All aspects of the life and work of Rembrandt (1606-1669) have been celebrated this year. At least twenty exhibitions have been organised in the Netherlands as well as in many other museums and galleries in the world. It was a golden year for new books and TV programmes, such as ‘Looking for Rembrandt’ (BBC 4, April 2019; http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2019-03-doc13-looking-for-rembrandt/) and September/October 2019 on Dutch TV ‘Rembrandt, the mystery’ (Het raadsel Rembrandt), presented by Onno Blom, the 2019 biographer of the Dutch book ‘The young Rembrandt’, focusing on the first 25 years of Rembrandt’s life, in the city Leiden.
With all these exuberant festivities and oohs and ahhs, one tends to forget that the year 2019 marks Rembrandt’s death, 350 years ago. After his cessio bonorum (‘bankruptcy’) in 1656, and compulsory sales of his house (now 'Museum Het Rembrandthuis') in 1658, Rembrandt (and his family) moved to Rozengracht 184 in Amsterdam. He dies some 11 years later.
He is burried in the Westerkerk, a few minutes away from where he last resided.
In the Register of Deaths of the church it is recorded: ‘On 4 October 1669 [my] cousin, Rembrant van Rhijn, painter died (‘den 4 8b[er] is overleeden neeff Rembrant van Rhijn schilder’). The date of his passing away is given in a note by a relative of Rembrandt, Nicolaes Sebastiaensz Vinck. He is an apothecary residing in de Sonnebloem (‘The Sunflower’) in Amsterdam. Vinck was a distant relative of Rembrandt on his mother’s side.
Rembrandt’s funeral took place four days later, on 8 October 1669. The Chamber of Orphans’ Register of Death provides ‘Rembrant van Reyn painter Rose gracht 8 October - - -2 [children]’ (‘Rembrant van Reyn schilder Rose gracht 8 8ber - - -2 [kinderen]’). These two children were Cornelia, his unlawful daughter with Hendrickje Stoffels, and his grandchild Titia, the daughter of his deceased son, Titus and his wife Magdalena van Loo.
The cause of Rembrandt’s death, 63 years at the time, is unknown.
Presently, Rozengracht 184 is an an inconspicuous building. Above the middle window of the first floor a simple, almost square facing brick with a round cartouche in 17th century form is attached to the wall. In six separate lines it is said: Here / was / Rembrandt’s / last / house †4:10•1669 (‘Hier / stond / Rembrandt’s /laatste / woning / †4:10•1669’). The date of installation of this memorial stone, however, is unknown. Van Eeghen (Van Eeghen, 1969e), describing the house, its owner and its tenants, does not mention its existence. From her description, however, it is known that in 1909 the façade of the house was modernized and took its current form with the balcony on the first floor. Boas (Boas (1939), 3), is likely the first to have made an (incomplete) reference to the memorial stone and its text. The most probable date for placing the cartouche seems to be 1919, the year in which it was 250 years ago that Rembrandt died at the current address. Since 2013, the ground floor of the house is the location of a tattoo shop.
In the Westerkerk where Rembrandt was burried, the exact location of his grave is not known; it is not indicated in the records of burial plots, and not specified in the Register of Deaths. Bredius (Bredius (1921), 585), with a sense of drama, notes that only a few stood by Rembrandt’s deathbed: ‘The question is whether even his daughter-in-law was present. A widow, Rebecca Willems, who nursed him, and his daughter [Cornelia] were perhaps the only ones who surrounded him. On 5 [!] October he blew out his last breath, and on 8 October he was brought to earth in the Westerkerk with subtle simplicity’.
In the same church, Titus was burried a year earlier.
Already a day after Rembrandt's passing away, on 5 October 1669, a notary calls at the home of the deceased Rembrandt on the Rozengracht 184 and draws up an inventory of the estate. His inventory is found in several spaces in the house. It is to be found in the parlor, the entrance hall, the inner chamber, the rear kitchen and the small back room (maybe even a little ‘achterhuis’?). The inventory covers fifty entries and includes twentysix unfinished paintings. Gerrit Steeman, the notary in charge, also adds to the inventory the following declaration: ‘The remaining property, including paintings, drawings, curios, antiques and other objects (‘… de vordere goederen soo van schilderijen, teyckenen, rariteyten, antiquiteyten en anders’) have been placed in three separate rooms, the doors of which were locked by me, the notary, in addition, this door was sealed with my signet and the keys were taken into my custody. All this on request of Mrs. Magdalena van Loo, the widow of Titus van Rijn and Mr. Christiaen Dusart, guardian of Cornelia van Rijn, with the explicit stipulation, voiced in the presence of us, the notary and witnessses, that they did not yet wish to declare themsleves legatees of the deceased but wanted to reserve the right and [decide] later on’.
