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Tang on Consumer Collective Redress in European PIL

Zheng Sophia Tang (Leeds University) has posted Consumer Collective Redress in European Private International Law on SSRN.

Collective redress is a cost-sharing and procedure-consolidating mechanism. In the area of consumer litigation, it is introduced primarily to compensate the weakness of expensive and time-consuming court proceedings in small claims in order to increase consumers’ access to justice. Consumer contractual claims are characterised as of small value, which largely discourages individual consumers from resorting to judicial action to protect their legal rights. Collective redress combines separate consumer claims against the same defendant based on the similar circumstances into one single action. It is helpful to resolve the litigation difficulty, to promote consumers’ access to redress and to improve good commercial performance. A recent survey shows 76% of European consumers would be more willing to defend their rights in court if they could join other consumers. It is also believed that collective redress could offer businesses an opportunity to resolve an issue once rather than having repeated proceedings.



Call for Proposals

Please see below for a call for proposals for a conference to be held 20-22 June 2012


Call for Proposals – Collective Redress in the Cross-Border Context

Large-scale international legal injuries are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s globalized economy, whether they arise in the context of consumer, commercial, contract, tort or securities law, and countries are struggling to find appropriate means of providing collective redress, particularly in the cross-border context.  The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL), along with the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), will be responding to this new and developing challenge by convening a two-day event on the theme “Collective Redress in the Cross-Border Context:  Arbitration, Litigation, Settlement and Beyond.”  The event includes two different elements – a workshop on 21-22 June 2012 comprised of invited speakers from all over the world as well as a works-in-progress conference on 20-21 June 2012 designed to allow practitioners and scholars who are interested in the area of collective redress to discuss their work and ideas in the company of other experts in the field.  Both events are organized by the Henry G. Schermers Fellow for 2012, Professor S.I. Strong of the University of Missouri School of Law.


Jurisdiction of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal in the Converium Settlement Case

[Guest post written by Thijs Bosters LL.M., a PhD Researcher (Private International Law and Collective redress) at Tilburg University.]

After the Morrison v. NAB decision of last June, the question was raised how and where an f-cubed case should be filed in the future. It has been proposed that, for example, the Canadian class action or the Dutch collective settlement procedure could serve as alternatives in cross-border securities mass disputes. What makes the Dutch collective settlement procedure such an interesting alternative is that a settlement can be declared binding by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal on all persons to which it applies according to its terms. In this way, all plaintiffs can be covered and a mass dispute can be resolved through a single action (for more information on the Collective Settlement Act (Wet collectieve afwikkeling massaschade), see the The Global Class Actions Exchange report of Stanford Law School). With the 2009 Shell collective settlement, the Dutch Act proved that it can be instrumental in the resolution of cross-border securities mass disputes. The Shell case, however, was only a partially f-cubed case, as quite many of the investors involved were Dutch.


A “View from Across” (in the Other Direction)

Horatia Muir Watt is a Professor at the School of Law of Sciences Po, Paris.

From the standpoint of an outside observer with « a view from across », the practical result reached in the Morrison case seems reasonable. It is highly probable that in a similar situation – that is, supposing jurisdiction could be secured under the relevant rules applicable before, say the courts of Member States as against foreign-third-State-domiciled defendants AND imagining private attorney general actions for violations of trans-European securities regulations – courts  over this side of the Atlantic (and for realistic symmetry, we’d need to think in terms of the rulings by the Court of Justice of the European Union as relayed by the courts of the Member States) would not (whatever the reasoning involved) have extended the scope of domestic economic regulation to an “F-cubed” action. However, the concrete result reached in this particular case is clearly not the point in issue. Nor indeed is there any reason not to adhere to the important policy objective of discouraging global forum-shoppers (or their lawyers) attracted by the well-known magnetic properties of US civil procedure in purely financial matters when private punitive-damage-actions are available. The real question is the approach adopted by the Supreme Court in its first decision relating to the ambit of the Securities and Exchange Act in an international setting.


Latest Issue of “Praxis des Internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts” (2/2010)

Recently, the March/April issue of the German law journal “Praxis des Internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts” (IPRax) was published.

This issue contains some of the papers presented at the Brussels I Conference in Heidelberg last December. The remaining papers will be published in the next issue.

