Wed, 14 March, 2018
GPF GP S.à.r.l. v Republic of Poland  EWHC 409 (Comm)
The recent decision of the Commercial Court in GPF GP S.à.r.l. v Republic of Poland  EWHC 409 (Comm) reinforces what should, by now, be well-known to be the unassailable position that a challenge to jurisdiction under section 67 of the Arbitration Act 1996 takes place as a full rehearing of that challenge and not as a review of the arbitral tribunal’s prior decision on the same issue of jurisdiction.
The patent unpopularity of that position in many quarters of the arbitral community is illustrated by the most recent hard-fought attempt in this case to argue that this approach is not justified and should be restricted wherever possible. The decision demonstrates however that attempts to pick away at the position, post the Supreme Court in Dallah Real Estate v Pakistan  UKSC 46, or to seek by other routes to sidestep the effect of a rehearing will be unavailing.
The decision of Bryan J unsurprisingly but usefully confirms that:
(a) that there is no difference between a question of jurisdiction ratione personae or ratione materiae: both are subject to a rehearing;
(b) that the position is no different where a party fails to raise issues in the arbitration and seeks to raise wholly new points on the s.67 challenge, irrespective of the nature of the jurisdictional aspect in play; and
(c) that resort by a party to ‘waiver’ to preclude the other party from raising such new points on the rehearing
The decision also contains a useful analysis of the concept, in the context of a BIT, of creeping expropriation qualifying as an expropriation in aggregate effect and the application of a BIT arbitration clause in that context (not addressed in this case note).
In a dispute between GPF (Griffin) and Poland under a BIT between Belgium, Luxembourg and Poland, Griffin claimed that a Polish court judgment constituted an expropriation measure. Griffin financed a property group seeking to invest in the redevelopment of ex-State properties for commercial and residential use. It claimed for violation of the fair and equitable treatment standard in the BIT and for indirect or creeping expropriation, similarly in breach of the BIT, relying on a series of acts or course of conduct by authorities and the court, attributable to Poland. A distinguished tribunal (Prof. Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, Prof. David Williams QC, Prof. Philippe Sands QC) held that aspects of Griffin’s claim fell outside the arbitration clause in the BIT and could not be pursued, effectively tying Griffin to reliance solely on the court judgment and not the "prior measures" on which it also relied in support of its FET / expropriation claims.
Griffin challenged the Award under section 67 and, in so doing, supplemented in material aspects its case with new evidence as to the drafting history of the BIT and the "prior measures" and developed additional and different arguments. Poland contended that this was not permissible.
Poland’s Two Points and Bryan J’s Decision
Poland took two points, against the background of the general undesirability of the rehearing rule as eroding the efficacy of international arbitration, buttressed with reference to what the Judge referred to as "the spirited attack on the re-hearing approach undertaken by the editors of Arbitration Law 5th edn" (Robert Merkin and Louis Flannery QC).
First, Poland argued that the rehearing approach, enshrined in Dallah, was on analysis only applicable in a case which involved a question of jurisdiction ratione personae, i.e., a fundamental issue concerning a claimant who claimed not to be party to the arbitration agreement, and not where the issue arising is one of jurisdiction ratione materiae, or the scope of disputes referred to arbitration.
It argued that the seminal decision of Rix J. in Azov Shipping Co. v Baltic Shipping Co.  1 Lloyd's Rep 68, on which Lord Mance’s speech in Dallah was said to hinge, concerned only a substantial issue of fact as to whether a party had entered into an arbitration agreement, not a scope of disputes issue. Reference was also made to a s.67 decision of Toulson J in Ranko Group v Antarctic Maritime SA  ADRLN 35 (post Azov) in which, he held that it would be wrong for the courts to rely on new evidence which "could perfectly well have been put before the arbitrator, but was not placed before him, and with no adequate explanation why it was not". Toulson J based his decision, in part, on the reduced role of the courts under the Arbitration Act 1996. With that in mind, Poland argued that the Court should not seek to extend the rehearing principle any further than was strictly justified, i.e. to ratione personae issues only.
