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Arbitration & ADR
Hong Kong's Financial Dispute Resolution Scheme will be expanded with effect from January 1 2018 and July 1 2018 by amending the jurisdiction and terms of reference of the Financial Dispute Resolution Centre. Alongside the recent changes to allow third-party funding in arbitration, the changes to the scheme show that alternative dispute resolution is coming of age for financial disputes in Hong Kong where there is an imbalance of power between parties.
A recent Court of Appeal decision has confirmed that the test for deciding whether a claimant has a good arguable case is relative. Where a court lacks the evidence to decide which party has the better argument, a more flexible approach should be adopted. In circumstances where the evidence is thin, it is not all relative and claimants are required only to demonstrate a plausible evidential basis that the gateway exists.
A recent judgment concerning a rather bold request for judicial assistance by the Chapter 11 trustee of a company within the China Fisheries Group provides a useful reminder of the common law criteria to be applied for recognition of foreign office holders. However, a more interesting point, perhaps, is that the Hong Kong courts will not be afraid to defend the integrity of their orders if and when attempts are made to circumvent them.
Section 14A of the Limitation Act sets out the position on latent damage in negligence claims. Litigation around the application of Section 14A has predominantly centred on when the claimant has the requisite knowledge to bring a claim and if a claim could, and should, have been brought earlier. This has been brought into sharp focus in a recent case relating to a claim brought against the Bank of Scotland.
A recent Court of Appeal decision examined a dispute concerning entitlements under an earn-out provision in a share purchase agreement. The claimant argued that, under the agreement, he was entitled to provide consultancy services for a further period to be agreed by the parties. However, the court found that there is no obligation on parties to negotiate in good faith about matters which remain to be agreed and that the defendant was free to negotiate in accordance with its own commercial interests.
The High Court recently confirmed on appeal from a master's decision that although an entire agreement clause concerning the sale of Nottingham Forest Football Club purported to extinguish all previous representations, it did not in fact exclude liability for misrepresentation. That there were contractual indemnities covering effectively the same subject matter did not, without clear language, mean that liability had been excluded.
The Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) was recently signed by the Supreme People's Court and the HKSAR government. This is the sixth arrangement with the mainland on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters and the third arrangement providing for recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters.
A recent High Court of Justice case reinforced the courts' desire to remain the guardians of honest behaviour in relation to financial market practices; the objective standards of dishonesty are to be set by the courts rather than the market. Parties must therefore rely on contemporaneous documents when trying to prove claims for dishonest assistance, as the court will not permit them to adduce expert evidence of wider market practice.
The recent decision in Barclays Bank plc v Price extends the established test that a demand made under a guarantee for an excessive amount may nevertheless be effective as a demand for what is due in circumstances where the amount that has been demanded exceeds an express liability cap. This judgment will surely be a welcome extension of the authorities relating to the operation of guarantees (and the demands made thereunder) for the creditors that benefit from such arrangements.
In a series of recent judgments, the first-instance courts in Hong Kong have demonstrated an increasing flexibility in assisting victims of internet and email fraud, including granting declaratory relief without trial. The courts' increasing willingness to grant declaratory relief without trial in these circumstances is a significant step in the right direction, as it has simplified the civil action to be taken by those affected by email fraud and similar scams.
The Court of Appeal recently found that communications discussing a commercial proposal to settle an existing dispute are not privileged and are therefore subject to scrutiny by the court. Those engaged in litigation should take care not to commit to writing their commercial discussions on settlement and to frame their settlement discussions in terms of the legal advice that they have received on the litigation risks.
The High Court recently considered the general legal principles for the grant of injunctive relief to protect an employer's confidential information alleged to have been taken by one or more former employees for the benefit of their new company. The outcome in the case (to date) illustrates the balance that the courts must often strike between recognising the legitimate interests of an employer and a former employee's entitlement to use their own skills and knowledge without obtaining an unfair advantage.
When will courts grant retrospective permission for disclosed documents to be used outside main litigation?United Kingdom | 11 December 2018
The High Court recently considered applications for retrospective permission to make collateral use of documents disclosed under a pre-action disclosure order where there had been a breach of the implied undertaking as to the use of disclosed documents. Although retrospective permission may be given, an application for permission should not be used to circumvent the usual procedure for obtaining consent to collateral use of documents.
