Conflict of laws in international commercial arbitration – call for papers

In 2010, Professors Franco Ferrari and Stefan Kroell organized a seminar on “conflict of laws in international commercial arbitration”, conscious of the fact that every arbitration raises a number of ‘conflict of laws’ problems both at the pre-award and post-award stage. Unlike state court judges, arbitrators have no lex fori in the proper sense, providing the relevant conflict rules to determine the applicable law. This raises the question of which conflict of laws rules apply and, consequently, the extent of the freedom arbitrators enjoy in dealing with this and related issues. The papers presented at that conference were later published in a book co-edited by the two organizers of said conference. Professors Ferrari and Kroell are now preparing a new edition of the book, which has attracted a lot of attention over the years. Apart from updated versions of the papers published in the first edition (with the following titles: “Conflicts of law in international arbitration: an overview” by Filip De Ly, “The law applicable to the validity of the arbitration agreement: a practioner’s view” by Leonardo Graffi, “Applicable laws under the New York Convention” by Domenico Di Pietro, “Jurisdiction and applicable law in the case of so-called pathological arbitration clauses in view of the proposed reform of the Brussels I-Regulation” by Ruggiero Cafari Panico, “Arbitrability and conflict of jurisdictions: the (diminishing) relevance of lex fori and lex loci arbitri” by Stavros Brekoulakis, “Extension of arbitration agreements to third parties: a never ending legal quest through the spatial-temporal continuum” by Mohamed S. Abdel Wahab, “The effect of overriding manadatory rules on the arbitration agreement” by Karsten Thorn and Walter Grenz, “Arbitration and insolvency: selected conflict of laws problems” by Stefan Kröll, “Getting to the law applicable to the merits in international arbitration and the consequences of getting it wrong” by Franco Ferrari and Linda Silberman, “Manadatory rules of law in international arbitration” by George A. Bermann, “Conflict of overriding mandatory rules in arbitration” by Anne-Sophie Papeil, “The law applicable to the assignment of claims subject to an arbitration agreement” by Daniel Girsberger, “The laws governing interim measures in international arbitration” by Christopher Boog), the new edition seeks to include papers on new topics, such as the law governing arbitrators’ liability, the law governing issues of characterization in commercial and investment arbitration, the law governing limitation periods (including their characterization as procedural or substantive), the law governing the taking of evidence (including the characterization of evidence as procedural or substantive, its admissibility and weight), the law governing damages (including whether different laws govern heads of damages and quantification), the law governing issues fees and costs, the law governing res iudicata, the law governing privilege, the law governing ethical obligations (both of arbitrators and counsel), the role of the Hague Principles on Choice of Law in international arbitration).

The editors welcome the submission of papers on any of the aforementioned topics as well as other topics related to the relationship between conflict of laws and international commercial arbitration. If interested, please submit an abstract (2000 words) and a basic bibliography to Professors Ferrari (franco.ferrari@nyu.edu) and Kroell (stefan.kroell@law-school.de) for acceptance by 1 October 2017. If accepted, the paper will need to be submitted (in blue book format) by 1 February 2018. 

Comments on the CJEU case ‘Gazprom’ OAO v Lietuvos Respublika

I. Introduction

On May 13, 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered the highly anticipated ruling Gazprom. [1] The main issue of the case is whether Regulation 44/2001 may preclude the court of a Member State from recognizing and enforcing an arbitral award containing an anti-suit injunction. The purpose of paper is to analyze the case in light of the CJEU case law and the new Regulation 1215/2012. In so doing, it begins with a presentation of the background of the case. Then, it addresses the Gazprom case. Finally, it concludes with some comments on Regulation 1215/2012.

II. Background

The Gazprom case involves Regulation 44/2001 and its relationship with the anti-suit injunction mechanism and arbitration. These elements are examined in turn.

A. Regulation 44/2001 in a Nutshell

Over the past decade, the European Union (EU) has adopted two sets of regulation on the rules governing the jurisdiction of courts in civil and commercial matters: Regulation 44/2001[2] (also referred as Brussels I) and Regulation 1215/2012[3] (also referred as Brussels I Recast), which repealed Regulation 44/2001 on January 10, 2015.

Their objective is to reduce and/or eliminate certain differences between national rules governing jurisdiction and recognition of judgment that hamper the sound operation of the internal market. In so doing these regulations seek to unify the rules of conflict of jurisdiction and to ensure rapid and simple recognition and enforcement of judgments given in a Member State through mechanism of automatic recognition and enforcement of judgments. [4]

B. Regulation 44/2001 and Anti-Suit Injunction

In parallel to these developments, arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution, has gained importance as cross-border trade significantly increased. Through an agreement, parties may decide to arbitrate instead of resolving their dispute before the national court of one party.

A problem may arise when one of the parties, despite an arbitration agreement, commence an action in a court. Based on legitimate or tactical (torpedo action) motivations, this parallel proceeding may result in high cost, inefficiency and delay. One way to prevent such action is for the court of the seat of arbitration to issue an anti-suit injunction.

Under English law, the anti-suit injunction is an order made by a court requiring a party to the jurisdiction of the court not to bring or advance particular claims before a national court or tribunal or arbitral tribunal established in another country.[5]

In the EU context, in Gasser[6] and in Turner[7], the CJEU held that anti-suit injunctions issued by a court of a Member State and directed against court proceedings in another Member State were contrary to Regulation 44/2001. More recently, in West Tankers, it held that, despite the express exclusion of arbitration of the Regulation 44/2001, an anti-suit injunction issued by a court of a Member State in support of arbitration was not compatible with the Regulation.[8]

This decision has been severely criticized. In particular, the English arbitration community argued that the West Tankers could jeopardize the position of the English arbitral forum, as without the safeguard of anti-suit inunction parties may be inclined to chose other forum than England as their seat of arbitration.[9] As a result West Tanker raised the question of the application of Regulation 44/2001 to arbitration.

C. Regulation 44/2001 and Arbitration

Article 1(2)(d) expressly excludes arbitration from the purview of Regulation 44/2001. However, the provision does not provide for further guidance on the precise scope of the exclusion.

The Anglo-Saxons and the continental Europeans have opposing views on the issue. [10] For the Anglos-Saxons, as soon as it is claimed that there is an arbitration agreement all dispute arising out the legal relationships are exclusively subject to arbitration. Accordingly, only the arbitral body and the courts at the seat are entilted to examine jurisdiction. In contrast, for continental Euopean lawyers, if the subject-matter on the case falls within the scope of the Regulation 44/2001, a court has jurisdiction to determine whether the exception under Article 1(2)(d) applies and, according to its assessment, decide whether it adjudicates the matter itself or whether it refers the case to the arbitral body. [11]

The CJEU adopted the continental European approach for the first time in Rich[12] and confirmed it in Van Uden[13] and West Tankers[14]. Accordingly, the fact that parties have entered into an arbitration agreement does not rule out the application of Regulation 44/2001, which depends on the substantive subject-matter of the case. For instance, if the claim is tort or contract damages, the subject-matter is covered by the Regulation, which should apply. In contrast, issues related to the selection of arbitrators, the choice of the seat of arbitration does not fall within the sope of the Regulation.[15]

Therefore the crucial question is not whether the anti-suit injunction is compatible with Regulation 44/2001. After West Tanker, we know, it is not. Rather it is to determine whether Regulation 44/2001 is applicable or not to the case. If yes, the injunction would breach EU law and should not be taken into consideration. Conversely, if Regulation 44/2001 would not apply, the validity of the injunction should be assessed in the light of other legal instruments.

III. The Gazprom Case

A. Background

The case concerned a Lithuanian company, Lietuvos diju AB, whose main business consisted in buying gas from Gazprom OAO, conveying and distributing it in Lithuania. The main shareholders of the company concluded a shareholder agreement, which contained an arbitration clause. Later on, one shareholder, the Ministry of the Lithuanian State (the Ministry), made an application to Lithuanian regional Court against the activities of the other shareholders. Another shareholder, Gazprom, took the view that the application had breached the shareholder agreement and filed a request for arbitration in which it sought an order to the Ministry to discontinue the proceedings before the regional court. The arbitral tribunal agreed partially with the claim and ordered the Ministry to withdraw or limit some of the claim it brought before the regional Court. However, the Ministry maintained its claim before the regional Court, which order the initiation of the investigations. Gazprom applied to the Court of Appeal in Lithuania for the recognition and enforcement of the arbitral award. The Court of dismissed the claim. The decision went before the Supreme Court of Lithuania, which in turn submitted the CJEU a request for a preliminary ruling regarding the recognition and enforcement of the arbitration award.

The case gained momentum with the opinion of the Advocate General Wathelet, in which he submitted that West Tankers should be overturned and arbitration law should automatically prevail over EU rules of jurisdiction (hence favoring the Anglo-Saxon approach).[16] While his argumentation is debatable, it aroused the hope for some lawyers that arbitration will be completely excluded from the scope of Regulation 44/2001. [17]

B. The CJEU’s Ruling

After excluding the application Regulation 1215/2012 (because the facts of the case took place prior to its entry into force), the CJEU addressed two issues: whether an arbitral award prohibiting a party from bringing a claim before a national court is contrary to Regulation 44/2001; and whether it is compatible with the Regulation 44/2001 for a Member State’s court to recognize and enforce an arbitral award ordering a party to limit its claim before a court of that Member State is compatible with that regulation.

In the first part of the ruling, the CJEU recalled and reaffirmed its jurisprudence on arbitration and on the anti-suit injunction under Regulation 44/2001. It mentioned that arbitration is excluded from the scope of Regulation 44/2001, unless the subject matter of the dispute falls within the scope of the Regulation. Then it recalled that an anti-suit injunction issued by a Court of a Member State restraining a party – to a proceeding or to arbitration proceeding – not to proceed or continue proceeding before a court of another Member is not compatible with the Regulation 44/2001.[18]

Then, in the second part of the ruling, the CJEU held that the issue at hand is not whether an injunction issued by a Court is compatible with the Regulation 44/2001, but whether the recognition and the enforcement of an arbitral award ordering a party to limits its claim before a court of that Member State is compatible with that regulation. The CJEU went on holding that the Regulation 44/2001 does not govern the recognition and the enforcement of an arbitral award. It held that this issue is rather covered by the national and international law applicable in the Member State. In particular, it suggested that the relevant instrument is the New York Convention. [19]

In light of the foregoing it can be concluded that despite the opinion of the Advocate General, the CJEU reaffirmed its case law, with notably West Tanker. It remains to be seen whether this jurisprudence is consistent with the recently adopted Regulation 1215/2012.

