In principle, if an application for an annulment of an arbitral award is upheld, the Supreme Court may cancel only the award (the so-called 'cassatory' nature of the setting aside proceeding). However, as shown by a recent decision, the Supreme Court's findings underlying a cancellation for the violation of a party's right to be heard seem to qualify as directions for the arbitral tribunal which must remake the decision.
The formal nature of the right to be heard has long been recognised by the Supreme Court. Applied strictly, it entails that an award affected by a violation of such right must be set aside, irrespective of whether the violation affected the outcome of the case. However, the Supreme Court's more recent practice tends to depart from a strict application of the formal nature of the right to be heard and to require the applicant to establish a causal link between the asserted violation and the (adverse) outcome of the case.
The Supreme Court recently set aside an arbitral award issued in a domestic arbitration on the grounds that the arbitral tribunal had drawn consequences from one of two contradictory findings without providing any reasons for its decision. Considering that the test to admit a violation of the right to be heard is the same in domestic and international arbitrations, this decision may be relevant to international arbitration, even though it pertained to domestic arbitration.
The Supreme Court recently dealt with the issue of state immunity in the context of the enforcement of an arbitral award and with the relationship between Swiss procedural law and the New York Convention. It found that state immunity prevents the enforcement of an arbitral award against a foreign state if there is no sufficient connection between the claim and Switzerland, and that this situation does not conflict with Switzerland's obligations under the New York Convention.
The Supreme Court recently rejected a challenge against a partial arbitral award for an alleged violation of the right to be heard and incompatibility with substantive public policy. The case pertained to a contract under which an Austrian company was to supply railway machinery to a Russian company. In its reasoning, the court made a number of considerations which practitioners should bear in mind when challenging an arbitral award.
The Supreme Court recently dismissed an appeal against the conviction of an air traffic controller for negligent disruption of public transport. In so doing, the court established a new precedent that allows for criminal prosecution and conviction for operational incidents that result in neither injury nor damage. As this decision makes it difficult for aviation professionals to treat their mistakes as learning opportunities, it is a major step backwards for aviation safety.
Air traffic controller and pilot organisations have criticised recent convictions handed down in Switzerland for operational incidents that resulted in neither injury nor damage. Critics have asserted that criminal prosecutions in the aviation sector tend to do more harm than good. Further, there is widespread concern that criminalisation leads to a loss of cooperation from individuals who could provide the most critical insight into the circumstances of an incident.
Amid tumultuous Brexit developments, the Swiss and UK authorities recently signed a new bilateral air transport agreement to ensure the continuation of flights between the two countries post-Brexit. Switzerland can apply the new agreement provisionally, pending its entry into force following an exchange of diplomatic notes confirming each country's fulfilment of internal procedures for committing to the agreement. The Swiss government may finalise the new agreement without prior parliamentary approval.
While many legal issues surrounding the recent JU-Air Junkers Ju-52 crash have yet to be determined by the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board, claims for passenger deaths will be governed by the EU-Swiss Air Transport Agreement. The agreement extends the scope of the liability provisions of the Montreal Convention for passenger deaths to domestic carriage by Community air carriers and requires advance payments to cover the victims' families' immediate economic needs after an accident.
The General Court recently annulled the European Commission's rejection of a request by Lufthansa and Swiss International Air Lines to waive their fare commitments. The judgment clarifies the standard of review regarding assessments of requests for a waiver of merger commitments and is a reminder that, by virtue of the 1999 EU-Switzerland Air Transport Agreement, EU institutions have jurisdiction to assess competition concerns on air routes relating to the non-EU member state Switzerland.
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has published a supplement to its Guidelines on Initial Coin Offerings which outlines how it plans to apply provisions of Swiss supervisory law to projects involving so-called 'stablecoins'. The supplement was prompted by a steady increase in the number of stablecoin projects submitted to FINMA since 2018, including a submission from the Geneva-based Libra Association for an assessment of its Libra project under Swiss supervisory law.
The Federal Department of Finance has proposed changes to the draft Financial Services Ordinance (FinSO) and Financial Institutions Ordinance. A significant and welcome change in the draft FinSO is that key information documents for collective investment schemes can be written in English. The Federal Council will make the final decision on the wording of the ordinances and their entry into force in November 2019.
