In Mercato Sports v Everton, the English High Court found that two parties were bound by an implied horizontal contract containing an arbitration clause. Accordingly, it granted a stay of proceedings under section 9 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (‘S9 AA 1996’). In this case, a football agent (the Claimant) sought payment for bringing a player to the attention of Everton (the Defendant) and by doing so, it enabled them to sign the player. While Claimant and Defendant had no direct contractual relationship, the Court established that both were bound by the Football Association’s Rules (‘FA Rules’), in particular by the arbitration agreement therein. While the Court emphasized that such arrangements would not always automatically lead to an implied horizontal contract, the parties’ dealings in this case did lead to an implied contractual relationship, governed by the FA Rules.
In Warner Bros Feature Productions Pty Ltd v Kennedy Miller Mitchell Films Pty Ltd  NSWCA 81, the New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the New South Wales Supreme Court by referring a dispute to arbitration in California pursuant to the parties’ agreement and by ordering a stay on court proceedings pursuant to section 7(2) of Australia’s International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth). The Court of Appeal applied a pragmatic approach to determine whether an arbitration clause found in standard term contracts used by other members of a company’s corporate group should be incorporated into the parties’ agreement.
In our previous blog post on Autoridad del Canal de Panama v Sacyr, S.A. & Ors, we considered a failed application to stay English court proceedings brought in a dispute in which related ICC arbitration proceedings are also on foot. In a subsequent judgment, the English Court considered further the practical implications of the parallel proceedings. The Court rejected the Consortium’s application for permission to appeal the decision refusing to grant a stay under s9 of the Arbitration Act 1996 and refused to stay the proceedings pending an application to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal. In so doing, the Court held that service of a defence in the proceedings by the Consortium would not constitute a “step […] to answer the substantive claim” within the meaning of s9(3) of the Act which would deprive the Court of Appeal of its jurisdiction to grant a stay on appeal. Consequently, it allowed the proceedings to proceed pending the review by the Court of Appeal of the Consortium’s application for permission to appeal.
Autoridad del Canal de Panama v Sacyr, S.A and Others  EWHC 2337 (Comm) Continue reading
A consortium of construction companies (the Consortium) was unsuccessful in obtaining a stay of court proceedings pending before the English High Court (the Court), even though parallel related ICC arbitration proceedings are ongoing. The Court rejected the application for a stay under section 9 of the English Arbitration Act 1996 (s9) on the basis that the proceedings, which concerned advance payment guarantees governed by English law and containing exclusive English jurisdiction clauses, concerned a “matter” outside the scope of the arbitration agreements. The Court found further that there was no compelling case for a stay to be granted under its inherent jurisdiction.
This decision illustrates the practical difficulties, costs and delays, caused when parties agree that disputes related to the same construction project are to be determined in different fora.
Autoridad del Canal de Panama v Sacyr SA and others  EWHC 2228 (Comm) Continue reading
In Micula & Ors v Romania & Anor  EWHC 31 (Comm) the English High Court stayed enforcement of a 2013 ICSID award in favour of Swedish investors Ioan and Viorel Micula against Romania (the "Award"), but refused to set aside registration. Subsequently, in Micula & Ors v Romania & Anor  EWHC 1430 (Comm) the English High Court gave permission to appeal the stay of enforcement but refused to make the stay conditional on the provision of security by Romania.
The English Court’s decisions in this case consider interesting aspects of the interplay between potentially conflicting obligations of national, international and EU law. In particular, the Court found that:
- as a matter of English law read with Article 54 of the ICSID Convention, an ICSID Convention award achieves finality, and becomes res judicata, at the time of the award; and
- the English Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Act 1966 (the "1966 Act"), which implements the ICSID Convention into English law, only requires that ICSID awards be treated in the same way as judgments of the English High Court. Therefore, as a judgment of the High Court is subject to EU rules as to state aid, the Court is restrained from taking a decision which conflicts with the European Commission's decisions on state aid.
The Court's decision represents the latest development in the long-running dispute between the parties 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 subject to 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 in the case invited the Court to assume that the Final Decision was valid.
Given the Court's decision, the parties will now await the outcome of (i) the claimants' application to the General Court of the European Union ("GCEU") to annul the Commission’s Final Decision, which is expected to be heard before the end of the year; and (ii) the claimants' appeal, if brought, against the English High Court's stay of enforcement of the Award.
In a recent ex tempore judgment in the case of Loblaw Companies Limited v Origin & Co Ltd & Another  SGHC 59 ("Loblaw v Origin"), the Singapore High Court declined to exercise its discretion under s10(9) of the International Arbitration Act ("IAA"), and refused to stay an arbitration pending final determination by the Singapore courts of a separate application by Loblaw to review the Tribunal's finding on its jurisdiction.
In its decision the High Court acknowledged the lack of authority on when and how a court shall exercise its discretion under s10(9) of the IAA, finding that "[u]ltimately, very much depends on the unique facts and circumstances of each case". However, an applicant would generally be required to show "special circumstances" justifying a stay, over and above the (alleged) merits of the jurisdictional objection or the obvious risk of wasted time and costs.
In Blanalko Pty Ltd v Lysaght Building Solutions Pty Ltd  VSC 97, Croft J of the Victorian Supreme Court confirmed that a party is not required to rely on, or comply with the time constraint in, Art 33(3) of the Model Law to obtain a further Award in circumstances where the arbitrator has made ‘a conscious decision not to deal with an issue’. The decision also provides useful commentary on the functus officio doctrine and the circumstances in which an Award labelled ‘Final Award’ is not, relevantly, a ‘final Award.’
The Federal Court of Australia has recently held that a winding up application made in respect of a joint venture company should be stayed and the substantive underlying matters of dispute between the joint venture parties be referred to arbitration pursuant to the joint venture agreement.
In The Incorporated Owners of Wing Fai Building, Shui Wo Street v Golden Rise (HK) Project Company Limited DCCJ 225/2016, a Hong Kong court considered the effect of a dispute resolution clause that provided that parties "may" refer disputes to arbitration (click here for the full judgment).
The Defendant applied for a stay of proceedings under s.20 Arbitration Ordinance, on the basis that the clause constituted a binding arbitration agreement; or, in the alternative, the clause was an option to arbitrate that became mandatory when one party elected for arbitration (relying on the Privy Council decision in Anzen Ltd v Hermes One Ltd ("Anzen")). The Court rejected both arguments. Whilst recognising that there are cases in which "may" actually means "shall" in respect of obligations to arbitrate, the Court held that this was not one of those cases and the evidence suggested the parties did not intend to be bound to arbitrate disputes.
The Court held that the arbitration clause in Anzen was "substantially different" from the clause in the present case. Accordingly, the Court held that the finding in Anzen, that the clause gave the parties a right to compel arbitration after litigation had commenced, should be limited in application to cases with similar facts. The judgment is a useful reminder that, if parties intend to arbitrate all disputes under an agreement, the arbitration agreement must be clearly and unambiguously drafted, to avoid any dispute as to its effect.
The Court awarded costs on the indemnity basis.
In Wing Bo Building Construction Co Ltd v Discreet Ltd (HCMP 775/2016), the Hong Kong Court of Appeal ("CA") has declined an application for leave to appeal a decision by the Court of First Instance ("CFI") to stay the action in favour of arbitration. Click here for the full judgment.