters of the Powszechny Elektroniczny System Ewidencji Ludności – the General Electronic System of Population Registration).

A PESEL must be provided when one applies for ID card, passport, files a tax return or wants to get a drug prescription. Similarly, a child’s PESEL must be indicated if parents/legal representatives apply for child’s ID card, want the child to be covered by the national social security system or want the child to go to a kindergarten. For children born in Poland (no matter if to Polish parents or foreigners) PESEL is issued in connection with the drafting of a birth certificate. If a Polish child is born abroad, the PESEL is issued in connection with the application for an ID card or a passport.

Hence, if a child does not have a Polish birth certificate or a foreign birth certificate which might be transcribed into Polish civil status registry (and additionally is not perceived as a Polish national), administrative authorities do not have an adequate legal basis for allocating a PESEL to the child and … everyday life might get complicated.

What are the Effects of the Judgments?

The judgments issued by the NSA are binding on the administrative authorities concerned and with respect to the particular cases at issue, but not on other authorities in other proceedings.

Hence, it remains to be seen whether a PESEL number and ID documents will be issued based on a foreign birth certificate as suggested by the NSA or whether another time-consuming proceeding will commence. As one can imagine the commented proceedings lasted for few years counting from the first application to the judgement of the NSA.

The information about the above two cases was published by Polish Ombudsman (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) on its official website (see: here). The ombudsman joined both cases to support the applicant. Usually NSA’s judgements are published in the freely available official database once the justification part of the judgement is prepared (here). The justification is written after the judgement was issued. Hence, it is not yet available.

Out now: Explanatory Report on the HCCH Judgments Convention

Conflictoflaws - mar, 09/22/2020 - 19:43

Today, the Explanatory Report (ER) was approved on the HCCH Convention of 2 July 2019 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters (HCCH Judgments Convention), prepared by the co-Rapporteurs, Professor Francisco Garcímartin and Professor Geneviève Saumier, with the assistance of the Permanent Bureau of the HCCH. The Explanatory Report will be published shortly. In the meantime, a final version in “pre-publication” mode is available here. The full text of the announcement of the HCCH is here.

Out now: PIL – interaction among international, European and national legal instruments (in Croatian)

Conflictoflaws - mar, 09/22/2020 - 13:40

Following the roundtable organised on 29 October 2020 by the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts (HAZU), the book Private International Law – interaction among international, European and national legal instruments or, in the original, Medunarodno privatno pravo – interakcija medunarodnih, europskih i domacih propisa, has been published by HAZU. The volume contains the following papers:

I. KEYNOTE SECTION

Ivana Kunda
Upucivanje na propise EU u Zakonu o medunarodnom privatnom pravu (References to EU legal instruments in the Private International Law Act)

Hrvoje Sikiric
Priznanje i ovrha stranih odluka – praksa Suda EU (Recognition and enforcement of judgments – the CJEU case law)

Davor Babic
Stranacka autonomija u EU medunarodnom privatnom pravu (Party autonomy in private international law)

Ines Medic
Pocetak uredenja imovinskopravnih pitanja na razini EU, posljedice i moguci daljnji razvoj (Beginnings in regulating the property issues at the EU level, consequences and possible future development)

Mirela Zupan
Utjecaj ljudskih prava na suvremeno medunarodno privatno pravo (Effects of human rights over contemporary private international law)

II. DISCUSSION SECTION

Kristijan Turkalj
Iskustva hrvatskih sudova u postavljanju prethodnih pitanja pred Sudom EU (Experiences of Croatian courts in making preliminary references to the CJEU)

Tijana Kokic
Primjena uredbi EU iz medunarodnog privatnog prava na Opcinskom gradanskom sudu u Zagrebu (Application of the EU regulations on private international law before the General Civil Court in Zagreb)

Ines Brozovic
Medunarodno privatno pravo u praksi hrvatskih sudova – glediste odvjetnika (Private international law in the Croatian court practice – the attorney’s perspective)

Ljiljana Vodopija Cengic
Primjena uredbi EU iz medunarodnog privatnog i procesnog prava u ostavinskim postupcima koje provode javni biljeznici (Application of EU regulations on private and procedural international law in succession proceedings before the notaries)

Unwired Planet v Huawei [2020] UKSC 37: The UK Supreme Court Declared Competence to Determine Global FRAND Licensing Rate

Conflictoflaws - mar, 09/22/2020 - 10:44
  1. Background

The UK Supreme Court delivered the landmark judgment on Unwired Planet v Huawei and Conversant v Huawei and ZTE, [2020] UKSC 37 on 26 Aug 2020. In 2014, the US company Unwired Planet sued Huawei and other smartphone manufacturers for infringing its UK patents obtained from Ericsson. Some of these patents are essential to the 2G, 3G and 4G wireless telecommunication standards set by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), an international standards setting organization (SSO). Since Ericsson and Nokia are subject to various ETSI policies including patent policies, these policies continue to apply after they are acquired by Unwired Planet. The ETSI patent policy requires that holder of patents that are indispensable for the implementation of ETSI standards, referred to as standard essential patents (SEP) , must grant licence to implementers (such as the smartphone manufacturers) on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory ” (FRABD) terms. In 2017, Canadian company Conversant filed similar lawsuits against Huawei and ZTE.

Unwired Planet and Conversant proposed to grant the worldwide licence, but Huawei proposed a UK only licence. Huawei believes that the UK litigation only concerns the UK licence and the licence fees paid to resolve disputes under the UK procedure should cover only British patents and not global patents. The UK Supreme Court upheld the High Court and Court of Appeal judgments, ruling that the FRAND licence will need to be global between large multinational companies. If Huawei refuses to pay the FRAND global licence rate determined by the court, the court will issue an injunction restraining Huawei’s sale of infringing products in the UK.

  1. Legal Issues

The Supreme Court answers five legal questions: 1. Does the English court have the power or jurisdiction without the parties’ agreement to require the parties to enter into a global licence under a multinational patent portfolio? 2. Is England the proper forum for such a claim? 3. What is the meaning and effect of the non-discrimination component of the FRAND undertaking? 4. Does the CJEU’s decision in Huawei v ZTE mean that a SEP owner is entitled to seek an injunction restraining infringement of those SEPs in circumstances such as those of the Unwired case? 5. Should Court grant damages in lieu of an injunction?

Given our focus on private international law, this note only focuses on the private international law related issue, namely the English court’s “long arm” jurisdiction to grant a global licence for dispute concerning the infringement of the UK patent and to issue an injunction if the global licence rate is not complied.

 

  1. Territoriality of Patents and Globalisation of Telecommunication

Telecommunication industry faces the conflict between territoriality of patents and globalisation of telecom products and equipment. Products made in different countries should be able to communicate and inter-operate and keep operational in different jurisdictions. It would be unrealistic to require patent holders to defend their patent country by country. It is also harmful to the industry if SEP holders demand unreasonable licence fees and prohibit the use of its invention within a national jurisdiction. It is unreasonable for consumers if they cannot use their mobiles smartphones or other telecom devices when travel abroad. To reconcile the conflict, the ETSI policy requires the SEP holders to irrevocably license their SEP portfolios on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms. The policy reconciles conflict of interest between SEP holders and SEP implementers but does not, at least directly, resolve the conflict between territoriality and globalisation. In terms of the later, the industry practice shows that multinational SEP holders and implementers usually negotiate worldwide licences, bearing in mind that the SEP holders and implementers cannot test validity of each patent of the portfolio in each country. The licence rate is thus based on the understanding that some patents may be invalid in some countries.

The Supreme Court confirmed the territoriality principle. English court only has jurisdiction to determine validity and infringement of the UK patent. But the English court, based on the jurisdiction on the UK patent, has the competence to grant a global licence rate.