The recent decision of the High Court in Ninotre Investment Ltd v L & A International Holdings Ltd is a further example of the court's statutory power to grant a qualifying shareholder access to and inspection of company records. Section 740 of the Companies Ordinance (Cap 622) has become an established mechanism for aggrieved shareholders, with legitimate complaints in their capacity as shareholders, to obtain access to and inspection of company records.
The Court of Appeal has dismissed an application to strike out a claim for abuse of process on the basis of Summers v Fairclough in circumstances where final judgment had already been handed down. There are already established methods of challenging judgments allegedly obtained by fraud, and these should be utilised instead.
With privilege remaining a hot topic, and with the recent SFO v ENRC decision still fresh in many legal professionals' minds, another judgment on legal advice privilege has been handed down – this time with a lesson for solicitors drafting supporting witness statements. It is of crucial importance to ensure that the utmost care is taken when making a claim to privilege, not least because the opposing party will usually have no choice other than to rely on what it is told.
The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has been using Section 213 of the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Cap 571) to good effect to secure (among other things) compensation on behalf of counterparty investors to impugned transactions. As a result of a recent landmark judgment of the Court of Final Appeal, the SFC's remit under Section 213 extends not only to (for example) insider dealing involving locally listed securities and regulated trades, but also to contraventions of Section 300.
In the latest of a long line of higher court authorities debating the boundaries between black letter and more purposive approaches to contractual construction, the Court of Appeal has taken another step away from the high-water marks of the business common sense approach to contractual meaning. The decision confirms that parties are more likely to be able to work contractual machinery according to the black letter terms in which it is set out on the face of the contract.
The test for inducement in cases of fraudulent misrepresentation is whether 'but for' the misrepresentation, the claimant 'might' have acted differently. The lower hurdle was clarified by the High Court in Nederlandse Industrie Van Eiprodukten v Rembrandt Enterprises and represents a departure from previous authorities, in which the test had been said to be whether but for the misrepresentation the claimant would have entered into the contract anyway.
The High Court recently considered whether in principle a judgment creditor is entitled to a charging order over funds paid into court by a judgment debtor in a different action involving another party. The case is an interesting review of the respective interests of the parties when funds are paid into court pursuant to a court order. It concerns the application of established principles to what appears to be a different situation, but one that may give other litigants pause for thought.
The proliferation of fraud and blackmail offences carried out online has left victims, and the courts, playing catch-up. However, in a number of recent cases, the civil courts have shown that they are adapting to keep pace with cybercriminals and are addressing the imbalance that exists between victims and criminals who seek to hide behind a veil of anonymity in this digital age.
In a cautionary tale, a group company and its current liquidators have had their claim against the group company's former liquidators struck out under the 'no reflective loss' principle. The strike-out was granted on the basis that the group company's subsidiaries had a closer nexus to the relevant loss than the group company. The appeal judgment demonstrates that the courts will not shy away from dismissing defective claims against professional advisers without trial.
The Court of Appeal recently considered whether claims for loan principal and interest were separate claims for the purpose of an application for permission to serve a claim form out of the jurisdiction and whether an obligation to pay interest could be implied into an oral loan agreement. The decision provides a helpful clarification of the nature of claims for interest and the application of the modern test for implication of contractual terms to a claim for an implied term for payment of interest.
The Hong Kong government recently issued a consultation paper, and sought views from members of the public and interested stakeholders, on a proposed arrangement between Hong Kong and the mainland for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. The proposed arrangement seeks to provide a mechanism which widens the existing and limited scope for the enforcement of mainland court civil judgments in Hong Kong and vice versa.
The Court of Appeal recently held that a director who had made continuing fraudulent misrepresentations was liable for damages calculated at the point of sale and not at the point of entering into the contract. This judgment is a reminder that, in the right case, deceit may be used to pierce the corporate veil. It also highlights the considerations when assessing damages regarding continuing representations, particularly when there is time between the representation being made and the performance of the contract.
The High Court recently considered the proper basis for the distribution of money in the client account of a closed law firm. The money is held by the relevant regulator on trust for the persons beneficially entitled to it – namely, the former clients. Where there is a shortfall between the verified claims of former clients and the balance in the client account, the court may need to direct how the money should be distributed.
