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Vitamin C and Comity

Following up on last week’s post on the Second Circuit’s comity decision in the Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation case, Professor Bill Dodge of UC Davis has the following thoughts (also cross-posted on Opinio Juris here)

American law has many doctrines based on international comity—doctrines that help mediate the relationship between the U.S. legal system and those of other nations. The Second Circuit’s decision last week in the Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation case correctly identified an international comity issue. But did it choose the right comity tool to address that issue?

Plaintiffs alleged that defendants, two Chinese companies, participated in a cartel to fix the price of vitamin C exported to the United States in violation of U.S. antitrust law. Defendants did not deny the allegations, but argued that Chinese law required them to coordinate export prices. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce backed the defendants in an amicus brief explaining Chinese law. The district court, however, declined to defer to the Ministry’s interpretation of Chinese law, awarding the plaintiffs $147 million in damages and permanently enjoining the defendants from further violations of U.S. antitrust laws.

On appeal, defendants argued that the district court should have dismissed on grounds of foreign state compulsion, international comity, act of state, and political question. While the political question doctrine rests on separation of powers, the other three grounds are all doctrines of prescriptive comity. As I have explained in a recent article, American law is full of international comity doctrines, each with its own specific requirements.

To avoid confusion, it is worth noting at the outset that although the Second Circuit repeatedly framed the question as whether the district court should “abstain from exercising jurisdiction,”Vitamin C was clearly not an international comity abstention case. International comity abstention is a doctrine of adjudicative comity, or deference to foreign courts. The Second Circuit has held that it is available only if parallel proceedings are pending in a foreign court. See Royal & Sun Alliance Ins. Co. of Canada v. Century Intern. Arms, Inc., 466 F.3d 88, 93-94 (2d Cir. 2006). The same is true in most other circuits that have adopted the doctrine (the cases are collected here at pp. 2112-14). The main exception is the Ninth Circuit, whose decision in Mujica v. Airscan Inc., 771 F.3d 580 (9th Cir. 2014), applied a broad and uncertain comity abstention doctrine that conflicts with its own precedents, those of other circuits, and even the Supreme Court’s. Because no parallel antitrust claims against these defendants were pending in Chinese courts, international comity abstention would not have been an appropriate ground on which to dismiss this case.

Instead, the Second Circuit properly viewed the Vitamin C case as raising questions of prescriptive comity—deference to foreign lawmakers—which U.S. law has developed a number of different doctrines to address (for discussion see here at pp. 2099-2105). The court relied particularly on an interest-balancing, comity doctrine commonly associated with Timberlane Lumber Co. v. Bank of America, 549 F.2d 597 (9th Cir. 1976), Mannington Mills, Inc. v. Congoleum Corp., 595 F.2d 1287 (3d Cir. 1979), and Section 403 of the Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law. In the court’s view, this doctrine authorized it to “balance the interests in adjudicating antitrust violations alleged to have harmed those within our jurisdiction with the official acts and interests of a foreign sovereign in respect to economic regulation within its borders” (slip op. at 4). The idea that U.S. courts are institutionally capable of balancing the interests of foreign governments against our own has the subject of significant criticism over the past three decades.

Moreover, it is hard to see how this particular prescriptive comity doctrine survives the Supreme Court’s later decisions in Hartford Fire Insurance Co. v. California, 509 U.S. 764 (1993), and F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. v. Empagran, S.A., 542 U.S. 155 (2004), both of which declined to apply a multi-factor balancing approach in antitrust cases. The Second Circuit read Hartford “narrowly” (slip op. at 20) not to preclude such an approach, particularly when compliance with both U.S. and foreign law was impossible. But the Second Circuit did not even mention Empagran, which expressly rejected case-by-case balancing as “too complex to prove workable.” Empagran recognized that ambiguous statutes should be construed “to avoid unreasonable interference with the sovereign authority of other nations,” but it also said in no uncertain terms that “application of our antitrust laws to foreign anticompetitive conduct is nonetheless reasonable, and hence consistent with principles of prescriptive comity, insofar as they reflect a legislative effort to redress domestic antitrust injury that foreign anticompetitive conduct has caused.” Plaintiffs unquestionably alleged domestic antitrust injury in Vitamin C, making the application of U.S. law reasonable and consistent with prescriptive comity, at least has the Supreme Court has understood these concepts in the antitrust context.