This judgment includes a few private international law matters. Firstly, the granting of global licence rate is a matter in relation to applicable law instead of jurisdiction from the private international law perspective. The case concerns the infringement and validity of the UK patents and the English court has no problem to take jurisdiction. After ruling the defendant indeed infringed the valid UK patents the English court moved to remedy. The remedy to the infringement of SEPs is the grant of FRAND rate pursuant to the ETSI policy and industry practice. This, however, does not mean the English court directly treats business custom or ETSI policy as the governing law, which, standing alone, may not be able to acquire the status as other non-state norms under the current legal framework. (Rome I Regulation) They are applied pursuant to the contract principle. The judgment heavily relies on the ETSI policy, including its language and purpose. The court concludes that the ETSI policy creates a contractual arrangement between SEP holders and implementers and it is the intention of the policy to grant global licences for SEP portfolios taking into account of industry practices and the purpose. English courts’ power to determine a global FRAND licence rate is inherently consistent with the ETSI policy, given there is no alternative international forum available. There is no consideration of any choice of law rules, as the court naturally applies these non-state norms as part of the contract between the parties. Relying on contract to seise the power to determine the global rate helps the court to avoid the necessity to determine the validity of foreign patents of the same patent family.

The Supreme Court also considered the forum non conveniens in Conversant case (forum non conveniens was not plead in Unwired Planet). The court refused to accept that China would be the more appropriate alternative forum. Although 64% of Huawei’s sales occur in China and only 1% in the UK and 60% of the ZTE’s operating revenue in the first six months of 2017 was from China and only 0.07% from the UK, the Supreme court held that Chinese courts might not assume jurisdiction to determine the global FRAND term. It seems possible that if China, or any other country, which maybe the most important global market for the disputed patents, follows the UK approach to grant global licence for SEP portfolios, the English court may apply forum non conveniens to decline jurisdiction. In fact, Chinese law does not prevent a Chinese court from issuing licence with broader territorial coverage, though there is not yet any case on this matter. The “Working Guidance for Trial of SEP disputes by the Guangdong Province Higher People’s Court (for Trial Implementation)” of 2018 provides in Art 16 that if the SEP holder or implementer unilaterally applies for the licence covering areas exceeding the court’s territory, and the other party does not expressly oppose or the opposition is unreasonable, the court could determine the applied licence rate with broader geographic coverage.

A more controversial point of the judgment is that the Supreme Court concludes that the ESTI policy would allow the court to issue injunction if the implementer refuses to pay the global licence rate. It is important to know that the ESTI policy does not expressly state such an effect. The UK court believes that an injunction would serve as a strong incentive for the patentee to accept a global licence. Damages, on the other hand, may encourage implementers to infringe patents until damages are applied and received in each jurisdiction. This conclusion is rather surprising as the injunction of SEPs in one jurisdiction may have the potential to disturb the whole telecommunication market for the given manufacturer. There is even argument that the purpose of ESTI is to prohibit injunction for SEPs (here; and here) The use of injunction may not “balance” the conflicting interests, but significantly favours the SEP holders to the disadvantage of the implementers

  1. Forum Shopping and Conflict of Jurisdiction

It is important to note that regardless of the current geopolitical tension between the US and China, the UK Supreme Court’s judgment should not be interpreted as one that has taken the political stance against China’s High-Tech companies. (here) It upholds the judgments of the lower courts dated back to 2014. It is also consistent with the principle of judicial efficiency, protection of innovation and business efficacy. Although the final result protects the patent holders more than the implementers, it is hard to argue anything wrong in terms of policy. Furthermore, since Huawei and Unwired Planet had already settled and the rate set by the court had been paid, this judgment will not result in additional payment obligations or an injunction. (here) Finally, although Huawei lost this case as the implementer, Huawei is also the biggest 5G SEP holder. Pursuant to this judgment, although Huawei has been banned from the UK’s 5G network, it can still require other 5G implementers for a global FRAND licence rate and apply for injunction upon a refusal.

If there is any political drive, it may be the intention to become an international litigation centre for patent disputes after Brexit. This judgment allows the English court jurisdiction to determine a global licence rate simply based on the infringement of a UK patent, no matter how small the UK market is. The one-stop solution available in the English court would be particularly welcome by patent holders, especially SEP holders, who would no longer need to prove validity in each jurisdiction. This judgment also enhances the negotiation power of the SEP holders versus implementers. It is likely that more FRAND litigation would be brought to the UK.

On the other hand, some implementers may decide to give up the UK market, especially those with small market share in the UK. Some companies may decide to accept the injunction instead of paying high global licence rate. This may also suggest that the UK consumers may find it slower and more expensive to access to some high-tech products.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s judgment does not depend on any unique domestic legislation but the ETSI contractual arrangement which applies to its members and the industry practice and custom. There is no barrier for other countries, including China, to follow the same reasoning.  It is possible many other countries may, fully or partly, follow this judgment. If the courts of multiple countries can set the global FRAND rate and they apply different standards to set this rate, forum shopping and conflict of jurisdictions may be inevitable. Anti-suit injunction and anti-enforcement injunction may be more frequently applied and issued. The China Supreme Court IP Tribunal recently restrained the Conversant from applying the German court to enforce the German judgment in a related case, which awards Conversant the FRAND rate 18.3 times of the rate awarded by the Chinese courts on the infringement of the Chinese patents of the same family. This is called act preservation in China with the similar function as the anti-enforcement injunction. ((2019) Supreme Court IP Tribunal Final One of No 732, 733 and 734) This case suggests Chinese courts would be ready to issue the similar act preservation order or injunction to prevent the other party from enforcing a global FRAND rate set by the foreign court against the Chinese implementers, whether or not Chinese court could issue the global FRAND licence. The long term impact of the Unwired Planet v Huawei may be the severer competition in jurisdiction between different courts which may require reconciliation either through judicial cooperation arrangement or through the establishment of a global tribunal by the relevant standard setting organisation.

Equivalence in Private International Law

EAPIL blog - mar, 09/22/2020 - 08:00

Tilman Imm has written a thesis on the mechanism of equivalence in Financial and Capital Markets Law (Der finanz- und kapitalmarktrechtliche Gleichwertigkeitsmechanismus – Zur Methode der Substitution in Theorie und Praxis).

The author has kindly provided the following summary:

The concept of equivalence or substituted compliance is of considerable importance in today’s financial and capital market law. This is a regulatory mechanism which, roughly speaking, works as follows: A rule provides for favourable legal consequences – such as the registration of a company for the provision of investment services – in the event that its object of regulation is already achieved in an equivalent manner by the regulations of another standard-setting body. Numerous implementations of this mechanism are to be found in the European Union’s regulations on third countries, which have recently gained considerable relevance against the backdrop of Brexit. So far, however, there has been a lack of clarity in practice and science about various aspects of equivalence.

This dissertation shows that the widespread equivalence rules are cases of legally provided substitution and demonstrates the practical consequences of this finding. For this purpose, first of all, the current state of knowledge in private international law regarding the instrument of substitution is examined. This includes the term, object and autonomy of substitution as well as its preconditions in order to define a conceptual understanding for the further course of the analysis. Especially the substitution requirement of equivalence is analysed more closely, which entails an examination of the criterion of functional equivalence and the occasional criticism of the requirement of equivalence.

The second part of the thesis turns to the equivalence mechanism in financial and capital market law. At the beginning, the so-called third country regime of European financial and capital market law is presented in an overview to illustrate to what extent and under which conditions third country companies can become active in this area of the internal market. This is followed by an analysis of the equivalence mechanism, which includes not only the history and functions of this regulatory technique, but also the determination of equivalence by the European Commission or national authorities. In this context, the main thesis of the treatise, namely that equivalence rules are cases of legally provided substitution, is reviewed and the widespread criticism of the mechanism is presented and acknowledged.

