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英国法院驳回当事人基于法律适用错误对仲裁裁决提出的异议(英国案例)

202071日,CH Offshore Ltd vInternaves Consorcio Naviero SA & Ors[2020] EWHC 1710 (Comm)一案,上诉人依据英国1996年《仲裁法》第69条对仲裁案件所涉及的法律问题提出上诉,英国高等法院认为本案仲裁庭的结论没有法律错误。根据出租人CHO与承租人PDV Marina达成的和解协议所支付款项的一部分保留了租金的性质,船东作为出租人部分收取了租金,所以仲裁申请人有权根据协议收取佣金和咨询费。上诉人的请求被驳回。

一、案情介绍

本案申请人CHOAmethystTurquoise两艘船的船东。被申请人是三家公司,分别是DG女士控股的Internaves公司、CS先生控股的Maritima公司以及两人共同控股的Lamat公司(本案判决中将以上三方单独或合称为经纪人)。

案外人PDV Marina SA(以下称:PDVSA)是委内瑞拉国有石油天然气公司,是本案上述船舶的承租人。

201711月下旬,PDVSA邀请投标人为它租两艘船签订租船合同,其中就包括CS控股的MaritimaCS代表Maritima收到PDVSA的投标邀请后,将其转交给DGDG又将投标邀请函转交给了CHO的船舶经纪人Seascope/BraemarSeascope)的Malvisi

CHO最初对租金的报价为46000美元/天,佣金为1%,后又经过上述经纪人4次协商,各方于20071214日商议的船舶租金为4285美元/天,佣金为2.5%,税费、动员费与遣散费分批支付,其中遣散费最后支付。

20071215日,由于所有投标书均未符合投标要求,全部标书过期。随后,CS询问了PDVSA是否仍然对CHO过期标感兴趣。得到CHO的确认后,SeascopeInternaves提供了一份报价方案,该方案由Maritima提交给PDVSA。修订后的报价与CHO招标要约非常相似,但是租金从47,000美元/天增加到47,600美元/天。

20071218日,DG通知Malvisi,船舶Amethyst的实际承租人为PDV Marina S.A.Malvisi将上述信息转达给CHOCHO回复在PDVSA提供书面确认他们接受租船合同条款之前,不会取消之前的条件。大约在同一时间,PDVSA告知Maritima,其报价(即Maritima代表CHO提出的报价)已被接受,具体细节另行规定。

20081月初,Maritima获悉PDVSA打算租第二艘船,CHOInternaves提供了第二艘船,并通过SeascopeInternaves将报价转给了PDVSA

2008124日,CHO分别与InternavesMaritima签署委托协议(《经纪佣金协议》)CHOLamat签署顾问协议(顾问协议),共同经纪佣金协议(《协议》),上述协议争议解决均为英国法下伦敦仲裁。

CHO2008123日签署租船合同,PDVSA200821日签署合同。

20081月中旬,由于PDVSA组织内的另一家公司与Astivenca就两艘不同的船签订了协议,因此不需要这些船舶。20131月,经CHO要求这两艘船被归还。

CHO随后在伦敦法院对PDV MarinaAstivencaPDVSA提起诉讼。2015416日各方达成和解协议,约定20156PDV MarinaCHO一次性支付6000万美元。由于各方就协议的未付佣金产生了争议,各方同意合并这些协定下六项仲裁

20194月,仲裁庭由3名仲裁员组成。本案被上诉人分别根据经纪佣金协议和顾问协议提出的佣金/损害赔偿请求得到了仲裁庭多数人的支持Michael Baker-Harber持不同意见CHO的反请求未被支持。

据此,本案上诉人依据1996年《仲裁法》第69条提出上诉,理由为以下三方面问题:

问题1:经纪人对其委托人负有什么责任?特别是以Maritima / Internaves角度经纪人是否负有披露交易的全部事实以及向CHO披露所获得的租金明显少于PDVSA同意支付的租金的义务;(what duties are owed by an intermediary broker to its principals? In particular whether an intermediary broker (in the position of Maritima/ Internaves) owed a duty (a) to disclose the full facts of the transaction to their principals; and (b) to disclose to CHO the fact "that the hire that it was getting was significantly less than the hire PDVSA had agreed to pay";

问题2:根据英国法律,经纪人和/或顾问私下收取佣金和/或其他款项的协议是否因公共政策或违法而不可被执行whether, as a matter of English law, an agreement pursuant to which a broker and/or consultant received secret commission and/or other payments was unenforceable on the grounds of public policy or illegality;

问题3:根据和解协议支付的赔偿金的一部分是否保留了租金的性质,从而使仲裁申请人(被上诉人)有权收取佣金和咨询费。(whether a proportion of the sum paid under the Settlement Agreement to compromise CHO's claims (as owners) against PDV Marina (as charterers) retained the character of "Charter Hire" so as to "capture" the Claimants' right to commission and consultancy fees.