The act of state doctrine is a separate and distinct manifestation of international comity, requiring that the acts of foreign sovereigns performed within their own territories be deemed valid. But the Supreme Court has made clear that the act of state doctrine applies only when a U.S. court must “declare invalid, and thus ineffective as ‘a rule of decision for the courts of this country,’ the official act of a foreign sovereign.” W.S. Kirkpatrick & Co. v. Environmental Tectonics Corp., International, 493 U.S. 400, 405 (1990). To find that the defendants fixed the price of vitamin C, the district court did not have to find any part of Chinese law invalid or even to evaluate the conduct of the Chinese government. It only had to find that Chinese law did not immunize the defendants’ own conduct from liability under U.S. law.

The best fitting tool to address the prescriptive comity issue in Vitamin C would seem to be the doctrine of foreign state compulsion (also known as foreign sovereign compulsion), which sometimes allows a U.S. court to excuse violations of U.S. law on the ground that the violations were compelled by foreign law. That is precisely what defendants had argued in this case. Although the exact contours of this doctrine are uncertain, the U.S. government has recognized it as a defense in antitrust cases. See Antitrust Enforcement Guidelines for International Operations ¶ 3.32 (1995). China represented that its law compelled the defendants to coordinate export prices for vitamin C, and the Second Circuit considered itself bound by China’s interpretation of its own laws (slip op. at 30), which seems reasonable at least in these circumstances.

Unfortunately for the defendants, there are at least two potential problems with foreign state compulsion in this case. First, it appears that defendants may have asked the Chinese government to mandate their price fixing. See slip op. at 36-37. At least some authority suggests that a defendant wishing to claim foreign state compulsion as a defense must try in good faith to obtain relief from the compulsion from the foreign state. See, e.g., Societe Internationale v. Rogers, 357 U.S. 197, 208-09, 213 (1958). Second, it appears that defendants may have fixed prices at levels higher than those mandated by the Chinese government. See slip op. 38. The Second Circuit found this irrelevant to its “comity” analysis but seemed to acknowledge that such facts would preclude a foreign compulsion defense. See id.

U.S. courts have many tools at their disposal to address international comity issues. But sometimes no tool fits. “International comity” is not a universal wrench offering unlimited judicial discretion to dismiss cases that seem problematic. It is a principle underlying specific doctrines, with specific requirements, developed over many years to keep judicial discretion within bounds.


New Issue of Revue Hellénique de Droit International

The new issue of Revue Hellénique de Droit International 2/2013 [Vol. 66] was published earlier this month.

Table des matières

Première Partie – Articles

Dossier spécial

La Proposition de Règlement du Conseil du 16 mars 2011 relatif à la compétence, la loi applicable, la reconnaissance et l’exécution des décisions en matière de régimes matrimoniaux

Partie II

Chryssa Tsouca – Le droit applicable aux régimes matrimoniaux à défaut de choix des époux                         249

Nikolaos Davrados – Jurisdictional issues concerning matrimonial property regimes                        259

Deuxième Partie – Études

Evangelos Vassilakakis – International jurisdiction in insurance matters under Regulation Brussels I            …………………………………………………………………………. 273

Anthi Pelleni – Obligation to assess the creditworthiness of the consumer and the responsibility of banks       …………………………………………………………………………. 295

Nicholas M. Poulantzas – The European Union and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Mediterranean States: Does a duty to cooperate exist? ………………………………………………………   311


Troisième Partie – Jurisprudence

Georgios Panopoulos – La jurisprudence grecque de droit international privé en 2012                      319

Ioannis Prezas, Lisa Böhmer & Inès el Hayek – Centre International pour le Règlement des Différends relatifs aux investissements (CIRDI). Chronique du contentieux 2012 ………   335


Quatrième Partie – Législation et documents

International agreements ratified by the Hellenic Republic in 2012 …..   379


Cinquième Partie – Varia

Antoine Maniatis – Approche syncrétiste du droit para la sociologie du droit et l’anthropologie du droit        …………………………………………………………………………. 385

