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More on the Validity of the PDVSA 2020 Bonds

Written by Mark Weidemaier, the Ralph M. Stockton, Jr. Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Mitu Gulati, the Perre Bowen Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Governments with no realistic prospect of paying their debts often gamble for redemption, trying desperately to avoid default. Political leaders, with good reason, fear that a debt default will get them thrown out of office. But in trying to hold power, sometimes by borrowing even more, they often make matters worse for the country and its people. A prime example involves the collateralized bonds issued by Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA.

The Billion-Dollar Choice-of-Law Question

Choice-of-law rules can be complex, confusing, and difficult to apply. Nevertheless, they are vitally important. The application of choice-of-law rules can turn a winning case into a losing case (and vice versa). A recent decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v. MUFG Union Bank, N.A., is a case in point. The Second Circuit was called upon to decide whether to apply the law of New York or the law of Venezuela to determine the validity of certain notes issued by a state-owned oil company in Venezuela. Billions of dollars were riding on the answer.

In this post, I first review the facts of the case. I then provide an overview of the relevant New York choice-of-law rules. Finally, I discuss the choice-of-law question that lies at the heart of the case.

The Bonds

In 2016, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PDVSA”) approved a bond exchange whereby holders of notes with principal due in 2017 (the “2017 Notes”) could exchange them for notes with principal due in 2020 (the “2020 Notes”). Unlike the 2017 Notes, the 2020 Notes were secured by a pledge of a 50.1% equity interest in CITGO Holding, Inc. (“CITGO”). CITGO is owned by PDVSA through a series of subsidiaries and is considered by many to be the “crown jewel” of Venezuela’s strategic assets abroad.

What is an international contract within the meaning of Article 3(3) Rome I? – Dexia Crediop SpA v Provincia di Pesaro e Urbino [2022] EWHC 2410 (Comm)

The following comment has been kindly provided by Sarah Ott, a doctoral student and research assistant at the University of Freiburg (Germany), Institute for Comparative and Private International Law, Dept. III.

News

One For All? Workshop on the The New Representative Action Directive

After a great deal of controversial discussion, the EU Representative Actions Directive was passed in late 2020 and has to be transposed by Member States till December 25 of this year. For the first time, the Directive will require MS to introduce the possibility for qualified entities to sue for compensation on behalf of harmed consumers. 

Key questions regarding the implementation of the Directive will be discussed at a hybrid workshop hosted by Prof. Susanne Augenhofer, LL.M. (Yale) and the Austrian Newspaper “Die Presse” this coming Monday, November 28th, 2022 (6:30 p.m). Various stakeholders from the plaintiff / defendant spectrum as well as Prof. Beate Gsell from the LMU Munich will be present as speakers.

Further information about the panelists and the link for registration can be found here.

CJEU on Lugano II Convention and choice of court through a simple reference to a website, case Tilman, C-358/21

In its judgment handed down today, the Court of Justice clarifies in essence that, under the Lugano II Convention, an agreement of choice of court meets the requirements set in Article 23(1) and (2) of the Convention in the scenario where that choice of court agreement is contained in the general terms and conditions set out on a web page, to which the contract signed by the parties contains a reference to, with no box-ticking being mechanism being implemented on the said web page.

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Conference on 8 December 2022: ‘Ukraine-Poland. The Choice of Law Aspects of War and Forced Displacement’

On December 8, 2022, under the patronage of, among others, the Consulate General of Ukraine in Cracow, the University of Silesia in Katowice (Poland) is hosting an international conference on the private international law aspects of forced displacement resulting from the current situation in Ukraine.

The conference focuses on Polish-Ukrainian relations and the bilateral agreement between those two States, but also addresses some more general issues related to the interplay between EU private international law and such agreements. In addition, some speeches will address the specifics of Ukrainian private international law.

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