IV. Arbitration under Regulation 1215/2012

As mentioned earlier, Regulation 1215/2012 repealed Regulation 44/2001 on January 10, 2015. It contains two provisions, which specifically deals with arbitration. Article 1 (2) (d) excludes arbitration from the scope of the regulation adopting the wording from Regulation 44/2001. Article 73(2) underlines that the Regulation does not affect the application of the New York Convention. In addition, the Regulation features recital 12, which seeks to clarify its relationship with arbitration. It includes 4 paragraphs that have to be read in line with CJEU case law.

Recitals 12 (1) and (4) remind some well-established principles. Recital 12 (1) deals with the jurisdiction of Member States Court with respect to arbitration. It recalls that the Regulation does not prevent them from taking any measures related to arbitration proceeding in accordance to their national law, such as referring the parties to arbitration, staying or dismissing the proceeding or examining whether the arbitration is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed. Recital 12 (4) points out that arbitration-related court proceedings are excluded from the scope of the Regulation.

On the other hand, Recitals 12 (2) and (3) bring some changes. Recital 12 (2) mentions that a ruling by a Member State court on the validity and existence of an arbitration agreement, as principal issue or as incidental question, is not subject to rules of the Regulation. In contrast, according to the CJEU case law, when the subject matter of the case falls within the scope of the Regulation, the decision on the validity and existence of an arbitration agreement as preliminary issue is subject to the Regulation. As a result, following recital 12(2), the ruling of a Member State court on the validity and existence of an arbitration agreement would not circulate within the EU under the term of the Regulation, regardless of the subject matter. This will leave the party who relies on the arbitration agreement, to seek freely a ruling on the validity and existence of an arbitration agreement before other Member State’s court.

Recitals 12 (3) provides nevertheless that the judgment on the merit rendered by the first court, while it had determined that the arbitration agreement is invalid as preliminary issue, falls within the scope of the Regulation and can be recognized within the EU. However, Recitals 12 (3) stressed that the New York Convention takes precedence over the Regulation. This means that if an arbitral award is rendered on the same issue as a Member State court’s judgment, other Member States court should recognize the arbitral award first.

It results from the foregoing that the new Regulation does not change the situation of the anti-suit injunction. At the same time, the recognition of the precedence of arbitration awards over Member State court judgments may arguably rebalance the rejection of the anti-suit injunction mechanism. First, following the CJEU ruling in Gazprom, an anti-suit injunction in an arbitral award rather than in interim relief falls within the scope of the New York Convention. Second, in the event of two competing proceedings on the same issue –one before an arbitration tribunal, the other before a national court– the recognition of the arbitration award takes precedence over the recognition of the national court judgment, which may dissuade the party to start a parallel proceeding despite the existence of an arbitration agreement.

V. Conclusion

The CJEU in Gazprom addressed the issue of whether Regulation 44/2001 may preclude the court of a Member State from recognizing and enforcing an arbitral award containing an anti-suit injunction. The case was highly anticipated by those who had hoped that the CJEU would reverse its jurisprudence on anti-suit injunction developed in West Tankers.It is submitted that the underlying issue in Gazprom was rather on the extent of the relationship between Regulation 44/2001 and arbitration. This latter has been the subject of an intense debate between the Anglo-Saxon and the continental European approach.

In Gazprom the CJEU reaffirmed its case law: anti-suit injunction in support of an arbitration is not compatible with Regulation 44/2001 if the subject matter falls within the purview of the Regulation, endorsing hence the continental European approach. At the same time, it held that the same measure contained in an arbitration award falls outside the scope of the Regulation, which is rather covered by the New York Convention.

Regulation 1215/2012 repealed Regulation 44/2001. It integrates the same elements of the previous Regulation on arbitration, while adding some elements. In particular, it is submitted that Regulation 1215/2012 enshrines the precedence of the New York Convention, which could mitigate the impact of the rejection of the anti-suit injunction.

Gilles Muller

[1] Judgment of the Court of 13 May 2015, Gazprom, C-536/13, ECLI:EU:C:2015:316.

[2] Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of the Council of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, 2001 O.J. (L 12) 1.

[3] Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, 2012 O.J. (L 351) 1-32.

[4] Id., Rec. 4.

[5] Opinion of Advocate General Wathelet of 4 December 2014, Gazprom, C-536/13, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2414, at 63.

[6] Judgment of the Court of 9 December 2003, Gasser, C-116/02, ECLI:EU:C:2003:657.

[7] Judgment of the Court of 27 April 2004, Turner, C-159/02, ECLI:EU:C:2004:228.

[8] Judgment of the Court of 10 February 2009, West Tankers, C-185/07, ECLI:EU:C:2009:69.

[9] Daniel Rainer, The Impact of West Tankers on Parties’ Choice of a Seat of Arbitration, 95 Cornell L. Rev., 431 (2010); Jae Sundaram, Does the Judgment of the CJEU in Gazprom Bring About Clarity on the Grant of Anti-suit Injunction Under the Brussels I Regulation?, 27 Denning L. J., 303 (2015).

[10] Margaret Moses, Arbitration/Litigation: The European Debate, 35 Nw. J. Int’l L. & Bus.1, 1 (2012).

[11] Opinion of Advocate General Kokott of 4 September 2008, West Tankers, C-185/07, ECLI:EU:C:2008:466, at 39-45.

[12] Judgment of the Court of 25 July 1991, Rich, C-190/89, ECLI:EU:C:1991:319, at 26.

[13] Judgment of the Court of 17 November 1998, Van Uden, C-391/95, ECLI:EU:C:1998:543, at 33-34.

[14] West Tankers, supra note 8, at 22.

[15] Opinion of Advocate General Kokott, supra note 11, at 48.

[16] Opinion of Advocate General Wathelet, supra note 5, at 157.

[17] Trevor C. Hartley, Antisuit Injunctions in Support of Arbitration: West Tankers Still Afloat, 64 ICLQ 4, 965 (2015).

[18] Gazprom, supra note 1, at 28-34.

[19] Id., at 35-44.

Professor Ferrari to speak to Italy’s High Council of the Judiciary

Professor Franco Ferrari, the Center’s Director, is an expert, among others, on transnational litigation at the European level. And it is in this capacity that he will give a talk at Italy’s High Council of the Judiciary, the institution tasked with guaranteeing the autonomy and independence of Italy’s judiciary from the other branches of the state. In particular, Professor Ferrari will address the issue of whether Italian courts should recognize and enforce US punitive damages awards despite claims that such recognition and enforcement would violate Italian public policy, an issue currently pending before the Italian Supreme Court. For the full program (in Italian) click here.

Professor Ferrari publishes paper on the interpretation of the CISG

Professor Franco Ferrari, the Center’s Director, is known for his work on the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG), one of the most successful uniform contract law instruments. This his most recent paper, Professor Ferrari identifies two trends in case law interpreting the CISG: the homeward trend and the outward trend, both of which are disruptive of the goal behind the CISG. The paper analyses the trends and suggests how to tackle them to promote a uniform application of the CISG. For a link to the paper, please click here:

https://academic.oup.com//ulr/article/22/1/244/3091168/Autonomous-Interpretation-versus-Homeward-Trend?guestAccessKey=e3e54fd0-6b34-4c04-80fc-cd3a40c834d4

Professor Ferrari edits book on “The Impact of EU Law on International Commercial Arbitration”

Professor Ferrari, the Center’s Director, has just edited a book on the impact of EU on international commercial arbitration. For many years, it seemed almost a truism to state that EU law and the law of international arbitration were two very distinct areas of law that did not intersect. Most scholars believed each area pursued its own course without impacting on the other. The papers published in the book edited by Professor Ferrari, which were presented at a conference hosted by the Center for Transnational Litigation, Arbitration and Commercial Law on October 31 and November 1, 2016, show that, today, these areas of law are becoming ever more interconnected and that the impact of EU law on the law of international arbitration can be felt over the course of all stages of an international arbitration, from the pre-award stage to the post-award stage. Furthermore, and the papers authored by scholars and practitioners from both sides of the Atlantic make this abundantly clear, EU law has not only impacted international arbitrations seated in EU Member States, but has also influenced arbitrations seated around the world, a fact practitioners and arbitrators must come to acknowledge.

Professor Ferrari to talk at the Global Law Week in Brussels

Professor Ferrari, the Center’s Director, will give a talk during the arbitration session of the third edition of the Global Law Week, this one to be held at the Free University of Brussels from 15-19 May 2017. The arbitration session will be moderated by Alexandre Hublet, a graduate of NYU’s LL.M. program on International Regulation, Litigation and Arbitration. For the full program click here.

The Center co-hosts an arbitration training program in Bangkok

One of the goals of the Center is capacity building in the areas on which the Center focuses. Over the years, the Center has hosted many capacity building events around the globe. On 15 and 16 June, the Center, together with the Thailand Arbitration Center and UNCITRAL Asia Pacific, hosts another such event, this one aimed as practitioners and government lawyers operating in Thailand and surrounding countries. The speakers include Professor Franco Ferrari, the Center’s Director, Dr. Friedrich Rosenfeld, a Global Adjunct Professor at NYU Law in Paris, as well as Dr. Joao Ribeiro, Head of UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific, and Professor David Halloway from City University of Hong Kong. For the full programme click here.

Professor Ferrari named to the CIETAC panel of arbitrators

Professor Franco Ferrari, the Center’s Director, who specializes in international commercial law and international commercial and investment arbitration, has just been added to the panel of arbitrators of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission. This appointment comes after recognition of Professor Ferrari’s work by the Thailand Arbitration Center, which appointed Professor Ferrari as President of its Arbitrator Committee a year ago.

Professors Ferrari and Gillette publish an anthology on “International Sales Law”

Professors Franco Ferrari and Clayton P. Gillette, two experts on the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (“CISG”), have just published an anthology (in two volumes) on the CISG. This authoritative collection presents carefully selected scholarly articles that describe and examine the principles of international sales law, as set forth in the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG). These seminal pieces reflect various viewpoints of authors from different countries and legal systems, and offer a range of distinct methodological approaches to legal analysis. Together with an original introduction by the editors, these volumes provide the reader with both an international and an interdisciplinary perspective on many CISG topics. As for the 41 articles included in the two volumes, they are divided into 12 parts, entitled “Introduction”, “The CISG and the Unification of Law”, “Sphere of Application: When Does the CISG Apply?”, “Issues Excluded from the CISG”, “General Principles and Interpretation”, “Trade Usages and Other Sources of Law”, “Form, Formation and Pre-Contractual Liability”, “Obligations of the Parties”, “Risk of Loss”, “Exemption”, “Breach of Contract” “Remedies”, and “Final Provisions”. For more information, please click here.

