Corporate disputes are capable of arbitration, under Italian law, if they concern negotiable rights (Art. 34(1) of Legislative Decree no. 5 of 17 January 2003). Therefore, the question is: what does “negotiable rights” mean?
The Court of first instance of Florence established an interesting doctrine of arbitrability of corporate disputes, which is enunciated in a recent decision (no. 2906 of 8 September 2016, Italian text available here).
I already examined that doctrine (in this post); moreover, the issue of arbitrability of corporate disputes has often been mentioned on this blog (for instance, in this post, in this one and this one too).
A recent ruling of the Court of first instance of Rome (decision no. 25936 of 30 December 2015, Italian text available here) brings up the issue of the arbitrability of corporate disputes, in particular those relating to the challenge of resolutions of company’s general meetings.
In its decision no. 10610 of 22 September 2015, the Court of first instance of Milan declared its lack of jurisdiction on the challenge of a resolution of a cooperative company. The Court used a broad construction of the arbitration clause contained in the company’s Articles of association. The Italian full text of the decision is available here.
If an arbitration clause is stipulated in the company’s Articles of association, disputes between a former shareholder and the company, concerning the repayment of a shareholders’ loan, shall be referred to an Arbitral Tribunal. This is, in a nutshell, the rationale of decision no. 18316 of 17 September 2015 of the Third Civil Chamber of the Court of first instance of Rome (the Italian full text is available here).
The Supreme Court confirmed the non arbitrability of disputes concerning the challenge of company’s resolutions approving the financial statements (order no. 17950 of 10 September 2015 of the VI Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, Italian full text available here).
Order no. 17283 of 28 August 2015 of the Italian Supreme Court affirmed the jurisdiction of an Arbitral Tribunal on the challenge of certain shareholders’ resolutions, pursuant to the arbitration clause stipulated in the company’s Articles of associations. The clause at hand only referred to the arbitrators “all disputes which may arise between the company and any shareholder or among the shareholders (…) concerning the company’s activities.” The Italian full text of the order is available here.
The Court of first instance of Milan went back to analyse the relationship between Courts’ jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of Arbitral Tribunals, with respect to the challenge of the resolution approving the company’s financial statements (in this case, a limited liability company whose Articles of association included an arbitration clause). The Italian full text of the decision (decision no. 9115 of 28 July 2015 of the Court of first instance of Milan) is available here.
The wording of the arbitration clause should be carefully selected, as it constitutes the basis of the jurisdiction of the Arbitral Tribunal. A possible wrong wording will not always be emended, once the dispute has arisen.
Nevertheless, it is commonplace that due attention is not devoted to this clause, either because it is inserted at the last minute in an agreement (known as the “midnight clause” effect), or because the agreement is reached after long negotiation on its commercial terms, underestimating the risk of a possible dispute.