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Blog 2018

2018-01-doc5 ABI Writing Competition 2018

Prof. Juliet M. Moringiello, Widener University Commonwealth Law School, on behalf of the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), attrached my attention for opportinuties for insolvency law students. They are invited to participate in this year’s American Bankruptcy Institute Law Student Writing Competition. European students should be encouraged to enter a paper from this or last semester by: (i) creating your account at http://connect.abi.org/e/107412/user-register/2nnvyf/330869740, and (ii) by logging in and submit your paper at http://connect.abi.org/e/107412/node-add-submit-paper/2nnvyh/330869740. It's certainly worth a try as winners will have a global platform to be seen to be performing, receive a portion of $4,000 in cash prizes, have the opportunity to be published in the ABI Journal and get a free membership to ABI.

2018-01-doc4 City Univ conference 27th April 2018

London City University's Cross-Border Corporate Insolvency and Commercial Law Research Group organises its second conference on 27 April 2018. All scholars, researchers and postgraduate students are invited to participate. The Insolvency Conference welcomes submissions in all areas of Insolvency Law. The inivation says that presenters should expect to have up to 30 minutes for their presentation even if the precise duration will be confirmed nearer the time. Time for discussion and Q&A will be allocated. Intending contributors and speakers should prepare an abstract (250 words) and send it to Mr. Eugenio Vaccari at eugenio.vaccari@city.ac.uk. All submissions must include the presenter's institution, a contact address, an email address and a contact phone number. The deadline for submission is 25th February 2018. There are some conference Fees involved, to cover the cost of materials, equipment, venue, lunch, and refreshments. Information and registration via http://www.ciclresearch.com/

2018-01-doc3 NIKI's COMI continued

On 8 January 2018 the Landgericht Berlin has, on the basis of an immediate appeal against the order of the provisional insolvency administration on the assets of NIKI Luftfahrt GmbH (under Austrian law, the debtor) overruled the decision of the District Court of Charlottenburg of 13 December 2017, confirmed by that court on 4 January 2018 (see http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/nikis-comi/, with the result that international jurisdiction is not in Germany, but in Austria. (I am thanking my collegue prof. Stephan Madaus for providing me with this decision). Where it is possible to appeal this decision of the Landgericht to the Federal Court of Justice, the aforementioned decision of the District Court Charlottenburg still applies.
In support of its decision, the Landesgericht explained its view on the debtor's center of main interest (‘COMI’) and the way the European Insolvency Regulation (EIR 2015) has stuctured this requirement for international jurisdiction, as well as the way in which the presumption (that a debtor-company has its COMI in the Member State of its registered office) can be rebutted and the criteria that apply to refute this presumption (see Article 3 EIR 2015, second paragraph: ‘… in the absence of proof of the contrary’).

NIKI brings forward 12 point of departure for its argument that its COMI is in Germany. Creditors, however, present 10 points of view, resulting in their statement that COMI is in Austria.

After having decided that the objections are well-founded, admissible and submitted in time and the objecting party is competent, the Landesgericht struggles with the fact that not all factors presented (on either side) are decisive, that the factors that matter do not provide a uniform picture and that a clear dominance of certain factors, pointing to German or Austria, can not be detected. It then presents 12 (a-k, with twice an ‘h’) points of departure for its assessment, based on CJEU court cases (Eurofood, Interedil, Rastelli) and German literature (specifically Mankowski and Paulus). Its arguments require further study. Here it suffices to say that the Landesgericht Berlin adheres to the view that the various factors should be considered in their entirety. The place from which the essential business activities of the NIKI would be controlled, namely Berlin, was not a solely decisive criterion. The fact that Air Berlin had been practically the only customer, and thus the sales generated especially in Germany, was not automatically influential. For having COMI in Austria arguments are that the debtor maintains offices in Vienna, in which the financial accounting is conducted. Likewise, the location of the competent supervisory authority is in Vienna, as the debtor has an Austrian operating license and the airworthiness of the aircraft is monitored from there. In addition, approximately 80% of the employment contracts concluded by the debtor are subject to Austrian employment law. Also NIKI’s own behavior indicates that she assumes a COMI in Austria. She had not informed her creditors and the public that she had relocated her COMI to Germany. Furthermore, in an insolvency proceedings opened for several months at the request of a creditor before the Korneuburg Regional Court in Austria, it did not raise the objection that there was no international competence in Austria.
The latter points do not seem to me ‘objective’ factors. Anyway, we wait and see what the Federal Court of Germany will decide, because this case typically will go through the full German Court system. In its core the legal question is: what is neccesary to rebut the presumption that the registered office is the COMI. This feels like a Eurofood question, so may we expect that the Court of Justice of the EU will have the final word?
 