To render a force majeure clause watertight, time should be taken to consider all of the potential risks that may prevent parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract and spell these out in the clause. Also, where an event has occurred, parties must be able to demonstrate that the force majeure event was the sole cause of any failure to fulfil their contractual obligations. This was recently upheld by the High Court.
It is understandable that directors might be reluctant to seek legal advice – be it due to concern about time or cost or a potential conflict of interest if seeking advice internally. However, as a recent case demonstrates, this is a small price to pay to avoid the time and financial cost of a claim, especially when a company's subsequent precarious financial position shines a light on an officer's behaviour and competence.
In certain circumstances the courts in Hong Kong can extend Mareva relief against a defendant to third parties under the so-called 'Chabra' jurisdiction. In a recent case, the assets which the trustees sought to locate were not directly held by the bankrupt, but appear to have been indirectly held through a family trust and related companies. As before, the court demonstrated its willingness to extend Mareva relief under the Chabra jurisdiction in deserving cases.
The Commercial Court recently discharged an injunction restraining the enforcement of a US court order made under Section 1782 of Title 28 of the US Code (Assistance to foreign and international tribunals and to litigants before such tribunals). Section 1782 applications can be a useful weapon in an English litigator's armoury as a means of obtaining evidence under the control of a US-based entity through US-style discovery, including by the use of depositions and documentary evidence.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that a bank providing a reference relating to its customer owed a tortious duty of care only to the addressee. The decision reflects the wider judicial trend of restricting the circumstances in which duties of care for negligent misstatement are found to exist on the basis of an assumption of responsibility by the party making the statement.
A recent decision of the Court of First Instance confirms the conventional thinking that a relationship between a bank and a customer does not of itself give rise to a duty of care to advise on the part of the bank. The court dismissed the claimant investor's mis-selling claim against the bank on the basis that neither the terms of the relevant contracts entered into with the bank nor the circumstances of the case suggested that there had been an assumption of a duty to advise by the bank.
The Court of Appeal recently confirmed that an English jurisdiction clause in the underlying International Swaps and Derivatives Association Master Agreement under which certain swaps were made should be applied to disputes relating to the swap transactions, rather than an Italian jurisdiction clause in a competitor agreement governing the parties' generic relationship.
Football club's entire agreement clause performs impressive save against negligent misrepresentation claimUnited Kingdom | 28 August 2018
A recent case serves as a lesson that context is key to a watertight entire agreement clause. The purchasers of Nottingham Forest Football Club brought a negligent misrepresentation claim against the club's sellers. The sellers denied the claim and argued that the share purchase agreement provided a contractual procedure for dealing with any misrepresentations of the club's liabilities, and that the relevant entire agreement clause should therefore be read in that context.
There are no statutory provisions empowering the Hong Kong courts to provide assistance and recognition to foreign insolvency office holders. The courts therefore rely on their inherent power (where appropriate) under the common law principle of modified universalism to provide such assistance. Although the application of this principle is not without its problems, the courts in recent years have shown some willingness to assist the effective implementation of cross-border insolvency and restructuring regimes.
A master's decision to allow a non-party to proceedings to access a wide range of documents in the proceedings was recently reviewed by the Court of Appeal. As well as providing useful guidance on how the court should deal with applications by non-parties for access to documents, this case is a reminder to parties to proceedings that they should be aware of the potential loss of confidentiality.
A recent case reiterates the significance that the courts will ascribe to the use of industry-standard documentation when considering 'competing' jurisdiction clauses in related contracts. The case also provides an important reminder of the necessity of seeking the court's direction before engaging expert evidence, particularly in the interim stages of litigation.
A recent case considered the interaction between a warranty in a receivables financing contract which specified that one of the parties was not prohibited from disposing of the receivable and a clause expressly prohibiting assignment without the other party's consent in an underlying sale and purchase agreement. The case raises important issues relating to the effect and interpretation of non-assignment clauses and suggests that this is an area ripe for further consideration by the Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeal's judgment in Shenzhen Futaihong Precision Industry Co Ltd v BYD Co Ltd is another recent example of the courts in Hong Kong trying to narrow the issues in respect of which parties seek permission to adduce expert evidence. In this case, the court refused to interfere with a lower court's case management decision that had granted the defendants permission to adduce expert evidence with respect to only one issue out of 10 contested issues that the defendants sought to raise.