Finally, the third part of the dissertation features the exemption options for third-country companies within the framework of the German Securities Trading Act (Wertpapierhandelsgesetz – WpHG) to show how the equivalence mechanism works in practice and to what extent its potential can be limited by regulatory deficits, starting with an analysis of the equivalence of US law in terms of Section 46 WpHG. This is followed by an examination of Section 91 WpHG, which has recently been added to the WpHG, and includes a critical examination of the status quo with regard to the equivalence requirement of this provision.

Another Preliminary Reference on the Succession Regulation Involving (and Referred by) a Polish Notary

EAPIL blog - lun, 09/21/2020 - 08:00

The author of this post is Carlos Santaló Goris, research fellow at the MPI Luxembourg and PhD candidate at the University of Luxembourg.

On 3 August 2020, a Polish notary referred a request for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”).

The facts are simple: a Ukrainian citizen living in Poland asked a Polish notary to draft her will. She wanted Ukrainian law to apply to the succession. The notary refused, arguing that the law applicable to the succession cannot be chosen under the 1992 Ukrainian-Polish bilateral treaty on civil and criminal matters.

The applicant complained against the refusal; she claimed that the Succession Regulation, which allows the de cujus to choose the law of her nationality to rule the succession (Article 22), should apply instead. According to Polish law, the complaint procedure is to be brought before a notary.

The CJEU is asked to interpret the Succession Regulation, as follows:

  1. Must Article 22 of [the Succession Regulation] also be interpreted as meaning that a person who is not a citizen of the Union is also entitled to choose his maternal law as the law applicable to the succession as a whole?
  2. Is Article 75 in conjunction with Article 22 of [the Succession Regulation] to be interpreted as meaning that, where a bilateral convention binding a Member State to a non-member country does not govern the choice of law on succession but designates the law applicable in matters of succession, a national of that non-member country who resides in a Member State bound by that bilateral agreement may choose the law?
  3. In particular: must a bilateral agreement with a non-member State expressly preclude the choice of a particular law, and not only the status of succession by means of objective criteria, in order for its provisions to prevail over Article 22 of [the Succession Regulation]? does the freedom to choose the succession law and to standardize the applicable law by choosing the law — at least to the extent defined by the EU legislature in Article 22 of [the Succession Regulation] — fall within the principles underlying judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters within the European Union and cannot be affected even in the event of the application of bilateral conventions with third countries which prevail over Regulation No 650/2012?
The questions

In my view, the CJEU will not struggle to provide an answer to the first question of the request. The Succession Regulation applies to the wills drafted by authorities of the Member States; Article 20 declares its “universal application”; Article 22 does not make any difference between “States” and “Member State”; like EU nationals, third-State citizens can choose their national law.

The second question is trickier. It starts with the interpretation of the last sentence of Article 75(1) of the Regulation (“this Regulation shall not affect the application of international conventions to which one or more Member States are party at the time of adoption of this Regulation and which concern matters covered by this Regulation”). Since the bilateral convention has no provision on the choice of law in relation to successions, it could be argued that this particular aspect is not foreseen, hence the Succession Regulation applies.

However, the convention does rule on the law applicable to movable and immovable estate, just like the Regulation, and therefore it should prevail. Should this be the case, the second part of the question would come into play. The CJEU is asked here to produce a declaration on values, likely to end up with the need to strike a balance – or not, for there is no doubt the negotiators knew about the contents of the conventions Article 75 intends to preserve, and about the fact that choice of law is not a widely accepted rule in succession matters. Should the principle of choice of law always prevail, Article 75 would be deprived of much of its sense.

Are Notaries Courts (in the Sense of Article 267 TFEU)?

Rather than the actual questions of the preliminary reference, what is more intriguing is whether Polish notaries deciding on complaints against the refusal to carry out a notarial act can address themselves directly to the CJEU via the preliminary reference. According to Article 267 of the TFEU, only courts can make preliminary references. In C-658/17, W.B., the CJEU determined that Polish notaries issuing a certificate of succession are not “courts” for the purpose of the Succession Regulation. Nonetheless, whether a notary reviewing a decision taken by another notary fits with the Article 267 of the TFEU is something different.

With a view to provide an autonomous notion, the CJEU has elaborated a list of prerequisites a domestic authority needs to comply with to be considered a court under Article 267: the body under examination must have been established by law, be permanent, have compulsory jurisdiction, adjudicate in an inter partes procedure, apply the rules of law, and be independent (C-54/96, Dorsch Consult, para. 23).

The analysis of the admissibility of the preliminary reference, focused on whether a notary fulfils the conditions just mentioned, will surely be the first step of the CJEU in the case at hand. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the Polish Supreme Court and the Polish Constitutional Court have already explored whether, under Polish law, notaries acting in complaint procedures like the one at stake have the status of courts, and concluded that they may be considered first instance courts, performing ancillary functions of the administration of justice.

At any rate, the CJEU is not bound by the determinations of the national courts. It will decide on the basis of its own findings. And it will do so at a moment when the whole Polish judicial system is under suspicion (see C 354/20 PPU, and soon, C-412/20 PPU,  both widely reported in the press), and the future of judicial cooperation, also in civil matters, is an issue of legitimate concern.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Conflict of Laws

Conflictoflaws - dim, 09/20/2020 - 21:50

by Tobias Lutzi, University of Cologne

Since the sad news of her passing, lawyers all around the world have mourned the loss of one of the most iconic and influential members of the legal profession and a true champion of gender equality. Through her work as a scholar and a justice, just as much as through her personal struggles and achievements, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has inspired generations of lawyers.

On top of being a global icon of women’s rights and a highly influential voice on a wide range of issues, Ginsburg has also expressed her views on questions relating to the interaction between different legal systems, both within the US and internationally, on several occasions. In fact, two of her early law-review articles focus entirely on two perennial problems of private international law.

Accordingly, readers of this blog may enjoy to go through some of her writings in this area, both judicial and extra-judicial, in an attempt to pay tribute to her work.

Jurisdiction

In one of Ginsburg’s earliest publications, The Competent Court in Private International Law: Some Observations on Current Views in the United States (20 (1965) Rutgers Law Review 89), she retraces the approach to the adjudication of persons outside the forum state in US law by reference to both the common law and continental European approaches. She argues that

[t]he law in the United States has […] moved closer to the continental approach to the extent that a relationship between the defendant or the particular litigation and the forum, rather than personal service, may function as the basis of the court’s adjudicatory authority.

Ginsburg points out, though, that each approach includes ‘exorbitant’ bases of judicial competence, which ‘provide for adjudication resulting in a personal judgment in cases in which there may be no connection of substance between the litigation and the forum state.’

Bases of judicial competence found in the internal laws of certain continental states, but generally considered undesirable in the international sphere, include competence founded exclusively on the nationality of the plaintiff – for example, Article 14 of the French Civil Code – and competence (to render a personal judgment) based on the mere presence of an asset of the defendant when the claim has no connection with that asset-a basis found in the procedural codes of Germany, Austria, and the Scandinavian countries. Equally undesirable in the view of continental jurists is the traditional Anglo-American rule that personal service within the territory of the forum confers adjudicatory authority upon a court even in the case of a defendant having no contact with the forum other than transience

The ‘most promising currently feasible remedy’ for improper use of these ‘internationally undesirable’ bases of jurisdiction, she argues, is the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

At the least, a plaintiff who chooses such a forum should be required to show some reasonable justification for his institution of the action in the forum state rather than in a state with which the defendant or the res, act or event in suit is more significantly connected.

Applicable Law

As a Supreme Court justice, Ginsburg also had numerous opportunities to rule on conflicts between federal and state law.

