Paris court rejects application for review and withdrawal of arbitral enforcement order, despite allegations of fraud

The Paris Court of First Instance has rejected an application for the review and withdrawal of an enforcement order of an arbitral award, despite allegations of fraud and collusion between the arbitrator and the claimant. It also refused to the state’s request to stay enforcement proceedings until the issuance of a decision in proceedings appealing the arbitral award before the Common Court of Justice and Arbitration.

The case demonstrates the deference given to international arbitral awards by French courts in enforcement proceedings and the limited ability of the courts to review the underlying award. It also reiterates that, as a matter of principle, the only recourse available against an order granting enforcement of a foreign award is an appeal on the grounds permitted under Article 1525 of the French Code of Civil Procedure (CPC). Courts will be restrictive in their interpretation of the CPC and any application for the review or withdrawal of an enforcement order of an international arbitral award is likely to fail. A party will have no means of challenging the enforcement order, absent an appeal under Article 1525 of the CPC, even in cases where allegations of fraud and collusion have been made. (La République du Niger v Africard Co Ltd, Tribunal de grande instance de Paris, summary judgment (ordonnance de référé)).

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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 will consider Indian court decisions, including the arbitrability of allegations of fraud and non-arbitrability of trust disputes by the Supreme Court. We have also considered various decisions in which the Delhi High court shows restraint in relation to interfering with offshore arbitrations, while also making decisions that demonstrate the observance of formalities by the court which could be construed as not pro-arbitration, including refusing to enforce an arbitration clause in an unsigned agreement. In other news, we consider the rise of institutional arbitration in India and India-related bilateral investment treaty news. Further, we discuss the imminent launch of a new edition of our Guide on India-Related Contracts Dispute Resolution.

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Important Second Circuit Decision on Enforcement of International Arbitration Awards

In a significant recent judgment, CBF Industria De Gusa S/A v. AMCI Holdings, Inc. (2d Cir. 2017), the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the Second Circuit) considered an arbitral award's preclusive effects and its ability to bind third parties.  In the same decision, the Second Circuit also issued valuable guidance to the lower courts on the correct procedure and terminology for the enforcement of New York Convention awards issued abroad. 

The Second Circuit handed down its initial opinion in January.  However, in a rare move, the Court released a revised opinion earlier this month to "correct" its conclusion on a point of law in the first opinion.  This post, unlike much of the online commentary of AMCI Holdings, refers exclusively to the Second Circuit's later opinion.

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Arbitrability of fraud in India

The decision of the Indian Supreme Court in Swiss Timing Limited v Organising Committee, 2010 Olympic Games, Delhi[1] ("Swiss Timing") last year seemingly settled the legal position on whether claims involving allegations of fraud are arbitrable in India. The Supreme Court in Swiss Timing overruled the previous leading Supreme Court authority, N Radhakrishnan v Maestro Engineering[2] ("Radhakrishnan"), to hold that fraud allegations are capable of being adjudicated by arbitral tribunals. However, a number of recent Indian High Court decisions have taken apparently conflicting approaches to the issue and have raised questions on the authority of Swiss Timing to effectively overrule Radhakrishnan. The vexed question of arbitrability of fraud has thus been brought back to the forefront of Indian arbitration law.

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English Court of Appeal permits enforcement of a New York Convention award on the basis of excessive delay in challenge proceedings in the courts of the seat

In its judgment in IPCO (Nigeria) Limited v Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (No.3) [2015] EWCA Civ 1144 & 1145, handed down on 10 November 2015, the Court of Appeal considered whether the Appellant ("IPCO") was entitled to enforce an arbitration award made against the Respondent ("NNPC") in Nigeria in October 2004 (the "Award").

In this significant decision, the Court of Appeal ordered that IPCO should be able, in principle, to enforce the Award, notwithstanding the existence of challenges to it in Nigeria, given the very significant delay in resolving those challenges before the Nigerian courts. On the facts of this case, the Court of Appeal considered that the alternative result (of yet further adjournment) would, in commercial terms, be absurd and inconsistent with the principles underpinning the New York Convention.

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Fiona Trust v Privalov in the High Court

The Fiona Trust case is one of the best known decisions in English arbitration case law, setting out a “fresh start” in English jurisprudence with the strong presumption that commercial parties intend all disputes to be determined in a single forum.