Professor Franco Ferrari’s work cited by Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European

In his Opinion in cse C-54/16 dated 3 March 2017, Advocate General Szpunar cited several papers authored and edited by Professor Ferrari, the Center’s Executive Director. The Opinion addresses, among other matters, the issue of what qualifies as an “international” contract. In doing so, Advocate Szpunar also refers to the Regulation on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I), even though it was not applicable to the specific contract (given the date of the contract’s conclusion). And it is in this context that Advocate Szpunar cites the work by Professor Ferrari to conclude that the fact that a contract agreed upon between two companies registered in one and the same country containing a choice of law in favor of the laws of a different country renders the situation international enough to trigger a conflict of laws approach.

The Center co-hosts a conference on international commercial and investment arbitration in Vienna

The Center, together with other institutions, will host a conference around the submissions for the Cambridge Compendium of International Commercial and Investment Arbitration to be edited by Professor Franco Ferrari, the Center’s Director, as well as Professors Andrea Bjorklund (McGill University, Montreal) and Stefan Kröll (Bucerius Law School, Hamburg). The most innovative element of the Compendium lies in many topics being addressed from both a commercial and an investment arbitration perspective whenever appropriate in order to highlight the commonalities as well as the differences between both fields. The talks to be given are a means of introducing the audience to the Compendium project. The event is graciously hosted by the University of Vienna just prior to the commencement of the 24th annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. For the detailed program, please click here.

How the US Government copes with Transnational Litigation

On March 22, 2017, the Center for Transnational Litigation, Arbitration and Commercial Law will host a seminar entitled “How the US Government copes with Transnational Litigation”, which will take place from 6.00 – 8.00 pm in the Lester Pollack Colloquium Room, Furman Hall 900 (245 Sullivan Street, New York, NY 10012).

It is a great pleasure to be able to announce that Professors Harold Hongju Koh and Donald E. Childress, III, will give talks on the aforementioned topic.

Harold Hongju Koh is Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School, where he served as Dean (2004-09) and is formerly Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State (2009-13) and Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (1998-2001).  He is the author of Transnational Litigation in U.S. Courts (2008), co-author of Transnational Business Problems (5th ed. 2014 with Vagts, Dodge, and Buxbaum), and Transnational Legal Problems (3d ed. 1995 with Steiner & Vagts) and author of many articles on international and foreign relations law. He has received the Wolfgang Friedmann Award from Columbia Law School and the Louis B. Sohn Award from the American Bar Association for his lifetime achievements in international law. He is also a member of the Council of the American Law Institute and Counselor to the Restatement (Fourth) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States, and is currently on the Executive Committee of the American Arbitration Association and the U.S. National Group of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Donald E. Childress, III, is professor of law at Pepperdine School of Law. Prior to joining the School of Law 2008, Professor Childress was associated with the international law firm Jones Day in Washington, D.C., as a member of their Issues and Appeals practice, where he focused on Supreme Court litigation, general appellate litigation, and significant motions practice in trial litigation. Professor Childress’ primary research interests are international civil litigation and arbitration, private international law, comparative law, and ethics. His scholarship has appeared in the Duke Law Journal, the U.C. Davis Law Review, the Northwestern Law Review, the Georgetown Law Journal, the Virginia Journal of International Law, the William and Mary Law Review and the North Carolina Law Review. He has also published an edited volume with Cambridge University Press entitled “The Role of Ethics in International Law”. He is working extensively on the role that international civil litigation and arbitration plays in an increasingly global world. He is the American co-editor of the private international law blog ConflictOfLaws.net.

Center Hosts 6th Arbitration Moot at Hogan Lovells

NYU’s  Center  for  Transnational  Litigation,  Arbitration  and  Commercial  Law  will  hold  its  Sixth Annual Arbitration Practice Moot  on  Saturday,  11 March 2017. The  event will be co-hosted by Hogan Lovells US LLP  and NYU’s International  Arbitration  Association. The  principal  objective  of  the  NYU  Practice  Moot  is  to provide  a  forum  within  which  students  participating  in  this  year’s  Willem  C.  Vis  International  Commercial Arbitration  Moot  can  refine  their  oral  presentations  by  pleading  before,  and  receiving  constructive  feedback  from, panels of distinguished arbitrators.

For the program please click here.

An International Netherlands Commercial Court?

Introduction

In November 2015, the Dutch Council for the Judiciary published a plan for the establishment of a Netherlands Commercial Court (hereafter: ‘NCC’), a special state court in the Netherlands for large national and international commercial disputes.[1] This commercial court with specialized judges that is supposed to conduct proceedings in the English language follows the recent establishment of international commercial courts around the world, most notably in Singapore and Dubai.[2] This paper will argue that the plan by the Council for the Judiciary is of a more conservative nature than the Singapore International Commercial Court (hereafter: SICC) and the Dubai International Financial Centre (hereafter: DIFC) Courts. The plan for the NCC seems less ambitious in its international scope, arguably showing that, unlike its counterparts in Singapore and Dubai, its primary goal is to attract domestic companies. This will be illustrated by looking at three factors: the language of proceedings in appeal and cassation (paragraph 1), the composition of the court (paragraph 2) and the court’s evidence rules (paragraph 3).

It is important to evaluate the plans for the NCC. A court that is tailored to the needs of commercial parties has the potential to reverse the current downward trend in large trade cases being brought before Dutch courts in times of increasing need for cheap and efficient solution of complex transnational trade disputes.[3] Thus, the plan for the NCC explicitly states that it aims to compete in the international dispute resolution market, in particular with the nearby Commercial Court of England and Wales in London, by offering cheaper and faster resolution of trade disputes by specialized judges in the English language.[4]

In order to implement the plan, a Netherlands Commercial Court Bill has been introduced on 16 December 2016 that relates to the amount of court fees and the use of English as a language of proceedings.[5] The limited scope of these amendments already constitutes a striking difference with the courts in Singapore and Dubai, which were established through the enactment of comprehensive legislation.[6] A closer look at the NCC’s planned structure and composition will further show that the changes brought about by the new court are relatively modest compared to the other international commercial courts.

 

  1. The language of proceedings at the Supreme Court

An appeal of an NCC judgment is possible in the English language. However, cassation at the Supreme Court will always take place in Dutch.[7] The plan for the NCC does not give an explanation for this limitation. It is not at once clear why proceedings at the Supreme Court cannot be in English. There is currently no explicit legal basis for Dutch as the official language of proceedings.[8] In comparison, a pending legislative proposal for international commercial court chambers in Germany does provide for the possibility of conducting proceedings in English before the German Supreme Court, the Bundesgerichtshof (Article 184(3) Gerichtsverfassungsgesetzes).[9] The absence of such an initiative in the Netherlands once again shows the limited international focus of the NCC compared to similar commercial courts in other states.

 

  1. Composition of the court: no foreign judges and no additional domestic judges envisaged

In terms of the composition of the court, the NCC again seems less revolutionary than the courts in Singapore and Dubai. The NCC will take the form of a special chamber of the Amsterdam District Court and the Court of Appeals in Amsterdam and will consist of judges who are appointed based on their specialized knowledge, experience and English language proficiency.[10] These judges will come from other courts in the country. Since the Plan does not offer the possibility of hiring new or foreign judges, it seems that there will be no foreign judges appointed to the NCC.

By comparison, the SICC and the DIFC Courts are comprised of a unique mix of local judges and foreign judges from major jurisdictions around the world.[11] Such a mix is intended to improve the court’s ability to resolve disputes governed by laws from foreign jurisdictions and to enhance its international reputation in terms of neutrality and impartiality when it handles cases that do not involve parties from Singapore.[12] Chief Justice of Singapore Sundaresh Menon expressed a vision for the SICC as a court that is ‘blind to the nationality or domicile of a litigant’.[13]

The lack of foreign judges shows that these goals are not pursued in the same fashion by the NCC. The Dutch Court seems to put more emphasis on the internal specialization of national judges, rather than relying on the expertise of international professionals. This choice is consistent with the above-mentioned considerations concerning the purely domestic nature of the evidentiary rules on which the parties can rely.

The minimal changes envisaged by the plan with regard to the composition of the Court are unfortunate, since the NCC obviously aims to attract more commercial parties than Dutch courts currently do, whilst judges in the Netherlands are already deemed to be under great pressure due to excessive workload.[14]

 

  1. Absence of international standards of evidence

Another indication of the modest nature of the NCC’s international ambition compared to that of the other international commercial courts relates to the court’s evidence rules. The plan for the NCC does not offer flexibility as to the type of evidence rules to be applied, since it does not state explicitly that parties can choose what kind of evidence rules they would like to be applicable. Consequently, the NCC seems to rely exclusively on existing evidence rules in Dutch civil procedure law.[15] In contrast, the SICC is empowered to apply rules of evidence other than the ones under Singaporean law, such as the IBA Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration (Article 18K(1) Supreme Court of Judicature Act). The absence of such freedom of choice, which in the case of the Singaporean court was welcomed as innovative and reflective of a strong international ambition, suggests that the NCC’s aspiration in this respect is more limited.[16]

It could be argued that there is no urgent need for the NCC to offer such alternative international standards, because Dutch procedural law generally is considered efficient, expeditious and predictable.[17] Nonetheless, this only reinforces the argument that the efficiency of the procedure is considered more important than its international dimension.

 

Conclusion

Where the SICC has been praised as a ‘visionary step’ and a judicial forum with unrivaled international legal sophistication, it is hard to say the exact same of the NCC as currently envisaged in the plan.[18] The NCC’s overall idea and structure can be considered a welcome institutional innovation and its specialized judges and the English language of proceedings will likely prove attractive to commercial parties.[19] However, a comparison with other international commercial courts reveals that the NCC’s set-up is not as revolutionary as its counterparts in Singapore and Dubai in terms of international ambition and focus.

As opposed to the SICC, the NCC does not offer the option to use alternative international evidence rules as an alternative for Dutch procedural rules. Furthermore, the composition of the court, lacking foreign judges, stands in contrast with the mix of domestic and international judges at the courts in Dubai and Singapore. Similarly, the imposition of Dutch as the only language of proceedings at cassation level confirms the limited international vocation of the NCC.

