Arbitration in Italy’s 2020

Mountains of papers have been written, countless rhetorical statements and a handful of enlightening and careful considerations were spent to describe 2020 and how tragic and particular that year was.

I don’t intend to add my voice to that chorus. However, I would like to focus on two aspects, which in my opinion deserve the attention of the readers of this law journal.

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Arbitration and choice of forum clauses

The Court of first instance of Milan addressed in its decision No. 7692 of 26 November 2020 (Italian text available here) the issue arising out of the coexistence, within the same contract, of an arbitration clause and a choice of forum clause.

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Corporate arbitration

Italian law provisions on corporate arbitration (enacted by legislative decree no. 5 of 17 January 2003) entails a number of interpretative issues, possibly the reason for the limited recourse to arbitration in corporate matters.

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Separability presumption

Separability presumption is universally applied, as the relevant doctrine spread all over the world during the first half of XX century.

In the words of Italian lawmakers, “The validity of the arbitration clause must be evaluated independently of the underlying contract” (Article 808, para. 2, of the Italian Code of Civil Procedure).

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A proposal for Italian arbitration

In order to access the Recovery Fund, EU member States are required to draft a “National Recovery and Resilience Plan”, consistent with the specific recommendations the Europen Commission addressed them.

In that perspective, Italian government recently made available a preliminary document, headed “Guidelines for the definition of the national recovery and resilience plan” (Italian text available here). A short, forty-page document, with two pages only on Italian judicial system.

In fact, the said guidelines contain vague indications with respect to Italian judicial system and Italian justice: they only claim a number of nebulous, undefined proposed goals (shortening the duration of Court proceedings; reforming codes of civil, criminal and tax proceedings; planning interventions on the Italian judiciary organisation). Nothing else.

Following the publication of these guidelines, Unione Nazionale delle Camere Civili, that is to say, the association representing Italian civil lawyers, published its proposal for an extraordinary plan for civil justice (Italian text available here). It took an admirable initiative, as it triggers (or it could be able to trigger) a broad debate on possible specific, practical measures.

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A never signed arbitration clause

An Arbitral Tribunal seated in Padua recently dealt with some issues concerning its jurisdiction. The award was delivered on 21 January 2020 and its Italian text is available here.

The dispute heard by the Tribunal referred to an alleged relationship between a bank and a limited company evidenced by a framework agreement and an interest rate swap contract.

The claimant’s case was that the said contractual documents were never signed by its legal representative and that the signature on them was forged. As a consequence, the claimant requested the respondent to return the amounts the latter received under the terms of the said contracts.

An interesting point is that the claimant commenced the arbitration proceedings provided for by the arbitration clause contained in the contracts that, in its own case, it never entered into.

Another interesting point is that, on the basis of the opinion of a Tribunal-appointed expert, the claimant’s signature on the contracts actually proved to be forged. The respondent did not raise any objection after the filing of the expert opinion. Nonetheless, when the Tribunal requested the parties to express their views on the matter, the respondent objected to the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, lacking an enforceable (and even existing) arbitration clause.

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International corporate arbitration

International corporate arbitration under Italian law is a very interesting topic that nonetheless is virtually neglected by Italian scholars. Besides, to date there are no reported decisions.

First of all, a clarification of terminology is due: in this context, ‘international corporate arbitration’ means an abroad seated arbitration concerning a dispute falling within the scope of Article 34 of Italian Legislative Decree No. 5 of 17 January 2003, n. 5, which sets forth particular rules concerning arbitration in corporate matters.

In practice, possible cases of international commercial arbitration are not uncommon. For instance, an Italian incorporated company could represent the investment vehicle of a foreign entity. And that foreign entity could wish that corporate disputes (against an Italian co-investor, or the company’s directors) are referred to an abroad seated arbitration.

A few scholars addressed the relevant issue, which is also addressed by a recent decision issued by the Court of Appeal of Genoa (decision No. 649 of 9 July 2020, Italian text available here).

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CAM simplified arbitration

The Arbitration Rules of Milan Arbitration Chamber, which came into force a year ago (as discussed here), has recently been integrated.  The new provisions, applying from 1st July 2020, establish a simplified arbitration procedure. 

The said new provisions are contained in Annex D to the arbitration rules, available here (for the time being, only in Italian) 

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Arbitration in the time of CoViD-19

CoViD-19 pandemic also has an impact on arbitration proceedings.

The relevant issues were addressed by Italian lawmaker, that enacted provisions which require careful thought for their construction.

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Arbitration and tort claims

A recent decision issued by the Court of Milan (No. 1684 of 24 February 2020, Italian text available here) concerns a very interesting topic, that of Arbitral Tribunals jurisdiction over non-contractual claims related to a contract.

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