二、法院认定

法院认为,本案梳理问题12的关键是确定仲裁庭的事实调查结果。此外还必须弄清被上诉人哪些行为存在争议,以及在这项交易中什么是私下,因为所谓的不披露和私下付款的性质与确定法律原则有关。(In relation to Questions 1 and 2, it is In my viewessential to identify those findings of fact by the Tribunal which underpin the issues of law which are the subject of the Appeal under those two headings……It is also important to beclear what behaviour of the defendants is in issue and what is "secret" in this transaction as the nature of the alleged non disclosure and the "secret payments" is relevant to the identification of the relevant legal principles.

首先,法院从三个方面对问题1进行了假定,即,1)居间人与委托人之间法律关系受英国法管辖;2)该法律关系是一种具有受托责任的代理关系;3)经纪人的职责统一。(It seems to me that the question of law as formulated assumes that: i) the relationship between the intermediary and its principals is governed by English law; ii) the relationship is one of agency which attracts fiduciary duties; and iii) there is a single set of duties which are the same for all "intermediary brokers".

从法律适用法角度,被上诉人的律师称,在订立协议之前,经纪人与CHO之间的关系受英国法律管辖。然而,这一问题并未在许可阶段提出,法院认为,就本上诉而言,假设经纪人与CHO之间的关系受英国法律管辖。(Counsel for the defendants in this Appeal disputed that the relationship between the Brokers and CHO before the Agreements were entered into was governed by English law. However this issue was not raised at the permission stage and I propose to assume for the purposes of this Appeal that the relationship between the Brokers and CHO is governed by English law.

从该法律关系是一种具有受托责任的代理关系的角度,法院采纳了仲裁裁决第84段认为,仲裁申请人(本案被上诉人)在任何时候都不是租赁合同一方当事人的代理人。( it seems to me that there is a clear finding of fact (paragraph 84) by the Tribunal that based on their role in the negotiations they weremere intermediaries.)基于上述观点,法院认为,处于经纪人地位的中间人并非完全法律意义上的代理人,因为他们无权约束任何一方。此外,法院不确定他们是否可以被视为代理人。这些经纪人不是代表CHO行事,CHO已经雇佣了自己的经纪人Seascope,仲裁庭认定这些经纪人并非PDVSA的代理人。(In my view an intermediary in the position of the Brokers were not agents in what Bowstead refers to as the "full legal sense" in that they did not have power to bind either party. Further I doubt that they can be regarded as an agent at all. They were not acting for CHO which had its own broker, Seascope, which was being paid a commission for so acting and the Tribunal found as a fact that the Brokers were not acting for PDVSA.)法院认为Maritima / Internaves的唯一作用是传达消息。所以,如果其唯一的责任是诚实地传递消息,那么经纪人为了最大限度地增加佣金而产生的潜在商业动机不会违反其义务,而且仲裁庭也不会裁定经纪人不诚实。(However if the only duty is to transmit communications honestly then no such duty is breached by the underlying commercial motivation on the part of the Brokers to maximise their commissions and there is no finding by the Tribunal of dishonesty on the part of the Brokers.)因此,法院认为,InternavesMaritima作为中间人不可避免的卷入冲突,因为他不是代理人。但是,即使这类中间人承担了某些信托义务,这也不能作为施加信托义务的理由(In my view an intermediary in the position of Internaves and Maritima does not have a duty not to put himself in a position of conflict because he is not an agent and has therefore no principal. However even if such an intermediary is subject to some fiduciary duties, the role does not justify the imposition of a fiduciary duty 

从经纪人职责统一性角度,法院认为,英国法下经纪人的利益实际上是其参与交易的理由,即赚取佣金。法院认为,根据英国法律中关于佣金的规定,在当事方(在本例中为CHO)知道PDVSA所支付的金额及其在支付佣金和其他金额之后所保留的净额的情况下,披露义务的范围并不受影响。( Insofar as the duties of the intermediary are governed by English law, this alleged "interest" is in substance merely the rationale for the intermediary being involved, namely to earn commission, and does not seem to me to affect the scope of the duty of disclosure as a matter of English law in relation to the commissions where the party (in this case CHO) is aware both of the amount being paid by PDVSA and the net amount retained by it after payment of the commissions and other amounts.

据此,法院认为,仲裁庭在结论中认为Maritima / Internaves作为经纪人没有义务向CHO披露PDVSA的基本商业地位,该结论并没有法律错误。仲裁庭根据当事各方公开和了解的事实作出的调查结果,对经纪人的责任范围认定没有法律错误。

其次,就问题2而言,法院认为不存在私下收费的情况。这是由于每天47600美元的租金是CHO知悉且根据租船合同支付和收到的金额,因此不存在欺骗或隐瞒。(In any event as noted above, the full amount of US$47,600 was disclosed to CHO as this represented the amount paid and received under the charterparty and the net amount received by CHO reflected the larger figure. There was no deceit or concealment in this regard.

