Tag Archive for: insolvency

20th IEAF Call for Papers: Evolution or Revolution of European Insolvency Law


The organisers of the 2024 edition of the INSOL Europe Academic Forum kindly shared with us the following call for papers. Please note the deadline for submission is 1 March 2024:

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Defending the Rule in Antony Gibbs

By Neerav Srivastava


The Rule in Antony Gibbs[1] (‘the Rule’) provides that if the proper law of a contract is Australian, then a discharge of the debt by a foreign jurisdiction will not be a discharge in Australia unless the creditor submitted to the foreign jurisdiction.[2] The Rule is much maligned, especially in insolvency circles, and has been described as “Victorian”.[3] In ‘Heritage and Vitality: Whether Antony Gibbs is a Presumption’[4] I seek to defend the Rule.


The article begins by arguing that, in the modern context, that the Rule should be recognised as a Presumption as to party intentions.

Briefly, Gibbs was decided in the 1890s. At the time, the prevailing view was that the proper law of a contract was either the law of the place of the contract or its performance.[5] This approach was based on apportioning regulatory authority between sovereign States rather than party intentions. To apply a foreign proper law in a territory was regarded as contrary to territorial sovereignty. Freedom of contract and party intentions were becoming relevant to proper law but only to a limited extent.[6]

As for Gibbs, Lord Esher’s language is consistent with the ‘Regulatory Approach’:

It is clear that these were English contracts according to two rules of law; first, because they were made in England; secondly, because they were to be performed in England. The general rule as to the law which governs a contract is that the law of the country, either where the contract is made, or where it is to be so performed that it must be considered to be a contract of that country, is the law which governs such contract …[7]

Notice that the passage makes no reference to party intentions.

By the early 20th century, the position had evolved in that it was generally accepted that party intentions determined the proper law.[8] Even so, it was not until the late 1930s that the Privy Council stated that the position was “well-settled”.[9] Party intentions has evolved into being the test for proper law universally.[10]

Under the modern approach, party intentions as to proper law are a question of fact and not territorial. Parties are free to choose a proper law of a jurisdiction with which they have no connection.[11] As a question of fact, party intentions are better understood as a ‘Presumption’. Further, the Presumption might be displaced. The same conclusion can be reached via an implied term analysis.

The parties can also agree that there is more than one proper law for a contract. That, too, is consistent with party autonomy. Under depeçage, one law can govern a contract’s implementation and another its discharge.[12] Likewise, the Second Restatement in the US[13] and the International Hague Principles allow a contract to have multiple proper laws.[14]

Cross-border Insolvency

The second part of the article addresses criticisms of Gibbs by cross-border insolvency practitioners. In insolvency, issues are no longer merely between the two contracting parties. The body of creditors are competing for a share of a company’s remaining assets. Under pari passu all creditors are to be treated equally. If a company is in a foreign liquidation, and its discharge of Australian debt is not recognised by an Australian court, Gibbs appears inconsistent with pari passu. Specifically, it appears that the creditor can sue in Australia and secure a disproportionate return.

That is an incomplete picture. While the foreign insolvency does not discharge the debt in Australia, when it comes to enforcement comity applies. Comity is agitated by a universal distribution process in a foreign insolvency. Having regard to comity, the Australian court will treat local and international creditors equally.[15] If creditors are recovering 50% in a foreign insolvency, an Australian court will not allow an Australian creditor to recover more than 50% at the enforcement stage. Criticisms of the Presumption do not give due weight to enforcement.

Gibbs has been described as irreconcilable with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency 1997 (the 1997 Model Law),[16] which is generally[17] regarded as embodying ‘modified universalism’. That, it is submitted, reflects a misunderstanding.