The Court of Appeal recently held that agreements for the transfer and purchase of shares give rise to dependent obligations and that one party does not therefore become a debtor to the counterparty immediately as a result of their failure to pay. This judgment has implications for the forms of redress available to the wronged party in analogous situations and makes clear the commercial approach to contractual disputes encouraged by the courts.
Significant increases to the jurisdictional limits for civil claims in the District Court have been proposed. The upper limit of the monetary jurisdiction for the Small Claims Tribunal is also set to increase. The Legislative Council of Hong Kong recently passed resolutions which increase these jurisdictional limits by way of amendments to the District Court Ordinance and the Small Claims Tribunal Ordinance.
The Court of Appeal has held that a remarkably broad exclusion clause was not unreasonable within the framework of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. The judgment includes a discussion of various factors which the court will take into account when deciding such cases.
Defendants should welcome the recent judgment in Fiscalink International Ltd v Yiu Yu Sum Alex, in which the court struck out the plaintiffs' claims against a majority of the defendants on the basis that the lack of progress over many years was an abuse of process such that the entire action against those defendants should be dismissed. The court's judgment is another example at first instance of a pragmatic application of the relevant principles concerning dismissal for abuse of process.
Contractual fiction clauses, unfair contract terms, parliamentary sovereignty and limits of party autonomyUnited Kingdom | 03 July 2018
In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal set down a significant marker that so-called 'contractual estoppel' has no special status and is to be treated as just another form of exclusion of liability. In particular, it was ruled for the first time that any reliance on a contractual estoppel to seek to defend a claim for pre-contractual misrepresentation is an attempt to exclude liability which falls to be assessed for reasonableness under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977.
The High Court recently analysed the rationale behind the common law principle in Hollington v F Hewthorn & Co Ltd when determining the admissibility of parts of an earlier judgment of a Beijing court arising out of criminal proceedings. The court clarified that under Hong Kong common law, the Hollington principle did not prevent the courts from admitting factual evidence referred to in an earlier judgment of another court or tribunal.
The Court of Appeal recently provided helpful clarification on what constitutes 'knowledge' for the purposes of Section 14A of the Limitation Act 1980. The judgment reiterates that it is not when the claimant first knew they might have a claim for damages against the defendant that is relevant; rather, it is when they knew enough to make it reasonable to investigate further and, if necessary, obtain professional advice.
Freezing orders are a valuable weapon in the arsenal of parties seeking enforcement in England and Wales. However, they come with a heavy responsibility on the part of the applicant. If one gets it wrong, a great deal of time, effort, costs and tactical initiative are likely to be lost. The High Court recently provided helpful guidance as to which factors may be relevant when determining whether a freezing order should be discharged.
A recent landmark judgment of the Court of Final Appeal confirms that in deciding whether it is fair and just to grant a protective costs order in public interest litigation, the courts should be apprised of an applicant's financial position. In the case of a corporate applicant, it is proper to inquire not only into the assets belonging to the company, but also other sources of funding to which it has access. The case is the first in Hong Kong in which the courts have extensively set out the relevant legal principles in this regard.
In a recent dispute about the existence of a contract, the High Court found that the parties intended to be bound only when all parties had signed. An open-ended duty to negotiate in good faith was void for uncertainty and the claim was struck out. This case is a useful reminder of several principles, including that an obligation to negotiate in good faith must be tightly drafted and time limited in order to be effective.
The High Court recently dismissed proceedings seeking to compel the Hospital Authority to disclose confidential patient records in connection with professional disciplinary proceedings. The decision serves as a good reminder of the tension that exists between the competing interests of preserving client (or patient) privacy rights and the necessity and public interest in the proper administration of professional disciplinary proceedings.
A recent Supreme Court decision is now the leading case on negotiating damages. It has emphasised the compensatory basis of contractual damages and restricted negotiating damages to cases where the obligation breached by the defendant protected an asset with economic value. While the decision offers welcome clarity, it leaves some important questions unanswered.
