A BVI court has appointed Grant Thornton as a receiver over a BVI company under Section 43 of the Arbitration Act 2013 in order to preserve the value of the company pending the determination of foreign arbitration proceedings. The decision illustrates the effectiveness of the interim relief provided under the Arbitration Act to preserve assets against which an arbitration award will be enforced.
The British Virgin Islands is a pro-arbitration jurisdiction. Under the Arbitration Act, with regard to both New York Convention awards and non-New York Convention awards, the party against which the award has been made can make representation to the court regarding a refusal to enforce. An example of the British Virgin Islands' pro-enforcement approach can be seen in Belport Development Limited v Chimichanga Corporation.
The Court of Appeal judgment in Antow Holdings Limited v Best Nation Investments Limited continues the development of the law regarding BVI directors' duties following the Independent Asset Management appeal, which established – for the first time in the British Virgin Islands – clear guidance regarding the proper purpose test. The decision is arguably at the extreme end of the spectrum, with the court describing the motives of the Best Nation directors as self-serving.
In a major development in BVI insolvency law and practice, the Commercial Court recently held that provisional liquidation is available to facilitate a restructuring. The objective of a restructuring provisional liquidation is to provide a better outcome for creditors than would be likely on a winding up. The Commercial Court's decision will certainly influence the current debate in the British Virgin Islands regarding insolvency legislation reforms.
The Court of Appeal recently considered the test for appointing liquidators to a company following an alleged loss of substratum. The case provides insight on the principles of loss of substratum, particularly in a case where a company's object is not prescribed by its memorandum and articles of association.
In separate but related proceedings, the BVI courts have permitted an applicant to inspect documentation relating to the liquidation of certain BVI companies. The decisions solidify the open justice policy and highlight the importance of allowing beneficiaries to oversee trustees' activities in order to ensure that the trust property is properly managed and that trustees can be held to account accordingly.
In the latest judgment regarding the DPH liquidation, the BVI Court of Appeal upheld the appointment of BVI provisional liquidators in respect of a Swiss company and clarified that evidence of dissipation of assets (in the Mareva sense) may not be a pre-condition to the appointment of provisional liquidators.
Claims of passing off are rare in the British Virgin Islands and a recent attempt to bring a BVI action in relation to goodwill held outside the jurisdiction has failed. The court examined the law and relevant English authorities on the tort of passing off. It opined that goodwill is governed by territoriality and that in order to succeed, the claimant must prove that it has goodwill in the form of customers in the jurisdiction in which the suit is undertaken.
The BVI Court of Appeal recently denied an appellant declaratory relief and upheld the respondents' relief from sanction, as granted by the lower court. While this judgment will inevitably provide some comfort to those that find themselves facing sanctions having inadvertently failed to comply with a rule, practice direction or order, it is a timely reminder for everyone that it is better to remain vigilant and compliant than to rely on the court's jurisdiction to grant relief from sanction.
The Commercial Court recently confirmed that the BVI courts have jurisdiction to grant charging orders. Charging orders are a critically important tool, particularly when enforcing foreign judgments, as they allow creditors to take a proprietary interest over assets owned by a debtor and can ultimately facilitate the sale of such assets to allow the creditor to realise their debt.
A BVI court recently considered a contempt application seeking further disclosure by way of an 'unless' order and whether cross-examination of the respondents should be ordered to determine the issue of contempt. The decision highlights the exceptional nature of cross-examination orders and the high standard of proof required for contempt orders.
The BVI Court of Appeal recently considered the scope of its jurisdiction to interfere with findings of fact made at first instance. This is the second time in 2018 that the court has addressed this issue. While the threshold for intervention is high, the court will intervene on appropriate occasions. The thoroughness of the evaluation of evidence and the credibility of the judge's conclusions at first instance are likely to be pivotal to that determination.
The BVI courts have again stepped in to ensure that proper thought and process is applied to requests made by foreign governmental bodies. In the first case of its kind to successfully challenge the exercise of the attorney general's powers under the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act, the BVI High Court held that the attorney general is required to do more than rubber stamp the requests received under the act.
In a recent case, the BVI Court of Appeal addressed standing in the context of applications under Section 273 of the Insolvency Act 2003, whereby an aggrieved person can ask the courts to reverse or vary a liquidator's decision. The court held that, as a shareholder of a company in liquidation, the appellant was an outsider to the liquidation who had no legitimate interest that entitled him to standing under Section 273.