Historically, in a cross-border insolvency “territorialism” applied.[18] Each country collected assets in its territory and distributed them to creditors claiming in those insolvency proceedings. In the past 200 years, universalism has been applied.[19] Under ‘pure universalism’, there is only one process for collecting assets globally and distributing to all creditors. Modified universalism:

accepts the central premise of [pure] universalism, that assets should be collected and distributed on a worldwide basis, but reserves to local courts discretion to evaluate the fairness of the home-country procedures and to protect the interests of local creditors …[20]

Modified universalism can be understood as a structured form of comity.[21] It asks that all creditors be treated equally but is a tent in that it allows States to choose how to protect the interest of creditors. A State may choose to couple recognition of the foreign insolvency – and the collection of assets in its jurisdiction – with the discharge of creditors’ debts. However, the 1997 Model Law does not require a State to follow this mechanism.[22] Under the Anglo-Australian mechanism (a) a debt may not be discharged pursuant to Gibbs (b), but creditors are treated equally at the enforcement stage. It is a legitimate approach under the tent that is modified universalism.


[1] Antony Gibbs & Sons v Société Industrielle et Commerciale des Métaux (1890) 25 QBD 399.

[2] Albert Venn Dicey, A Digest of the Law of England With Reference To The Conflict of Laws (Stevens, 1896) rule 113.

[3] Varoon Sachdev, “Choice of Law in Insolvency Proceedings: How English Courts’ Continued Reliance on the Gibbs Principle Threatens Universalism” (2019) 93 American Bankruptcy Law Journal 343.

[4] (2021) 29 Insolvency Law Journal 61. Available at Westlaw Australia.

[5] Alex Mills, Party Autonomy in Private International Law (CUP, 2018) 53, citing Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co v Shand (1865) 16 ER 103.

[6] Alex Mills, The Confluence of Public and Private International Law (CUP, 2009), 53.

[7] Antony Gibbs & Sons v Société Industrielle et Commerciale des Métaux (1890) 25 QBD 399, 405 (Gibbs).

[8] Alex Mills, Party Autonomy in Private International Law (CUP, 2018) 56, Lord Collins et al, Dicey, Morris & Collins, The Conflict of Laws (Sweet & Maxwell, 15th ed, 2017), [32-004]–[32-005].

[9] Vita Food Products Inc v Unus Shipping Co Ltd [1939] AC 277.

[10] Martin Davis et al, Nygh’s Conflict of Laws in Australia (Lexis Nexis, 2019), [19.6]; Lord Collins et al, Dicey, Morris & Collins, The Conflict of Laws (Sweet & Maxwell, 15th ed, 2017), [32-004]–[32-005], [32-042]; and Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts promulgated by the Hague Conference on Private International Law in 2015.

[11] Vita Food Products Inc v Unus Shipping Co Ltd [1939] AC 277, Martin Davis et al, Nygh’s Conflict of Laws in Australia (Lexis Nexis, 2019), [19.15].

[12] Club Mediterranee New Zealand v Wendell [1989] 1 NZLR 216, Olex Focas Pty Ltd v Skodaexport Co Ltd [1998] 3 VR 380.

[13] Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 188.

[14] Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts promulgated by the Hague Conference on Private International Law in 2015.

[15] Galbraith v Grimshaw [1910] AC 508, Chapman v Travelstead (1998) 86 FCR 460, Re HIH Casualty & General Insurance Ltd (2005) 190 FLR 398.

[16] In Australia the 1997 Model Law was extended to Australia by the Cross-Border Insolvency Act 2008 (Cth).

[17] Adrian Walters, “Modified Universalisms & the Role of Local Legal Culture in the Making of Cross-border Insolvency Law” (2019) 93 American Bankruptcy Law Journal 47, 64.

[18] Although Rares J has pointed out, “centuries earlier, maritime lawyers had developed a sophisticated and generally harmonious system of dealing with cross-border insolvencies”: Steven Rares, “Consistency and Conflict – Cross-Border Insolvency” (Paper presented at the 32nd Annual Conference of the Banking & Financial Services Law Association, Brisbane, 4 September 2015).

[19] Re HIH Casualty & General Insurance Ltd [2008] 1 WLR 852, [30]; [2008] UKHL 21.