Fethullah Bayraktar – La question du drone en droit international ….   399

Jaques Bipele Kemfouedio – L’impact juridique du financement international des élections en Afrique : réflexions sur le cas de l’élection présidentielle ivoirienne de 2010 …………….   417

Pallavi Kishore – Le tribunal international de Tokyo pour les crimes de guerre commis sur des femmes : jugement de l’esclavage sexuel organisé par l’armée japonaise ………………..   447

Haroune Ould Ahmed – Les réserves à caractère religieux ……………..   461

Stefanos Vlachopoulos – The translation of legal texts: To what extent can functionality be creative?            …………………………………………………………………………. 471


Sixième Partie – Notes bibliographiques

Kalliopi Makridou & Georgios Diamantopoulos (eds), Issues of Estoppel and Res Judicata in Anglo-American and Greek Law (Tonia Korka) ……………………………………………..   487

Ingrid Rossi, Legal Status of Non-governmental Organizations in International Law (Tonia Korka)                489

Ouvrages reçus ……………………………………………………………………   493

RHDI 66 (2013)


Conference on a Lex Mediterranea of Arbitration

Lotfy Chedly (Faculty of Law of Tunis) and Filali Osman (University of Franche Comté) are hosting next week in Tunis a conference which will explore the prospect of a Lex Mediterranea of Arbitration, ie a law of arbitration common to the countries of the European Union and those surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

The conference is the fourth of a wider project on the Lex Mercatoria Mediterranea, which has already generated three books (see picture).

Friday April 11

Chair: Prof. Ali MEZGHANI

1- 8h55 : Rapport introductif : Pr. Lotfi CHEDLY, Faculté des sciences juridiques, politiques et sociales de Tunis.
2- 9h15 : Histoire et attentes d’une codification du droit dans les pays de la méditerranée, Pr. Rémy CABRILLAC, Faculté de droit de Montpellier.
3- 9h30 : Arbitrage conventionnel, arbitrage obligatoire, médiation, conciliation, transaction, sentence ‘accord-parties’, convention de procédure participative : essai de définition ? : Pr. Sylvie FERRE-ANDRÉ, Université Jean Moulin, Lyon 3.
4- 9h45 : Arbitrage v./Médiation : concurrence ou complémentarité ? : Pr. Charles JARROSSON, Université de Paris II.
5- 10h15 : L’arbitrage maritime : une lex maritima pour l’UPM : Pr. Philippe DELEBECQUE, Université Paris1, Panthéon Sorbonne.
6- 10h30 : L’arbitrage sportif : une lex sportiva pour l’UPM : Me Laurence BURGER, Avocat Perréard de Boccard.

Chair: Pr. Mohamed Mahmoud MOHAMED SALAH

7- 10h45 : Le principe de l’autonomie de la procédure arbitrale : quelles limites à l’ingérence des juges étatiques ? : Pr. Souad BABAY YOUSSEF, Université de Carthage.
8- 11h00 : L’extension et la transmission de la clause d’arbitrage Me Nadine ABDALLAH-MARTIN, Avocat.
9- 11h45 : L’arbitrabilité des litiges des personnes publiques : entre autonomie de la volonté et prévalence du droit national prohibitif : Pr. Mathias AUDIT,  Université Paris Ouest, Nanterre La Défense.

Chair : Pr. Laurence RAVILLON



Liber Amicorum Bernard Audit

A Liber Amicorum to French leading PIL scholar Bernard Audit (Mélanges en l’honneur du Professeur Bernard Audit) will be published in the coming months. It will include the following contributions:

Bertrand ANCEL (Université Paris II)
Exequatur et prescription

Louis d’AVOUT (Université Paris II)
La lex personalis entre nationalité, domicile et résidence habituelle

Tristan AZZI (Université Paris Descartes)
La Cour de justice et le droit international privé ou l’art de dire parfois tout et son contraire

Jean-Sylvestre BERGé (Université Lyon 3)
Droit international privé et approche contextualisée des cas de pluralisme juridique mondial

George A. BERMANN (Columbia Law School)
The European Law Institute : a Transatlantic Perspective



Liber Amicorum Jean-Michel Jacquet

A Liber Amicorum will be published at the end of the month to honor J.M. Jacquet, who has been the professor of private international law at the Graduate Institute for International Studies in Geneva since 1994 and the Editor in Chief of the Journal du droit international (Clunet) since 2003 (Mélanges en l’honneur du professeur Jean-Michel Jacquet).