In a recent case, the Supreme Court considered the application of Section 21(1)(b) of the Limitation Act 1980 with respect to claims against the directors of a company for an unlawful distribution of the shareholding. The court acknowledged that Section 21 was primarily aimed at express trustees, and that it was found to be applicable to company directors "by what may fairly be described as a process of analogy".
In a recent case, the High Court confirmed the validity of a senior noteholder's directions under a note structure governed by the laws of multiple jurisdictions. In doing so, it highlighted the common ground between the London and New York markets with regard to the common law principles of contractual construction and demonstrated the efficiency of the speedy trial procedure in the Financial List.
A recent case involved a contested dispute over the liquidators' access to certain documents stated to be in the respondent's possession or control. At first instance, the court refused to order the respondent to give wide-ranging production of documents to the liquidators on the basis that the documents sought did not fall within Section 221(3) of the Companies (Winding Up and Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance. This judgment was recently successfully appealed by the liquidators.
The English courts can make draconian worldwide freezing orders. Such an order will usually contain an undertaking by the applicant to seek permission from the English court before enforcing the order outside England and Wales or seeking an order "of a similar nature". A recent commercial court decision provides welcome guidance on how it will approach the scope of this undertaking.
In a recent case, the High Court considered whether, in the event of the early termination of a transaction under the 2002 International Swaps and Derivatives Association Master Agreement, a party could 'remake' its determination of the close-out amount and the nature of that party's discretion in calculating the close-out amount.
In the first contested case of its kind since the Bribery Act 2010 came into force, a company was found guilty under Section 7 of the act for failing to prevent bribery after its defence of having adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery was unsuccessful. Given that there is no one-size-fits-all rule for what constitutes 'adequate procedures', it will be difficult for a company to assess whether it falls on the right side of the line.
In defending themselves against a claim for professional negligence brought by a former client, two law firms and the individual solicitor recently successfully applied to strike out the entire claim against them, with costs awarded on a more generous ('indemnity') basis. The two related judgments are a salutary reminder of the need for a plaintiff to plead all material particulars, failing which there is a real prospect that their claim could be struck out as plainly defective.
Belhaj v director of public prosecutions – court clarifies two issues relating to waiver of privilegeUnited Kingdom | 17 April 2018
In a case concerning misconduct in public office, the claimants sought to challenge the decision not to prosecute by beginning judicial review proceedings against defendants that included the director of public prosecutions. The court recently held that a limited waiver of legal professional privilege prevented the use of the privileged materials in a related judicial review and that legal professional privilege could be reasserted over inadvertently disclosed privileged material.
The Supreme Court recently held that the location of the incident from which damage arose in the context of a claim alleging the tort of conspiracy to injure by unlawful means was where a conspiratorial agreement was agreed. In this case, that location was England and the English courts therefore had jurisdiction.
The recent judgment in Tao Soh Ngun v HSBC International Trustee Ltd arose from an interesting piece of litigation. In this case, the plaintiff appears to have tried to amend her pleading to add new allegations of breach and loss based on matters that did not exist at the time when the proceedings commenced. To have allowed such amendments would not have sat comfortably with the 'relate back' principle (ie, that an amendment takes effect from the date of the original pleading).
In Registrar of Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants v Wong & Anor, the accountants appealed a disciplinary committee's decision the substance of which was that they had failed to observe a professional standard in connection with an audited company's compliance with Hong Kong Accounting Standard 39 in respect of an available-for-sale financial asset, before issuing an unqualified audit opinion. That appeal failed. More recently, the accountants' final appeal to the Court of Final Appeal was also dismissed.
The High Court recently heard an appeal regarding the costs consequences of a withdrawn Part 36 offer where a second offer was made and neither was beaten at trial. In holding that costs flowed from the second offer only, the court provided useful guidance on how to structure multiple offers so that a party's original costs protection is preserved.
In a recent case, the Court of Appeal took the opportunity to clarify the lower courts' role when reviewing disputes over taxed costs. In doing so, the Court of Appeal appears to have come to a sensible compromise in allowing some costs that had been approved by the taxing master but disallowed by the judge on review.
