English Court of Appeal refuses Micula Appeal against stay of ICSID Award but orders Romania to provide £150m Security

In Micula & Ors v Romania [2018] EWCA Civ 1801 the English Court of Appeal (the “Court”) dismissed an appeal against the High Court’s stay of enforcement of a 2013 ICSID award in favour of Swedish investors Ioan and Viorel Micula (the “Appellants” or “claimants“) against Romania (the “Award“), but allowed an appeal against the High Court’s refusal to order Romania to provide security.

The Court’s judgment is interesting because although it reaches the same conclusion as the High Court in respect of staying enforcement of the Award, it does so for different reasons. In particular, the Court found (by majority) that:

  1. The High Court was correct to find that an ICSID award is res judicata under English law from the time of the award.
  2. Although the English Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Act 1966 (the “1966 Act“), which implements the ICSID Convention into English law, requires that ICSID awards be treated in the same way as judgments of the High Court, this does not mean that EU law applies in the same way as it would apply to domestic judgments simply because the UK is a member state at the date of registration of the award.
  3. The principle of res judicata cannot be used to circumvent or significantly obstruct state aid rules (per the CJEU case of Klausner).
  4. Only operative terms (and not, for example, recitals) of EU Commission decisions are legally binding.

The Court’s decision is the latest in the long-running Micula saga, which began as a dispute arising out of Romania’s abolition of certain tax incentives in 2005 in order to comply with EU rules on state aid. Please see here for our blog post on the ICSID award.

The Award has been the target of decisions of the European Commission. In its final decision of 30 March 2015 (the “Final Decision“), the Commission found that payment of the Award by Romania would constitute new state aid incompatible with EU law, and was therefore prohibited. Please see here for our blog post on the Final Decision. The claimants have applied to the General Court of the European Union (the “GCEU“) to annul the Final Decision. The GCEU heard the application in March 2018 and a judgment is awaited.

In 2017, the High Court refused Romania’s application to set aside registration of the Award, but granted a stay of enforcement pending the decision of the GCEU on the annulment application. The Commission intervened in those proceedings. The High Court refused the claimants’ application for security in the meantime on the basis that it would itself risk breaching the Final Decision. The Appellants appealed against both the stay of enforcement and refusal to make the stay conditional upon payment of security. Please see here for our blog post on the High Court’s judgment, which was the subject of the present appeal.

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HONG KONG COURT GIVES “DUE WEIGHT” TO SUPERVISORY COURT ON ENFORCEMENT

In U v S [2018] HKCFI 2086, the Hong Kong Court of First Instance (Court) dealt with an application to adjourn an application to set aside an enforcement order. In granting the adjournment, Chan J took into account public policy and considered the “due weight” that was owed to a supervisory court in another jurisdiction.

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Indian Government launches international research project on the impact of Bilateral Investment Treaties on investment flows from/to the country

India entered into its first bilateral investment treaty (BIT), with the United Kingdom, in 1994, as part of a strategy to attract inbound foreign direct investment (FDI).  Having begun to open its economy in the 1990s, India today is a major investment destination.  The Modi government has been keen to attract further investment, including with its “Make in India” campaign.

However, in recent years, a variety of events has led to India being the recipient of a large number of claims by investors under BITs. By 2016, India was one of the most frequently-named respondent states in BIT proceedings.  Following its first loss in a BIT arbitration in 2011 (the White Industries case, discussed here.  Note: India has recently won its first BIT case, discussed here), the stance of the Indian government towards BIT protections for inbound investors appeared to harden, leading it to send notices in 2016 to terminate BITs with 58 countries, including 22 EU countries (discussed here).  This followed its publication of a new 2015 Model BIT (discussed here).  For the remaining BITs not cancelled in 2016/2017 (seemingly because they were within their initial terms), India has circulated a proposed joint interpretative statement to the counterparties to these BITs seeking to align the ongoing treaties with its 2015 Model BIT.

There are no known instances of states agreeing to a new treaty based on India’s 2015 Model BIT, although it was reported last year that the Indian government had approved a joint interpretative note to apply to India’s BIT with Bangladesh

In the meantime, the Indian government, through the Centre for Trade and Investment Law (CTIL), a think-tank established in 2016 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in collaboration with Dr. Rishab Gupta, Partner, of Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., has instituted a survey on experiences and attitudes towards BIT protections, and their importance to FDI flows into and out of India.  This outbound element is an important aspect of the analysis as Indian businesses are increasingly involved in FDI outside India, and may wish to take advantage of BIT protections over their investments.

A link to the survey can be found below, which we understand will remain active until the end of October 2018. The survey contains 10-12 questions which vary depending on the initial answers regarding the location and type of entity responding.

http://survey.sogosurvey.com/r/r1ocQs

The outcome of the questionnaire together with the rest of the study results are scheduled to be publicly released by the end of 2018. All stakeholders with experience of or insight into the BIT regime applicable to India are encouraged to participate.

For further information, please contact Nicholas Peacock, Head of the India Disputes Practice, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.

Nicholas Peacock
Nicholas Peacock
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+44 20 7466 2803

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Filed under Asia, India, India Disputes, Investment Arbitration, ISDS, Public International Law, Trade Agreements

Be on time to preserve your right to Active Remedies – the Singapore High Court considers a party’s duty to apply promptly when challenging the jurisdiction of an arbitral tribunal

In Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd (“RALL“) v Avant Garde Maritime Services (Private) Limited (“AGMS“) [2018] SGHC 78, the Singapore High Court dismissed an application to set aside an award on jurisdiction, on the basis that the applicant had failed to challenge the tribunal’s preliminary ruling on jurisdiction within the deadline stipulated under section 10(3) of the International Arbitration Act (“IAA“) and Article 16(3) of the UNCITRAL Model Law. The decision provides guidance on the distinction between active and passive remedies in the context of applicable deadlines when seeking to set aside an award on grounds of jurisdiction, and resisting enforcement on the same basis.

