Two recent rulings of the Italian Supreme Court analysed the relationship between arbitration and insolvency proceedings.
The first ruling (decision no. 13089 of 24 June 2015 of the of the I Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, Italian text available here) established that “claims against a bankrupt party may not be brought before an Arbitral Tribunal. Indeed, the jurisdiction of the arbitrators is in any case prevented due to the prevailing jurisdiction of the Insolvency Courts on such claims.”
The second ruling is more interesting (decision no. 15200 of 21 July 2015 of the Supreme Court sitting en banc, Italian text available here). This judgment focused on the issue of the relationship between arbitration and insolvency when an arbitration procedure is pending abroad and therefore EC Regulation no. 1346 of 29 May 1999 concerning insolvency proceedings applies.
In insolvency matters, Italian law does not favour arbitration. On the one hand, the vis attractiva concorsus principle pursuant to article 24(1) of the Italian Insolvency Law states that “the Court which opens the insolvency proceedings shall have jurisdiction on all the civil actions resulting from such proceedings.” On the other hand, Article 83/bis of the Italian Insolvency Law notes that “if a contract containing an arbitration clause is terminated in accordance with the provisions of this Section, the pending arbitration proceedings shall not continue.” The interaction between both Articles results in a significant reduction of the scope of the arbitrability of the disputes a party to which is subject to insolvency proceedings. And this reduction also interferes with the principle of separability of the arbitration clause. Indeed, the explanatory memorandum to the decree introducing the comprehensive reform of the Italian Insolvency Law states that “(…) the already pending arbitration proceedings shall not continue if the contract containing the arbitration clause is terminated pursuant to the provisions of section IV. The purpose is to prevent that the arbitration proceedings survives the agreement, terminated as a consequence of the bankruptcy, which contained the arbitration clause.”
A recent order of the Supreme Court sitting en banc (order no. 10800 of 26 May 2015, Italian text available here) concerns the relationship between arbitration (in the case at hand, international arbitration) and insolvency proceedings.