Bryan J’s decision was an emphatic rejection of any distinction either in the cases or in principle and a vigorous endorsement of the validity of the Dallah principle :"In each case, where it is said the tribunal has no jurisdiction, it is on the basis that either there is no arbitration agreement between the particular parties, or that there is no arbitration agreement that confers jurisdiction in respect of the claim made. In each case if the submission is proved, the Tribunal has no jurisdiction as no jurisdiction has been conferred upon it by the parties in an arbitration agreement. In such circumstances it is for the Court under section 67 to consider whether jurisdiction does or does not exist, unfettered by the reasoning of the arbitrators or indeed the precise manner in which arguments were advanced before the arbitrators."
Secondly, Poland argued that the doctrine of waiver applied, because Griffin could have advanced the new materials and arguments before the arbitrators but failed or chose not to do so and should therefore be taken to have waived them or to be precluded from running them, even at a rehearing. The argument is, unfortunately, only shortly summarised in the judgment.
The difficulty with this argument, as explained by the Judge, is that once it is recognised that a rehearing is an entirely de novo determination, it is difficult to see how and where waiver will arise.
He put it this way : "it is difficult to see how a waiver could arise in circumstances where it is well established that there can be a re-hearing under section 67, a fact parties are taken to know), and in the context of no restriction being set out in section 67 itself restricting what arguments may be re-run, no question of any loss of a right to advance particular arguments on a re-hearing under section 67 can arise".
However, while conceivably some form of formal abandonment of a point in the arbitral jurisdiction hearing on which the other relied to its prejudice and detriment and which could not be redressed at the rehearing might amount to a waiver, in the present case (as in most if not all) Poland dealt with the ‘new’ points in detail and could not point to any prejudice.
While the logical underpinning, the justifications and the demerits of a Dallah approach will doubtless and understandably continue to be discussed in the arbitral community (as illustrated by an entertaining debate between Sir David Steel and Louis Flannery QC at the recent Quadrant Chambers International Arbitration Seminar), in practical ‘practitioner’ terms it has been a wholly sterile one since 2010, and perhaps it is time to recognise that fact.
Simon Rainey QC is one of the best-known and most highly regarded practitioners at the Commercial Bar with a high reputation for his intellect, advocacy skills, commercial pragmatism and commitment to client care. He has established a broad commercial advisory and advocacy practice spanning substantial commercial contractual disputes, international trade and commodities, energy and natural resources, insurance and reinsurance shipping and maritime law in all its aspects,. He appears in the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal and also the Supreme Court (with two recent landmark victories in NYK v Cargill  UKSC 20 and Bunge SA v Nidera SA  UKSC 43.) He regularly handles Arbitration Act 1996 challenges.
He has extensive experience of international arbitration, regularly appearing as advocate under all of the main international arbitral rules (LCIA; SIAC, UNCITRAL; ICC, Swiss Rules etc) and also sitting as arbitrator.
Current examples of his work as counsel are in arbitration before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in a US 13billion gas supply dispute; under Nigerian Law and seat in relation to an offshore oilfield redetermination dispute between oil majors, under UNCITRAL Rules in a mining supply take or pay dispute involving one of the world’s leading mine conglomerates; an ICC arbitration concerning a new mine development in Russia and an ICC Dubai seat arbitration involving specialist offshore vessels and in associated s67 and s68 LCIA challenges in the A v B  EWHC 3417 (Comm) litigation in the4 Commercial Court. Recent arbitral appointments include an ICC Paris seat arbitration concerning a power station failure, a French law and seat arbitration relating to an oil rig drilling contract, an offshore construction contract claim under SIAC Rules and a long-term ore supply contract claim under Swiss Rules.
He is highly ranked by Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 as a first division international arbitration specialist (“Highly regarded for his expertise in handling high-profile international arbitrations in connection with complex oil and gas, banking and finance and trade issues. He is well known for his prowess in advising and representing clients in disputes in countries as far flung as Turkey, Russia, the USA, China and India” 2018; “Incredibly good, with a particular skill in reducing the complicated to the elegantly simple, which when you're trying to present a case to a tribunal or court is one of the more valuable things you need to have” 2018; “Clearly now one of the top commercial silks and a delight to work with.” 2018; “A mixture of brilliance and brevity, his written submissions are like poetry” 2018), He was nominated for “International Arbitration Silk of the Year 2017” by Legal 500 and has also been awarded “Shipping & Commodities Silk of the Year” 2017 by both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500.
He sits as a deputy High Court Judge in the Commercial Court and is Honorary Professor of Law, Business and Economics, University of Swansea.