That decision did not, however, prevent related litigation in the English courts. The most recent application to the English courts in Fiona Trust v Privalov [2015] EWHC 527 (Comm) has highlighted the difficult path to be followed for the English court in reaching decisions in concurrent litigation proceedings which could impact upon or be seen to prejudge issues in on-going arbitration. Smith J in this case granted an application to clarify the meaning of an order as it would prevent litigation hampering the arbitral process.

Background

The background to the 2007 House of Lords decision in Fiona Trust involved O, the owners of Russian ships which were chartered to C. O claimed to have rescinded the charterparties (including the arbitration clauses within them) on the grounds they had been induced by bribery.

C sought to refer the matter to arbitration and appointed an arbitrator. O applied to court seeking to restrain the arbitration on the basis that the charterparties (including the arbitration clause) had been rescinded for bribery. In response, C applied to stay the court proceedings in favour of arbitration under s 9 of the Arbitration Act 1996. The Court of Appeal ordered the stay (the “CofA Order“), ruling that the scope of the arbitration clause was wide enough to encompass a fraud claim. This was subsequently upheld by the House of Lords (now the Supreme Court). Following this decision, the parties appointed an arbitral tribunal.

In 2009, O brought fresh proceedings in the English courts. In these proceedings O pleaded that, by causing or permitting the charterparties, certain defendants had acted in breach of fiduciary or other duties owed to O. As part of these pleadings, O continued to plead that the charterparties and their arbitration provisions had been rescinded. The relief sought divided broadly into two types: (1) various heads of damage which were not dependent on the rescission of the charterparties; and (2) monetary claims relating to, or consequential on, rescission of the charterparties.

In 2010, Smith J in the High Court dismissed the claims as they were based on dishonesty and a finding there had been no dishonesty had been made. Counsel was asked to assist in the drafting of an order to that effect (the “2010 Order“).

2015 proceedings

The application in these proceedings came before Smith J again in the High Court. The application was made on the basis that the 2010 Order did not prevent O from bringing monetary claims consequential on rescission of the charterparties in the courts, as it was only the claim for a declaration that the charterparties had been validly rescinded which had been stayed by the CofA Order. The parties sought clarification under the Court’s discretionary powers as to the meaning of the 2010 Order.

Smith J was not persuaded to exercise any discretionary power to enable O to pursue claims for consequential monetary relief. If the claims were stayed under the CofA Order, they could not be pursued as no application had been made to lift the stay. The claims which had not been stayed had come to trial before Smith J in the 2009 proceedings (resulting in the 2010 Order) and no order had been made to allow O to try consequential monetary relief claims separately. It was not open to a party to decide, without reference to the Court, not to argue all their points at trial and then try to bring a separate claim at a later date.

Smith J continued that the only other reason to exercise the discretion sought to clarify the 2010 Order would be if it would assist the arbitration proceedings. Smith J refused to use CPR 3.1 to grant any of the applications to clarify. Neither would he use CPR 40.12 to “correct” the 2010 Order, as there was no accidental ‘slip or omission’ in the drafting of the order. Smith J said that the 2010 Order had not dealt with the specific possibility of consequential monetary claims as it had not occurred to him that the parties believed that those claims had not been stayed by the CofA Order – if he had realised this, he would have included wording to the effect that, in so far as not covered by the stay, such claims were dismissed. Smith J, using the inherent power referred to in CPR 40 BPD4.5, and after concluding that use of the power would not trespass on the arbitrators’ territory because it actually would prevent the litigation hampering the arbitral process, asked counsel to assist in drafting an order to this effect.

Comment

Throughout this judgment, Smith J appears conscious of a tension that he should endeavour not to express a view on questions which might rest within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal or on which the Tribunal might wish to reach its own conclusion. In particular, he did not wish to create a res judicata on the scope of the 2010 Order which might compromise the efficacy of the arbitration agreements. However, while Smith J was conscious of not stepping on the toes of the Tribunal, he accepted that in order to deal properly with the application, he would have to take a view on some matters which had been referred to arbitration.

