In Sabbagh v Khoury and others,  EWCA Civ 1219 (available here), the English Court of Appeal partly upheld the injunction granted by the Commercial Court restraining the pursuit of arbitration proceedings seated in Lebanon. In doing so, the Court of Appeal confirmed the power of English courts to restrain a foreign arbitration on grounds that the foreign arbitration is oppressive and vexatious and provided helpful guidance on the exceptional circumstances in which English courts may exercise this power.
Tag: English Court of Appeal
In the recent decision of Equitas Insurance Limited v Municipal Mutual Insurance Limited  EWCA Civ 718 (available here), the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal on a point of law under section 69 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (the “Act“) against an award rendered by Flaux LJ as judge-arbitrator.
The award concerned a dispute between an insurer, Municipal Mutual Insurance (“MMI“), and its reinsurer, Equitas Insurance (“Equitas“), about how employer’s liability (“EL“) mesothelioma insurance claims should be handled at a reinsurance level. The Court of Appeal held that although employers may “spike” their EL claims 100% into a single policy year as against their insurer, an insurer may not “spike” its own claims 100% into a single policy year as against its reinsurer. A detailed analysis of the case can be found here.
Given the relatively low number of cases which obtain permission to appeal under section 69 of the Act (let alone succeed), it is instructive to revisit the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal in which permission to appeal was granted.
In Micula & Ors v Romania  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:
- The High Court was correct to find that an ICSID award is res judicata under English law from the time of the award.
- 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.
- The principle of res judicata cannot be used to circumvent or significantly obstruct state aid rules (per the CJEU case of Klausner).
- 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.
In Halliburton Company v Chubb Bermuda Insurance Ltd  EWCA Civ 817, the English Court of Appeal was asked to consider:
- whether it is possible for an arbitrator to accept multiple appointments with overlapping reference and one common party, without giving rise to doubts over impartiality?
- at what point should an arbitrator disclose these further appointments – if at all?
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, stating that, on the facts of the case, there was no real possibility that the arbitrator was biased when viewed from the perspective of a “fair minded and informed observer”. Nevertheless, the Court held that, in accordance with English law and best practice in international arbitration, disclosure should have been made. Continue reading
In Allianz Insurance and Sirius International Insurance Corporation v Tonicstar Limited  EWCA Civ 434, the English Court of Appeal has reversed the decision of the High Court on whether a party-appointed arbitrator met the contractual requirements as to requisite experience. The Court of Appeal held that that an English QC with experience of insurance and reinsurance law was sufficient to comply with a contractual clause requiring arbitrators to have “experience of insurance and reinsurance”.
This decision is of particular interest as such challenges to arbitrators rarely come before the courts. It highlights once again the importance of drafting arbitration clauses clearly, particularly where parties require their arbitrators to possess certain qualifications or experience.
The English Court of Appeal is the latest court to weigh in on this long-running dispute spanning multiple jurisdictions between Messrs Emmott and Wilson, relating to an agreement to establish a “quasi-partnership”. Following an appeal brought by Mr Emmott against the High Court’s decision (which we reported here), the question for the Court of Appeal was whether to uphold the anti-suit injunction granted by the High Court preventing Michael Wilson & Partners, Limited (“MWP”) from pursuing proceedings in the Australian courts in light of the London-seated arbitration agreement between them.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in part, issuing a substitute injunction against MWP advancing only the claims which the court deemed to be vexatious and oppressive in undermining the arbitration agreement and process. This judgment helpfully clarifies the circumstances in which the English Court will issue an anti-suit injunction in order to safeguard the integrity of an English-seated arbitral process, and confirms that the court will not permit arbitral proceedings or awards to be undermined by parties against whom adverse findings have been made. However, it also demonstrates that the question of whether proceedings fall within the scope of an arbitration agreement can be a complex and controversial one.