This inward-looking dimension is somehow acknowledged by the plan itself, which mentions the interests of Dutch companies in saving costs by avoiding recourse to Anglo-American courts for specialized commercial procedures as one of the rationales for the court.[20] Therefore, the goal of the NCC appears to be different from that of the SICC and the other international commercial courts. It would seem that the focus of the plan for the NCC is more about providing Dutch and foreign companies operating in the Netherlands with effective and familiar procedural remedies than about the establishment of a truly international commercial court. This choice is perhaps hard to justify, given the absence of any stated reason for this restraint in the attempt to internationalize the rule of law for the benefit of the international community.[21] It is to be hoped that the NCC will gradually develop its international focus in the future.

 

Annette Scholten, LL.B. Leiden University; LL.M. Candidate, New York University (2017).

[1] Dutch Council for the Judiciary, Plan tot oprichting van de Netherlands Commercial Court inclusief kosten-batenanalyse (Plan for the establishment of the Netherlands Commercial Court including cost-benefit analysis), November 2015, http://www.netherlandscommercialcourt.nl and http://netherlands-commercial-court.com. The court was originally scheduled to start functioning from 1 January 2017, but this deadline has not been met due to delays in the passing of the necessary legislation. Although no official revised opening date of the court has yet been stated, the Netherlands Commercial Court Act is planned to come into force on 1 January 2018. See http://netherlands-commercial-court.com.

[2] Dutch Council for the Judiciary, supra note 1, p. 8-10, 12, D.H. Wong, The rise of the international commercial court: what is it and will it work?, 33(2) Civil Justice Quarterly 205 (2014), p. 206-207, E. Bauw, Ondernemerschap in de Rechtspleging (Entrepreneurship in Legal Procedures), Ars Aequi 93 (February 2016), p. 93, D.P. Horigan, From Abu Dhabi to Singapore: The Rise of International Commercial Courts, 3(2) International Journal of Humanities and Management Sciences 78 (2015), p. 78.

In Germany, there is currently a legislative proposal pending that would also make it possible to establish international commercial courts: Gesetzentwurf des Bundesrates, Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Einführung von Kammern für internationale Handelssachen (Draft law on the introduction of chambers of international trade), 30 April 2014.

[3] Dutch Council for the Judiciary, supra note 1, p. 2, 4-6, 9, S. Menon, The Transnational Protection of Private Rights: Issues, Challenges and Possible Solutions, 108 American Society of International Law Proceedings 219 (2014), p. 224, C. Sikkel, P.A.M. van Schouwenburg-Laan, Actualiteiten maritieme kamer Rechtbank Rotterdam (News maritime chamber Rotterdam Court), 1 Tijdschrift Vervoer & Recht 20 (2016), p. 22, Bauw, supra note 2, p. 96.

[4] Dutch Council for the Judiciary, supra note 1, p. 2. G.A. van der Steur, Kamerbrief NCC (Letter of Minister of Justice to Parliament), 23 November 2015, p. 2, S. Menon, International Arbitration: The Coming of a New Age for Asia (and Elsewhere), Keynote Address Opening Plenary Session ICCA Congress 2012, p. 13-14, E. Lein et alia, Factors Influencing International Litigants’ Decisions to Bring Commercial Claims to the London Based Courts, Ministry of Justice Analytical Series 2015, p. 16, C. Jeloschek, ‘Netherlands Commercial Court’: eindelijk een alternatief voor grote (inter)nationale handelsgeschillen vanaf 1 january 2017 (‘Netherlands Commercial Court: finally an alternative for large (inter)national trade disputes from 1 January 2017), 34(11) Bedrijfsjuridische berichten 129 (2016), p. 130-131.

A similar initiative is already taking place in Rotterdam, where a pilot started in January 2016 in the Rotterdam District Court enabling proceedings in maritime, transport and international trade sale cases to be conducted in English. See https://www.rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie-en-contact/Organisatie/Rechtbanken/Rechtbank-Rotterdam/Nieuws/Paginas/Pilot-project;-civil-court-procedures-in-English.aspx, Sikkel, van Schouwenburg-Laan, supra note 3, p. 20, C.J.M. Klaassen, Producties in een vreemde taal (Documents in a foreign language), Ars Aequi 843 (November 2016), p. 847, R.J. Tjittes, Een Netherlands Commercial Court vereist reclame voor Nederlands recht (A Netherlands Commercial Court asks for advertisement of Dutch law), 6 THEMIS 261 (2014), p. 261.

[5] Wet houdende wijziging van het Wetboek van Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering en de Wet griffierechten burgerlijke zaken in verband met het mogelijk maken van Engelstalige rechtspraak bij de internationale handelskamers van de rechtbank en het gerechtshof Amsterdam (Act concerning the modification of the Code of Civil Procedure and of the Act on Fees for Civil Proceedings in order to make proceedings in the English language possible in the Netherlands Commercial Court chamber of the Amsterdam District Court and the Court of Appeals in Amsterdam), consultation version, December 2016. See also Van der Steur, supra note 4, p. 2.

[6] SICC: Articles 18A – 18M Supreme Court of Judicature Act. DIFC Courts: Dubai Law establishing the Judicial Authority at the Dubai International Financial Centre No. 12 of 2004, the DIFC Court Law No. 10 of 2004.

[7] Dutch Council for the Judiciary, supra note 1, p. 10.

[8] T. Veling, Vreemde talen in de civiele procedure (Foreign languages in the civil procedure), 5 Tijdschrift voor de Procespraktijk 109 (2016), p. 109.

[9] See footnote 2 for more information about the German legislative proposal.

[10] http://www.netherlandscommercialcourt.nl/news/ncc/, Veling, supra note 8, p. 111, Dutch Council for the Judiciary, supra note 1, p. 10.

[11] Article 5A Supreme Court of Judicature Act Singapore, A. Emmerson, S. Jhangiani, J. Lewis, Why international courts may be the way forward, Global Arbitration Review News (16 February 2015), R. Hermans, A Netherlands Commercial Court, Ars Aequi 187 (May 2015), p. 195, Wong, supra note 2, p. 208, W.Y. Kenny, Exploring a New Frontier in Singapore’s Private International Law, 28 Singapore Academy of Law Journal 649 (2016), p. 650.

[12] S. Leong, Planting the Seeds for an International Rule of Law – The Commercial Court of England and Wales and the SICC, Practical Law UK (12 May 2015), p. 10, S. Menon, International Commercial Courts: Towards a Transnational System of Dispute Resolution, Opening Lecture for the DIFC Courts Lecture Series 2015, p. 24-25. See for example the International Judges of the SICC, a group of reputable judges from both common and civil law backgrounds: http://www.sicc.gov.sg/Judges.aspx?id=30.

[13] Menon, supra note 12, p. 42.

[14] J.C. Oord, Geschillenbeslechting als business model (Dispute resolution as business model), 5 Tijdschrift Ondernemingsrechtpraktijk 370 (2016). Concerning the complaints about high workload for Dutch judges, see for example http://www.mr-online.nl/juridisch-nieuws/23356-hoge-werkdruk-rechterlijke-macht-bewezen, http://www.volkskrant.nl/binnenland/president-hoge-raad-bezorgd-om-werkdruk-rechters~a3388115/.

[15] E. van de Kuilen, Netherlands Commercial Court to launch next year, AKD 16 February 2016, https://www.akd.nl/o/Paginas/PublicatiesEN/Netherlands-Commercial-Court-to-launch-next-year.aspx.

[16] Kenny, supra note 11, p. 650. For example, the Commercial Court of England and Wales in London does not offer such a choice of evidence rules: HM Courts & Tribunals Service, The Admiralty and Commercial Courts Guide 2014, p. 57ff.

[17] Dutch Council for the Judiciary, supra note 1, p. 9, Hermans, supra note 11, p. 193, Lein et alia, supra note 4, p. 27, Leong, supra note 12, p. 7-8.

[18] S.J. Brogan, Singapore’s Leadership in Advancing the Rule of Law, The Straits Times 19 January 2016.

[19] Horigan, supra note 2, p. 80, C.A. Kern, English as a Court Language in Continental Courts, 5(3) Erasmus Law Review 187 (2012), p. 190-191.

[20] Dutch Council for the Judiciary, supra note 1, p. 6.

[21] Leong, supra note 12, p. 12.

The Center for Transnational Litigation, Arbitration, and Commercial Law will host a Talk “BITs, BATs and Buts: International Dispute Resolution”

The Center for Transnational Litigation, Arbitration, and Commercial Law will host a talk on Tuesday, February 14 from 6:00-8:00pm. Mr. Gary Born, current scholar-in-residence, will be presenting “BITs, BATs and Buts: International Dispute Resolution” in the Lester Pollack Colloquium Room, FH900.

WHEN DOES AN ARBITRATION AGREEMENT BIND A NON-SIGNATORY? COMMENT ON A DECISION BY THE SWISS BUNDESGERICHT FROM JUNE 6 2016

When does an arbitration agreement bind a non-signatory? Comment on a decision by the Swiss Bundesgericht from June 6 2016[1]

In this decision, the Swiss Supreme Court had to deal with a fundamental question, which touches upon the idea of consent as the core principle for arbitral proceedings: When does an arbitration agreement bind a non-signatory? This comment will address the requirement, under which the court allowed for a third-party application of the agreement, and will deal with the implications such an application has on the concept of consent.

I.          Summary of the facts

In 1980, two Aktiengesellschaften (A.G.) – companies limited by shares under Swiss law –  D and E concluded a framework contract for the operation of a wastewater treatment facility. The contract included the following Art. 2.4: “D and E guarantee to each other that their named subsidiaries and the agents of their subsidiaries will fulfill all the parties’ obligations under this contract.[2] It also included an arbitration clause, in which Basel was chosen as the seat of arbitration. The parties chose Swiss arbitral and substantive law. In 1995, D sold its chemicals division to A, another A.G. For this demerger D and A concluded an umbrella agreement that included two provisions, which are relevant to this dispute. The first read that A would assume “all assets and liabilities pertaining to the chemical business of D.” The second read: “Assumption of Guarantees. A. undertakes to assume as per the Closing Date all guarantees, letters of comfort and undertakings of similar nature of A. Affiliates.” In 1996, D and E merged into the B A.G. In 2014, B initiated arbitration against A for claims in connection with the shutdown of the wastewater treatment facility. A argued that the arbitral tribunal did not have jurisdiction, because A was not bound by the arbitration agreement. In an interim decision, the tribunal rejected those arguments and confirmed its jurisdiction. This interim decision was the matter in dispute before the Bundesgericht.