2018-01-doc 2 NIKI's COMI

From newspapers we know that NIKI Luftfahrt is in financial trouble. Attempts from third parties to buy all or a significant amount of assets are ongoing. These include takeoff- and landing slots in places such as Vienna, Munich, Palma de Mallorca and Zurich. There also is (evidently) a legal battle. Where is NIKI located? Or better: which is the cente of main interest (COMI) of NIKI Luftfahrt GmbH nach östereichischem recht (NIKI Air GmbH, establishe according to Austrian company law)? It is under corporate control of Air Berlin PLC & Co. Luftverkehrs KG (Air Berlin), active in Germany. But is its COMI in Germany?
On 4 January 2018 the Charlottenburg District Court upheld its decision of 13 December 2017 in which it had decided that NIKI’s COMI was in Germany. I just note some legal arguments.

Article 4 EIR 2015 determines the examination of international jurisdiction. In my book International Insolvency Law Part II 2017/10622h I suggest courts to be guided by six steps, four of which are:
1 Object: international jurisdiction; The court seised with a request to open (main or secondary) insolvency proceedings needs to ascertain its international jurisdiction without any party asking for an examination of the court’s jurisdiction. The court’s role is discretionary, in that interested parties, such as creditors, may send information to the court, but they cannot interfere in the court’s building up its decision. It should, however, be noted that Article 4 EIR 2015 only requires the examination of ‘international’ jurisdiction, the court should test national procedural laws as to its ‘territorial’ jurisdiction in a way which is provided for under the lex fori, see recital 26;
2 Scope of the examination; Examination is required with regard to its international jurisdiction. In literature it is discussed whether the obligation of the court also is to investigate the factual elements forming the requirement of the debtor having its COMI or its establishment in the relevant jurisdiction ex officio. Some authors deny such an obligation, such as Mankowski, in: Mankowski/Müller/J.Schmidt (2016), Art. 4, nr. 8. My take is, that this is too narrow, see under 3 and 4;
3 Depth of examination; Recital 30 says that a court should assess ‘carefully’, whether the debtor’s COMI in ‘genuinely’ located in the Member State. This presupposes quite some detailed analysis;
4 Additional evidence; In practice, first, the court will take into account the facts presented in the request.  Where ‘… the circumstances of the matter give rise to doubts about the court’s jurisdiction, the court should require the debtor to submit additional evidence to support its assertions and, where the law applicable to the insolvency proceedings so allows, give the debtor’s creditors the opportunity to present their views on the question of jurisdiction’, thus recital 32. In the light of the utmost importance of determining carefully a debtor’s COMI, it is unfortunate that recital 32 has not been included in the actual text of the EIR 2015 itself.
Article 5(1) EIR 2015 indicates which parties may request a judicial review of the decision to open main insolvency proceedings. These are mainly the debtor itself or any creditor.

The Charlottenburg District Courts decides the following. I am keeping it short:
a  Article 5(1) is a European norm, to be autonomously interpreted. National requirements or limitations are not relevant. The same view is held in my Part II, para. 10622nff.   
b  Article 4(1) is limited to ex officio testing of the evidence (the court finds support in Mankowski’s view). The court also finds, on procedural ground, one should not set to heavy requirements to the activity of testing the facts leading to international jurisdiction. I submit, however, that it should also include further investigation, see also point 3 above, without denying that speed in deciding is certainly important.
c  In deciding that COMI was in Germany, the court in its earlier decision has not been overlooking decisive factors, such as:
(i)    From assessing the facts it follows that the debtor was incorporated in accordance with corporate law principles of control and operationally in the Air Berlin Group. Air Berlin as directing manager of NIKI has acted as such in a way ascertainably for third parties,
(ii)    Where a company has a duty to pay taxes or have certain accounting duties fulfilled can not be decisive,
(iii)    Plane tickets which included a certain flightnumber were booked outwardly recognizably via a contract with Air Berlin, and
(iv)    The fact that around 80 % of the cabin staff is Austrian can not be decisive.

The Charlottenburg court upheld its decision and announced that, in appeal, the case must be decided by the Landgericht Berlin. A decision may be awaited on short notice, see https://www.berlin.de/gerichte/presse/pressemitteilungen-der-ordentlichen-gerichtsbarkeit/2018/pressemitteilung.662862.php.

NL boek over internationaal insolventierecht

Het internationale insolventierecht houdt zich bezig met vragen als welke rechter bevoegd is, welk recht van toepassing is, welke bevoegdheden een curator in het buitenland heeft of welke bevoegdheden een buitenlandse curator hier te lande heeft. Die vragen zijn talrijk en complex: hoe een boedel, met vermogensbestanddelen in tal van verschillende landen, te verdelen, of vragen zoals de werking van goederenrechtelijke rechten, verrekening, eigendomsvoorbehoud, of de toepassing van een grensoverschijdende verhaalsbenadeling (actio pauliana). Het Nederlandse internationale insolventierecht heeft daar maar een beperkt aantal antwoorden op. Deze komen voort uit twee regelvelden: de algemene regels die – bij gebreke aan een duidelijke regeling in de Faillissementswet – door de Hoge Raad worden geformuleerd en de EU Insolventieverordening (de Recast die op 26 juni 2017 in werking is getreden). Deze twee velden worden in het hieronder vermelde booek door de auteur, Berends, overzichtelijke en uitvoerig beschreven. Daarnaast besteedt hij aandacht aan de door UNCITRAL ontwikkelde Modelwet, opgesteld bij wijze van aanbeveling aan landen over de gehele wereld om deze niet-bindende model wet in hun eigen nationale regels op te nemen. Dat is inmiddels door ruim veertig landen gedaan, waaronder de Verenigde Staten en Engeland, en meer recent door Chili en Singapore.
Na een korte inleiding duikt de auteur in deze drie onderwerpen.