In Honda Motor Co v Oberg (512 U.S. 415 (1994)), for instance, Ginsburg dissented from the Court’s decision that an amendment to the Oregon Constitution that prevented review of a punitive-damage award violated the Due Process Clause of the federal Constitution, referring to other protections against excessive punitive-damage awards in Oregon law. In BMW of North America, Inc v Gore (517 US 559 (1996)), she dissented from another decision reviewing an allegedly excessive punitive-damages award and argued that the Court should ‘resist unnecessary intrusion into an area dominantly of state concern.’

According to Paul Schiff Berman (who provided a much more complete account of Ginsburg’s relevant writings than this post can offer in Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Interaction of Legal Systems (in Dodson (ed), The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (CUP 2015) 151)), her ‘willingness to defer to state prerogatives in interpreting state law […] may surprise those who focus on Justice Ginsburg’s Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence in gender-related cases.’

The same deference can also be found in some of her writings on the interplay between US law and other legal systems, though. In a speech to the International Academy of Comparative Law, she argued in favour of taking foreign and international experiences into account when interpreting US law and concluded:

Recognizing that forecasts are risky, I nonetheless believe the US Supreme Court will continue to accord “a decent Respect to the Opinions of [Human]kind” as a matter of comity and in a spirit of humility. Comity, because projects vital to our well being […] require trust and cooperation of nations the world over. And humility because, in Justice O’Connor’s words: “Other legal systems continue to innovate, to experiment, and to find . . . solutions to the new legal problems that arise each day, [solutions] from which we can learn and benefit.”

Recognition of Judgments

Going back to another one of Ginsburg’s early publications, in Judgments in Search of Full Faith and Credit: The Last-in-Time Rule for Conflicting Judgments (82 (1969) Harvard Law Review 798), Ginsburg discussed the problem of the hierarchy between conflicting judgments from different states and made a case for ‘the unifying function of the full faith and credit clause’. As to whether anti-suit injunctions should also the clause, she expressed a more nuanced view, though, explaining that

[t]he current state of the law, permitting the injunction to issue but not compelling any deference outside the rendering state, may be the most reasonable compromise […].

The thesis of this article, that the national full faith and credit policy should override the local interest of the enjoining state, would leave to the injunction a limited office. It would operate simply to notify the state in which litigation has been instituted of the enjoining state’s appraisal of forum conveniens. That appraisal, if sound, might induce respect for the injunction as a matter of comity.

Ginsburg had an opportunity to revisit a similar question about thirty years later, when delivering the opinion of the Court in Baker v General Motor Corp (522 US 222 (1998)). Although the Full Faith and Credit Clause was not subject to a public-policy exception (as held by the District Court), an injunction stipulated in settlement of a case in front of a Michigan court could not prevent a Missouri court from hearing a witness in completely unrelated proceedings:

Michigan lacks authority to control courts elsewhere by precluding them, in actions brought by strangers to the Michigan litigation, from determining for themselves what witnesses are competent to testify and what evidence is relevant and admissible in their search for the truth.

This conclusion creates no general exception to the full faith and credit command, and surely does not permit a State to refuse to honor a sister state judgment based on the forum’s choice of law or policy preferences. Rather, we simply recognize that, just as the mechanisms for enforcing a judgment do not travel with the judgment itself for purposes of Full Faith and Credit […] and just as one State’s judgment cannot automatically transfer title to land in another State […] similarly the Michigan decree cannot determine evidentiary issues in a lawsuit brought by parties who were not subject to the jurisdiction of the Michigan court.

According to Berman, this line of reasoning is testimony to Ginsburg’s judicial vision of ‘a system in which courts respect each other’s authority and judgments.’

The above selection has been created rather spontaneously and is evidently far from complete; please feel free to use the comment section to highlight other interesting parts of Justice Ginsburg’s work.

Coordinating Brussels I bis with other Instruments of EU Law

EAPIL blog - sam, 09/19/2020 - 08:00

An online event titled Coordinating Brussels Ia with other Instruments of EU Law: A Roundtable on Theoretical and Practical Issues will take place on 24 September 2020, at 3 pm (CET).

The purpose of the event, organised by the Universities of Genoa, Nice, Valencia, and Tirana, is to present the first results of the investigation conducted under the EU co-funded research project En2Bria – Enhancing Enforcement under Brussels Ia, which aims to shed light on the terms whereby the relationship between the Brussels I bis Regulation and other EU law instruments is to be handled.

The conference will be chaired by Chiara E. Tuo (Univ. Genoa). Speakers include Jean-Sylvestre Bergé (Univ. Nice), Guillermo Palao Moreno (Univ. Valencia), Giulio Cesare Giorgini (Univ. Nice), Rosario Espinosa Calabuig (Univ. Valencia), Rosa Lapiedra Alcami (Univ. Valencia), Isabel Reig Fabado (Univ. Valencia), and Stefano Dominelli (Univ. Genoa).

See here for further information.

Those interested in attending the conference are invited to write an e-mail to Stefano Dominelli at stefano.dominelli@unige.it.

The Bee That’s Buzzing in Our Bonnets. Some Thoughts about Characterisation after the Advocate General’s Wikingerhof Opinion

Conflictoflaws - ven, 09/18/2020 - 19:54

Last week, AG Saugsmandsgaard Øe rendered his Opinion on Case C-59/19 Wikingerhof, which we first reported in this post by Krzysztof Pacula. The following post has been written by Michiel Poesen, PhD Candidate at KU Leuven, who has been so kind as to share with us some further thoughts on the underlying problem of characterisation.

Characterisation is not just a bee that has been buzzing in conflicts scholars’ bonnets, as Forsyth observed in his 1998 LQR article. Given its central role in how we have been thinking about conflicts for over a century, it has pride of place in jurisprudence and literature. The Wikingerhof v Booking.com case (C?59/19) is the latest addition to a long string of European cases concerning the characterisation of actions as ‘matters relating to a contract’ under Article 7(1) of the Brussels Ia Regulation n° 1215/2012.

Earlier this week, Krzysztof Pacula surveyed Advocate General Saugsmandsgaard Øe’s opinion in the Wikingerhof case on this blog (Geert Van Calster also wrote about the opinion on his blog). Readers can rely on their excellent analyses of the facts and the AG’s legal analysis. This post has a different focus, though. The Wikingerhof case is indicative of a broader struggle with characterising claims that are in the grey area surrounding a contract. In this post, I would like to map briefly the meandering approaches to characterisation under the contract jurisdiction. Then I would like to sketch a conceptual framework that captures the key elements of characterisation.

1. Not All ‘Matters Relating to a Contract’ Are Created Equal

There are around 30 CJEU decisions concerning the phrase ‘matters relating to a contract’. Three tests for characterisation are discernible in those decisions. In the first approach, characterisation depends on the nature of the legal basis relied on by the claimant. If a claim is based on an obligation freely assumed, then the claim is a matter relating to a contract to which the contract jurisdiction applies. Statutory, fiduciary, or tortious obligations arising due to the conclusion of a contract are also contractual obligations for private international law purposes. I will call this approach the ‘cause of action test’, because it centres on the nature of the cause of action pleaded by the claimant. In recent decisions, for example, the cause of action test has been used to characterise claims between third parties as contractual matters (C-337/17 Feniks, blogged here; C-772/17 Reitbauer, blogged here; joined cases C-274/16, C-447/16 and C-448/16 flightright).

The second approach to characterisation is to focus on the relationship between the litigants. From this standpoint, only claims between litigants who are bound by a contract can be characterised as ‘matters relating to a contract’. This approach has for example been used in the Handte and Réunion européenne decisions. We will call it the ‘privity test’. Sometimes scholars relied on this test to argue that all claims between contracting parties are to be characterised as matters relating to a contract.