据此,法院认为根据英国法律,仲裁庭的结论没有任何法律错误,即经纪人和/或顾问根据协议收取佣金和/或其他款项,在当事人知道付款事实只是不知道应付金额的情况下,基于公共政策或非法性的理由,该协议并非不可执行。(For these reasons as a matter of English law, there was In my view no error of law in the conclusion of the Tribunal that an agreement pursuant to which a broker and/or consultant received commission and/or other payments was not unenforceable on the grounds of public policy or illegality in circumstances where the fact of the payments was known to the parties and it was open to the party who was aware of the market rates but unaware of the amount payable to the Brokers, to enquire as to the amount of the payments but chose not to do so.

最后,法院认为问题3既是一个事实问题,又是一个法律问题。法院认为租船合同中租金一词的字面含义不仅包括根据租船合同条款支付的租金,而且包括迟交或因法律程序而支付的租金。法院还认为,法律程序是否只是为了收回未付租金,还是包括对其他金额的索赔,都无关紧要。只要船东收到租金,就会触发经纪人请求佣金的权利。即法院对租金进行扩大解释,认为租金一词也适用于为解决租金索赔而支付的款项。(It seems to me that the literal meaning of the term "Charter Hire" in the Agreements encompasses not only payments of hire made in accordance with the terms of the charterparty but also payments of hire which are made late or as a result of legal proceedings. It seems to me to be irrelevant whether the legal proceedings are only to recover unpaid hire or also include claims for other amounts. The entitlement to commission under the Agreements is triggered if charter hire is received by the Owner, whether or not other amounts are also recovered …… In my view viewed objectively the term "Charter Hire" also extends to payments which are made to settle the claim for charter hire and there is no basis for imposing a narrow construction of the term either on the language used or the context of the Agreements.

最终,法院认为,根据船东CHO与承租人PDV Marina达成的和解协议所支付款项的一部分保留了租金的性质,船东作为出租人部分收取了租金,所以申请人有权根据协议收取佣金和咨询费。上诉人的请求被驳回。( In my view for these reasons there was no error of law in the conclusion of the Tribunal that a proportion of the sum paid under the Settlement Agreement to compromise CHO's claims (as owners) against PDV Marina (as charterers) retained the character of "Charter Hire" so as to trigger the Claimants' right to commission and consultancy fees under the Agreements. Appeal dismissed.

三、案评

英国1996年《仲裁法》第69条是对仲裁一裁终局的有限突破。它规定当事人可以仲裁裁决涉及法律问题适用错误为由向法院请求救济。该条规定,仲裁一方当事人可在通知另一方及仲裁庭后,以各方当事人同意或法院批准上诉为前提,该当事人可以就仲裁裁决中涉及的法律问题提出上诉。

本案,法院虽扩大解释了租金的定义,但其通过各方的缔约目的、法律适用以及案件事实的角度详细论述了被上诉人作为中间经纪人可以得到佣金的理由。首先,本案最终合同价格明显高于协商时的价格,且出租人的合同中明确体现了该笔款项,因此不存在经纪人未披露的义务。其次,由于出租人CHO与承租人PDV Marina的最初缔约目的为船舶租赁,因此,法院认为,只要出租人基于租船合同收取了费用,无论其名目为何,中间人均可获得相应的佣金。

此外,虽然本案并未涉及,但就69条本身而言,如一方当事人就法律问题的上诉理由成立,依据69条第7款规定可能产生以下4种结果:1)确认裁决结果(confirm the award2)改变仲裁裁决(vary the award3)将全部或部分将裁决发回仲裁庭,按照法院决定重审(remit the award to the tribunal, in whole or in part, for reconsideration in the light of the court's determination);4)全部或部分撤销仲裁裁决(set aside the award in whole or in part)。其中,如果法院决定依法对仲裁进行改判,所得出的结论究竟属于判决还是裁决?这对当事人的影响可能不仅是最终的结论,还可能涉及承认与执行问题。更深思考,法院对案件进行改判后,将突破当事人对仲裁的意思自治选择。在现阶段,笔者尚未发现有关于此观点的最终认定。

最后,本案的另一个亮点是,受疫情影响,本案法院通过远程方式进行庭审,判决由法官通过电子邮件发送给双方代表。2020年新冠病毒影响,英国在325日颁布了Cornoavirus Act 2020  Information about how HMCTS will use telephone and video technology during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.肯定了视频音频技术在庭审中的适用,也表示在疫情期间的庭审优先适用上述技术。这是疫情期间对庭审途径多元化、便利化的体现。