The Court of Appeal recently handed down its much-anticipated judgment on the mis-selling and London Inter-bank Offered Rate (Libor) manipulation test case earlier this month. While the appeal was dismissed in full, the Court of Appeal's decision has clarified a number of aspects of the law in this area – in particular, the circumstances in which an implied representation in respect of Libor would arise.
The claimants in a recent case applied to inspect certain documents created in foreign proceedings over which the defendants – companies belonging to the mining company Glencore – had asserted litigation privilege. Glencore controlled these proceedings but was not a party to them. It unsuccessfully argued that this was a permitted exception to the general principle that a party cannot claim litigation privilege out of proceedings to which it is not a party.
The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) in Hong Kong has been very active in using civil proceedings pursuant to Section 213 of the Securities and Futures Ordinance to seek redress for investors. A recent judgment confirms that the SFC can seek restorative orders not only against parties to impugned transactions, but also against individuals who aid or abet or who are involved.
The English High Court recently considered the correct approach to the redaction of documents in civil proceedings. The court held that the right to redact irrelevant material applies both to standard disclosure and the right to inspect documents referenced in statements of case. In the short term, this case confirms a party's ability to redact documents in order to protect commercially sensitive information. In the long term, the practice of redacting such information will likely be confirmed by way of an express rule.
In a recent case, the Court of Appeal upheld a decision that the appellant bank had breached the Quincecare duty of care which it owed to its corporate customer by making payments without proper enquiry, in circumstances in which a reasonable banker would have been on notice that the customer's director was perpetrating a fraud.
Integrated bank accounts are very common in financial hubs such as Hong Kong. In addition to sub-accounts categorised by different currencies, an integrated account may also have sub-accounts with other features (eg, credit cards, investments and insurance). A recent case shed light on the approach of the courts to such accounts in the context of enforcement proceedings and rival claims by different judgment creditors.
In a recent case, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's decision to strike out certain breach of warranty claims on the basis that the buyer had given the seller inadequate notice of those claims. The buyer's attempt to keep its options open by drafting its notices widely proved fatal to its claims, as it failed to identify the specific warranties to which its claims related as required by the share purchase agreement.
High Court confirms availability of Bankers Trust orders to trustee claimants seeking to recover misappropriated assetsUnited Kingdom | 06 February 2018
The High Court recently confirmed for the first time the availability of the commonly encountered Bankers Trust order to trustee claimants of stolen or misappropriated property, highlighting the flexibility of the court's equitable jurisdiction when presented with new situations. The decision also illustrates the court's willingness to grant Norwich Pharmacal relief to facilitate the recovery of unlawfully dissipated assets and the complimentary interim remedies available for that purpose.
In Bespark Technologies Engineering Ltd v JV Fitness Ltd the High Court recently took the opportunity to remind liquidators of their duty to give full and frank disclosure when making an ex parte (without notice) application to the court. A failure to do so could have serious consequences, including a refusal to approve the appointment of a liquidator or an order for his or her removal. The duty to be full and frank applies to all ex parte applications, so there are general lessons to be learned.
The Court of First Instance recently considered some of the legal principles surrounding the scope of an auditor's duty to detect alleged irregularities in a company's financial statements and, in appropriate circumstances, to report alleged wrongdoing to the relevant regulatory authorities. The judgment is an interesting review of some of the legal issues involved, including the applicability of the defence of illegality in the context of a claim brought by a liquidator on behalf of a company against its former auditor.
A recent Commercial Court decision concerned a claim against three former directors of the claimant companies in respect of fraudulent schemes involving construction projects and land acquisitions in Kazakhstan. The decision provides guidance on what is required to prove a complex fraud and when foreign limitation periods will be disapplied because they cause the claimant undue hardship.
A recent case provides a nice illustration of some of the problems associated with seeking to enforce a judgment debt against money in a bank account. The defendant judgment debtor was a joint account holder together with his brother. The brother successfully applied to discharge a provisional garnishee order obtained by the plaintiff judgment creditor on the basis that, as a matter of law, money held in a joint bank account could not be attached unless both account holders were judgment debtors.
In Sharp v Blank the High Court considered the defendants' application for approval of their revised cost budget on the basis that there had been significant developments in the litigation. The judgment provides helpful clarification of the court's jurisdiction to approve costs that have already been incurred between the date of the original approved budget and the date of the application hearing.
