Two virtually simultaneous decisions, issued by two different lower Courts, reached opposite conclusions (Court of Catania, decision No. 1020 of 13 March 2020, Italian text available here; and Court of Milan, decision No. 2091 of 11 March 2020, Italian text available here). The legal grounds of both these decisions are indicated under Article 118, para. 1, of the Implementing Provisions of Italian Code of Civil Procedure. In other words, they merely refer to judicial precedents.
The recent publication of two decisions issued by different national courts of first instance (Court of Civitavecchia, decision No. 2 of 7 January 2021, Italian text available here; and Court of Brindisi, decision No. 22 of 5 January 2021, Italian text available here) offers the opportunity to examine the ‘state of the art’ regarding the applicability of the corporate arbitration law to consortia (consorzi).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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)
Arbitrability of disputes arising out of the termination of a contract: in my opinion, this is a very interesting topic, both for its theoretical and practical consequences. In fact, I have already addressed this topic, a few months ago (in this post), in relation to contractual restitutions, commenting a decision by the Court of Milan that in my view misapplied the principles governing the matter.
A recent decision issued by the Court of first instance of Rome (No. 1695 of 27 January 2020, Italian text available here) gives me the chance to examine again the topic, from a partially different point of view.