A recent case addressed the partial annulment of an award which granted damages where the prayer for relief sought only a declaration (ultra petita). In addition to confirming the well-established line of decisions on penalty and substantive public order, this decision is among the few annulments, albeit partial, of an international award by the Supreme Court.
According to a recent Supreme Court decision, the fact that a party to an arbitration agreement is fully owned by a state is insufficient grounds to have that agreement extended to said state. Therefore, an arbitration agreement concluded by a state-owned entity does not necessarily bind the state itself. In order to do so, the arbitration agreement must be extended to the state.
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 upheld an appeal against the conviction of an air traffic controller who had cleared two aircraft in quick succession to take off from two crossing runways at Zurich airport. The decision is welcome news and contrasts with recent convictions of air traffic controllers handed down in Switzerland for operational incidents that resulted in neither injury nor damage.
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 new Financial Services Act and Financial Institutions Act came into force on 1 January 2020 together with the implementing ordinances. These laws oblige the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) to pass a number of implementing provisions pertaining to selected, mainly technical issues. As a result, FINMA has created a new, streamlined Financial Institutions Ordinance and introduced amendments to several current FINMA ordinances and circulars.
The rules of conduct under the Federal Act on Financial Services (FinSA) are based on the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (2004/39/EC) and the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (2014/65/EU) and simplify market entry to the European Union for Swiss financial services providers. This article examines the FinSA's rules of conduct and the differences regarding the suitability and appropriateness duties under Swiss and EU legislation.
The Federal Council recently adopted a dispatch on the further improvement of the framework conditions for distributed ledger technology (DLT) and blockchain. The proposal aims to increase legal certainty, remove barriers for DLT-based applications and reduce the risk of abuse. This federal legislation, which is designed as framework legislation, proposes specific amendments to nine existing federal acts, covering both civil and financial market law.
The Federal Council recently decided to put the Swiss Financial Services Act and the Swiss Financial Institutions Act into effect on 1 January 2020 as the last part of the financial market regulations reform project. Concurrently, the Federal Council published the final versions of the implementing ordinances with some amendments compared with the previous draft versions published during the public consultation period.
Besides securing Switzerland's access to the EU financial markets, new objectives have emerged from advancing digitalisation and technological progress in the banking sector. One of those is undoubtedly Switzerland's goal of retaining its status as a leading country in the booming fintech and blockchain industry, which has led to significant developments towards a more flexible, technology-friendly legislative framework.
As part of its effort to meet EU-equivalent standards, Switzerland is in the process of implementing a comprehensive reform package which will fundamentally change the Swiss financial market regulatory framework and introduce the country's first harmonised and coherent prospectus regulation. The new regime will ensure that bond issuers will continue to have efficient and quick access to the Swiss debt capital market – one of the legislature's key goals.
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.
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.