Here is the contents:

  • Rolf Wagner: “Die politischen Leitlinien zur justiziellen Zusammenarbeit in Zivilsachen im Stockholmer Programm” – the English abstract reads as follows:

Since the coming into force of the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999 the European Community is empowered to act in the area of civil cooperation in civil and commercial matters. The “Stockholm Programme – An open and secure Europe serving and protecting the citizens” is the third programme in this area. It covers the period 2010–2014 and defines strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning within the area of freedom, security and justice. This article provides an overview of the Stockholm Programme.

  • Peter Schlosser: “The Abolition of Exequatur Proceedings – Including Public Policy Review?”

The – alleged – basic paper to which reference is continuously made when exequatur proceedings and public policy are discussed is a so-called Tampere resolution. The European Council convened in a special meeting in the Finnish city in 1999 to discuss the creation of an area of security, freedom and justice in the European Union. The outcome of this meeting was not a binding text which would have been adopted by something like a plenary session of the heads of States and Governments. Instead, the document is titled “presidency’s conclusion” and is a summary drafted by the then Finish president. It is a declaration of intention for the immediate future, pre-dominantly concerned with criminal and asylum matters and not binding on any European legislator. As far as “civil matters” are concerned, the “presidency’s conclusion” reads as follows: “In civil matters the European Council calls upon the Commission to make a proposal for further reduction of the intermediate measures which are still required to enable the recognition and enforcement of a decision or judgment in the requested state. As a first step, these intermediate procedures should be abolished for titles in respect of small consumer or commercial claims and for certain judgments in the fields of family litigation (e.g. on maintenance claims and visiting rights). Such decisions would be automatically recognized throughout the Union without any intermediate proceedings or grounds for refusal of enforcement. This could be accompanied by the setting of minimum standards on specific aspects of civil procedural law. ”The conclusion does no say whether it would be advisable to generally abolish intermediate procedures. It only states that intermediate procedures should be further “reduced”. If one takes the view that the “first step” of reduction should be followed by a second or third one, one could refer to the regulation on “Creating a European Enforcement Order for Uncontested Claims” and to the regulation on “Creating a European Order for Payment Procedure”. Not a single word mentions that at the end of all steps taken together the intermediate procedure or any control whatsoever in the requested state shall become obsolete and that even the most flagrant public policy concern shall become irrelevant. The need for a residuary review in the requested state is powerfully demonstrated by a recent ruling of the French Cour de Cassation: A woman resident in France had been ordered by the High Court of London to pay to the Lloyd’s Society no less than £ 142,037. The judgment did not give any reasons for the order except for stating that “the defendant had expressed its willingness not to accept the claim and that the judge accepted the claim pursuant to rule 14 par. 3 of the Civil Procedure Rules.” The relevant text of this provision is drafted as follows: “Where a party makes an admission under rule 14.1.2 (admission by notice in writing), any other party may apply for judgment on the admission. Judgment shall be such judgment as it appears to the court that the applicant is entitled for on the admission.” The judgment neither revealed at all the dates of the respective admissions made during the proceedings although the defendant had expressed its willingness to defend the case nor referred to any document produced in the course of the proceedings. One cannot but approve the ruling of the French Cour de Cassation confirming the decision of the Cour d’Appel of Rennes. The courts held that the mere abstract reference to rule 14 of the Civil Procedure Rules was tantamount to a total lack of reasons and that the recognition of such a judgment would be incompatible with international public policy. Further, that the production of documents such as a copy of the service of the action could not substitute the lacking reasoning of the judgment. The importance of the possibility to invoke public policy when necessary to hinder recognition of a judgment was evident also in the earlier Gambazzi case of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In that case the defendant was penalized for contempt of court by an exclusion from further participation in the proceedings. The reason for the measure was the defendant’s violation of a freezing and disclosure order. The ECJ ruled that in the light of the circumstances of the proceedings such a measure had to be regarded as grossly disproportionate and, hence, incompatible with the international public policy of the state where recognition was sought. In its final conclusions, general advocate Kokott emphasized that a foreign judgment cannot be recognized if the underlying proceedings failed to conform to the requirement of fairness such as enacted in Art. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is worth noting that also Switzerland refused to enforce the English judgment. The Swiss Federal Court so decided because after having changed its solicitor, Gambazzi’s new solicitor was refused to study the files of the case. Even in the light of the pertinent case law regarding a very limited review in the requested state and the known promptness and efficiency of exequatur proceedings, the Commission still intends to abolish this “intermediate measure”. In its Green Paper it literally states:“ The existing exequatur procedure in the regulation simplified the procedure for recognition and enforcement of judgment compared to the previous systems under the 1968 Brussels Convention. Nevertheless, it is difficult to justify, in an internal market without frontiers that citizens and businesses have to undergo the expenses in terms of costs and time to assert their rights abroad.” The context reveals that the term “the expenses” relates to the expenses of the exequatur procedure. However, the European Union is not the only internal market covering multiple jurisdictions. How is the comparable issue dealt with in other integrated internal markets? This is to be shown in the first part of this contribution. In the second part, I shall analyze in more detail and without any prejudice the ostensibly old-fashioned concept of exequatur.