The third and final approach emphasises the nature of the facts underlying the claim brought by the claimant. This approach was first developed in the Brogsitter decision (C?548/12). However, it is predated by AG Jacob’s opinions in the Kalfelis (C-189/87) and Shearson Lehmann Hutton (C-89/91) cases (which since have been eagerly picked up by the Bundesgerichtshof of Germany). The Brogsitter decision provided that a claim is a contractual matter if the defendant’s allegedly wrongful behaviour can reasonably be regarded to be a breach of contract, which will be the case if the interpretation of the contract is indispensable to judge. I will dub this approach the ‘factual breach test’, since it directs attention to factual elements such as the defendant’s behaviour and the indispensability to interpret the contract. It is plain to see that this is by far the most complicated of the three approaches to characterisation we discussed here (among other things because of the unclear relation between the different layers of which the test is composed, an issue that AG Saugsmandsgaard Øe entertained in Wikingerhof, [69]–[70], and C-603/17 Bosworth v Arcadia).

The use in practice and literature of the three approaches laid out above demonstrates a tale of casuistry. Similar claims have been subjected to different approaches, and approaches developed in a specific setting have been applied to entirely different contexts. For example, a few CJEU decisions characterised claims between litigants who are not privy to consensual obligations as non-contractual in nature under the privity test. Other decisions characterised such claims as contractual in nature, applying the cause of action test. A similar dichotomy underlies the characterisation of claims between contracting parties. Initially, the CJEU jurisprudence applied the cause of action test, focussing on the nature of the legal basis relied on (see C-9/87 Arcado v Haviland). Later, the Brogsitter decision adopted the factual breach test, which shifted the focus to the nature of the facts underlying the claim.

It is difficult to understand why these divergences have occurred. How can they be explained?

2. The Theories Underlying Characterisation

A good way to start is to conceptualise characterisation further along the lines of this scheme:

Seen from the perspective of this scheme, the previous section described three ‘tests for characterisation’. A ‘test for characterisation’ refers to the interpretational exercise that lays down the conditions under which a claim can be characterised as a matter relating to a contract. Each test elevates different elements of a ‘claim’ as relevant for the purpose of characterisation and disregards others. Those elements are the identity of the litigants, the claim’s legal basis, or the dispute underlying the claim. As such, it concretises an idea about the broader purpose the contract jurisdiction should serve, which is called a ‘theory’. The divergences among the tests for characterisation outlined above is explained by the reliance on different theories.

The AG’s considerations about Brogsitter in the Wikingerhof opinion illustrate the scheme. The AG observed that the factual breach test is informed by what I will dub the ‘natural forum theory’. According to that theory, the contract jurisdiction offers the most appropriate and hence natural forum for all claims that are remotely linked to a contract (for the sake of proximity and avoiding multiple jurisdictional openings over claims relating to the same contract). This theory explains why the factual breach test provides such a broad, hypothetical test for characterisation that captures all claims that could have been pleaded as a breach of contract. Opining against the use of the factual breach test and underlying natural forum theory, the AG suggested that the cause of action test be applied. He then integrated the indispensability to interpret the contract (originally a part of the factual breach test) into the cause of action test as a tool for determining whether a claim is based on contract ([90] et seq). Essentially, his approach was informed by what I will call the ‘ring-fencing theory’. In contrast to the natural forum theory, this theory presumes that the contract jurisdiction should be delineated strictly for two reasons. First, the contract jurisdiction is a special jurisdiction regime that cannot fulfil a broad role as a natural forum contractus ([84]–[85]). Second, a strict delineation promotes legal certainty and efficiency, since it does not require judges to engage in a broad, hypothetical analysis to determine whether a claim is contractual or not ([76]–[77]). The scheme was applied succinctly here, but the analysis could be fleshed out for example by integrating the role of the parallelism between the Brussels Ia and Rome I/II Regulations.

The scheme can be used to understand and evaluate the CJEU’s eventual judgment in Wikingerhof. I hope that the decision will be a treasure trove that furthers our understanding of the mechanics of characterisation in EU private international law.

Festschrift for José María Espinar Vicente

Conflictoflaws - ven, 09/18/2020 - 15:58


Iprolex has published a Festschrift (in Spanish) in honor of José María Espinar Vicente, entitled “Private International Law Between Tradition and Innovation.” An announcement (in Spanish) is here; the detailed table of contents is here.

 

Invitation: The HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention: Prospects for Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters between the EU and Third Countries — Pre-Conference Video Roundtable University of Bonn / HCCH on 29 October 2020

Conflictoflaws - ven, 09/18/2020 - 13:33

 

 

 

xxxxx

 

 

The HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention:

Prospects for Judicial Cooperation in Civil and
Commercial Matters between the EU and Third Countries

 

Pre-Conference Video Roundtable
University of Bonn / HCCH

 

Thursday, 29 October 2020, 6.30 p.m. (UTC+1) (via Zoom)

 

Speakers:

Dr Christophe Bernasconi, Secretary General of the HCCH

Colin Brown, Unit Dispute Settlement and Legal Aspects of Trade Policy, DG Trade, European Commission

Dr Alexandra Diehl, White & Case LLP, Frankfurt, Chair of the Arbitration/Litigation/Mediation (“ALM”) Working Group of the German-American Lawyers Association (DAJV)

Dr Veronika Efremova, Senior Project Manager GIZ, Open Regional Funds for South East Europe-Legal Reform

Andreas Stein, Head of Unit, DG JUST – A1 “Civil Justice”, European Commission

Dr Jan Teubel, German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection

 

Moderators:                         

Dr João Ribeiro-Bidaoui, First Secretary, HCCH

Prof Dr Matthias Weller, University of Bonn

 

The largest proportion of EU economic growth in the 21st century is expected to arise in trade with third countries. This is why the EU is building up trade relations with many states and other regional integration communities in all parts of the world. The latest example is the EU-MERCOSUR Association Agreement concluded on 28 June 2019. With the United Kingdom’s exit of the Union on 31 January 2020, extra-EU trade with neighbouring countries will further increase in importance. Another challenge for the EU is China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, a powerful global development strategy that includes overland as well as sea routes in more than 100 states around the globe. The USA are currently the largest trade partner of the EU. The increasing volume of trade with third states will inevitably lead to a rise in the number and importance of commercial disputes. This makes mechanisms for their orderly and efficient resolution indispensable. China is already setting up infrastructures for commercial dispute resolution alongside its belts and roads. In contrast, the EU still seems to be in search of a strategy for judicial cooperation in civil matters with countries outside the Union. The HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention may be a valuable tool to establish and implement such a strategy, in particular alongside the EU’s external trade relations. These prospects will be discussed by the speakers and a global audience in this Pre-Conference Video Roundtable.

We warmly invite you to participate and discuss with us. In order to do so, please register with sekretariat.weller@jura.uni-bonn.de. You will receive the access data for the video conference via zoom per email, including our data protection concept, the day before the event.

If you have already registered and received a confirmation from our office (please allow us a couple of days for sending it back to you), your registration is valid and you do not need to re-register.

Please do not hesitate to forward our invitation to friends and colleagues if you wish.

 

Main Conference “The HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention”, 13 and 14 September 2021

Our event intends to prepare the main conference on the HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention at the University of Bonn (Professors Moritz Brinkmann, Nina Dethloff, Matthias Lehmann, Wulf-Henning Roth, Philipp Reuss, Matthias Weller), co-hosted by the HCCH (Dr Chistophe Bernasconi, Dr João Ribeiro-Bidaoui), on 13 and 14 September 2021 (originally scheduled for 25 and 26 September 2020, but rescheduled to avoid Covid-19 risks). At this conference on the campus of the University of Bonn, leading experts will present on the legal concepts and techniques of the Convention, and policy issues will be further developed.