II.       Decision

The Bundesgericht had to decide whether A and B were bound by the arbitration agreement that was only signed by D and E – which had merged into B. It applied the national arbitration law of the ZPO[3] as opposed to its international arbitration law, because of the domestic character of the dispute and the express choice of the parties. The court started by acknowledging that, generally, only signatories to an arbitration agreement are bound by it because of privity of contracts. It then cited some exceptions from that rule, namely assignments of claims, assumptions of debts and obligations, and transfers of contracts. The Bundesgericht applied the doctrine of business takeover as found in OR[4] Art. 181. Pursuant to that rule, a party who takes over a business assumes as the previous owner’s obligations in respect of the business once the obligee is informed of the takeover. The previous owner, however, is still jointly liable for the obligations for three years. According to the court, the arbitration agreement is transferred as an ancillary right to the obligations in accordance with OR Art. 178 para. 1.

Next, the court interpreted Art. 2.4 of the framework agreement. The arbitral tribunal had held that this provision included at least a “quasi-guarantee” by which the parent companies – D and E – guaranteed that each subsidiary of theirs would fulfil its obligation. A argued that the provision was only a non-binding “Patronatserklärung”, or letter of comfort. However, the Bundesgericht agreed with the arbitral tribunal: the wording of the provision (“guarantee to each other”) and position in the contract allowed the conclusion that Art. 2.4 actually created a binding obligation. A also argued that the tribunal did not qualify the agreement more precisely but only called it a “quasi-guarantee”. But the court held that the specificities of the obligations are a matter of the substance of the claim. For the matter of jurisdiction, it is only relevant that there is in fact an obligation that was transferred.

The court turned on to address the question whether the tribunal had correctly found that the chemical branch was taken over by A, as required by OR Art. 181 para. 1. The defendant challenged this finding as obviously contrary to the record and therefore arbitrary. The court held that the defendant had not shown that the findings were in fact clearly wrong. The arbitral tribunal had held that the obligation, and with it the arbitration agreement as an ancillary right, was transferred to A on the basis of the first provision of the umbrella agreement. A argued that this was a false interpretation of the umbrella agreement as it contradicted the second provision of the umbrella agreement, Art. 9.1. The Bundesgericht agreed with the tribunal: Art. 9.1. did in fact only address the transfer of guarantees of subsidiaries, but the tribunal had not relied on Art. 9.1 for the transfer, but on first provision. They did not contradict each other.

The Bundesgericht agreed with the tribunal’s interpretation of both the framework agreement as well as the umbrella agreement. Consequently, it concluded that both the obligation and the arbitration agreement as ancillary rights had been transferred to A. A was therefore bound by the agreement and the tribunal had jurisdiction. The interim decision was upheld.

III.    The dogmatic approach

The application of an arbitration agreement to a non-signatory is a common issue in arbitral proceedings. Various legal doctrines have been used to give effect to arbitration agreements as to non-signatories.[5] The Bundesgericht applied a sub-category of the doctrine of transfer in Swiss law: the business takeover. Swiss law usually adheres to the widely-accepted principle[6] that an obligation can only be completely assumed by a new obligor, if the obligee agrees to it.[7] OR Art. 181 para. 1 provides an exception to that rule, as it allows the transfer without the obligees approval. But since the old obligor remains liable for three years, the obligee is sufficiently protected. According to the court, an arbitration agreement is transferred with the obligation by virtue of OR Art. 181 para. 3 and Art. 178 para. 1. OR Art. 178 para. 1 ensures that the obligee’s ancillary rights bind the new obligor after the transfer.[8] By designating the arbitration agreement as an ancillary right, the court agreed with the prevailing opinion in Swiss scholarly literature.[9]

This dogmatic approach to the transfer of the arbitration agreement is more comparable to an assignment than to a regular transfer of obligation. In assignment, the natural party to an arbitration is substituted without the approval of the other party, which is not the case for a regular transfer. The policy reason for binding assignees to an arbitration agreement is to prevent assignors from circumventing arbitration agreements by assigning the underlying claim.[10] This does not apply here, as the old obligor remains liable and could therefore still be sued under the agreement. But OR Art. 178 is based on the concept of an unchanged obligation,[11] hence it requires that the new obligor must take the obligation as is, in spite of the old obligor’s remaining liability. Thus, the court did not consider the transfer of the arbitration agreement separate from the obligation. It implicitly applied the following two-pronged test: First, was there was an obligation that was subject to an arbitration agreement? Second, was this obligation effectively transferred?

It tackled the first prong of the test by interpreting Art. 2.4 of the framework agreement. Here, it determined whether this provision actually created an obligation or merely constituted a letter of comfort. Given the wording of the provision, the court’s conclusion is the correct one. The court also correctly decided that it is unnecessary to consider the details of the obligation to determine jurisdiction. The obligation is the “vessel” that transports the arbitration agreement as an ancillary right to the newly bound party. Therefore, its mere existence is decisive for the jurisdictional questions. Naturally, a transferred obligation can only bind a new party to an arbitration agreement, if that agreement actually covers it. The court did not address this, but since arbitration agreements are interpreted broadly,[12] this is not a problem.

For the second prong of the test, the court needed to determine whether the requirement for a successful transfer of obligations under OR Art. 181 para. 1 were fulfilled. Here, the Bundesgericht accepted to the fact-finding of the arbitral tribunal, which it considered not obviously contrary to the record. It also interpreted the umbrella agreement to see whether it constituted a takeover contract. Its interpretation of the relevant provisions by the court was convincing.

IV.    The dogma of consent

The binding effect of an arbitration agreement in non-signatories seems to be at odds with what is considered to be the most fundamental principle of arbitration: arbitration is based on the consent of the parties to the arbitration.[13] How can A be bound by an arbitration agreement, if it never expressly agreed to it? This case deals with an assumption of claim without involvement of the debtor, which is effectively the counterpart to an assignment. For assignments, scholars argue that assignees are presumptively bound by an arbitration agreement over the assigned claim.[14] Where the parties to the assignment agreement make a different arrangement, the presumption could be rebutted.[15] So, what if A and D had included an “anti—arbitration” agreement in their umbrella agreement, declaring that all claims should be assumed without related arbitration agreements? In this scenario, A had decidedly not consented to participate in arbitration. According to this opinion, A would not be bound by the arbitration agreement.

In Swiss law, such an agreement would directly contradict the function OR Art. 181 para. 3 and Art. 178 para. 1 of guaranteeing that the obligee is not negatively affected by the transfer[16]. In relying on this provision, the court did not base the transfer of the arbitration agreement on a presumed consent. Instead it implied that an arbitration agreement is inseparable from the main obligation in matters of transfer.[17] Does this contradict the separability doctrine[18]? The original purpose of this doctrine is to ensure the survival of an arbitration agreement in case of the invalidity of the main contract.[19] The doctrine does not contradict the notion that there is an inherent connection between an arbitration agreement and the main contract. Such a connection is easily proven: An arbitration agreement, which does not refer to a defined legal relationship such as a contract, is no arbitration agreement at all.[20] So as to preserve the usefulness of an arbitration agreement, any (potential) dispute, which at one point is subject to an arbitration clause, should remain so until the agreement is revoked.

Applying comparable German rules on business takeover the Kammergericht even decided that a new business owner is bound by an arbitration agreement, even if the takeover is only factual and not contractual.[21] The general rule should be that every time an obligation or claim is transferred without the other party’s consent, the new party must be bound by a related arbitration agreement. An “anti-arbitration” agreement would be a contract at the expense of a third party, specifically the other party to the arbitration agreement. Agency aside, nobody has the power to dispose of another person’s rights. Doctrines of assignment and, to a lesser degree, transfer give people the right to dispose over their position as party to a contract. But other aspects of the contract are not up to disposition by third parties. For example, A and D could not have agreed to repeal Art. 2.4. of the framework agreement as a whole. Likewise, A and D could not dispose of E’s right to have the claim settled in arbitration.

This shows that consent to arbitrate cannot play a role in any case of succession of claims or obligations, where the other party to the legal relationship does not have to approve. The binding effect much rather comes from the fact that the new party does not have the right to dispose over the agreement.

V.       Conclusion

The Bundesgericht was confronted with an uncommon situation for the application of arbitration agreements to non-signatories, but solved it convincingly. The decision allows the reader to gain insight into the dogmatic structure of such applications and invites the reader to ponder their implications: in all cases of succession, where the other party to the obligation does not need to approve, the absence of the power to dispose explains the binding effect of the arbitration agreement to the new party better than consent.

Maximilian Schlueter

The author is a Class of 2017 LL.M. student in the International Business Regulation, Litigation and Arbitration program at the New York University School of Law. He graduated in law from the University of Bayreuth (Germany) in 2014 and completed his First State Examination in the same year. He finished his doctoral studies at the same university in January 2017.

[1] Bundesgericht [BG] [Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland], Jun. 6, 2016, http://relevancy.bger.ch/php/aza/http/index.php?lang=de&type=show_document&highlight_docid=aza://06-06-2016-4A_82-2016 (Ch.).

[2] „D und E garantieren sich gegenseitig, dass ihre genannten Tochtergesellschaften und deren Vertreter sämtliche ihnen in diesem Vertrag zugedachten Pflichten erfüllen,“ translation by the author.

[3] Zivilprozessordnung [ZPO] [Code of Civil Procedure], (Ch.).

[4] Obligationenrecht [OR] [Law on Obligations], (Ch.).

[5] These include among others theories of agency, alter ego status (or veil piercing), “group of companies,” estoppel, guarantor relations, third party beneficiary rights, succession, assignment, assumption and other doctrinal bases, Gary Born, International Commercial Arbitration 1405 (2nd ed. 2014).

[6] See e.g., Art. 9.2.3 of the UNIDROIT Principles on International Commercial Contracts.

[7] See OR Art. 176 para. 2.

[8] Cf. Peter Reetz & Christof Burri, CHK – Handkommentar zum Schweizer Privatrecht – Obligationenrecht, Allgemeine Bestimmungen Art. 178 ¶ 1 (Andreas Furrer & Anton K. Schnyder eds., 2nd ed. 2012); Eugen Spirig, Zürcher Kommentar – Art. 175-183 OR. Die Abtretung von Forderungen und die Schuldübernahme Art. 178 ¶ 8 (Peter Gauch ed., 3rd ed., 1993).

[9] See e.g. Peter Reetz & Christof Burri, supra note 8, at Art. 178 ¶ 4; Eugen Spirig, supra note 8, at Art. 178 ¶ 46.

[10] Cf. Konstadinos Massuras, Die Dogmatische Struktur der Mehrparteienschiedsgerichtsbarkeit 119-120 (1998).

[11] Eugen Spürig, supra note 8, at Art. 178 ¶ 2.