Evidently, this sets the ball rolling for another round of legal disputes, Rembrant has been rather famous for: what the value of Rembrandt’s inheritence? Was due rent still outstanding? Did he pay the rent? Did he have any debtors? Did he ‘borrow’ from Cornelia’s savings, locked in the cupboard? Who is the heir? The man passed away, but legal conflicts just continue.
Back to October 1669. Four days after his death Rembrandt is carried to the grave in the Westerkerk by sisteen bearers (‘baer 16 roff’). The grave was rented and did not carry any headstone. It was not until 1906 that a memorial mark was placed there, (thus Bredius) ‘… indicating the resting place of our greatest artist, one of the greatest among the great, who made the world happy with the immortal wrought of their minds’. The year 1906 marked Rembrandt’s year of birth, at that time 300 years ago.
On Thursday 3 October and Friday 4 October in Rembrandt’s place of birth, Leiden, large celebrations are ongoing for Leidens Ontzet (the Relief of Leiden), the defeat of the Spaning rulers in 1574. Everyone in Leiden still enjoys the Leiden victory, eat hutspot (hodge-podge, sort of carrot and onion stew), herring and white bread and sing during the Reveille! Someone may remember, Rembrandt’s death, 350 years ago.
A foundation, carrying my name ('Stichting Bob Wessels Insolvency Law Collection') is a Dutch incorporated legal person. For the seconf time it will organise a two day workshop to be held at Leiden University in Leiden, Netherlands on Thursday-Friday 5-6 March 2020. As backgound: the foundation was founded in August 2016, at my initiative, a few years after my retirement from the Leiden University. The Foundation has acquired the larger part of my private collection of books and other media in the field of national, European and international insolvency law and it aims to secure, maintain and expand this collection for the future, provide access to it by national and international students and researchers and to organize related activities for a broad, general public. Although we were deeply saddened by the passing away of two great and inspiring collegues, professor Ian Fletcher (in 2018) and recently Gabriel Moss QC (see http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2019-03-doc7-passing-away-of-gabriel-moss-qc/), their heirs have donated Ian's and Gabriel's libraries to the foundation, making it probably the best and largest European and international insolvency law collection on the continent. The Foudation reflects a European reach, with its board consisting of five law professors, prof. Matthias Haentjens and prof. Reinout Vriesendorp (acting as Chairman and secretary/treasury respectively, both of Leiden University), prof. Eric Dirix (Belgium), Dr Paul Omar (England) and prof. Stephan Madaus (Germany). The collection was officially opended by the dean of the Law faculty, prof. Joanne van der Leun, in January 2018, see http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2018-01-12-bob-wessels-insolvency-law-collection-1/. After a successful first edition of a PhD workshop in February 2019, the Stichting Bob Wessels Insolvency Law Collection again invites PhD students from Europe and beyond for a second edition of a PhD workshop on European/International Insolvency Law. At this workshop they can present their ideas, but also the challenges and questions they are confronted with in a two day workshop to be held at Leiden University in Leiden, Netherlands on Thursday-Friday 5-6 March 2020. For the call for proposals, which is now available also on the website of the Leiden Law School, see here: https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/news/2019/09/second-phd-workshop-on-european-international-insolvency-law. I have been invited as a guest and intend to join the insightful and rich exchange of views during the discussions. I hope to see you there.