  • Paul Beaumont/Emma Johnston: “Abolition of the Exequatur in Brussels I: Is a Public Policy Defence Necessary for the Protection of Human Rights?”

The principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions and the creation of a genuine judicial area throughout the European Union was endorsed in Tampere in October 1999. Thus, one of the primary objectives of the Brussels I is to enhance the proper functioning of the Internal Market by encouraging free movement of judgments. It is clear that in Tampere the European Council wanted to start the process of abolishing “intermediate measures” ie the declaration of enforceability (exequatur). It went further and said that in certain suggested areas, including maintenance claims, the “grounds for refusal of enforcement” should be removed. It did not specifically require the abolition of intermediate measures in relation to Brussels I and certainly did not require the abolition of the “grounds for refusal of enforcement” in Brussels I. The European Council in Brussels in December 2009, after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and with the adoption of the Stockholm Programme, is still committed to the broad objective of removing “intermediate measures”. This is a process to be “continued” over the 5 years of the Stockholm Programme from 2010–2014 but not one that has to be “completed”. The European Council no longer says anything about abolishing the “grounds for refusal of enforcement”. Article 73 of the Brussels I Regulation obliged the European Commission to evaluate the operation of the Regulation throughout the Union and to produce a report to the European Parliament and the Council. In 2009 the Commission produced such a Report and a Green Paper on the application of the Regulation, which proposes a number of reforms. One of the main proposals concerns the abolition of exequatur proceedings for all judgments falling within the ambit of the Regulation. Brussels I is built upon the foundation of mutual trust and recognition and these principles are the driving force behind the proposed abolition of exequatur proceedings. Article 33 of Brussels I states that no special procedure is required to ensure recognition of a judgment in another Member State. At first glance this provision seems to imply that recognition of civil and commercial judgments within the EU is automatic. The reality is however, somewhat more complex than that. In order for a foreign judgment to be enforceable, a declaration of enforceability is required. At the first instance, it involves purely formal checks of the relevant documents with no opportunity for the parties or the court to raise any of the grounds for refusal of enforcement. An appeal against the declaration of enforceability by the judgment debtor will trigger the application of Articles 34 and 35 which provide barriers to the recognition and enforcement of judgments. According to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), any such obstacle must be interpreted narrowly, “inasmuch as it constitutes an obstacle to the attainment of one of the fundamental objectives of the [Regulation]” The overwhelming majority of cases are successful and if the application is complete, then the decision is likely to be made within a matter of weeks. The Commission is of the view that given the high success rate of applications, the exequatur proceedings merely hinder free movement of judgments at the expense of the enforcement creditor and provide for delays for the benefit of the male fides judgment debtor. It is with this in mind that the Commission asks whether, in an Internal Market without frontiers, European citizens and businesses should be expected to sacrifice time and money in order to enforce their rights abroad. It is argued that in the Internal Market, free movement of judgments is necessary in order to ensure access to justice. Exequatur proceedings can create tension between Member States, creating suspicion and ultimately destroying mutual trust. It will be seen however, that total abolition of exequatur proceedings would effectively mean judgments must be recognised in every case with no ground for refusal unless the grounds for refusal are moved to the actual enforcement stage. Total abolition of the grounds for refusing enforcement would result in an unfair bias in favour of the judgment creditor to the detriment of the judgment debtor. The Commission on the one hand proposes to abolish the exequatur procedure provided by Brussels I but on the other hand, suggests that some form of “safeguard” should be preserved. The Green Paper tentatively suggests that a special review a posteriori could be put in place which would in effect create automatic recognition of a judgment reviewable only after becoming enforceable. Such an approach would enhance judicial co-operation and aid progressive equivalence of judgments from other Member States. Yet it is questioned whether allowing an offending judgment to be enforced in the first place, only to review it a posteriori is the most effective way of dealing with the problem. It is instead argued that a provision similar to that of Article 20 of the Hague Child Abduction Convention could strike a fair balance between the interests of the judgment creditor and debtor.As Brussels I stand it is open to the judgment debtor to appeal the declaration of enforceability. The appellant may claim a breach of public policy or lack of due process in the service of the documents instituting proceedings which may amount to a breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The grounds to refuse recognition of a foreign judgment are restrictive and under no circumstances may the “substance” of the judgment be reviewed. Such a review of the substance would seriously undermine the mutual trust between courts of the European Union. However, the public policy exception does allow States to uphold essential substantive rules of its own system by refusing to enforce judgments from other EU States that infringe the fundamental principles of its own law. The question is whether Member States will be prepared to abandon the “public policy” defence and thereby give up this right to protect the fundamental principles of their substantive law? Will they be content to have a defence that simply focuses on protecting the fundamental rights of the defendant?