[12] See Pierre A. Karrer & Peter A. Straub, Practitioner’s Handbook on International Commercial Arbitration ¶ 12.20-12.21 (Frank-Bernd Weigand ed., 2nd ed., 2009) for Switzerland; cf. Gary Born, supra note 5, at 1325 in general.

[13] E.g. Nigel Blackaby et al., Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration, ¶ 2.01 (6th ed. 2015); but see Gary Born, supra note 5, at 1417, for references to nonconsensual theories for binding non-signatories.

[14] Cf. Gary Born, supra note 5, at 1467.

[15] Id.

[16] See Eugen Spirig, supra note at 8, at Art. 178 ¶ 3.

[17] This is comparable with the approaches of other courts in civil law jurisdictions on matters of assignment, see Bernard Hanotiau, Consent to Arbitration: Do We Share a Common Vision?, 27 Arb. Int’l 541-42 (2011).

[18] For Swiss law cf. Zivilprozessordnung [ZPO] [Code of Civil procedure], Art. 357 para. 2 [Ch.].

[19] See Nigel Blackaby et al., supra note 13, at ¶ 2.101.

[20] Cf. Nigel Blackaby et al., supra note 13, at ¶ 2.25-2.28.

[21] Kammergericht [Court of Appeal in Berlin], Aug. 13, 2015, 20 Sch 9/14, http://www.gerichtsentscheidungen.berlin-brandenburg.de/, paras. 46-53 (Ger.).

TECNIMONT V. AVAX: THE RETURN OF PROCEDURAL ESTOPPEL

  1. Introduction

When resorting to arbitration, parties choose their applicable rules of procedure, often by referring to those of an arbitral institution. Such arbitration rules set time limits regarding the challenge of the arbitrators. The ICC rules, for example, provide for a 30-day time limit to challenge an arbitrator’s appointment.[1] Once an award is rendered, the question as to whether a party may try to have the award set aside on the grounds of lack of impartiality and independence of a member of the tribunal may arise. A fundamental part of such question, is whether that is possible even when the arbitrator had not been previously challenged pending the arbitration or such challenge occurred beyond the agreed upon time limits. In France, the question was most recently answered by the Cour de Cassation[2] and by the Cour d’Appel de Paris[3] in the latest episodes of Tecnimont v. Avax. Both courts confirmed the strict application of the principle of procedural estoppel. Such principle has been defined as “the procedural behavior [of a party] […] constituting a change in position, on the merits, the nature of which misleads [the opposing party] on the intentions [of the challenging party]”.[4] Such principle was introduced into French legislation by Article 1466 of the French Code of Civil Procedure,[5] which provides that: “a party who abstained from asserting an irregularity in due time before the arbitral tribunal, is deemed to have waived its right to assert such irregularity at a later stage”.[6]

The principle is aimed at preventing parties from raising, in the setting aside stage before the French Courts, procedural challenges which should have been raised, or could have been raised, during the arbitration. Article 1466 of the French Code of Civil Procedure refers to all types of procedural irregularities, such as, for example, the improper constitution of the arbitral tribunal, as in the Tecnimont v. Avax case,[7] or violations of due process, as in Democratic Republic of Congo v. FG Hémisphère Associates LLC.[8]

 

  1. Tecnimont v. Avax – a long journey towards the strict application of the parties’ agreement

The decision rendered by the Cour d’Appel de Paris on 16 April 2016 was the fifth decision of a long line of judgments by the French Courts on Avax’s attempt to set aside the partial award rendered by the ICC administered tribunal in 2007.

Société Tecnimont S.p.A. (“Tecnimont”) had entered into a contract with S.A.J.&P. Avax (“Avax”) for the construction of a plant in Greece. A dispute arose between the parties and, pursuant to the arbitration clause contained in their contract, Tecnimont commenced ICC proceedings in Paris. Pending such proceedings, in September 2007, Avax challenged the chairman of the tribunal alleging his lack of impartiality and independence. In October 2007, the tribunal dismissed Avax’s challenge, holding that, in any event, the challenge had been made after the 30-day time limit set by the ICC rules. On 10 December 2007, the tribunal rendered a partial award on liability in favour of Tecnimont. Avax soon initiated annulment proceedings before the Cour d’Appel de Paris. The court quashed the award by holding that the chairman had a “continued obligation” to disclose facts which could give rise to a challenge and that the appealing party had become aware of these facts solely after the arbitral tribunal had dismissed the challenge.[9] Tecnimont then appealed the decision before the Cour de Cassation, which reversed the judgment. However, the decision by the Cour de Cassation was rendered on the technical grounds that such facts had already been discussed before the arbitral tribunal. The case was then remitted to the Reims Court of Appeal, which set aside the award.

The Reims decision was considered controversial in light of the reasoning adopted. [10] Indeed, the Court held: first, that arbitrators were bound by a duty to disclose all facts which could give rise to questions of impartiality and independence at any time during the arbitration proceedings; second, that it was not bound by the ICC tribunal’s decision on the challenge. On this second point, the court reasoned that the decision on the challenge was administrative in nature, thus it did not have res iudicata effect.[11] Moreover, the court found that since Avax had discovered new facts regarding the chairman’s lack of independence and impartiality pending the arbitration, but had not brought a new challenge before the arbitral tribunal, it could not be barred from filing for annulment of the award on those same grounds.[12]

It is the author’s opinion that such approach seems to encourage dilatory tactics. Indeed, by allowing parties to ignore agreed upon time limits, they may strategically plan to save relevant information for the possible setting aside stage, thus ignoring the time limits’ protective function.[13]

The case was remitted once more to the Cour de Cassation and once more, on 25 June 2014, the Cour de Cassation reversed the decision. In that instance, the Cour de Cassation ruled on the res iudicata effect of the arbitral tribunal’s decision on the challenge and held that: “[A] party who knowingly refrains from challenging an arbitrator on the grounds of circumstances related to his alleged lack of independence and impartiality within the timeframe provided for by the applicable arbitration rules is deemed to have waived the right to invoke such facts before the annulment judge”.[14]

With this judgment of the Cour de Cassation determined that the arbitration rules chosen by the parties should be complied with and are binding on the parties throughout the arbitration. The decision thus forces the parties to be more active in complying with the set time limits when bringing their challenges.

Since the Cour de Cassation may only decide on points of law, the case was remitted to the Cour d’Appel de Paris to decide on “whether, for each of the facts and circumstances that it retains as constitutive of a breach of the arbitrator’s duty of independence and impartiality, the 30-day time limit provided for by the arbitration rules to challenge the arbitrator had been complied with”.[15]

 

  1. The 2016 decision of the Cour d’Appel de Paris

The Cour d’Appel de Paris ruled once more on the proper constitution of the arbitral tribunal and dismissed the application to annul the award. The Court dismissed the request for annulment on three different grounds.

First, it maintained that Avax could not invoke circumstances which it had already raised in its original challenge to the arbitrator. Indeed, the Court reiterated that such original challenge was untimely. Second, as to the ties between Sofregaz, a company belonging to Tecnimont’s same group, and the chairman’s law firm, it found that such circumstances could not be taken into account not only because, even being aware of these facts, Avax did not ground its original September 2007 challenge upon them, but also because the facts raising doubts on impartiality and independence “were public and easily accessible”.[16]

Third and finally, the Court held that although there were some facts invoked by Avax which had come to light after the challenge, specifically other ties between the chairman’s law firm and Sofregaz, they “were not of a nature to intensify the doubts on the arbitrator’s independence and impartiality in a significant manner that could have resulted from the information already available to Avax before its request to challenge”.[17] It follows that although such ties had not been known by the parties, they still could not lead to the annulment of the award.

The Cour d’Appel de Paris thus dismissed Avax’s request to set aside the award on the grounds that Avax had failed to timely challenge the arbitrator according to the agreed upon arbitration rules. Indeed, this meant that unless Avax had discovered new circumstances, which were not in the public’s domain, and substantially increasing doubts as to the independence and impartiality of the arbitrator, it would have had to submit its challenge within the time limit set by the agreed upon rules.

 

  1. Conclusion

The final episode of the Tecnimont v. Avax saga confirms a return to a strict application of the principle of procedural estoppel. Indeed, by affirming that parties will be deemed to have waived their right to challenge an arbitrator if they did not do so on time pending the arbitration proceedings, strengthens the biding nature of the time limits set by the agreement of the parties and firmly applies Article 1466 of the French Code of Civil Procedure. Parties will no longer be allowed to circumvent their agreement by holding onto information which may lead to the obstruction of the correct circulation of the arbitral award.

Although the decision seems to impose upon the parties a significant obligation to inquire extensively on the existing ties between the parties and the arbitrators, it is a welcome confirmation of the French courts’ deference to the arbitration rules selected by the parties. Indeed, the decision evidences the central importance of party autonomy in arbitration, which is expressed by the possibility granted to the parties to freely select the arbitration rules applicable to their dispute and have them expect that those rules be binding throughout the proceedings.[18]

This however does not mean that parties are no longer allowed to bring challenges once the time limit to do so has expired. The Paris Court of Appeals leaves the door open to challenges which are brought on the basis of new facts which give rise to fundamental doubts as to the arbitrator’s independence and impartiality. If the contrary were true, parties would be deprived from their ability to challenge an arbitrator for facts arising after the expiration of the time limit provided by the applicable rules, which could compromise a party’s right to due process.[19]

 

Eva Paloma Treves, 2013 J.D. Università degli Studi di Milano, IBRLA Candidate (2017).

[1]           ICC 2012 Arbitration Rules, Article 14.2: “For a challenge to be admissible, it must be submitted by a party either within 30 days from receipt by that party of the notification of the appointment or confirmation of the arbitrator, or within 30 days from the date when the party making the challenge was informed of the facts and circumstances on which the challenge is based if such date is subsequent to the receipt of such notification”.

[2]           Cour de Cassation, Chambre Civil 1, Société Tecnimont S.p.A. v. J.&P. Avax (Case No. 11-26529), 25 June 2014.

[3]           Cour d’Appel de Paris, Société J.&P. Avax v. Société Tecnimont S.p.A. (Case No. 14/14884), 12 April 2016.

[4]           Cour de Cassation, Chambre Civil 1, Société Merial v. Société Klocke Verpackungs (Case No. 08-21288), 3 February 2010. The French original text states as follows: “le comportement procedural […] constitutive d’un changement de position, en droit, de nature à induire [l’opposant] en erreur sur ses intentions”. The Principle of Procedural Estoppel, although not explicitly expressed, was already part of French Case Law: v. Cour d’Appel de Paris, Sociétés T.A.I, E.S.W. et I.E.C. v. sociétés S.I.A.P.E., Engrais de Gabè and others (Case No. 88/8256), 2 June 1989, Revue de l’Arbitrage, Vol. 1991 Issue 1, p. 87.

