Applicable requirements as to the form of arbitral awards


Applicable legislation as to the form of awards

1     Must an award take any particular form?

Article 1481 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that an award (whether domestic or international) must contain:

  • the name, surname or corporate name of each of the parties, and their domicile or registered office;
  • if applicable, the name of the lawyers or of any other person who represented or assisted the parties;
  • the arbitrators’ names;
  • a date; and
  • the place where the award was rendered.

Under Article 1482 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the award must also provide reasons for the award and give a succinct summary of the parties’ submissions. It is implicit from these formal requirements that the award must be in writing.

In international arbitration, the parties may depart from the rules described above, though there would be very few reasons to do so in practice. By contrast, in domestic arbitration, these formal requirements are mandatory. For the sake of clarity, an arbitration is considered international if it involves the interests of international trade (i.e., if the nature of the economic operation that gave rise to the dispute involves a cross-border flow of capital, services or assets).

In principle, all arbitrators must sign the award (Code of Civil Procedure, Articles 1480 and 1513). Should a minority of arbitrators refuse to sign it, a mention of this should be made, but the validity of the award will not be affected. However, if the majority refuse to sign it, the award can be set aside in domestic arbitration. An international award would still be valid, as long as the president of the tribunal signs the award and mentions the others’ refusal. Although French law allows the president of a tribunal to render an international award alone, arbitrators should be mindful that many arbitration rules (e.g., the UNCITRAL rules) require a majority decision. In such a case, there is a risk that an award with the signature of a single arbitrator will not be enforced in France, or will be set aside, as the tribunal would arguably breach the mandate conferred upon it (see by analogy, Paris Court of Appeal, 1 July 1999, Revue de l’arbitrage 1999, No. 4, page 834).

Applicable procedural law for recourse against an award


Applicable legislation governing recourse against an award

2     Are there provisions governing modification, clarification or correction of an award? Are there provisions governing retractation or revision of an award? Under what circumstances may an award be retracted or revised (for fraud or other reasons)?

Article 1485 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that the parties may ask the arbitral tribunal to interpret or supplement the award, or to correct material errors and omissions if the tribunal has failed to decide an element of the claim. In domestic arbitration, if it is impossible to reconvene the arbitral tribunal and the parties cannot agree to reconstitute it, the power to modify the award belongs to the court that would have had jurisdiction in the absence of an arbitration agreement.

Such requests must be made within three months of notification of the award (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1486).

Parties can bring a ‘revision action’ before the arbitral tribunal to review allegedly fraudulent awards (Code of Civil Procedure, Articles 1502 and 1506(5)). In domestic arbitration, in the event that the tribunal cannot be reconvened, the court of appeal that would have had jurisdiction to hear other challenges against the award will handle the application, provided that the award was rendered in France (Civil Code of Procedure, Article 1502). For awards rendered in France in international matters, it is considered that a new tribunal will have to be constituted even if it is not specified in the law.


Appeals from an award

3     May an award be appealed to or set aside by the courts? What are the differences between appeals and applications to set aside awards?

In international arbitration, an award is not subject to appeal, even if the parties have otherwise agreed. Appeals are possible in domestic arbitration, if the parties have expressly provided for it (Civil Code of Procedure, Article 1489).

Applicable procedural law for setting aside of arbitral awards


Time limit

4     Is there a time limit for applying for the setting aside of an arbitral award?

The time limit for applying for the setting aside of an arbitral award is one month from the notification of the award (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1519). This deadline is extended by two months when the requesting party is domiciled abroad, pursuant to regular civil procedure rules (Code of Civil Procedure, Articles 1527 and 643).

In international arbitration, the parties can also expressly agree in advance to waive their right to bring annulment proceedings (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1522).


Award

5     What kind of arbitral decision can be set aside in your jurisdiction? Can courts set aside partial or interim awards?

Only arbitral awards can be set aside in France, which are understood as an arbitral tribunal’s decision resolving a dispute submitted to arbitrators, in full or in part, whether on the merits, on the jurisdiction of the tribunal, or another procedural objection putting an end to the proceedings (Cass. civ. 1, 12 October 2011, No. 09-72439).

Therefore, a partial award can be set aside in France. The setting aside of an interim decision is more controversial, though the Paris Court of Appeal found that a decision whereby a tribunal ordered interim measures for the duration of the arbitral proceedings did constitute an award and could be set aside (7 October 2004, No. 2004/13909).

Importantly, French courts do not consider themselves bound by the language used by arbitral tribunals to characterise their decisions.


Competent court

6     Which court has jurisdiction over an application for the setting aside of an arbitral award?

Applications for the setting aside of an award must be brought before the court of appeal that has territorial jurisdiction over the place where the award was rendered (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1519). At the Paris Court of Appeal, cases involving the interests of international trade are now heard by the newly created international chamber, before which parties may use English for oral arguments, exhibits, witness statements and expert report, although submissions must be drafted in French.


Form of application and required documentation

7     What documentation is required when applying for the setting aside of an arbitral award?

The party applying to set aside an award must provide the original award and the arbitration agreement, or duly authenticated copies of these documents. In practice, in Paris, the court requires the original award, an authenticated copy of the arbitration agreement and an extra copy of each of these documents.


Translation of required documentation

8     If the required documentation is drafted in a language other than the official language of your jurisdiction, is it necessary to submit a translation with the application for the setting aside of an arbitral award? If yes, in what form must the translation be?

Under Article 1515(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, a full translation is required if the required documentation is not drafted in French. The applicant may be invited to provide a certified translation by a sworn translator, although this is not a requirement in principle. In the authors’ experience, a certified translation is usually required in Paris.