Onlangs verscheen de 5e druk van Bijzondere overeenkomsten. Het is deel 6 in de Studiereeks Burgerlijk Recht. Het boek staat onder redactie van prof. N.H. Schelhaas en prof. A.J. Verheij, verbonden aan de universiteiten van respectievelijk Rotterdam en Groningen. Het is een studieboek dat al 15 jaar verschijnt en gewijd is aan een aantal bijzondere overeenkomsten zoals geregeld in boek 7 BW. De destijds door de initiatiefnemers van een (Nieuw) BW ontworpen categorisering is gevolgd. Eerst komt een aantal overeenkomsten die strekken tot overdracht aan bod, zoals de koop, de financiëlezekerheidsovereenkomst en de schenking. Verder worden de overeenkomsten tot het verschaffen van genot (huur en pacht) behandeld. Daarna komt de grote groep van bijzondere overeenkomsten aan bod die betrekking hebben op het verrichten van werkzaamheden van allerlei aard waaronder opdracht, lastgeving, agentuur, bemiddeling, de reisovereenkomst, geneeskundige behandelingsovereenkomst, betalingstransacties, bewaarneming, aanneming van werk en de personenvennootschap. Tot slot komen enkele niet in bovenstaande categorieën in te passen overeenkomsten aan de orde zoals de vaststellingsovereenkomst, de borgtocht en de verzekeringsovereenkomst. In het kader van de serie waarin het verschijnt is het doel van het boek niet alleen om inzicht te geven in de specifieke regelingen van de bijzondere overeenkomsten, maar ook in structuur en de onderlinge verhouding van bijzondere overeenkomsten. Het accent ligt daarbij op de onderwerpen die een aanvulling op of een verbijzondering ten opzichte van het algemene vermogensrecht, waaronder het contractenrecht, vormen. Een 15-tal auteurs legt de zaken uit. Het zijn drie praktijkjuristen en verder ervaren academici verbonden aan nagenoeg alle universiteiten, inclusief de OU en TU Delft. Het aspect van 'bijzonderheid' van de desbetreffende overeenkomst komt mooi uit bij hun uiteenzettingen over specifieke regels die gelden bij totstandkoming, hoofdverplichtingen en bijkomende verplichtingen van partijen, bijzonderheden bij de niet nakoming of ontbinding of speciale regels ten aanzien van beëindiging van deze overeenkomsten. Deze 5e druk verwerkte alle wetswijzigingen, rechtspraak en literatuur van de afgelopen drie jaren. Studenten en juridische praktijk zijn weer keurig bediend. Voor informatie, zie https://www.wolterskluwer.nl/shop/boek/bijzondere-overeenkomsten/NPBIJZOVK/
On 27 August 2019, the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection ('Rechtsbescherming') did send his 11th letter on progress concerning several acts for the overall recast of the Dutch Bankprty Act to Dutch Parliament. On the 5th and last page it introduces the subject 'International insolvencies'. The following is provided, I quote: 'An insolvency adjudicated outside the European Union is in principle not recognized in the Netherlands and therefore has no effect on assets located in the Netherlands. An amendment to the Bankruptcy Act is being considered, whereby parts of the UNICITRAL Model Law on cross-border bankruptcies are included in the Bankruptcy Act. It regulates, among other things, (i) the applicable law, (ii) the recognition (enforcement) of foreign insolvency proceedings and (iii) the consequences of that recognition. I intend to put together an expert group to further explore this.'
Well, that is just as short as it is interesting, as it is a subject the Dutch government has been near to silent about for over a decade.
The first line ('no recognition'; 'no effects') is at odds with a much discussed Yukos judgement of the Dutch Supreme Court of September 2013 (in a non-EU case) clarifying that in that case the appointed Russian trustee (Mr Rebgun) may in principle exercise the power to sell the debtor’s assets located in the Netherlands, that has conferred on him under the foreign (Russian) lex concursus. The Court goes into quite some details to explain the Russian trustee’s position. The result of the case is that – outside the scope of the European Insolvency Regulation – a foreign insolvency office holder can effectively exercise its powers in the Netherlands, provided that his actions follow from the lex concursus (in this cas Russian law) and these actions respect all existing individual creditors’ attachments on assets located in the Netherlands. The foreign IP can act in the Netherlands without prior court decision on for instance recognition of its foreign proceeding or relief (as is required under the UNCITRAL Model Law), or for instance an exequatur. The only defence interested parties have is the submission that an action of the foreign IP is against Dutch public policy. The Yukos judgment therefore results in its effects in universality: the Netherlands is open for foreign insolvency proceedings.
Be it as it is, the important message is that an expert group will be appointed to 'explore' the matter.
I remember that a Dutch draft proposal ('Title X'), as part of a draft Proposal of 2007 to overhaul the whole Dutch Bankruptcy Act wished to follow the Uncitral Model Law, be it with a different structure, and provisions unaligned with those of the Model Law. Foreign, non-Dutch judges and IPs had difficulty in recognising the system. What it did do was to include filling of a gap in the Model Law itself (it does not provide for rules for applicable law). The Dutch Draft of 2007 suggests to copy the rules of law applicabe of the EU Insolvency Regulation.
The expert group is, respectfully, advised not to feel a hostage of the ideas of 12 years ago.
As I blogged earlier, the Model Law is certainly not outdated, however it was the fruit of the 90s, now however over 20 years old. I think national legislation on international insovency law (i) should also take into account more recently developed concepts and themes, such as registration of insolvency decisiones, rules for data protection, the main insolvency practitioner’s power to give a unilateral undertaking (in order to prevent opening of proceedings in another state), technology-driven developments in cross-border communication, professional and ethical rules for insolvency practitioners in their actions outside their own jurisdiction or rules for recognition of for instance decisions on director’s disqualification. See http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2017-11-doc7-some-remarks-on-the-model-law/. Furthermore - my advice would be - the expert group working on a national exploration should consider to (ii) also examine most recent UNCITRAL Model rules relating to annex actions and the group enterprise insolvencies, (iii) investigate experiences in recent practice by speaking at lenght with Dutch IPs having actual (and still ongoing) experiences in fresh Brazilian (Oi) and Indian cases (2016 case, see https://leidenlawblog.nl/articles/the-effects-in-the-netherlands-of-an-order-issued-in-indian-insolvency-proc, and the recent Jet Air case), (iv) speak to colleagues from e.g. Australia, Singapore and New Zealand, and learn from the obstacles they met rather recently when implementing UNCITRAL's ideas in their national lagislation, and (v) investigate what the best way would be to give effect to restructuring negotiations and plans, in the vicinity of insolvency, coming from outside Dutch' territory.