[5]           Article 1466 of the French Code of Civil Procedure was introduced by Decree 48/2011 of 13 January 2011.

[6]           The French original text reads as follows: “La partie qui, en connaissance de cause et sans motif légitime, s’abstient d’invoquer en temps utile une irrégularité devant le tribunal arbitral est réputée avoir renoncé à s’en prévaloir”.

[7]           v. infra, 2. Tecnimont v. Avax – a long journey towards the strict application of the parties’ agreement.

[8]           Cour d’Appel de Paris, Républic Démocratique du Congo v. FG Hémisphère Associates LLC (Case No. 11/20732), 12 April 2016. The Democratic Republic of Congo claimed that the award rendered in Switzerland could not be enforced in France since it was contrary to due process. The Paris Court of Appeal dismissed such claim on the basis of the principle of procedural estoppel by holding that the Democratic Republic of Congo had not raised such claim during the arbitration proceedings, and thus it was barred from doing so in the enforcement stage.

[9]           Cour d’Appel de Paris, J.&P. Avax v. Société Tecnimont S.p.A. (Case No. 07/22164), 12 February 2009, Revue de l’Arbitrage, Vol.  2009 Issue 1, p. 186.

[10]          M. Henry, Note – 2 novembre 2011, Cour d’appel de Reims (Aud. solennelle), Revue de l’Arbitrage, Vol. 2012 Issue 1, p. 120.

[11]          Cour d’Appel de Reims, J.&P. Avax v. Société Tecnimont S.p.A. (Case No. 10/02888), 2 November 2011, Revue de l’Arbitrage, Vol. 2012 Issue 1, p. 112.

[12]          Ibid.

[13]          C. Koch, Standards and Procedures for Disqualifying Arbitrators, Journal of International Arbitration, Vol. 20 No. 4 (2003), p. 330.

[14]          Cour de Cassation, Chambre Civil 1, Société Tecnimont S.p.A. v. J.&P. Avax (Case No. 11-26529), 25 June 2014.

[15]          Cour de Cassation, Chambre Civil 1, Société Tecnimont S.p.A. v. J.&P. Avax (Case No. 11-26529), 25 June 2014.

[16]          Cour d’Appel de Paris, Société J.&P. Avax v. Société Tecnimont S.p.A. (Case No. 14/14884), 12 April 2016.

[17]          Ibid.

[18]          G. Born, International Commercial Arbitration (Second Edition), Kluwer Law International 2014, p. 83; M.L. Moses, The principles and practice of international commercial arbitration, Cambridge University Press 2012, p. 1.

[19]          Cour de Cassation, Chambre Civil 1, Chambre Arbitrale Maritime de Paris v. Nycool AB (Case No. 14-20396), 31 March 2016.

The Swiss Supreme Court and a Swiss Court of Appeals cite Professor Ferrari’s work

Both the Swiss Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of the Canton Ticino cited Professor Ferrari’s works to corroborate the results reached on matters relating to international sales, on which Professor Ferrari, the Director of the Center, has written extensively.

In its 8 November 2016 ruling (docket n. 4A_451/2016), the Swiss Supreme Court relied, among others, on a paper by Professor Ferrari to hold that an international sale by auction should not be subject to the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (“CISG”), but rather to the law applicable by virtue of the Swiss private international rules. On 20 April 2016, in a ruling (docket n. 15.2016.26) that was only recently published, the Court of Appeals of the Canton Ticino relied on a commentary by Professor Ferrari to hold that the effects of a retention of title clause on the property of the goods sold contained in a contract subject to the CISG are not governed by the CISG, but rather by the law applicable by virtue of the forum’s rules of private international law.

Opting-Out of The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) Through Conduct in Litigation: What US Courts Need to Know about the CISG

Introduction

Relatively few US court cases deal with the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (hereinafter CISG). Indeed, parties to contract usually agree to exclude its application, probably due to the reluctance of lawyers to familiarize themselves with it[1]. Even more disconcerting is the fact that US judges are also unfamiliar with the CISG and tend to misapply it, often looking to the Uniform Commercial Code for guidance[2], and ignore[3] that the CISG’s provisions are subject to an autonomous and non-nationalistic interpretation, seeking guidance from foreign decision, pursuant to Article 7(1) of the CISG[4]. Foreign cases have persuasive value[5], and only this approach will fulfil the objective of the Convention; to establish uniform rules on the formation and performance of international commercial contracts for the sale of goods.

In Rienzi & Sons, Inc. v. N. Puglisi & F. Industria Paste Alientari[6] (hereinafter Rienzi), the Court of Appeals followed the District Court’s nationalistic approach stating that there was no controlling case on the issue[7]. Rienzi is a case where all applicability conditions of the CISG were met, but through-out the litigation the parties only pleaded national law. Three years after the submission of the initial complaint, the plaintiff, Rienzi, asserted for the first time that the CISG applied. Had the Court just taken a look at foreign cases, it would have noticed that case law on the application of the CISG addressing the parties conduct in litigation exist and is sufficiently prevalent[8].

These foreign courts, including leading CISG scholars, have commonly accepted, although not always expressly, that the CISG is applicable ex officio[9], and that the only escape from it is when parties exercise their rights under Article 6 of the Treaty and exclude its application[10]. Moreover, their prevailing position is that arguing solely on the basis of domestic law does not lead to the exclusion of the CISG[11]. However, with Rienzi, the Court of Appeals departed from these assertions.

While it stated that the CISG was “mandatory unless the parties expressly opt out”, it still concluded that Rienzi had excluded the CISG by “consent[ing] to the application of New York law”, and “untimely invoking the CISG”. It is unclear whether the judges’ ruling was based on the consent of the parties to opt out of the CISG following Article 6, as the Court ignored Article 6 in its decision (I), or if the untimely invocation of the CISG informed the decision (II).

I) Sufficient express consent to opt out of the CISG

First, the main critique relates to the wording of the judges’ ruling that consent to the application of New York law formed the intent of the parties to opt out of the CISG as the CISG is part of federal law. The selection of the law of New York cannot form an exclusion as the CISG, being part of the law of a Contracting State, is by extension the law of its territorial units[12]. A choice of New York law should therefore be intended as “both making the CISG applicable (as part of the chosen law) and as determining the law applicable to the issues not governed by the CISG (…) thus avoiding to have to resort to the complex rules of private international law in order to determine the law applicable to the issues not governed by the CISG”[13]. US Courts have diverged on this point; while some view selection of the law of a State as an exclusion[14], other follow the majority opinion that it is insufficient[15]. Such differences undermine uniformity and a consistent approach should be favored.

Second, it is questionable whether consent through conduct in litigation appropriately qualifies as the exercise of the Article 6 exclusion. There is nothing in Article 6 concerning the form of an effective exclusion. Article 8 provides that parties consent can be inferred[16] and that “all relevant circumstances of the case including (…) any subsequent conduct by the parties”[17] should be considered in discerning intent. Some scholars support the opinion that this conduct must be clearly manifested[18], others say that Article 8(2) CISG points to a lower threshold; that the intent is the one that would be inferred by a reasonable person[19]. Either way, courts should be careful to consider alternative explanations for the failure to plead or argue the CISG during the proceedings, as parties cannot intend to exclude it unless they are aware of it[20]. Therefore the reasoning of the District Court in finding that since the CISG is mandatory “Rienzi had notice to the potential applicability of the CISG at the time it filed the Complaint”[21] is unsatisfactory. The mandatory application of the CISG, renders Rienzi’s lawyer, and not Rienzi himself, under the obligation to be aware of the Convention[22]. Even for those who argue that lawyers are agents of the parties, proof must still be found that they knew the CSIG was applicable and consciously excluded it. Should that be the case, this might constitute professional malpractice by the lawyer that has violated his client’s interest by excluding the CISG when the CISG would have been favorable to the latter[23].

The reasoning of the Court of Appeals in finding that invocation of a New York statute incompatible with the CISG constitutes an effective derogation[24] is also unsatisfactory as the Court should again be more careful in guessing the intent of parties. This approach is doubly problematic for US judges as it entails being familiar with the CISG; evidence will only exist when the state law that is relied on is found incompatible with the Convention. Indeed, this ruling suggests that reference to a domestic statute compatible with the CISG would not constitute intent to opt out under the Court’s reasoning. Another uncertainty that this holding brings is whether Rienzi’s assertion of the statute of frauds is sufficient to amount to consent to opt out as the Court of Appeals merely states that it “supports the conclusion”. Indeed, the Court then goes on to point to other factors that prove consent of Rienzi to opt out and it is unclear whether each factor taken separately would amount to consent or whether it is the accumulation of these factors that culminate in Rienzi’s consent.

II) Domestic procedural law should not be used to exclude the CISG

Procedural law has been used by some courts in order not to apply the CISG[25]. It is very probable that in Rienzi, the district court was expressing its holding in terms of equity estoppel[26]. Equity estoppel prevents one party from taking a different position at trial than it did at an earlier time if the other party would be harmed by the change. The district court’s refusal to apply the CISG was based on its concern for the defendant’s reliance on earlier pleadings[27] as well as a concern that the plaintiff may be trying to achieve a strategical delay to the detriment of the defendant[28].

Although the Court of Appeals’ reasoning was centered on proving that Rienzi has consented to the application of New York law, it expressed concerns about timeliness in its conclusion that “the district court did not err, much less abuse its discretion, in finding that Rienzi had consented to application of New York law to the contract claims at issue before its untimely 2011 invocation of the CISG”, suggesting that the procedural doctrine of untimeliness supported its conclusion, as it did in the GPL Treatment case[29].

Some commentators have argued that as the provisions of the CISG do not displace local procedures, courts may use procedural domestic law in these cases as they involve not only the interpretation of Article 6, but also the expenditure of judicial resources[30] . However, the majority argue that the CISG exclusively provides the conditions for its own applicability[31], and notwithstanding procedural domestic law judges must apply the CISG in Contracting State as it is the corollary of the ex officio application of the CISG[32]. If judges each apply their own procedural rules this undermines the uniform and predictable interpretation of Article 6, which has to be interpreted non-nationalistically, and this would lead to an increase in adjudication costs in the long run. Asking the parties early in the proceedings if they are aware that the CISG applies and if they have agreed to exclude it would be a better way to prevent strategic behavior of lawyers in a time and cost-effective manner[33].