Bij een analyse van de gevallen die niet onder de Insolventieverordening vallen, is het vooral de Nederlandse rechtspraak die behandeld wordt bij vragen als de werking in Nederland van een insolventieprocedure die is geopend in een derde land: het ‘inkomende verkeer’ (met bijzonder aandacht voor het Yukos II arrest uit 2013), de werking in een derde land van een insolventieprocedure die is geopend in Nederland: het ‘uitgaande verkeer’, en de heel beperkte regeling die de  Faillissementswet kent (artikelen 203-205), alleen betrekking hebbend op de gevolgen van een Nederlands faillissement voor verhaal op in een derde land gelegen goed. Dit onderdeel geeft een goed overzicht van de stand van zaken.

Het boek van Berends is het eerste Nederlandstalige commentaar op de Europese Insolventieverordening (Recast). Boeken in de Engelse taal (het teleurstellende commentaar van Moss et al. en het boek van Bork/Mangano, beide uit 2016, zie http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2016-04-doc3-review-of-2-english-book-on-eir-recast/, het uitvoerige commentaar van Bork/Van Zwieten (ed.), ook uit 2016, zie http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/5079/, en mijn eigen boek uit 2017, zie
http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2017-09-doc4-wessels-international-insolvency-law-part-ii-european-insolvency-law/) en in de Duitse taal (het praktijkcommentaar van Braun c.s., zie
http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2017-04-doc7-book-announcement-of-brauns-7th-ed/, en het fraaie commentaar van Mankowski/Müller/J.Schmidt, zie http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2017-02-doc5-book-review-euinsvo-2015/, beide uit 2016) gingen hieraan vooraf.
In ruim 200 pagina’s wordt door Berends de EU Insolventieverordening uiteengezet. Het is de auteur wel toevertrouwd om dit deugelijk te doen. Hij verdedigt de stelling dat het Hof van Justitie van de EU ‘al dan niet bewust’ geen aandacht geeft aan het Virgós/Schmit rapport. Bijlage A wordt gepubliceerd, maar niet de laatste versie (voor zover ik kan overzien), die in maart 2017 (OJ L 57/19) vijf Poolse procedures vermeld, terwijl een wijziging aanhangig is, zie http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2017-09-doc5-on-annex-a-of-the-insolvency-regulation/. Het maakt eens te meer duidelijk welk een lastig systeem de EU heeft gekozen, omdat het opsporen van een nieuwe Annex niet makkelijk is. Eens ben ik het met Berend’s kwalificatie van een ‘enigszins hoekige’ vertaling van ‘insolvency practitioner’ (onze curator of bewindvoerder) in een nieuwe Nederlandse rechtsterm: insolventiefunctioneris. Hij gaat de discussie aan met opvattingen die vrij recent door Nederlandse auteurs (Broeders, Veder, het Asser deel van Kramer/Verhagen) zijn geuit. Terecht kritisch is hij op het onvolkomen Nederlandse wetsvoorstel Uitvoeringswet EU-Insolventieverordening. Dit is inmiddels wet geworden, Stbl. 2017, 497. Verrassend, omdat de EU Insolventieverordeing daarop niet van toeapssing is, zijn ook nog 7 informatieve pagina’s over financiële ondernemingen.

De laatste 60 pagina’s geven een goed inzicht in the UNCITRAL Modelwet. Daarvan is Berends een voorstander, hetgeen opname in het boek verklaart. Hier viel het op dat Berends de Guide to Enactment van UNCITRAL uit 1997, maar niet de Guide to Enactment and Interpretation noemt, die in 2013 voor de oorspronkelijk Guide in de plaats is getreden. Dat heeft de nodige kritiek gekregen. See http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2017-11-doc7-some-remarks-on-the-model-law/.

Dit is de tweede druk van het boek. De eerste druk verscheen, ik zag het overigens nergens in het hier kort besproken boek zelf staan, in 1999. Soms zie je daar de sporen van, door het gebruik van oude(re) literatuur, terwijl de auteur nogal selectief is bij de verwerking van nieuwere literatuur, of buitenlandse literatuur. Met een erg beknopte literatuurlijst, een zaaks- en jurisprudentieregister eindigt het boek, dat – daargelaten mijn kanttekeningen – voor de Nederlandse praktijk goed bruikbaar is.  

Mr. Dr. A.J. Berends, Grensoverschrijdende insolventie, Financieel Juridische Reeks 11, 2017, 332 pp., Uitgeverij Paris. ISBN 978 94 6251 141 5

Bestelinformatie: https://www.uitgeverijparis.nl/boeken/boek/314/Grensoverschrijdende-insolventie

Noot: dit boek ontving ik kosteloos van de uitgever met het verzoek om het aan te kondigen of te te bespreken op mijn blog op www.bobwessels.nl.