  •  Horatia Muir Watt: “Brussels I and Aggregate Litigation or the Case for Redesigning the Common Judicial Area in Order to Respond to Changing Dynamics, Functions and Structures in Contemporary Adjudication and Litigation”

Recent litigation relating to the recognition and enforcement of US class action judgments or settlements under Member States’ common private international law (still applicable to relationships with third States), along with current trends in their domestic legislation towards the acceptance of representative, class or group actions, herald a whole set of new issues linked to the appearance of collective redress within the common area of justice. It is the thesis of this paper that the Brussels I Regulation in its present form is ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught of aggregate claims, both in its provisions on jurisdiction and as far as the free movement of judgments and settlements is concerned. It may well be that the same could be said for the conflict of laws rules in Regulations Rome I and Rome II, which were also designed to govern purely individual relationships. Indeed, one may wonder whether the difficulties which arise under this heading are not the sign of an at least partial obsolescence of the whole European private international law model, insofar as it rests upon increasingly outdated conceptions of the dynamics, function, structure and governance requirements of litigation and adjudication. Although this conclusion may seem radical, it is in fact hardly surprising. Indeed, as it has been rightly observed, within the civilian legal tradition which is the template for the conceptions of adjudication and jurisdiction underlying the Brussels I Regulation (like the other private international law instruments applicable in the common area of justice), the recourse to group litigation, which is now beginning to appear in the European context as one of the most effective means of improving ex post accountability of providers of mass commodities freely entering the market, represents a “sea-change” in legal structures, away from exclusive reliance on public enforcement.

  • Burkhard Hess: “Cross-border Collective Litigation and the Regulation Brussels I”

The European law of civil procedure is guided by the “leitmotiv” of two-party-proceedings. Litigation is generally regarded as taking place between one specific plaintiff and one specific defendant. Especially Article 27 JR (JR = Brussels I Regulation) which concerns pendency and Articles 32 and 34 No. 3 JR which address res judicata and conflicting judgments, are based on this concept. However, the idea of collective redress is not entirely new to European cross border litigation. Article 6 No. 1 JR explicitly states that several connected lawsuits can be brought to the courts of a Member State where one of the defendants is domiciled. When related actions are pending in different Member States, the court which was seized later may stay its proceedings. By providing for a discretionary stay, Article 28 JR also includes situations of complex litigation. Several cases concerning the JR have dealt with collective redress. The most prominent case is VKI ./. Henkel. In this case, an Austrian consumer association sought an injunction against a German businessman. Another example is the Lechouritou case, where approximately 1000 Greek victims of war atrocities committed during WW II sued the German government for compensation. The famous Mines de Potasse d’Alsace case involved damages caused to dozens of Dutch farmers by the pollution of the river Rhine. It goes without saying that in addition to the case law presented, several cross-border collective lawsuits have been filed in the Member States. These lawsuits mainly deal with antitrust and (less often) product liability issues. Finally, the Injunctions Directive 98/27/EC permits consumer associations from another state to institute proceedings for the infringement of consumer laws in the Member State where the infringement was initiated. However, this directive has not been very successful. It has only been applied in a few cross-border cases.