The book will be structured as follows:

Première partie – Arbitrage et Juridiction Internationale

  • Dolores Bentolila, Quelques réflexions sur le statut des tribunaux arbitraux fondés sur des traités en matière d’investissement
  • Andrea Bonomi et David Bochatay, L’aménagement de la priorité laissée à l’arbitre pour statuer sur sa propre compétence
  • Olivier Cachard, Arbitrage et soupçons de la légalisation de revenus issus d’activités illicites
  • Lucius Caflisch, Arbitrage et protection des droits de l’homme dans le contexte européen
  • Jean Devèze, L’expert et l’arbitre, différents mais si proches
  • Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, The transnationalisation of national contract law
  • Catherine Kessedjian, La pratique arbitrale
  • Pierre Mayer, La dispersion des demandes connexes entre plusieurs procédures arbitrales est-elle inéluctable ?
  • Éric Wyler, Le concept d’acceptabilité du Jus auctoritas au cœur de la juridiction internationale ?

Deuxième partie – Droit du commerce international et droit international économique

  • Philippe Delebecque, Droit du commerce international et droit maritime
  • Pascale Deumier, Les sources du droit et les branches du droit. À propos d’une conception doctrinale des sources du droit du commerce international
  • Marcelo G. Kohen, La portée et la validité des clauses contractuelles exorbitantes de renonciation à l’immunité des États
  • Éric Loquin, Retour sur les sources premières de la lex mercatoria : les usages du commerce international
  • Suzy H. niKièma, Les« mesures » d’expropriation indirecte en droit international des investissements : les actes et omissions de l’État d’accueil
  • Jean-Baptiste Racine, La protection du professionnel contractant en matière internationale
  • Luca G. Radicati di Brozolo, Règles transnationales et conflit de lois : réflexionsà la lumière des principes UNIDROIT et des principes de la Haye
  • Mélanie Samson, L’Organisation mondialedu commerce : un forum approprié pour la protection de la santé publique ?
  • Jorge E. Viñuales, Vers un droit international de l’énergie : essai de cartographie

Troisième partie – Droit international privé

  • Isabelle Barrière Brousse, Le droit international privé de la famille à l’heure européenne
  • Sabine Corneloup, Entre autonomie conflictuelle et autonomie substantielle le choix du futur Droit commun européen de la vente. À propos de la proposition de règlement de la Commission européenne du 11 octobre 2011
  • Hélène Gaudemet-Tallon, Unité et diversité : quelques mots de Droit international privé européen
  • Marie-Ange Moreau, Continuité des règles de DIP en matière de contrat de travail international et communautarisation
  • Thomas Schultz, Postulats de justice en droit transnational et raisonnements de droit international privé. Premier balisage d’un champ d’étude
  • Anne Sinay-Citermann, État des lieux sur les articles 14 et 15 du Code civil en droit international privé
  • Claude Witz, L’application du droit étranger en Allemagne (Questions choisies)

Quatrième partie – Droit africain

  • Néji Baccouche, Impôt, révolution et démocratisation du système politique tunisien
  • Parfait Diédhiou, La reconnaissance et l’exécution des sentences arbitrales dans l’Acte uniforme relatif au droit de l’arbitrage de l’OHADA
  • Joseph Issa-Sayegh, Regards sur l’intégration régionale du droit social dans les États africains francophones subsahariens
  • Ousmane mBaye, L’Ouest africain à l’épreuve de la mondialisation : étude clinique du Sénégal
  • Paul-Gérard pouGoué et Gérard nGoumtsa Anou, L’applicabilité spatiale du nouveau droit OHADA de la vente commerciale et le droit international privé : une réforme inachevée

PIL and Human Rights In Europe

Professor Zamora Cabot (University of Castellón) has just published “Derecho Internacional Privado y Derechos Humanos en el Ámbito Europeo” in Papeles el tiempo de los derechos, 2012 (number 4).