The case demonstrates the difficulties caused by related claims in different fora. Concurrent disputes such as this one on similar and related issues will provoke difficult questions for both a court and tribunal as to which has the ultimate jurisdiction to determine any particular issue. While such tensions will continue to arise, the Court’s efforts here to continue to support the parties’ choice of arbitration – and to allow space for that arbitration to reach its own conclusions – is extremely welcome.

For further information, please contact Nicholas Peacock, Partner, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.

Nicholas Peacock
Nicholas Peacock
Partner
+44 20 7466 2803

 

Paris Court of Appeal orders the retraction of an award made where one arbitrator lacked independence: the ongoing Tapie saga

In a remarkable judgment of 17 February 2015, rendered further to a rarely-seen application for revision of an arbitral award (which in this case lead to the retraction of the award), the Paris Court of Appeal overturned an arbitral award issued by a three-member tribunal in Paris in 2008 in favour of Bernard Tapie (Tapie), a French businessman and ex-politician, against the Consortium de Realisation (CDR), a French stated-owned company. The Court found that the award was tainted by fraud on the ground that there had been collusion between one of the arbitrators, Mr Pierre Estoup (Estoup) (a former president of the Versailles Court of Appeal), and Tapie and his counsel, Me Lantourne (Lantourne), with Estoup deliberately and systematically influencing the arbitral tribunal’s decision-making process in favour of the interests of the party that he intended to promote. Tapie and his group of companies had received € 403 million in damages under the award in question.

The dispute at the origin of the now-retracted award was highly publicised, because it involved one of France’s most famous businessmen of the 80’s, a French state-owned company, the French Government at the time of the arbitration (including the then Ministry of Finance, Ms Christine Lagarde, now Chairman of the IMF), and an arbitral tribunal composed of three renowned French legal personalities (alongside Estoup, sat Mr Jean-Denis Bredin, a well-known lawyer, and Mr Pierre Mazeaud, a law Professor and former President of the French Constitutional Council who acted as Chairman of the arbitral tribunal).

The judgment is a rare example of a successful motion for the revision of an award under French law. The French Court first classified the arbitration as domestic and then concluded that the facts disclosed in a related criminal investigation evidenced links between Estoup, Tapie and Lantourne which had been fraudulently concealed by Estoup – demonstrating a lack of independence, which had been confirmed by the arbitrator’s attitude during the arbitration proceedings. A handful of court judgments have been overturned in similar circumstances, which gives some indication as to what the legal consequences and next steps following the retraction of the arbitral award may be. However the precise legal consequences are still to be determined.

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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. This issue considers some significant decisions of the Indian courts, including two decisions on the arbitrability of fraud claims and a decision of the Supreme Court concerning the power of Indian courts to intervene in foreign-seated arbitrations.

The e-bulletin also reports on some interesting news stories on India-related arbitration claims, including the ongoing GMR-Maldives dispute and a decision on the termination of an arbitral tribunal’s mandate.

Recent Developments in India-related arbitration

Herbert Smith Freehills has issued its latest Indian International Arbitration e-bulletin. The e-bulletin considers some significant decisions of the Indian courts, including on the arbitrability of fraud claims and on the proper forum for deciding the scope of an arbitration agreement. We also provide an update on the Indian investment treaty arbitration landscape.

Herbert Smith Freehills will be hosting a breakfast briefing in its Hong Kong office on 27 February 2014 to discuss these recent developments in Indian arbitration. If you are interested in attending, please click here or contact Briana Young.

Commercial Court provides guidance on “serious irregularity” and confirms arbitral tribunal has jurisdiction to determine contractual rights and obligations in light of criminal conduct

In the recent decision of Interprods Ltd v De La Rue International Ltd [2014] EWHC 68 (Comm), the English Commercial Court dismissed the challenges under sections 67 and 68 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (the Act) against an arbitral award. In this case, the arbitrator held that the defendant (De La Rue) had been entitled to terminate agency agreements with the claimant (Interprods) and was not obliged to pay outstanding commission to it in circumstances where a representative of Interprods had allegedly stated that such commission would be used to pay bribes.

Interprods challenged the award under: (i) section 67 of the Act on the basis that the arbitrator had lacked jurisdiction to make the award in question; and (ii) section 68 of the Act on the basis that there had been serious irregularities in the making of the award.

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