[20] Jay Lawrence Westbrook, “Choice of Avoidance Law in Global Insolvencies” (1991) 17 Brooklyn Journal of International Law 499, 517.

[21] UNCITRAL, Guide to Enactment and Interpretation of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-border Insolvency (2014) [8].

[22] Akers v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation (2014) 223 FCR 8; [2014] FCAFC 57. See too Re Bakhshiyeva v Sberbank of Russia [2019] Bus LR 1130 (CA); [2018] EWCA 2802.

HCCH Monthly Update: December 2020


On 4 December 2020, Mongolia was issued with a certificate confirming an affirmative vote in favour of its admission as a Member of the HCCH, following a six-month voting period which ended on 3 December 2020. Mongolia has now been invited to deposit an instrument of acceptance of the HCCH Statute to become a Member of the HCCH.

Meetings & Events

On 2 December 2020, the HCCH and the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union co-hosted the HCCH a|Bridged – Edition 2020, the focus of which was the Golden Anniversary of the HCCH 1970 Evidence Convention. More information about the event is available here.

On 3 December 2020, the HCCH and ASADIP co-hosted an International Conference on the 2019 Judgments Convention. A full recording of the event, held in Spanish, is available on the HCCH Facebook Page and the HCCH YouTube Channel (Part 1 and Part 2).

On 11 December 2020, the HCCH and UNCITRAL co-hosted a Virtual Colloquium on Applicable Law in Insolvency Proceedings. More information, including documentation and audio recordings, is available here.

From 14 to 17 December 2020, the Administrative Cooperation Working Group on the 2007 Child Support Convention met via videoconference. The Group provided guidance in relation to the development of a standard statistical report under the Child Support Convention, including the use of the iSupport case management system, and other matters such as recommended forms and country profiles. More information is available here.

Publications & Documentation

On 22 December 2020, the Permanent Bureau announced the publication of the 4th Edition of the Practical Handbook on the Operation of the Evidence Convention (Evidence Handbook). This edition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Convention and is complemented by the Guide to Good Practice on the Use of Video-Link released earlier this year. More information is available here.

These monthly updates are published by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH), providing an overview of the latest developments. More information and materials are available on the HCCH website.

Recognition of Foreign Bankruptcy and the Requirement of Reciprocity (Swiss Federal Court)

The Swiss Federal Court recently issued a noteworthy judgment (scheduled for publication in the official reports) concerning the requirement of reciprocity with respect to the recognition of foreign bankruptcy decrees. The judgment (in German) is available here.

Marjolaine Jakob, the author of the following summary and comment, is a researcher at the University of Zurich, Faculty of Law.


Under Swiss international bankruptcy law, the access of a bankruptcy administrator to a bankruptcy debtor’s assets located in Switzerland requires a successful recognition of the foreign bankruptcy order by the competent Swiss court. The recognition of a foreign bankruptcy order and the effects of such recognition (including the opening of mandatory secondary insolvency proceedings over the assets located in Switzerland) are regulated by art. 166 et seq. SPILA (Swiss Private International Law Act). According to art. 166 para. 1 lit. c SPILA a foreign bankruptcy order shall be recognized provided that, amongst other prerequisites, reciprocity is granted by the state in which the order was rendered. In the decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court discussed hereinafter, it was disputed whether Dutch law grants reciprocity.

Summary of the facts of the case

The parent company C Ltd., Rotterdam (the Netherlands), filed a claim in the debt-restructuring moratorium over the company B Ltd., Zug (Switzerland). The respective claim was for the most part provisionally admitted by the trustees and for the remaining part contested.

By judgment of August 6, 2012 the district court of Rotterdam opened bankruptcy proceedings over C Ltd. and appointed A as bankruptcy administrator.

By judgment of February 18, 2013 the cantonal court of Zug approved a composition agreement entered into between B Ltd. and the creditors.