Speakers will include (listed chronologically):

Hans van Loon (key note), Former Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, The Hague;

Prof Dr Xandra Kramer, Erasmus University Rotterdam;

Prof Dr Wolfgang Hau, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich;

Prof Dr Pietro Franzina, Catholic University of Milan;

Prof Dr Francisco Garcimartín Alférez, Autonomous University of Madrid;

Dr Ning Zhao, Senior Legal Officer, HCCH;

Prof Paul Beaumont, University of Stirling;

Prof Dr Marie-Elodie Ancel, University Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas;

Dr Pippa Rogerson, Reader in Private International Law, Faculty of Law, Cambridge;

Ass. Prof Dr Ilija Rumenov, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia;

Dr Veronica Ruiz Abou-Nigm, Director of Internationalisation, Senior Lecturer in International Private Law, School of Law, University of Edinburgh;

Prof Zheng (Sophia) Tang, University of Newcastle;

Jose Angelo Estrella-Faria, Principal Legal Officer and Head, Legislative Branch International Trade Law Division, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations, Former Secretary General of UNIDROIT.

 

For the full programme see https://www.jura.uni-bonn.de/professur-prof-dr-weller/conference-on-the-hcch-2019-judgments-convention-on-13-and-14-september-2021/. You will receive an invitation for registration in due time. A registration fee of € 100.- will be asked for participating.

Facebook’s further attempts to resist the jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Australia futile

Conflictoflaws - ven, 09/18/2020 - 10:10

Earlier in the year, Associate Professor Jeanne Huang reported on the Australian Information Commission’s action against Facebook Inc in the Federal Court of Australia. In particular, Huang covered Australian Information Commission v Facebook Inc [2020] FCA 531, which concerned an ex parte application for service outside of the jurisdiction and an application for substituted service.

In April, Thawley J granted the Commission leave to serve the first respondent (Facebook Inc) in the United States, and the second respondent (Facebook Ireland Ltd) in the Republic of Ireland. Through orders for substituted service, the Commission was also granted leave to serve the relevant documents by email (with respect to Facebook Inc) and by mail (with respect to Facebook Ireland Ltd).

Facebook Inc applied to set aside the orders for its service in the United States, among other things. Facebook Ireland appeared at the hearing of Facebook Inc’s application seeking equivalent orders, although it did not make submissions.

On 14 September, Thawley J refused that application: Australian Information Commissioner v Facebook Inc (No 2) [2020] FCA 1307. The foreign manifestations of Facebook are subject to the Federal Court’s long-arm jurisdiction.

The decision involves an orthodox application of Australian procedure and private international law. The policy represented by the decision is best understood by brief consideration of the context for this litigation.

Background

The Australian Information Commission is Australia’s ‘independent national regulator for privacy and freedom of information’, which promotes and upholds Australians’ rights to access government-held information and to have their personal information protected.

Those legal rights are not as extensive as equivalent rights enjoyed in other places, like the European Union. Australian law offers minimal constitutional or statutory human rights protection at a federal level. Unlike other common law jurisdictions, Australian courts have been reluctant to recognise a right to privacy. Australians’ ‘privacy rights’, in a positivist sense, exist within a rough patchwork of various domestic sources of law.

One of the few clear protections is the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), (‘Privacy Act’), which (among other things) requires large-ish companies to deal with personal information in certain careful ways, consistent with the ‘Australian Privacy Principles’.

In recent years, attitudes towards privacy and data protection seem to have changed within Australian society. To oversimplify: in some quarters at least, sympathies are becoming less American (ie, less concerned with ‘free speech’ above all else), and more European (ie, more concerned about privacy et al). If that description has any merit, then it would be due to events like the notorious Cambridge Analytica scandal, which is the focus of this litigation.

Various manifestations of Australian governments have responded to changing societal attitudes by initiating law reform inquiries. Notably, in 2019, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (‘ACCC’) delivered its final report on its Digital Platforms Inquiry, recommending that Australian law be reformed to better address ‘the implications and consequences of the business models of digital platforms for competition, consumers, and society’. The broad-ranging inquiry considered overlapping issues in data protection, competition and consumer protection—including reform of the Privacy Act. The Australian Government agreed with the ACCC that Australian privacy laws ought to be strengthened ‘to ensure they are fit for purpose in the digital age’. A theme of this report is that the foreign companies behind platforms like Facebook should be better regulated to serve the interests of Australian society.

Another important part of the context for this Facebook case is Australia’s media environment. Australia’s ‘traditional’ media companies—those that produce newspapers and television—are having a hard time. Their business models have been undercut by ‘digital platforms’ like Facebook and Google. Many such traditional media companies are owned by News Corp, the conglomerate driven by sometime-Australian Rupert Murdoch (who is responsible for Fox News. On behalf of Australia: sorry everyone). These companies enjoy tremendous power in the Australian political system. They have successfully lobbied the Australian government to force the foreign companies behind digital platforms like Google to pay Australian companies for news.

All of this is to say: now more than ever, there is regulatory appetite and political will in Australia to hold Facebook et al accountable.

Procedural history

Against that backdrop, in March 2020, the Commission commenced proceedings against each of the respondents in the Federal Court, alleging ‘that the personal information of Australian Facebook users was disclosed to the This is Your Digital Life app for a purpose other than the purpose for which the information was collected, in breach of the Privacy Act’.

The Commissioner alleges that:

  1. Facebook disclosed the users’ personal information for a purpose other than that for which it was collected, in breach Australian Privacy Principle (‘APP’) 6;
  2. Facebook failed to take reasonable steps to protect the users’ personal information from unauthorised disclosure in breach of APP 11.1(b); and
  3. these breaches amounted to serious and/or repeated interferences with the privacy of the users, in contravention of s 13G of the Privacy Act.

In April, the service orders reported by Huang were made. Facebook Inc and Facebook Ireland were then served outside of the jurisdiction.

Facebook’s challenge to the orders for service outside of the jurisdiction: ‘no prima facie case’

Facebook Inc contended that service should be set aside because the Court should not be satisfied that there was a prima facie case for the relief claimed by the Commissioner as required by r 10.43(4)(c) of the Federal Court Rules 2011 (Cth).

The Court summarised the principles applicable to setting aside an order as to service as follows (at [23]):

  • An application for an order discharging an earlier order granting leave to serve out of the jurisdiction, or for an order setting aside such service, is in the nature of a review by way of rehearing of the original decision to grant leave to serve out of the jurisdiction.
  • It is open to the party who sought and obtained an order for service out of the jurisdiction to adduce additional evidence, and make additional submissions.
  • The onus remains on the applicant in the proceedings to satisfy the Court in light of the material relied upon, including any additional material relied upon, that leave ought to have been granted.

Facebook Inc accepted that although demonstrating a prima facie case is ‘not particularly onerous’, the Commissioner had failed to establish an arguable case; she had merely posited ‘inferences’ which did not reasonably arise from the material tendered: [28]-[29].

As noted above, the underlying ‘case’ that was the subject of that argument is in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and alleged breaches of the Privacy Act.

The case thus turns on application of an Australian statute to seemingly cross-border circumstances. Rather than having regard to forum choice-of-law rules, the parties seemingly accepted that the case turns on statutory interpretation. The extra-territorial application of the Privacy Act depends on an organisation having an ‘Australian Link’. Section 5B(3) relevantly provides:

(3) An organisation or small business operator also has an Australian link if all of the following apply: …

(b) the organisation or operator carries on business in Australia or an external Territory;

(c) the personal information was collected or held by the organisation or operator in Australia or an external Territory, either before or at the time of the act or practice.

Facebook Inc argued that the Commissioner failed to establish a prima facie case that, at the relevant time, Facebook Inc:

  • carried on business in Australia within the meaning of s 5B(3)(b) of the Privacy Act; or
  • collected or held personal information in Australia within the meaning of s 5B(3)(c) of the Privacy Act.
Facebook Inc carries on business in Australia

In Tiger Yacht Management Ltd v Morris (2019) 268 FCR 548 (noted here), the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia ‘observed that the expression “carrying on business” may have a different meaning in different contexts and that, where used to ensure jurisdictional nexus, the meaning will be informed by the requirement for there to be sufficient connection with the country asserting jurisdiction’: [40].