This paper is a previous version of a broader article that will appear under the same title in a Liber Amicorum for Professor Alegria Borras. With this publication the author continues an already fruitful research on the relationship between private international law and human rights. 

The article is introduced by a reflection on the need for a rapprochement between private international law and international law, with the aim of mutually reinforcing their potential against global governance- the Kiobel case being a good opportunity for experimenting in the field.

Section II is devoted to multiculturalism, which according to the author provides an appropriate “testing ground” to try out the interrelation between private international law and human rights through principles such as legal pluralism and tolerance.

In Section III Prof. Zamora focuses on the question of multinational corporations accountability – again another opportunity for private international law to show its potential, this time via the improvement of the legal remedies available to victims of human rights violations perpetrated by transnational and multinational corporations. In this regard the author draws attention to the different trends currently in place in Europe and the US, the protection of the victims being progressively enhanced here through case law and gradual legislative changes at the State level, as well as through the expression of a strong interest in the reform and improvement of the acquis communnautaire which deals with these questions.

Prof. Zamora concludes the article expressing his firm belief in private international law as a tool in the fight against racism and xenophobia -two phenomena which are unfortunately quite visible in nowadays Europe-, and against the frequent lack of respect towards human rights displayed by European transnational corporations present in third, underdeveloped countries.


French Conference on the Future of European Insolvency Law

The Law Faculty of Rouen will host a conference on the Future of European Insolvency Law on September 21st, 2012. The speeches will be delivered in French. 

Le droit européen des procédures d’insolvabilité à la croisée des chemins

9 h : Rapport introductif (Michel Menjucq, Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne)

1ère séance : L’affinement des règles initiales
Présidence : Jocelyne Vallansan, Université de Caen – Basse Normandie

9 h 30 : Les procédures entrant dans le champ d’application du Règlement (Gilles Podeur, Clifford Chance Europe LLP)

9 h 50 : Les notions de centre des intérêts principaux et d’établissement (Maud Laroche, Université de Rouen)

10 h 10 : L’articulation entre la procédure principale et les procédures secondaires (Laurence-Caroline Henry, Université de Bourgogne)

10 h 30 : Débat

11 h 30 : L’égalité entre créanciers (David Robine, Université de Rouen)

11 h 50 : La garantie des créances salariales, influences et conséquences des procédures d’insolvabilité transfrontalières (Isabelle Didier, Smith-Violet)

12 h 10 : Les défaillances bancaires et financières (Frédéric Leplat, Université de Rouen)

12 h 30: Débat


2ème séance : L’adoption de règles nouvelles
Présidence : Paul Le Cannu, Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne

14 h 30 : Les groupes de sociétés (Michel Menjucq, Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne)

14 h 50 : Les relations avec les Etats tiers (Fabienne Jault-Seseke, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin en Yvelines)

15 h 10 : Les actions annexes (Cécile Legros, Université de Rouen)

15 h 30 : Débat

3ème séance : Le regard des autres Etats membres sur la réforme du Règlement
Présidence : Gilles Cuniberti, Université de Luxembourg

16 h 15 : Le regard italien (Stefania Bariatti, Universita degli studi di Milano)

16 h 45 : Le regard belge (Yves Brulard, DBBLaw)

17 h 15 : Rapport de synthèse (Jean-Luc Vallens, Magistrat, Université de Strasbourg)

More details on the conference are available here.



Payan on the European Law of Debt Recovery

Guillaume Payan, who is a lecturer at Le Mans University, has published Droit européen de l’exécution en matière civile et commerciale.

The book, which is based on the doctoral thesis of Dr. Payan, explores how the European law of debt recovery could evolve in the coming years and proposes a strategy for the European lawmaker. Although the book discusses the main private international law instruments already adopted, its essential focus is on substantive law rather than private international law. 

The French abstract reads:

Depuis une quinzaine d’années environ, la doctrine européenne et la Commission européenne soulignent l’opportunité d’une action de l’Union européenne dans le domaine de l’exécution proprement dite des titres exécutoires. Pourtant, ce domaine est encore aujourd’hui pour l’essentiel abandonné aux droits nationaux. Cette situation devrait évoluer prochainement.