  • Luca G. Radicati di Brozolo: “Choice of Court and Arbitration Agreements and the Review of the Brussels I Regulation”

Similarities and differences between choice of court and arbitration agreements in the perspective of the review of Regulation (EC) 44/2001Choice of court agreements and arbitration agreements have much in common. Both involve the exercise of party autonomy in the designation of the judicial or arbitral forum for the settlement of disputes and have the effect of ousting the default jurisdiction. Both aim to ensure predictability and to allow the parties to choose the forum they consider best suited to adjudicate their dispute. The importance of these goals is by now largely acknowledged especially in international commercial transactions. Although it has not always been a foregone conclusion that parties could exclude the jurisdiction of local courts in favor of foreign ones or of arbitration, today most systems recognize the role of procedural party autonomy in this context. Also the policy reasons for favoring party autonomy in the choice of forum are largely similar for both types of agreements. Because of the broad recognition of the crucial role of these agreements, there is a growing concern that their effects are not sufficiently guaranteed in the European Union. It is not uncommon that proceedings are brought before a court of one member State in alleged violation of a choice of the courts of another member State or of arbitration by litigants who appear to attempt to circumvent these agreements by exploiting the perceived inefficiencies of some courts, or their reluctance to enforce such agreements effectively. In a number of well known, the European Court of Justice has found itself unable – quite correctly, in light of the existing text of Regulation (EC) 44/2001 (the “Brussels Regulation”) – to accept interpretations aimed at preventing such situations, foremost amongst which anti-suit injunctions. Partly for these reasons forum selection and arbitration agreements (and more generally arbitration) are amongst the topics on which the Commission has invited comments in the Green Paper on the review of the Regulation.



October 2007 Round-Up: International Tort Claims, “Forum Non” Dismissals and Punitive Damages

This installment of significant developments will focus on salient issues that have been the subject of frequent, past posts on this website.

First, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided a compendium of Alien Tort Claim cases that raise an interesting question at the intersection of domestic and international law: that is, when determining whether a corporate defendant has “aided and abetted” a violation of international law, what law defines the test for “aiding and abetting.” Khulumani v. Barclay National Bank and Ntsebeza v. DaimlerChrysler (available here) concern the tort claims of a class of persons alive in South Africa between 1948 and 1993 who were affected by the apartheid regime. The defendants are 50 multinational corporations, and the claimed damages total over $400 billion. The basic theory of the case is that defendants’ indirectly caused plaintiffs’ injuries by perpetuating the apartheid system (e.g. by providing loans to a “desperate South African government”), and that they indirectly profited from those acts which violated recognized human rights standards, but not necessarily the law of the place where those acts took place. The District Court dismissed the case as a non-justiciable political question, but also because “aiding and abetting” human rights violations – the gravamen of the indirect causation and indirect harm claims – provided no basis for ATCA liability. A split panel of the Second circuit reversed. Amongst the other decisions intertwined in the 146 page opinion, the court determined that the appropriate test for aiding and abetting liability under the ATCA is set out in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – that is, one is guilty if one renders aid “for the purpose of facilitating the commissions of a . . . crime.” This is a far more stringent test than the one argued by Plaintiffs, founded on the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 876(b), which pins liability if one “gives substantial assistance or encouragement” to another’s actions which he “knows” to “constitute a breach of duty.” While the case was kept alive and remanded for further consideration, commentators have begun to wonder whether Plaintiffs have won a pyrrhic victory: “[i]f the Rome Statute test for aiding and abetting is broadly adopted, few ATCA cases against corporations may clear summary judgment and go on trial.”


Settled Expectations in a World of Unsettled Law: Choice of Law after the Class Action Fairness Act

Samuel Issacharoff (New York University School of Law) has made his forthcoming article in the Columbia Law Review"Settled Expectations in a World of Unsettled Law: Choice of Law After the Class Action Fairness Act", available for download on SSRN. The abstract reads as follows:

This Essay examines the pressure placed upon choice of law doctrine by the newly enacted Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"). The core argument is that current choice of law doctrine, which assumes fidelity to the forum state choice of law rules as its basic premise, corresponds poorly to the national scope of economic activity in cases brought into federal court under CAFA. The Essay argues that there needs to be some conformity between the national scale of contemporary economic activity and the state-by-state presumption of inherited conflict of laws doctrine in order to provide some sensible legal oversight of national market conduct. Because of the multiplicity of potential forums for litigation of national market activity, the inherited doctrines of Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Manufacturing Co. and Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins do little to provide settled expectations about the substantive laws governing broad-scale economic conduct.