On September 13, 2013, the foreign bankruptcy administrator (A) filed a request for recognition of the Dutch bankruptcy order of August 6, 2012 with the cantonal court of Zug.

By judgment of October 8, 2013 the cantonal court of Zug rejected the request for recognition of the Dutch bankruptcy order by reasoning that the prerequisite of reciprocity (art. 166 para. 1 lit. c SPILA) is not granted by Dutch law. After rejection of the appeal by the High Court of the Canton Zug, A filed an appeal in civil matters to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court and requested annulment of the judgment of the High Court of the Canton of Zug, recognition of the Dutch insolvency order of August 6, 2012 and in consequence of the latter, the opening of secondary bankruptcy proceedings over C Ltd.’s assets located in Switzerland.


The Swiss Federal Supreme Court refers to earlier case law, according to which the prerequisite of reciprocity is to be interpreted in a broad sense. Reciprocity is granted if the law of the state concerned recognizes the effects of Swiss bankruptcy proceedings on similar (but not necessarily on identical) grounds. In other words, it suffices if the foreign law recognizes a Swiss bankruptcy order under conditions not considerably stricter than those established by Swiss law regarding the recognition of a foreign bankruptcy order.

The decision furthermore refers to the European trend of abolishing the prerequisite of reciprocity, which is also reflected in Swiss legislation. Since September 1, 2011 the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) may recognize under certain conditions foreign bankruptcy orders and insolvency measures pronounced against banks abroad without a mandatory opening of secondary bankruptcy proceedings in Switzerland (cf. art. 37g para. 2 Swiss Banking Act) and without the state in which the bankruptcy order was rendered granting reciprocity (cf. art. 10 para. 2 Regulation on Banking Insolvencies by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority). As a consequence thereof, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court acknowledges that the bar should not be set too high regarding the prerequisite of reciprocity where it still exists.

In the Netherlands, the opening of foreign bankruptcy proceedings cannot be formally recognized and no formal and comprehensive effects of seizure occur. Thus, according to Dutch law a foreign bankruptcy administrator has to “compete” with other creditors, since their rights over seized assets are to be respected. However, the foreign bankruptcy administrator has rights of action and enforcement rights on Dutch territory. Furthermore, he is able to directly access the bankruptcy debtor’s assets located in the Netherlands. Consequently, the Dutch international bankruptcy law appears to be equal in qualitative terms, although technically differing fundamentally from Swiss international bankruptcy law. According to the decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, with regard to the prerequisite of reciprocity, it is not decisive that the formal recognition of a foreign bankruptcy order and an overall liquidation of local assets are alien to Dutch international bankruptcy law. Instead, the quality of mutual assistance is decisive. Moreover, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court acknowledges that a foreign bankruptcy administrator is not in a worse position but presumably in numerous cases even in a better position in the Netherlands compared to the position of a foreign bankruptcy administrator in Switzerland.

In consequence thereof, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court concludes that Dutch law grants reciprocity according to art. 166 para. 1 lit. c SPILA and provided that the remaining prerequisites are fulfilled, the Dutch bankruptcy order shall be recognized.


It has to be welcomed that the Swiss Federal Supreme Court has adopted a liberal interpretation based on a contemporary understanding of tendencies in international insolvency law and especially in Swiss international banking insolvency law. The former case law of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court was shaped by a highly restrictive interpretation of art. 166 et seq. SPILA insisting on a protective interpretation of Swiss international insolvency law. The present decision delivers the impression that the Swiss Federal Supreme Court finally considers international trends and – even more important – trends in Swiss law. However, it is incomprehensible and intolerable that Swiss international banking insolvency law contains a far more liberal regulation than Swiss international insolvency law; the latter being applicable much more frequently. This unsatisfactory legal situation is the result of the uncoordinated process of revising and adopting Swiss legislation. Hopefully, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court will continue to follow international trends and adopt a more generous approach also on other issues of Swiss international insolvency law, for example with regard to the power of the bankruptcy administrator in Switzerland.