La présente étude a pour objet d’anticiper les premières réalisations concrètes de l’action du législateur européen dans ce domaine, en suggérant la création d’un droit européen de l’exécution en matière civile et commerciale. L’objectif est de garantir la cohérence entre les futurs instruments européens de l’exécution. À cette fin, une stratégie législative à deux échelons est proposée. Le premier échelon se caractérise par l’adoption d’une approche globale de la problématique de l’exécution proprement dite des titres exécutoires au sein de l’Union européenne. À ce stade, il est question de définir les principales notions juridiques s’attachant à l’exécution, de délimiter le champ d’application de l’action de l’Union européenne et de définir les principes directeurs de cette action. Le second échelon de la stratégie législative proposée se caractérise, en revanche, par une approche « sectorielle ». À ce stade, sont visés les premiers instruments européens qui pourraient être adoptés dans le cadre de ce droit. Par souci de réalisme, cette seconde étape de la création d’un droit européen de l’exécution devrait se matérialiser par une série d’interventions ponctuelles, adaptées aux difficultés et aux besoins rencontrés. Différents chantiers prioritaires sont définis, dont la création d’une procédure européenne de saisie conservatoire des avoirs bancaires.

A full table of contents can be found here. The foreword of Professor Jacques Normand is available here.


Sciences Po PILAGG Workshop Series, January-February 2012

The list of speakers at the workshop on Private International Law as Global Governance at the Law School of the Paris Institute of Political Science (Sciences Po) has been updated and is available on the PILAGG website.

The speakers for January and February will be:

• 20th January: Mads ANDENAS (“External effects of national ECHR judgments”)
• 25th January (doctoral workshop): Shotaro HAMAMOTO (“L’arbitrage investisseur-État est-il hostile aux intérêts publics?”)
• 27th January: Ingo VENZKE (“On words and deeds: How the practice of interpretation develops international norms”)
• 9th February (doctoral workshop): Benoit FRYDMAN (“Approche pragmatique du droit global”)
• 11th February (doctoral workshop): David KENNEDY (“The renewal of political economy and global governance”)
• 16th February: Michael WEIBEL (“Privatizing the adjudication of sovereign defaults”)

PILAGG has also launched a new stream on epistemology and methodology of human-rights in transnational context.


Presentation of the CLIP Principles

Following the publication of the final Draft Principles for Conflict of Laws in Intellectual Property which we reported here, the European Max-Planck Group on Conflict of Laws in Intellectual Property (CLIP) is now prepared to make their presentation. The conference organised for this purpose by will take place on 3-5 November in Berlin. The program is as follows:

Thursday, November 3
Welcome reception Jürgen Basedow, Hamburg/Josef Drexl, Munich

Friday, November 4
Introduction to the CLIP Project Jürgen Basedow, Hamburg
The principle of territoriality and the rules of the CLIP Principles on jurisdiction Paul Torremans, Nottingham/Rochelle Dreyfuss, New York
The principle of territoriality and the rules of the CLIP Principles on the applicable law Josef Drexl, Munich/Dário Moura Vicente, Lisbon
The approach of the CLIP Principles to ubiquitous infringement Annette Kur, Munich/Rufus Pichler, New York
Party autonomy and contracts under the CLIP Principles Axel Metzger, Hanover/Ivana Kunda, Rijeka
The approach of the CLIP Principles to recognition and enforcement of judgements Pedro de Miguel Asensio, Madrid/Stefania Bariatti, Milan

Saturday, November 5
The impact of the CLIP Principles on courts and arbitration Mireille van Eechoud, Cambridge (Chair)/Joachim Bornkamm, Freiburg/François Dessemontet, Lausanne/Sierd Schaafsma, The Hague/Winfried Tilmann, Düsseldorf
The impact of the CLIP Principles on legislation and international law Alexander Peukert, Frankfurt (Chair)/Spiros Bazinas, UNCITRAL/Friedrich Bulst, DG Competition/Marta Pertegás, Hague Conference/Christian Wichard, WIPO
The CLIP Principles and the parallel projects of the American Law Institute and Waseda/KOPILA Graeme Dinwoodie, Oxford (Chair)/Jane Ginsburg, New York/Toshiyuki Kono, Fukuoka
Farewell address Josef Drexl, Munich