The long-awaited increase in the guideline solicitors' hourly rates adopted for party and party taxation in civil proceedings was announced towards the end of 2017. The new rates came into effect on January 1 2018 and should serve to narrow the gap between successful litigants' incurred and recoverable costs.
In The ECU Group plc v HSBC Bank plc the High Court held that HSBC, the proposed defendant, had to provide pre-action disclosure of Bloomberg messages, emails, trading data and compliance documents. The decision is a useful example of the categories of documents that the court may be prepared to order against a bank in respect of pre-action disclosure. However, the scope of disclosure was kept narrow, a factor which no doubt played in ECU's favour.
The English High Court recently found that service by email of arbitration proceedings was not valid under Section 76 of the Arbitration Act 1996 on the basis that the correspondence had been directed to the email address of an employee who did not have the authority to accept service. The judge found that in circumstances where service is by way of an individual email address, validity of service depends on the application of agency principles.
Section 740 of the Companies Ordinance can be a powerful tool in assisting shareholders to obtain inspection of a company's documents. Two new cases demonstrate the continued use of Section 740 by shareholders to obtain inspection of corporate documents. While they show that the courts are generally willing to assist shareholders in appropriate cases, the courts will often rein in applications either by limiting the scope of the inspection or imposing conditions to the order granted.
Supreme Court holds that a defendant cannot be liable for a greater loss than was caused by its negligent valuationUnited Kingdom | 12 December 2017
The Supreme Court recently clarified that when applying the 'but for' test in the context of a negligent valuation, the basic comparison is between the position that the claimant would have been in if the defendant had fulfilled its duty of care and the claimant's actual position. This means that a defendant cannot be liable for a greater loss than was caused by its negligent valuation.
There has been a number of recent cases in Hong Kong in which successful parties have been awarded their costs on a more generous basis against unsuccessful parties – known as an 'indemnity' basis (in contrast to what is commonly called a 'standard' or 'party and party' basis). A recent example in the Court of Appeal is Qiyang Ltd v Mei Li New Energy Ltd. One might be forgiven for sometimes thinking that orders for indemnity costs are a norm, but they are not.
The High Court recently considered the extent to which legal advice privilege could attach to documents which were not communications of legal advice between lawyer and client, but from which privileged legal advice could be inferred, and held that privilege could indeed apply to such documents. The test is whether there is a "definite and reasonable foundation" for such an inference to be made as opposed to material that would merely make the reader speculate what the legal advice was.
First Asia Finance International Ltd v Tso Au Yim & Yeung appears to be another example of a misconceived claim against a defendant solicitors' firm. In this case, the court held that the solicitors owed no duty of care to the plaintiff company (which was not a client) with respect to the preparation of a settlement agreement. The plaintiff also failed with a claim that it had informally retained the defendant solicitors with respect to the drafting of the settlement agreement.
Ghosh test overturned: dishonesty according to the standards of ordinary, reasonable and honest peopleUnited Kingdom | 28 November 2017
The Supreme Court recently held that the test for dishonesty should be assessed only by reference to whether the defendant's conduct is dishonest by the objective standards of ordinary, reasonable and honest people. In its ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that there were convincing grounds for holding that the second limb of the well-known Ghosh test did not correctly represent the law and that directions based on it should no longer be given.
The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has cast a wide net with its use of civil proceedings pursuant to Section 213 of the Securities and Futures Ordinance. Recently, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal arising out of the SFC's use of Section 213 proceedings to obtain declarations that three defendants based in Hong Kong had contravened Section 300 of the ordinance by engaging in a deceptive course of business in transactions involving shares listed on an overseas stock exchange.
A recent application made by the insolvency practitioner of Agrokor, a major Croatian conglomerate, resulted in recognition in England of a stay of civil proceedings against the group. The purpose of the application was to halt any proceedings in relation to Agrokor's securities and debt obligations containing English law and jurisdiction provisions, pending the restructuring in the Croatian insolvency proceedings of the group's affairs.
The Commercial Court recently clarified the test for 'special circumstances' in applications for permission to use previously disclosed documents. The court did not grant permission to the applicant in this instance, on jurisdictional grounds. However, in setting out a number of factors which influence its discretion to waive or vary the restriction, the court has given useful guidance to those that may pursue applications for collateral use in future.
