An article in the Solicitors Journal:
Frankfurt eyes London’s commercial litigation crown
Brexit uncertainty, an underfunded civil justice system, and a less diverse judiciary are causes for concern, by John van der Luit-Drummond
The article reports that ‘moves are afoot to dethrone London as the preeminent dispute resolution hub.’ We’ve been here before – attempts to set up English-language courts in Germany were linked to a German campaign to sell German courts to international litigants. But Brexit was not part of the mix then. It is reported in the SJ earlier:
The Rolls Building is to be rebranded the ‘Business and Property Courts of England and Wales’ from June of this year in a move to shore up the jurisdiction’s reputation post-Brexit and to enhance the connection between the regions and the capital.
(Here’s the Rolls Building.)
On 30 March, ‘Justice Initiative Frankfurt’ was presented to German lawyers, judges, and business leaders with one aim: to attract more financial disputes to Frankfurt at the expense of London. The initiative launched by law professors Burkhard Hess, Thomas Pfeiffer, Christian Duve, a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Roman Poseck, the president of the Frankfurt Court of Appeal, is backed by the federal state of Hessen’s minister for justice, Eva Kühne-Hörmann, and will look to take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s legal services market post-Brexit.
The link to Justice Initiative Frankfurt is to an English translation of the position paper.
The SJ has a Simmons & Simmons partner, Ed Crosse, who thinks English courts will continue to be preferred internationally.
‘When designing new procedures, the Frankfurt courts, like many others such as the Singapore International Commercial Court, will undoubtedly select what they perceive to be the most attractive procedures used by other jurisdictions and avoid those that are receiving criticism,’ explains Crosse. ‘We cannot be complacent about such matters.’
I have no idea how flexible the Frankfurt courts can be in choosing their procedures. The position paper quotes the German Code of Civil Procedure in the ‘official’ version not always popular with me.
As much as I would like to see more banking litigation moving to Frankfurt, in my opinion, one very important factor will be the governing law: Unless the underlying contracts and financial instruments are governed by German law, it will make little sense to agree on Frankfurt as the venue. Parties, on the other hand, will only agree on German law if they have confidence in the courts. In my opinion, an effort must be made to align Justizinitiative Frankfurt, the Law Made in Germany project and the English language in German courts legislative initiative. So let’s see what is going to be proposed on March 30, 2017.