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HONG KONG COURT REFUSES SET ASIDE, REJECTS PUBLIC POLICY CHALLENGE

In Paloma Co. Ltd. v. Capxon Electronic Industrial Co. Ltd [[2018] HKCFI 1147], the Hong Kong Court of First Instance rejected a public policy challenge to a New York Convention Award rendered by a tribunal in Japan. The Respondent applied to set aside leave to enforce the Award, alleging that the tribunal’s conduct was biased, and violated basic concepts of morality, justice and public policy.

Deputy Judge Keith Yeung found that there was no evidence of bias on the part of the tribunal, nor any error or matter which would warrant setting aside the award. Yeung DJ relied on Hebei Import & Export Corp. v Polytek Engineering Co. Ltd. [(1999) 2 HKCFAR 111] to reiterate that, in order to refuse enforcement of an award under the New York Convention, the award must be so fundamentally offensive to the jurisdiction’s notions of morality and justice that this could not reasonably be overlooked. In the absence of such conflict, the Court would not look into the merits, nor review any alleged errors or reasoning of the tribunal.

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English Court refuses to grant an injunction against the enforcement of a s1782 US Evidence Order

In a decision dated 24 August 2018, the English Commercial Court (the “Court“) dismissed Dreymoor Fertilisers Overseas PTE Ltd’s (“Dreymoor“) application to continue an injunction preventing the enforcement of an order of a U.S. court granting discovery under section 1782 of the United States Code (the “Order“). The Order required one of Dreymoor’s employees to be deposed and produce evidence for use in various international proceedings by Eurochem Trading GMBH (“ECTG“) against Dreymoor. Dreymoor argued that enforcing the Order would constitute unconscionable conduct as it would interfere with its preparation for arbitration proceedings against ECTG.

The Court accepted that the enforcement of orders such as the Order could potentially be unfair, as they would effectively provide an opportunity to cross-examine the same witness twice. However, whether to injunct the enforcement of such an order required a careful case-by-case analysis. Based on various case-specific factors, the Court decided that it would not be unconscionable to allow ECTG to enforce the Order and dismissed Dreymoor’s application to continue the injunction.

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Filed under Arbitration proceedings, Confidentiality, Court intervention, Document production, Europe, Evidence, Procedures in arbitration, The Americas

Paula Hodges QC, Head of Herbert Smith Freehills’ Global Arbitration Practice, has been appointed President of the LCIA Court

Head of Herbert Smith Freehills’ Global Arbitration Practice, Paula Hodges QC has been appointed President of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) Court, effective May 2019.

Paula has headed Herbert Smith Freehills’ global arbitration practice since 2008 and has over 25 years’ experience of advising on international disputes across many jurisdictions, including London, Paris, Geneva, Zurich, Stockholm, the US, Canada, Dubai, Africa, Asia, Russia and the CIS, with particular focus on the energy, telecommunications and technology sectors.  She has also appeared in arbitration-related litigation in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in London and sits regularly as an arbitrator. Her advocacy skills were recognised in 2014, when she was awarded the title of QC.

Headquartered in London, the LCIA is one of the world’s leading international institutions for commercial dispute resolution and, in particular, provides the administration of international arbitration around the globe.  Its Court is made up of leading practitioners in arbitration from the world’s major trading areas and is the final authority for the application of the LCIA rules.

Paula has been Vice President of the Court for several years and also a LCIA Board member for a decade.  Paula will continue to practise full-time at the firm whilst undertaking her new LCIA responsibilities.

Justin D’Agostino, Global Head of Dispute Resolution at Herbert Smith Freehills and Managing Partner for Asia, says: “Paula is an exceptionally talented lawyer and arbitrator and we are very proud of her achievement. This appointment is a testament not only to Paula’s legal excellence but demonstrates the high esteem in which she is regarded by the LCIA and wider arbitration community.”

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Recent Developments in India-related International Arbitration

Herbert Smith Freehills has issued the latest edition of its Indian international arbitration e-bulletin.

In this issue we consider various court decisions, which cover issues such as the applicability of the Arbitration Amendment Act 2015, binding non-signatories to an award, enforcement of an award before the National Company Law Tribunal, and the continued pro-arbitration approach of the Indian courts. In other news, we consider the continued rise of institutional arbitration in India, a detailed analysis of the proposed amendments to the Arbitration Act, as well as India-related bilateral investment treaty news (and other developments).

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Tribunal awards India first BIT case win, dismissing claims of French investor

An UNCITRAL arbitral tribunal has reportedly dismissed a US$36 million claim by a French investor, Louis Dreyfus Armateurs SAS (“LDA“), against India under the 1997 France-India bilateral investment treaty (“BIT“). The award is not public at this time, but press reports state that LDA has also been ordered to pay approximately US$7 million in respect of India’s substantial legal expenses.

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NEW JAPAN INTERNATIONAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION CENTER OPEN FOR BUSINESS IN OSAKA

The newly established Japan International Dispute Resolution Center (JIDRC) opened its first hearing venue on 1 May 2018. Located within Japan’s second largest metropolitan area, the JIDRC-Osaka is the product of cooperation between the public and private sectors and is reported to be the first facility in Japan to provide specialised international arbitration hearing services. It represents a welcome addition to the international dispute resolution landscape in Japan.

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