The Court of Appeal recently heard an appeal relating to whether complex, loss-making financial transactions were enforceable against the respondent in circumstances where they had been entered into against the backdrop of a corrupt relationship between the appellant counterparty and the respondent's agent. The court's decision demonstrates that appellate courts are willing to apply equitable principles creatively in order to avoid what they perceive to be substantial injustice.
In Far Wealth Ltd v Lo Ki Mou the High Court dismissed the proceedings as an abuse of process because the plaintiffs could have protected their position by way of a counterclaim in prior proceedings commenced against them by the defendants. While fact specific, it is clear from the judgment that the court was exercising a wide discretion based on the "underlying objectives" of the court rules.
The Court of Appeal recently applied established English conflict of laws rules in holding that a non-bearer holder of issued notes was not entitled to sue under those notes for breach of contract. In doing so, the court has provided commercial certainty to downstream holders of interests in securities, but left open important questions as to third-party redress under these structures.
In Grosvenor Chemicals Ltd v UPL Europe Ltd disclosed documents were used by the UPL companies for a collateral purpose in breach of Civil Procedure Rule (CPR) 31.22. Grosvenor applied to the court under CPR 81.14(1) for permission to bring committal proceedings against the UPL companies and their law firm. The decision underlines the difficulty involved in persuading a court to allow an application for committal proceedings.
In Competition Commission v Nutanix Hong Kong Ltd a High Court judge recently considered the scope of the 'direct use prohibition' contained in Section 45(2) of the Competition Ordinance, which protects a person who is required to answer questions as part of an investigation by the Competition Commission pursuant to Section 42. The case decides that the protection does not extend to a third party, even where the third party is the subject of the commission's investigation.
LMA model form-based facility agreement does not constitute lenders' standard terms for Unfair Contract Terms ActUnited Kingdom | 10 October 2017
The Court of Appeal recently upheld a decision to allow summary judgment for sums due under a facility agreement, rejecting the defendants' arguments that the facility agreement – based on the Loan Market Association model form – constituted the lenders' standard terms for the purposes of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. Had the act applied, the terms of the facility agreement would have been subject to a reasonableness test.
Securities and Futures Commission v Sun Min is another recent example of the Securities and Futures Commission using Section 213(2)(b) of the Securities and Futures Ordinance to obtain restitution, in the form of so-called 'restorative' orders, on behalf of counterparties to impugned transactions. What is interesting about this particular case is that the judge expressed some concern as to whether the amount of restoration sought might result in a windfall for the counterparties involved.
The Technology and Construction Court was recently asked to determine the enforceability of a limitation of liability clause in an IT services agreement. The case provides a useful reminder to practitioners of the importance of clear contractual drafting to ensure that the agreement accurately reflects the parties' intentions as to their respective obligations and liabilities.
The High Court recently considered the "unfortunate tension" between Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 6.14 and 7.5 regarding effective service of a claim. The judgment provides a helpful analysis of the purpose of CPR 6.14 in circumstances where there is uncertainty surrounding the validity of service of a claim form.
The High Court recently upheld the contractual right of an online foreign exchange retail trading broker to revoke trades entered into by a customer, on the basis that the customer had breached a contractual duty not to trade abusively. The court held that the broker's right to revoke was not subject to a Braganza duty to exercise it in a way which was not arbitrary, capricious or irrational in a public law sense.
Karla Otto Ltd v Bayram is another recent case that has its origins in misappropriated money being transferred from overseas to Hong Kong. The case took several years to get to trial and when it did, the defendants were absent. Whether that absence was a strategic decision on their part or explained by the first defendant's illness became an issue. The case demonstrates that the courts will be careful to scrutinise applications to adjourn a civil trial on the basis of a party's illness.
The High Court of Hong Kong has a wide discretion to grant shareholders access to company documents, pursuant to Section 740 of the Companies Ordinance (Cap 622). The court has been astute in assisting shareholders to protect their legitimate interests by allowing access to company documents while, at the same time, preventing them from launching so-called 'fishing' expeditions. What may amount to fishing, in this context, was recently considered by the court.