The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably disrupted the performance of contracts. Although the Paris Commercial Court has ruled the pandemic to be a force majeure event in a commercial contract, this characterisation may not be retained in all situations. This article provides helpful tips to keep in mind when analysing a contractual situation, in light of French law specificities that might be unknown to foreign companies or counsel involved in arbitration proceedings to which French law applies.
The First Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation recently overruled a Paris Court of Appeal decision and determined that there was no basis for the argument that Antrix Corporation Ltd had not made certain procedural objections during arbitration and therefore could not raise them in enforcement proceedings. The decision raises interesting questions about the nature of the 'waiver' contemplated in the Code of Civil Procedure.
The International Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal recently rendered five decisions on setting-aside proceedings against five awards issued in the same arbitration. It was alleged that the tribunal had been improperly constituted as a party-appointed arbitrator had failed to disclose information that affected his independence and impartiality. Although this decision confirms the existing jurisprudence, the question of the exact scope of arbitrators' duty to disclose remains.
In recent setting aside proceedings, The Hague Court of Appeal had to decide whether an arbitral award issued in proceedings under the International Chamber of Commerce Arbitration Rules had to be set aside due to the fact that the award was contrary to public policy. In its assessment, the court took a bold approach. The decision demonstrates that while the court is conscious of the competence and authority of arbitral tribunals, it will assess a case individually and fully when it comes to public policy.
The Paris Court of Appeal recently clarified the scope of application of Article 1466 of the Code of Civil Procedure and for the first time confirmed that Article 1466 can also limit a party's ability to seek annulment based on a variety of arguments, whether relating to procedural irregularities or otherwise, that could have been raised in the arbitration.
In 2018 the government adopted its new model bilateral investment treaty (BIT). Following this adoption, the government has now obtained the authorisation required to start the renegotiations with eight non-EU countries and conclude new BITs with two others. The government has made clear that the new model BIT is intended to serve as an opening offer that sets the scene for the negotiations. However, as each negotiation will have its own dynamic, it is difficult to predict what the new Dutch BITs will look like.
The Court of Cassation recently confirmed the quasi-absolute priority given to arbitral tribunals to determine questions relating to their jurisdiction, even when this involves rules of French public order. Although this is well established in French case law, it is the first time that the court has upheld an arbitration clause that conferred on a tribunal the statutory power to value shares in lieu of a party-appointed or judicially appointed expert.
The Amsterdam Court of Appeal recently had to decide on an application for recognition and enforcement of an online arbitral award regarding a loan in bitcoins. To date, this has been a subject that the Dutch courts have seldom encountered. Notably, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal took a critical approach in what may be considered a test case for recognition and enforcement of online arbitral awards in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands Arbitration Institute (NAI) recently introduced a new transparency policy, which aims to enhance the transparency of arbitral proceedings without harming their confidential nature. This is a promising step by the NAI, which will hopefully contribute to a more cost-effective, efficient and credible arbitration practice in the Netherlands.
In June 2018 a new arbitration court specialised in art-related disputes was launched in The Hague. The court, which offers an attractive and efficient dispute resolution mechanism for cross-border art-related disputes, was founded by the Netherlands Arbitration Institute (NAI) in collaboration with Authentication in Art. According to the NAI's website, it has now started accepting arbitrator and mediator applications for the Court of Arbitration for Art.
The US District Court for the District of Columbia recently lifted a stay of proceedings to confirm an award issued by an ad hoc tribunal in Paris under the Energy Charter Treaty. The district court noted that the French Court of Cassation had overturned a decision of the Paris Court of Appeal setting aside the award. This article revisits the relevant facts and issues that gave rise to the setting aside of the award in France, and the subsequent reversal at the highest instance.
The government recently adopted its new model bilateral investment treaty (BIT). The proposed changes, which are likely to limit investor protection, have now been incorporated, together with additional important amendments. The model BIT reflects two government objectives: a sustainable investment policy and a better balance between the rights and obligations of both states and investors.
Consistent with France's reputation as a pro-arbitration jurisdiction, the French civil courts' review of arbitral awards on grounds of public policy is traditionally limited in terms of both standard and content. However, in recent years, the scope of the courts' review in this regard has been tested in certain Paris Court of Appeal decisions which reviewed the underlying evidence rather than the arbitral tribunal's own determinations in the relevant award.
A consultation process on the new draft Dutch model bilateral investment treaty (BIT) recently ended. The government is expected to publish the finalised text of the new model BIT later in 2018. The new model will serve as the basis for renegotiation of the 79 BITs that the Netherlands has with states outside the European Union. Among other things, it proposes significant changes to the conduct of arbitral proceedings.
The Hague Court of Appeal recently ruled that its decision on an application for the enforcement of a foreign arbitral award would not be stayed solely on the basis of pending setting aside proceedings at the place of arbitration. Further, the court ruled that the party requesting exequatur did not have to submit Dutch translations of the award. The decision is notable, as the appeal court explicitly acknowledged the New York Convention's pro-enforcement bias, which several courts have failed to do in recent years.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that a Dutch court may enforce an annulled arbitral award if, among other things, the local annulment decision is based on grounds other than those set out in Article V(1)(a)-(d) of the New York Convention and which are not internationally recognised, or the annulment decision is irreconcilable with Dutch private international law. This judgment offers important guidance as to the Dutch courts' discretion to enforce annulled awards.
Parties' ability to choose their arbitrators remains one of the most frequently mentioned advantages of arbitration over litigation. However, this freedom makes sense only if it preserves the overarching duties of arbitrators and judges alike – that is, the duty to be and remain independent and impartial from the parties.
The Amsterdam Court of Appeals recently ruled that the Russian liquidation order regarding OAO Yukos Oil Company is contrary to Dutch public order and therefore null and void. An interesting question is whether the judgment will have a bearing in the appeal of the annulment proceedings concerning the $50 billion Energy Charter Treaty arbitration case between former Yukos shareholders and Russia, which is pending before The Hague Court of Appeal.
The Amsterdam Court of Appeals recently annulled a 2013 Amsterdam District Court decision to set aside a $450 million arbitral award in proceedings between watchmaker Swatch and jeweller Tiffany. The main question for the court of appeals was whether the district court had been correct in holding that the tribunal had exceeded its authority. The judgment, which may be subjected to Supreme Court review, confirms the court's pro-arbitration and enforcement approach.
In a recent decision, the Supreme Court rigorously applied Article III of the New York Convention and ruled that a decision recognising an international arbitral award is no more subject to appeal than a decision recognising a domestic arbitral award. Further, the court rejected the plea that such an appeal should be available under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.