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Arbitration Agreements No Longer a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card for Insolvent Debtors: A Farewell to Salford Estates

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has decisively redrawn the boundaries between arbitration agreements and insolvency proceedings in the case of Sian Participation Corp (In Liquidation) v Halimeda International Ltd.[1]

At its core, this case represents a clash between the long-established public policy of insolvency law, which aims to efficiently wind-up insolvent companies for the benefit of all creditors, and the now firmly entrenched policy that those who agree to arbitrate their disputes should be held to that bargain. For years, these two heavyweights have fought, neither quite landing a knockout blow. Now, the Privy Council has stepped in to declare a winner.

Prequel: The Rise and Fall of Salford Estates

In 2014’s Salford Estates (No 2) Ltd v Altomart Ltd,[2] the English Court of Appeal determined winding-up petitions generally should not be granted where the underlying debt was subject to an arbitration agreement, even where that debt wasn’t genuinely disputed. This handed debtors a powerful shield against liquidation.

While adopted in many common law jurisdictions, the Salford Estates approach was not followed in the British Virgin Islands, where Sian Participation v Halimeda International arose. Fast-forward to 2024, and the Privy Council has now carefully

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The Elusive ‘Anti-Anti-Arbitration Injunction’

The recent decision of the High Court in Euronav Shipping NV v Black Swan Petroleum DMCC [2024] EWHC 896 (Comm) illustrates when a party may be unable to enforce an arbitration agreement which is otherwise valid and enforceable. In the present case, Euronav succeeded in satisfying all of the elements of the test for an injunction which sought to restrain Black Swan Petroleum (BSP) from pursuing an anti-arbitration application before the Malaysian Courts. Nevertheless, in the exercising its discretion, the Court declined to award an injunction having regard to international comity and because it deemed that it would be vexatious and/or oppressive given the applicant’s earlier submission to Malaysian court jurisdiction. The case is a cautionary reminder of the need to pursue a carefully considered dispute resolution strategy.


The applicant, Euronav, a firm involved in ocean transportation and storage of oil, entered into a contract with a Malaysian registered company, Silk Straits SDN BHD (Silk Straits), by which it made available certain tanks on the Motor Tanker Oceania (the Vessell) for storage of oil. A first addendum to the agreement provided for English governing law and exclusive jurisdiction of the English High Court, and recorded Euronav’s consent to prospective assignment

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English High Court Unravels National Iranian Oil Company’s Attempt to Shield £100M London Property from Enforcement of Arbitral Award

The English High Court has ordered the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to transfer a high-value London property to Crescent Gas Corporation Limited (CGC) in satisfaction of a US$2.4 billion arbitral award in favour of CGC against NIOC. The Court found that NIOC’s eleventh-hour transfer of the property to its closely linked Iranian pension fund (the Fund) was a ploy to shield it from enforcement action by CGC.

The judgment, which is the most recent development in the ongoing, long-running dispute between CGC and NIOC, is likely to be of interest to practitioners and clients seeking to enforce arbitral awards in England, as well as those establishing or litigating trusts of land in England and Wales

McDermott acted for CGC in the proceedings, as well as the underlying arbitration and award challenge proceedings described below.


In 2009, CGC, a subsidiary of UAE-based Crescent Petroleum, commenced arbitration seated in London against NIOC for breach of a 2001 long-term gas supply agreement. In September 2021, the tribunal rendered a Partial Award on Remedies in favour of CGC in which it ordered NIOC to pay more than US$2.4 billion in damages plus interest.

Having successfully defended two challenges to the award, brought

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A Tale of Two Contracts: Reinsurance Dispute Ends in a New York State of Mind

In a battle of conflicting contracts, Tyson found itself on the losing end of a reinsurance dispute with Partner Re when the English Court of Appeal ruled[1] that a reinsurance contract on a Market Uniform Reinsurance Agreement (MURA) form superseded a prior contract on a Market Reform Contract (MRC) form, giving effect to the New York arbitration clause in the MURA.

The Duelling Documents

The saga began when Tyson International Company Limited (Tyson), captive insurer of poultry-giant Tyson Foods and the reinsured, and Partner Reinsurance Europe SE (Partner Re), a reinsurer, entered into a reinsurance contract on the MRC form, governed by English law and with an exclusive jurisdiction provision in favour of the English court. However, eight days later, at Tyson’s request, Partner Re issued another reinsurance contract on the MURA form, governed by New York law and containing a dispute resolution clause providing for arbitration in New York.

Flames and Feathers Fly

Following a fire at a poultry rendering facility in Alabama, Tyson sought to claim under the reinsurance. Partner Re purported to avoid the contract, citing misrepresentations in relation to the value of the insured properties. A dispute arose.

Tyson commenced proceedings in England,

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Inadmissibility of a Judicial Annulment of an Arbitral Award After Unconditional Payment

In a recent decision, the German Federal Court of Justice considered whether a party convicted in the course of arbitral proceedings can demand the annulment of an arbitral award by a state court if the same party has in the meantime already unconditionally fulfilled the obligation pronounced by the arbitral tribunal.

In this decision, the Federal Court commented for the first time on the extremely practical question of whether the right to apply for the annulment of arbitration awards by state courts requires the applicant to have grievance.

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New Reform Makes Italy Even More Attractive for Arbitration

A significant and extensive reform of the Italian Code of Civil Procedure (ICCP) was recently enacted by the Italian Government. Legislative Decree No. 149/2022 (the Reform), became applicable as of February 28, 2023.

The Reform introduced material changes to the rules governing proceedings before State Courts, with the aim of increasing efficiency and cutting the time required to decide a case. Extremely relevant changes also impacted arbitration, making Italy an even more arbitration-friendly jurisdiction. Below the most significant features.

Reinforced Impartiality and Independence of Arbitrators

With a view to aligning Italian arbitration law with the practice of the main international arbitration institutions, the amendments impose on each arbitrator a duty to disclose, at the time of acceptance of their appointment, the existence or absence of any circumstances that could lead to a challenge pursuant to the relevant Italian law provision (Article 815, para. 1, ICCP).

Without this declaration, the arbitrator’s acceptance will be considered null and void.

Moreover, article 815 of the ICCP provides a list of grounds for challenging an arbitrator. Until now, such grounds were specific and mostly related to the arbitrator’s relationship with the parties. With a view to strengthening the guarantees of impartiality and independence of

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Deutsche Bank Anti-Suit Injunction

The recent decision of the Court of Appeal (the Court) in Deutsche Bank v Ruschemalliance LLC [2023] EWCA Civ 1144 (Deutsche Bank) confirms the strong interest in favour of granting anti-suit relief to hold parties to their arbitration agreements, even where the seat of arbitration is in a jurisdiction that does not itself provide for anti-suit injunctions (ASIs).  In this case, anti-suit relief against proceedings issued in Russia was granted in circumstances where the relevant contract contained an agreement to arbitrate disputes in Paris. The Court considered that England was the proper forum for the anti-suit application, and that an anti-suit injunction was appropriate, because French courts do not grant ASIs.

The case is timely as it comes against the backdrop of a number of disputes about forum and choice of law in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Agreements have increasingly broken down following implementation of US and European sanctions.  There have been a number of consequential disputes over where to litigate – in Russia (as the Russian entity may prefer) or according to the contract’s specified forum.  Paris is one of the most popular ‘neutral’ forums for dispute resolution, including in contracts with Russian counterparties.  However, if

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