As it is 'exploration', no 'legislation', it certainly is worth considering to include non-Dutch experts in such a group. After all, the non-Dutch world will have to work with the results of it. Exciting times ahead! Those involved in the exploration should be wished all the best.
In June 2019, INSOL International released its ‘Ethical Principles for Insolvency Professionals’. Ethics is about the values that should be lived and worked by and respected by all insolvency professionals while interacting with creditors, judges, consumers of the debtor, its board or shareholders. Ethics is nothing scary, a threatening term for being wary for all types of misconduct and liabilities. No, ethics is the result of the view that the rightness of certain actions should be based on rules of behavior. These rules flow from norms with regard to professional conduct. Working according to clear, consistent ethical principles is an important component for delivering quality work, for the benefit of those whose interests are to be served as well as the community at large. In the INSOL Ethical Principles six principles have been put forward, involving (i) integrity, (ii) objectivity, independence and impartiality, (iii) professional/technical competence, (iv) professional behaviour, (v) remuneration and (vi) practice management (involving six specified policies). Each Principle is accompanied by a commentary, explaining its intention and providing certain examples of the Principles, as well as the meaning of several terms used, for which a Glossary is added. The commentary and glossary are helpful sources putting more flesh on the bones of the Principles. My Leiden colleague Gert-Jan Boon and I will be discussing these Principle in more detail in one of the coming issues of Global Restructuring Review, under the title 'The Ethical IP'.
With the INSOL Ethical Principles INSOL International - we believe for the first time - touches on the core of the profession, which is a laudable initiative. Although not mentioned as such, the Principles may assist also national legislators, especially those in Europe, when revising existing or drafting future rules. As my colleague and I discussed earlier (see http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2019-06-doc1-soft-law-instrumentst-in-insolvency-restructuring-law/) the last two decades, professional and ethical principles and recommendations have undergone a great development. They now make an important contribution to the highly desirable professionalization of IPs, judges, regulators and, for that matter, legislators. This was also emphasized in the recently adopted EU Directive on restructuring and insolvency 2019/1023. This new Directive recommends the adoption of codes of conduct by practitioners. Therefore, also the Principles of INSOL may be a relevant source for practice.
In Europe, in a 2017 report to the European Law Institute (ELI) it has been recommended (http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2017-09-doc3-eli-business-rescue-report-published/) that European and national legislators should set professional and ethical standards for insolvency practitioners and ensure that the relevant professional bodies are consulted and involved in the creation of such standards and that they take into account best practices for appropriately regulated professional parties as set out in principles and guidelines on regulation of the restructuring and insolvency profession developed or adopted by European and international non-governmental organisations active in the area of restructuring and insolvency. Such standards should at least contain rules on licensing and registration, supervision and discipline, qualification and training, an appointment system, work standards during administration, legal powers and duties, remuneration, reporting and communication and ethical working standards (including rules on conflict of interests and a complaint procedure). For the full 400-pages report, see https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3032309.
The INSOL Ethical Principles do not cover all these subjects. Guidance will be needed too when dealing with the role of an IP acting on specific legislative duties, e.g. relating to privacy, anti-fraud and anti money laundering, with his role regarding assets of financial transactions based on innovative technologies (crypto- and PSD2-payments) and when looking for an answer for the position of a debtor in possession (DIP), its role in an IP-like function and its rights and duties under national corporate law.
One of the greatest dangers for soft law principles on paper, is that paper is patient, but gets out of date in this fast changing world by the (let's say:) year. That is an unwelcome receipt for the new guest in the house of soft law, as soft law constantly needs updating and improvement. It also serves as a workable tool demonstrating that the profession can keep up its own pants and takes its professional responsibility seriously and learns from inevitable mistakes. In this way, the INSOL Ethical Principles too can continue to make a dynamic and positive contribution to reflect on the intrinsic values and behaviour of IPs, and contribute to the profession’s confidence and respect, not only of the courts and of the creditors and debtors, but also of the general public.
IPs, positively, know that a companies' restructuring is a continuous process. The same applies to the profession's ethics too.