The Court considered the statutory context of the Commissioner’s case, being the application of Australian privacy laws to foreign entities. The Court had regard to the objects of the Privacy Act, which include promotion of the protection of privacy of individuals and responsible and transparent handling of personal information by entities: Privacy Act s 2A(b), (d). Whether Facebook Inc ‘carries on business in Australia’ for the purposes of the Privacy Act is a factual inquiry that should be determined with reference to those broader statutory purposes.

The Commissioner advanced several arguments in support of the proposition that Facebook Inc carries on business in Australia.

One argument advanced by the Commissioner was that Facebook Inc had financial control of foreign subsidiaries carrying on business in Australia, suggesting that the parent company was carrying on business in Australia. (Cf Tiger Yacht, above.) That argument was rejected: [155].

Another argument turned on agency more explicitly. Essentially, the Commissioner sought to pierce the corporate veil by arguing Facebook is ‘a single worldwide business operated by multiple entities’: [75]. Those entities contract with one another so that different aspects of the worldwide business are attributed to different entities, but the court ought to pierce the jurisdictional veil. The Commissioner submitted that ‘the performance pursuant to the contractual arrangements by Facebook Inc of functions necessary for Facebook Ireland to provide the Facebook service…, including in Australia, indicated that Facebook Ireland was a convenient entity through which Facebook Inc carried on business in Australia during the relevant period’: [115].

Facebook Inc appealed to cases like Adams v Cape Industries [1990] 1 Ch 433, where the English Court of Appeal explained that, typically, a company would not be considered to be carrying on business within the forum unless: ‘(a) it has a fixed place of business of its own in this country from which it has carried on business through servants or agents, or (b) it has had a representative here who has had the power to bind it by contract and who has carried on business at or from a fixed place of business in this country’ (at 529). (See also Lucasfilm Ltd v Ainsworth [2008] EWHC 1878 (Ch).)

Ultimately, the Court was not satisfied that Facebook Inc carried on business within Australia on the basis that Facebook Ireland conducted Facebook Inc’s business in Australia: [117]. More accurately, the Commissioner had not established a prima facie case to that effect.

But the Commissioner had established a prima facie case that Facebook Inc directly carried on business within Australia.

Facebook Inc is responsible for various ‘processing operations’ in relation to the Facebook platform, which includes responsibility for installing, operating and removing cookies on the devices of Australian users. Facebook Inc appealed to case authority to argue that this activity did not amount to carrying on business in Australia. The Court thus considered cases like Dow Jones v Gutnick (2002) 210 CLR 575 and Valve Corporation v Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (2017) 258 FCR 190, which each addressed the territorial aspects of businesses that depend on communication on the internet.

The Court rejected Facebook Inc’s argument that ‘installing’ cookies is to be regarding as equivalent to uploading and downloading a document (cf Gutnick). At the interlocutory stage of the proceeding, there was not enough evidence to accept Facebook Inc’s claim; but there was enough to draw the inference that the installation and operation of cookies within Australia involves activity in Australia.

The Court concluded: ‘the Commissioner has discharged her onus of establishing that it is arguable, and the inference is open to be drawn, that some of the data processing activities carried on by Facebook Inc can be regarded as having occurred in Australia, notwithstanding that the evidence did not establish that any employee of Facebook Inc was physically located in Australia’: [137]. It was thus concluded that the Commissioner had established a prima facie case that Facebook Inc carried on business within Australia: [156]. (Cf the reasoning of Canadian courts that led to Google Inc v Equustek Solutions Inc [2017] 1 SCR 824, noted here.)

Facebook Inc collected or held personal information in Australia

The Court was assisted by responses provided by Facebook Inc to questions of the Commissioner  made pursuant to her statutory powers of investigation. One question concerned the location and ownership of servers used to provide the Facebook service. Although Facebook Inc’s answer was somewhat equivocal, it suggested that the platform depends on servers located in Australia (including network equipment and caching servers) to improve connection and delivery time. This was enough for the Court to make the relevant inference as to collection and holding of personal information within Australia: [170].

The Court had regard to the purposes manifested by the Explanatory Memorandum to the Privacy Act in concluding that ‘the fact that the personal information is uploaded in Australia and stored on Australian users’ devices and browser caches and on caching servers arguably owned or operated by Facebook Inc in Australia, it is arguable that Facebook Inc collected the personal information in Australia’: [185].

Combined with the findings as to carrying on business, this was enough to establish a prima facie case that the extra-territorial application of the Privacy Act was engaged. The Court’s orders as to service were not disturbed.

Concluding remarks

The interlocutory character of this decision should be emphasised. The Court’s findings on the territorial aspects of ‘carrying on business’ and data collection were each subject to the ‘prima facie case’ qualification. These are issues of fact; the Court may find differently after a thorough ventilation of evidence yet to be adduced.

This decision is not anomalous. The assertion of long-arm jurisdiction over Facebook Inc indicates Australian courts’ increasing willingness to pierce the jurisdictional veil for pragmatic ends. In my experience, most Australian lawyers do not really care about the multilateralist ideals of many private international law enthusiasts. The text of the Australian statutes that engage the case before them is paramount. Lawyers are directed to consider the text of the statute in light of its context and purpose: Australian Securities and Investments Commission v King (2020) 94 ALJR 293, [23]; Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cth) s 15AA. Essentially, in the case of a forum statute with putative extraterritorial operation, a form of interest analysis is mandated.

I am OK with this. If the policy of the Privacy Act is to have any chance of success, it depends on its application to internet intermediaries comprised of corporate groups with operations outside of Australia. As an island continent in a technologically interconnected world, the policy of Australian substantive law will increasingly determine the policy of Australian private international law.

Michael Douglas is Senior Lecturer at UWA Law School and Consultant at Bennett + Co, Perth.

The Italian Court of Cassation on Islamic Repudiation and Public Policy

EAPIL blog - ven, 09/18/2020 - 08:00

The author of this post is Omar Vanin. He earned a Phd in Private International Law from the University of Padova and is now in private practice.

On 7 August 2020, the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) ruled on the non-recognition of a judgment whereby a Palestinian religious court had acknowledged the severance of the matrimonial ties between a muslim couple, on the ground that the judgment offended the public policy of Italy (the ruling is numbered as follows: No 16804/20; the text has not yet been officially published by the Court, but it’s available here through the website Cassazione.net).

The Facts

Proceedings were brought by a woman of Italian and Jordanian nationality against the recording in Italy of a judgment rendered, on an application by her husband, by the Sharia court of Western Nablus (West Bank). The husband had repudiated the woman in accordance with Islamic law, and the Sharia court, taking note of the repudiation (talaq), had certified that the couple had ceased to be bound by marriage.

The woman argued that the judgment was at odds with the public policy of Italy. She submitted, first, that Islamic law, as applied in the West Bank, failed to provide equal rights to the spouses in relation to divorce, and, secondly, that the she was not given an opportunity to present her case in the proceedings which resulted in the judicial declaration.

The man, for his part, claimed that talaq merely constituted a process of revocable separation, and that the judgment was passed after an unsuccessful attempt by the Sharia court to reconcile the couple.

Islamic Repudiation and its Judicial or Contractual Nature

Islamic law sees marriage as a contract. Talaq is one of the grounds on which marriage may be terminated.

The traditional view is that only the husband is entitled to have the marital ties severed by means of repudiation.

Developments have occurred in this area in several Islamic jurisdictions. In some of them, the wife may seek to have the marriage terminated through a declaration by the competent (religious) authority, based on a breach of the husband’s obligations towards her.

Concurrently, marriage termination is losing its ‘contractual’ features, and rather represents, in some jurisdictions, the outcome of a judicial procedure.

