ENGLISH HIGH COURT GRANTS INJUNCTION TO BLOCK JORDANIAN PROCEEDINGS SEEKING TO INVALIDATE AN ARBITRATION AGREEMENT

On 1 March 2019 the English court granted the claimant, ACT, a permanent anti-suit injunction against proceedings issued in  Jordan (the Jordanian Proceedings) by the defendant, Soletanche (in Aqaba Container Terminal (PVT) Co v Soletanche Bachy France SAS). The Court found that the subject matter of the Jordanian proceedings fell within the scope of an arbitration clause agreed between ACT and Soletanche. Soletanche had relied in the validity of that arbitration clause in earlier ICC proceedings to claim damages from ACT (albeit unsuccessfully). It was therefore just in all the circumstances to issue an anti-suit injunction to prevent breach by Soletanche of the agreement to arbitrate and to halt its efforts to invalidate that agreement through the Jordanian Proceedings.

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Section 67 and 68 challenges to LCIA award dismissed

In the highly complex and contentious case of Filatona Trading Ltd and another v Navigator Equities Ltd and others [2019] EWHC 173 (Comm), the English High Court dismissed an attempted challenge to an LCIA award brought on the grounds of jurisdiction (s.67 Arbitration Act 1996) and serious irregularity (s.68 Arbitration Act 1996).

In particular, the Court held that an LCIA arbitral tribunal did not exceed the scope of its powers in ordering relief that was not available to an English court.

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English High Court orders indemnity costs in discontinued s.68 proceedings to challenge awards

In Koshigi Ltd and another company v Donna Union Foundation and another [2019] EWHC 122 (Comm) the English High Court considered an application for costs arising from discontinued proceedings under s.68 Arbitration Act 1996 to challenge two arbitral awards. The claimant in the underlying arbitration had successfully obtained two awards in its favour from the tribunal, which the respondents then sought to challenge in the English courts through two related sets of proceedings for serious irregularity under s.68, alleging bias on the part of the chairman of the tribunal. The respondents then discontinued the s.68 proceedings before they reached a hearing, asserting that the awards which they were seeking to challenge had become unenforceable.

In considering the claimant’s application for costs in relation to the discontinued proceedings, the Court decided that the liability for the costs rested with the applicants (the respondents in the arbitration) and that the costs should be assessed on an indemnity basis rather than the usual – and typically lower  – standard basis. The Court’s approach, which disincentivizes the pursuit of s.68 applications without a strong substantive basis, is consistent with other attempts by the English courts to block applicants who bring weak s.68 appeals.

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English High Court recognises arbitral tribunal’s jurisdiction over settlement agreement in absence of express arbitration clause

In the recent decision of Sonact Group Limited v. Premuda SPA [2018] EWHC 3820 (Comm), the English High Court confirmed its pro-arbitration approach to the interpretation of arbitration agreements. The Court held that an arbitration agreement contained in a charterparty contract could apply in relation to disputes arising out of a subsequent settlement agreement contained in correspondence between the parties relating to the sum allegedly due under the charterparty. The Court concluded the parties could be taken to have intended that the arbitral tribunal under the principal agreement would also have jurisdiction over disputes arising out of a settlement agreement between the same parties, despite the absence of an express arbitration clause in the settlement agreement.

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English Court upholds on paper dismissal of serious irregularity challenge with no prospects of success

The English High Court’s decision in Asset Management Corporation Of Nigeria v Qatar National Bank [2018] EWHC 2218 (Comm), handed down in July 2018 but only recently published, concerned the court’s dismissal on the papers of an application under section 68 of the Arbitration Act 1996 on the basis that the application had no reasonable prospect of success (available here: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Comm/2018/2218.html).

The decision serves as an example of the court employing the summary procedure to dismiss a section 68 application on the papers, but the drawn out process highlights the practical difficulties in quickly disposing of meritless applications.

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English High Court refuses to set aside order for enforcement under s103 in long-running dispute regarding ICC award

The English High Court has refused an application under s.103 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (“AA 1996“) to set-aside an order allowing for the enforcement of an ICC award in England. The decision is the culmination of a long-running dispute in which the award debtor has sought to set-aside the award and prevent enforcement in France, the Seychelles and England. The judgement is the latest illustration of the pro-enforcement approach of the English courts with respect to international arbitral awards, particularly where an award debtor has made efforts in multiple jurisdictions to prevent enforcement against it. While the outcome is not surprising, the level of attention given to the grounds raised by the award debtor, even in the face of issue estoppel, demonstrates the importance placed by the English Court on its New York Convention obligations.

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English court sets aside arbitration award for serious irregularity due to tribunal’s non-disclosure of novel point central to award

The odds of successfully challenging an arbitral award in the English Courts on the basis of s68 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (serious irregularity) remain low. In the recent past over 95% of s68 challenges have been unsuccessful and in the period from 2015 to 2017 only 3 out of 112 s68 appeals succeeded, approximately 2.7% of applications made.

However, the English High Court has recently set aside an arbitral award for serious irregularity under s68(2)(a) in the case of RJ and another v HB [2018] EWHC 2833 (Comm). This case is a relatively rare and interesting example of a successful s68(2)(a) challenge.

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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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English High Court removes arbitrator on the basis that he did not possess necessary qualifications

In Tonicstar Limited v Allianz Insurance and Sirius International Insurance Corporation [2017] EWHC 2753, the English High Court considered an application under Section 24 of the Arbitration Act 1996  (the Act) for the removal of an arbitrator on the basis that he did not satisfy the contractual stipulation as to relevant experience. This judgment is of particular interest given that questions of the removal of arbitrators do not often come before the courts (because they are, in institutional arbitration, typically decided by arbitral institutions so are not usually public). The Court decided to remove the arbitrator on the basis that he had experience of insurance and reinsurance law, rather than required experience in the business of insurance and reinsurance. This decision highlights the importance of the careful drafting of arbitration clauses which specify characteristics of an arbitrator.  It also serves as a reminder of the importance of precedent in the English judicial system.

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Parallel court and arbitration proceedings: English High Court grapples with further case management issues in Panama Canal dispute, clarifying that service of a defence pending appeal on refusal to grant a stay will not constitute “a step towards answering the substantive claim”

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 [2017] EWHC 2337 (Comm) Continue reading