The Court of Appeals’ failure to apply the CISG when it is applicable amounts to a breach of international obligations[34], and an untimely pleading of the CISG does not relieve courts from their duty to apply international conventions. The court in Rienzi should therefore have decided the case under the CISG sua sponte or requested additional briefs[35].

Conclusion

In any international contract for the sale of goods, the drafters must be vigilantly aware of the inclination of US courts to hold as they have in Rienzi. Although the CISG is applicable ex officio, it is recommended to explicitly include the CISG in the choice of law clause of the contract.

In the future, it is hoped that lawyers and judges will become more CISG-friendly, paving the way towards uniformity, legal certainty and the development of international trade, reasons why the CISG was enacted. The position has already significantly improved over the past five years[36]. The success of the Willem Vis International Moot Competitions in Vienna, which focuses on the application of the CISG and in which law students from more than forty US Universities participate each year[37] can be expected to significantly enhance acknowledgement and interest of the CISG amongst future US lawyers.

Louise Malécot

The author is a Class of 2017 LL.M. student in the International Business Regulation, Litigation and Arbitration program at the New York University School of Law. She is a graduate of the English and French Law LL.B./Maîtrise Dual Degree Program from the Leicester Law School and the University of Strasbourg.

[1]P.L. Fitzgerald, The International Contracting Practices Survey Project, https://jlc.law.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/jlc/article/viewFile/15/15 at pages14 and 23; L. Spagnolo, A Glimpse through the Kaleidoscope: Choices of Law and the CISG, http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/biblio/spagnolo3.html at pages 135 to 139.

[2]See for e.g. US Southern District Court of New York, Eldesouky v. Aziz (2015) where the Court went as far as holding that “as a practical matter whether the UCC or the CISG governs is likely immaterial”.

[3]F. Ferrari, Homeward Trend and Lex Forism Despite Uniform Sales Law, http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/biblio/ferrari17.html at page 26; S. Salama, Pragmatic Responses to Interpretive Impediments: Article 7 of the CISG, An Inter-American Application, http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/biblio/salama.html at page 231.

[4]F. Ferrari, Have the Dragons of Uniform Sales Law Been Tame? Ruminations on the CISG’s Autonomous Interpretation by Courts, http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/biblio/ferrari18.html at page 139.

[5]Supra note 4 at page 164.

[6]US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Rienzi & Sons, Inc. v. N. Puglisi & F. Industria Paste Alientari (2016).

[7]US District Court for the Eastern District Court of New York, Rienzi & Sons, Inc. v. N. Puglisi & F. Industria Paste Alientari (2014), reconsideration of its previous 2013 decision (“there is little case law interpreting the CISG, and the Court is not aware of any controlling case considering application of the CISG that addresses post-contract actions, particularly, the parties’ actions during the course of litigation”).

[8]See for e.g. Slovak Republic Supreme Court, 3 Obo 247/2005 (2006); Germany Naumburg Court of Appeal, 12 U 153/12 (2013); Austria Linz Court of Appeal, GZ 3 R 46/08t-49 (2008); Mexico Federal Court of Appeals (Fifteenth Circuit Court), Georgia Pacific Resins, Inc. v. Grupo Bajaplay, S.A. de C.V (2007); Germany Rostock Court of Appeal, 6 U 126/00 (2001); Germany Hamm Court of Appeal, 11 U 191/94 (1995); Netherlands Rotterdam District Court, Eyroflam SA v. PCC Rotterdam BV (2008); Italy Tribunale di Padova, SO. M. AGRI s.a.s di Ardina Alessandro & C. v. Erzeugerorganisation Marchfeldgemüse GmbH & Co. KG (2004); Germany Saarbrücken District Court, 8 O 49/02 (2002); Italy Tribunale di Vigevano, Rheinland Versicherungen v. S.r.l. Atlarex and Allianz Subalpina S.p.A. (2000).

[9]G.M. Grant, The CISG Should Apply Ex Officio in the U.S., https://www.peacepalacelibrary.nl/ebooks/files/398263361.pdf at page 5; C. Witz, Harmonization in the European Union, http://www.cisgbasel2015.com/index_htm_files/21_paper_Claude%20Witz_Harmonization%20in%20the%20European%20Union.pdf  at ¶ 34; L. Spagnolo, Iura Novit Curia and the CISG: Resolution of the Faux Procedural Black Hole http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/biblio/spagnolo1.pdf at page 195; France Cour de Cassation, Société Muller Ecole et Bureau v. Société Federal Trait (2001); Austria Supreme Court, 4 Ob 179/05 k (2005).

[10]F. Ferrari, Remarks on the UNCITRAL Digest’s Comments on Article 6 CISG, http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/biblio/ferrari13.html#92.

[11]See cases supra note 8.

[12]L. Spagnolo, supra note 9 at pages 195 to 196.

[13]F. Ferrari, Specific Topics of the CISG in the Light of Judicial Application and Scholarly Writing, http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/text/franco6.html.

[14]See for e.g. US Southern District Court of New York, Ho Myung Moolsan, Co. Ltd. v. Manitou Mineral Water, Inc. (2010); US District Court of Rhode Island, American Biophysics v. Dubois Marine Specialties (2006).

[15]See for e.g. US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, BP International, Ltd. v. Empressa Estatal Petroleos de Ecuador (2003); US Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, It’s Intoxicating, Inc. v. Maritim Hotelgesellschaft GmbH and Daniela Zimmer (2013); US District Court of Minnesota, Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics Canada Ltd (2007); US District Court of Michigan, Easom Automation Systems, Inc. v. Thyssenkrupp Fabco (2007); US Western District Court of Washington, Beltappo Inc. v. Rich Xiberta, SA (2006); US District Court of Maryland, American Mint LLC v. GOSoftware Inc. (2006); US District Court of New Jersey, Valero Marketing &Supply Co. v. Greeni Oy (2005); US District Court of North Dakota, Ajax Tool Works, Inc. v. Can-Eng Manufacturing Ltd. (2003); US Southern District Court of New York, St Paul Guardian Insurance Company and Travelers Insurance Company v. Neuromed Medical Systems & Support, GmbH (2002).

[16]Article 8(2) CISG.

[17]Article 8(3) CISG.

[18]F. Ferrari, supra note 10 at page 23; F. Enderlein and D. Maskow, International Sales Law

http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/biblio/enderlein.html at page 48.

[19]C.P. Gillette and S.D. Walt, Judicial Refusal to Apply Treaty Law: Domestic Law Limitations on the CISG’s Application, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2841055 at page 15: “nothing in Article 8’s rules for interpreting intent provide a presumption one way or the other with respect to application of the CISG”.

[20]F. Ferrari, supra note 10 at pages 30 to 31; Schlechtriem & Schwenzer, Commentary on the UN Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG), 3rd ed., Oxford 2010 at page 113 ¶ 21.

[21]US Eastern District Court of New York, Rienzi & Sons, Inc. v. N. Puglisi & F. Industria Paste Alientari (2013).

[22]U.G. Schroeter, To Exclude, to Ignore, or to Use? Empirical Evidence on Courts’, Parties’ and Counsels’ Approach to the CISG, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1981742 at page 27: “Blessed ignorance of the Sales Convention is accordingly not an option for counsel, since it constitutes a violation of her or his legal obligation to know the law”.

[23]Id. at pages 24-30.

[24]Supra note 6, consent to opt out can be inferred from “Rienzi’(s) assert(ion of) a statute of frauds defence inconsistent with application of the CISG but cognizable under NY law”.

[25]See for e.g. US Oregon Court of Appeals, GPL Treatment v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp. (1995); US Southern District Court of New York, Eldesouky v. Aziz (2015); US Southern District Court of New York, Ho Myung Moolsan, Co. Ltd. v. Manitou Mineral Water, Inc (2010).

[26]C.P. Gillette and S.D. Walt, supra note 19 at page 6.

[27]Supra note 22, “it was far too late to withdraw that consent without undue prejudice to defendant…it would be unduly prejudicial to hold otherwise”.

[28]Supra note 22, “governing law upon which plaintiff proceeds is not an ace of spades to be held in counsel’s hand until discovery has closed and then sprung on an unsuspecting adversary”.

[29]US Oregon Court of Appeals, GPL Treatment v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp. (1995).

[30]C.P. Gillette and S.D. Walt, supra note 19.

[31]CISG Advisory Council Opinion No 16, Exclusion of the CISG under Article 6, http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/CISG-AC-op16.html#156, at ¶ 6.3.

[32]L. Spagnolo, supra note 9 at page 196.

[33]J.M. Grant, supra note 9 at page 39.

[34]L. Spagnolo supra note 9 at page 192.

[35]J.M. Grant, supra note 9 at pages 35 to 38.

[36]J. Ziegel, The Scope of the Convention: Reaching Out to Article One and Beyond, http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/biblio/ziegel7.html at page 69.

[37]http://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/moot/mootlist.html, the country the most represented each year at the Vismoot is the US.

Mr. Pedro Martinez-Fraga and Mr. Ryan Reetz lecture at King’s College

On 1 December 2016, Mr. Pedro Martinez-Fraga, Adjunct Professor at NYU School of Law, and Mr. Ryan Reetz, former scholar-in-residence at the Center, gave a talk at King’s College, London, on “The Certainty of Uncertainty in the Protection Standards & Policies of Investor-State Arbitration”.

 

In their discussion, the presenters asserted that international standards for investment protection are inadequate and command reconceptualization if they are to lead to uniformity, predictability, transparency and to process legitimacy. Specifically, it was argued that because international standards of investment protection arise from (1) domestic law liability rules, (2) domestic law property rules, (3) liability and damages doctrines pertaining to private international law, and (4) do not account for a globalization non- territorially based economic framework, they lead to uncertainty even at basic levels, such as defining with certainty and uniformity the very elements of protections. They called for the inclusion of a “plus factor” that shall consider (1) macroeconomic consequences, (2) microeconomic effects, (3) economic efficiencies, (4) distributive consequences, and the host-state’s (5) social policy budget.

 

Put simply, the presenters called for standards of investment protection that most uniformly may lead to distinguishing objectively between compensable and non-compensable state action.

 

For a video of the talk please click here.

The Center for Transnational Litigation and Commercial Law aims at the advancement of the study and practice of international business transactions and the way to solve related disputes either through litigation or arbitration. As commercial transactions become increasingly international, it is vital to the legal and business communities to understand and analyze the practices and legal principles that govern relationships between firms and between firms and consumers in the international arena