Against this backdrop, a case-by-case analysis may prove necessary to assess whether, in the circumstances, the authorities involved merely attested a unilateral termination prompted by the husband or rather declared such termination based on their own independent assessment.

The Judgment of the Italian Supreme Court

The Cassazione held that, in the case at issue, the basic procedural rights of the wife had been violated. Indeed, the woman did not take part in the proceedings instituted by her husband before the Sharia court, in the framework of which he irrevocably repudiated his wife.

In fact, the woman was notified of the procedure after the judgment was given, and only to enable the court to ascertain that no reconciliation had occurred in the three months following the decision.

In addition, the Cassazione ruled that the judgment was also incompatible with the substantive public policy of Italy, since talaq could only be exercised by the male spouse, thus violating the principle of equality of rights between husband and wife enshrined both in the Italian Constitution and in various international instruments in force for Italy, such as Protocol No. 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court’s Findings Compared with Previous Italian Case Law and the Case Law of Other States  

By the described ruling, the Cassazione took a stance on a topic that lower courts in Italy have been discussing for several years. Prior to this judgment, the Court itself had relatively few opportunities to address the matter, the latest of which dates back to 1983.

The conclusion reached by the Supreme Court, namely that traditional talaq is inconsistent with public policy, accords with the Court’s own precedents and with most lower courts’ judgments. In fact, the reasoning of the Cassazione echoes, to a large extent, the reasoning of several among such lower courts.

In various respects, the views expressed by the Cassazione are in line with those expressed, often in a more nuanced way, in other European countries.

In 2014, for instance, the French Cour de Cassation denied the recognition of an Algerian judgment acknowledging the unilateral repudiation of an Algerian wife by an Algerian husband on the ground that it contravened the principe whereby the spouses enjoy equal rights as regards the termination of marriage.

The Cour de Cassation had previously granted effect to judgments rendered as a result of talaq, through the doctrine of ‘mitigated’ public policy. The latter doctrine posits that, in appropriate circumstances, foreign judgments offending as such public policy may nevertheless be granted recognition to the extent to which their authority is merely invoked as a basis for a different claim, one that is not, per se, inconsistent with public policy (e.g., a claim for spousal support based on the termination of marriage through talaq).

Eventually, the Cour de Cassation abandoned this line of thought in 2004, stressing the radical incompatibility of talaq with a paramount principle of the French legal system such as gender equality.

The question remains debated in France, among scholars, of whether a milder solution ought to be adopted where to deny recognitin would preclude the wife from enjoying some important benefits (see in general, among recent contributions available on the web, this paper by Yann Heyraud).

Note, incidentally, that the concept of ordre public atténué is not necessarily followed everywhere. The Italian Supreme Court, for example, has never explicitly endorsed the doctrine of attenuated effects in respect of talaq or other legal institutions.

Greek courts, for their part, have expressed the view that talaq judgments ought to be denied recognition on grounds of public policy. Recently, however, lower courts admitted the recognition of of such judgments in cases where an application to that effect was lodged by the wife herself (see further the chronicle and remarks by Apostolos Anthimos here).

Some Remarks

The position taken by the Italian Supreme could hardly be criticised in itself. The Court’s reasoning, however, is unpersuasive in at least two passages.

To begin with, the Cassazione failed to take a clear stance on the nature of talaq in a situation where a foreign judicial authority is involved in the process. Arguably, the issue has repercussions on the methods through which the severance of matrimonial ties may be given effect in Italy. If the severance of those is understood to be produced by a judicial decision (i.e., one based on an assessment by the authority in question, following the husband’s declaration), its effectiveness in Italy depends on whether the conditions for the recognition of such a foreign decision are met in the circumstances. Instead, if talaq is labelled as a contractual act (i.e., as a declaration of the husband that the competent judicial authority is merely required to attest, e.g., for publicity reasons), then its effects in Italy would depend on whether the act in question was performed in accordance with the law specified under the pertinent Italian conflict-of-laws rules. Of course, public policy may prevent a talaq from producing effects in Italy in both scenarios, but the question remains of whether the issue of its should be addressed against the background of the rules on the recognition of judgments rather than those on the conflicts of laws. In some cases, the conditions required under the applicable rules may not be fulfilled, which would make any inquire into public policy useless.

In the case at issue, the Cassazione observed that the Sharia court of Western Nablus simply took note of the repudiation, without carrying out, properly speaking, any assessment. The Court, however, failed to elaborate on the implications of such a characterisation for the identification of the relevant methods and rules of private international law, and in fact contented itself with noting that the decision ought to be denied recognition on grounds of public policy.

The second questionable passage in the Supreme Court’s ruling is a general remark whereby a foreign judgment declaring the severance of matrimonial ties ought to be denied recognition on grounds of public policy unless such a judgment is based on, or at least implies, a finding that the bond of affection between the spouses has irretrievably come to an end.

Doubts may be raised as to the pertinence of the latter requirement. As a matter of fact, even Italian courts do not inquire into the reasons why the spouses may be seeking divorce, when pronouncing the dissolution of marriage under Italian law.

CJEU on Article 3 Maintenance Regulation (subrogation – public body)

European Civil Justice - ven, 09/18/2020 - 00:38

The Court of Justice delivered today its judgment in case C‑540/19 (WV v Landkreis Harburg) which is about Article 3 (b) of the Maintenance Regulation. The decision should have a clear practical impact: « A public body which seeks to recover, by way of an action for recovery, sums paid in place of maintenance to a maintenance creditor, and to which the claims of that maintenance creditor against the maintenance debtor have been transferred by way of subrogation, may validly invoke the jurisdiction of the court for the place where the creditor is habitually resident, as provided in Article 3(b) of Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 of 18 December 2008 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations”.

Source: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?docid=231185&mode=req&pageIndex=1&dir=&occ=first&part=1&text=&doclang=EN&cid=2561617

AG  Saugmandsgaard Øe on Article 7.2 Brussels I bis (private enforcement of competition law)

European Civil Justice - ven, 09/18/2020 - 00:30

AG  Saugmandsgaard Øe delivered last week (10 September 2020) his opinion in case C‑59/19 (Wikingerhof GmbH & Co. KG contre Booking.com BV), which is about Brussels I bis. The opinion is currently available in selected EU official languages only (such as German and Spanish). It is not available in English. Here is the French version (to check whether an English translation has finally been made available, just click on the link below and change the language version):

“L’article 7, point 2, du règlement (UE) no 1215/2012 du Parlement européen et du Conseil, du 12 décembre 2012, concernant la compétence judiciaire, la reconnaissance et l’exécution des décisions en matière civile et commerciale doit être interprété en ce sens qu’une action en responsabilité civile fondée sur la violation des règles du droit de la concurrence relève de la « matière délictuelle ou quasi délictuelle », au sens de cette disposition, y compris lorsque le demandeur et le défendeur sont parties à un contrat et que les prétendus agissements anticoncurrentiels que le premier reproche au second se matérialisent dans leur relation contractuelle ».

Source : here

Uruguay: General Law of Private International Law Project about to be passed into Law

Conflictoflaws - jeu, 09/17/2020 - 22:54

The new Uruguayan General Law of Private International Law has passed the Senate and will now be submitted to the House of Representatives. This means that a project that was initiated in 1994 by Didier Opertti Badán will finally come to fruition. ASADIP’s blog provides a note by Cecilia Fresnedo that lays out, in Spanish, the arduous path that the project took between 1994 and now. It is also possible to download the draft legislation.

Despite its small size, Uruguay has long been one of the leaders of private international law in Latin America, and has been highly regarded worldwide. Cecilia Fresnedo reported on the project last year at a conference on the role of academia in Latin American private international law at the Max Planck Institute; she has written on Uruguayan Private International Law – Past and Future in the Festschrift for Herbert Kronke that came out earlier this year. The 2016 draft of the law is here; an  appreciation by José Antonio Tomás Ortíz de la Torre is here.

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