The Banking Act currently regulates only the main features of the restructuring procedure for banks, while more detailed provisions are given in the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority Banking Insolvency Ordinance. To strengthen legal certainty, the Federal Council has initiated a consultation on a partial revision of the Banking Act, meaning that the rights of bank owners and creditors will now be regulated on the legislative level.
The Federal Council recently released a comprehensive report on the inclusion of blockchain technology within the Swiss legal framework – in particular, the Swiss banking regulations. With this comprehensive report, the Swiss government has confirmed its established approach of applying Switzerland's existing and principle-based laws in a technology-neutral way. However, it also acknowledges that the existing legal framework will require punctual amendments to solve specific issues.
From 1 January 2019 companies that operate beyond the core activities characteristic for banks will be able to accept public funds of up to Sfr100 million on a professional basis subject to simplified requirements. During its recent meeting, the Federal Council set into force an amendment to the Banking Act to promote innovation in the fintech area and to remove barriers to market entry for fintech firms.
The Federal Department of Finance recently announced that it was activating the measures adopted by the Swiss Federal Council to protect the Swiss stock exchange infrastructure in anticipation of the expiration of the stock market equivalence granted by the European Commission. Notably, the protective measures do not affect companies with registered offices in Switzerland that are listed and traded exclusively on exchanges outside Switzerland.
If everything goes according to plan, on 1 January 2020 Switzerland will have successfully overhauled its financial market legislation with the entry into force of the Financial Services Act and the Financial Institutions Act. An important element of the overhaul is the introduction of a new comprehensive and harmonised prospectus regime. However, the question remains as to whether non-public offerings as a species will survive in Switzerland.
In order to facilitate EU investment firms' access to trade Swiss shares on Swiss stock exchanges and limit the potential negative impact on the Swiss stock exchange infrastructure once Switzerland loses EU third-country equivalence, the Federal Council recently enacted emergency measures that will take effect from 1 January 2019. Any wilful or negligent breach of the recognition requirement under the new ordinance may result in criminal penalties against foreign trading venues and their responsible bodies.
The Disclosure Office of the SIX Exchange Regulation recently published useful guidance on its practice relating to certain provisions in the recently enacted Financial Market Infrastructure Act and the related implementing ordinance (the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority Financial Market Infrastructure Ordinance). The entry into force of the two federal laws has resulted in substantive amendments to some of the disclosure office's notices.
As in other jurisdictions, under Swiss law there are specific requirements relating to the disclosure of shareholdings and the actions of shareholders for companies whose equity securities are listed in whole or in part in Switzerland, including on Switzerland's main stock exchange, the SIX Swiss Exchange Ltd. This update aims to revisit and provide some practical guidance on certain shareholder disclosure duties in the context of Swiss rights offerings.
The Federal Supreme Court recently considered – for the first time – whether board members' rights to information, inspection and insight can also be asserted on an appeal basis. The court also commented on the type of procedure applicable in such cases. This decision should be taken into account by board members who lack evidence or knowledge of important or necessary information, particularly if it relates to the organisation of or disputed relationships within the board of directors.
Shareholders of closely held companies often mutually agree on additional contractual rights and duties. However, the company itself cannot be a contract party to a separate shareholders' agreement. Apart from that legal restriction, such shareholders' agreements usually benefit from the contractual freedom of the parties. A recent Federal Court decision confirmed that such agreements may be recharacterised as abusive or contrary to the principle of good faith.
A recent Zug Cantonal Court decision sheds light on the way that Swiss company articles of association must be interpreted under Swiss company law in cases in which they are not only applicable internally among a few shareholders, but also have an effect on third parties. The decision confirms that the observation of merely the letter and not the spirit of company articles by a company board or majority company shareholders in a general meeting can even amount to an abuse of law.
A recent Swiss Federal Court decision clarified the circumstances under which the personal liability of board members or managers of a Swiss company for their business decisions and omissions can be reduced by applying the so-called 'business judgement' rule or, if the related prerequisites are not met in a particular case, based on other grounds.
The Federal Supreme Court recently clarified how to deal with defects in company organisation caused by deadlock between two equal shareholders. For the first time the court has confirmed that courts are authorised to order a share auction in such cases. However, it is strongly recommended that such a harsh outcome be avoided by installing suitable measures to solve conflicts from the outset.