The above requirements also apply to annulment proceedings heard before the newly created international chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal, where parties may use English for oral arguments, exhibits, witness statements and expert reports.


Other practical requirements

9     What are the other practical requirements relating to the setting aside of an arbitral award? Are there any limitations on the language and length of the submissions and of the documentation filed by the parties?

As a general rule, submissions must be drafted in French. However, in the Paris Court of Appeal, cases involving the interests of international trade are now heard by the newly created international chamber, before which parties may use English for oral arguments, exhibits, witness statements and expert reports.

There are no limitations on the length of the submissions and documentation filed by the parties.


Form of the setting-aside proceedings

10     What are the different steps of the proceedings?

Once the respondent has been summoned with a set-aside application, it has 15 days to designate a lawyer, failing which a judgment can be entered against the respondent solely on the material submitted by the applicant (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 902).

The applicant has three months following the filing of its set-aside application to submit its legal briefs to the court (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 908). This deadline is increased by two months if the applicant resides outside France (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 911-2).

The defendant has three months to submit its brief, following the notification of the applicant’s briefs (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 909). This deadline is increased by two months if the defendant resides outside France (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 911-2).

The pretrial judge (a judge specifically appointed for the coordination of pretrial procedural matters before the case is heard by the court) may prescribe shorter time limits depending on the nature of the case (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 911-1).

Once the parties have submitted their initial briefs, a procedural timetable is set by the pretrial judge, in which a deadline will be set for the closure of both the written and oral pleadings of the parties. If the case requires a further exchange of pleadings, the pretrial judge sets a timetable for further exchanges after consulting with the parties (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 912).

A short hearing takes place after the written phase, following which a decision is issued by the court. The hearing is typically scheduled 18 months after registration of the set-aside application.


Suspensive effect

11     Do setting-aside proceedings have suspensive effect? May an arbitral award be recognised or enforced pending the setting-aside proceedings in your jurisdiction?

Pursuant to Article 1526(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure, challenges against an award rendered in international matters in France or abroad do not have suspensive effect; therefore, courts will not typically adjourn enforcement proceedings pending the outcome of annulment proceedings.

Nevertheless, courts can suspend or adapt enforcement proceedings if a party can show that it is likely that its rights would be severely harmed by the enforcement of the award (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1526(2)). Obtaining the suspension or adaptation of enforcement proceedings is generally difficult. Case law shows that such measures are granted only in exceptional circumstances (Paris Court of Appeal, 18 October 2011, Revue de l’arbitrage 2012, No. 2, p. 393). However, in one decision, the Paris Court of Appeal agreed to suspend immediate enforcement on the grounds that restitution of the amounts paid by the debtor would be ‘uncertain’ should the enforcement order be later repealed, as the creditor wanted to transfer the assets from France to the Czech Republic (Paris Court of Appeal, 23 April 2013, No. 13/02612).


Grounds for setting aside an arbitral award

12     What are the grounds on which an arbitral award may be set aside?

Under Article 1520 of the Code of Civil Procedure, French courts may set aside an award on one of the following grounds:

  • the arbitral tribunal wrongly upheld or declined jurisdiction;
  • the arbitral tribunal was irregularly constituted;
  • the arbitral tribunal ruled without complying with the mandate conferred on it;
  • the due process requirement was violated; or
  • recognition or enforcement of the award would violate international public policy.

Unlike appeals, applications to set aside an award do not entail a de novo review of the merits of the case. Successful challenges to arbitral awards before French courts are statistically rare.


Decision on the setting-aside application

13     What is the effect of the decision on the setting-aside application in your jurisdiction? What challenges are available?

An arbitral award can be set aside in whole or in part, if the award is severable (Cass. civ. 1, 18 March 2015, Revue de l’arbitrage, 2015, p. 632).

In any event, in international arbitration, the court of appeal that sets aside an award cannot then hear the merits of the dispute; a newly constituted arbitral tribunal hears the dispute, unless the arbitration agreement was declared void or inapplicable; if the court of appeal dismisses the setting-aside application, the award is automatically enforceable.

A judgment ruling on a setting-aside application can be appealed before the Court of Cassation. A party can also bring a ‘revision action’ before the court of appeal that heard the dispute, in particular if the judgment was obtain by fraud. A judgment rendered in absentia against a party can also be opposed by that party, which can request that the judgment be set aside or modified by the court that rendered it.


Effects of decisions rendered in other jurisdictions

14     Will courts take into consideration decisions rendered in the same matter in other jurisdictions or give effect to them?

French courts considering whether to set aside an award do not have regard and are not bound by the decisions of foreign courts on recognition and enforcement on the same matter, whether the decisions were issued at the seat of the arbitration or in other jurisdictions.

Applicable procedural law for recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards


Applicable legislation for recognition and enforcement

15     What is the applicable procedural law for recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award in your jurisdiction? Is your jurisdiction party to treaties facilitating recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards?

Two separate sets of rules apply to the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards.

Article 1487 et seq. of the Code of Civil Procedure apply to domestic arbitral awards rendered in France, whereas Article 1514 et seq. apply to awards rendered in France in international matters and awards rendered abroad, whether in domestic or international matters. The rules applicable to the latter are more arbitration-friendly. We focus here primarily on international arbitration.

France is party to several treaties facilitating the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards, including the New York Convention of 10 June 1958, the ICSID Convention of 18 March 1965, and the European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration of 21 April 1961.

The provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure prevail over the New York Convention by virtue of the ‘more favourable law’ provision contained in Article VII(1) of the Convention. This is because the French regime on recognition and enforcement is more liberal than that of the Convention. For example, under French law, an arbitral award that has been set aside at the foreign seat of arbitration may be recognised or enforced. As a result, the New York Convention is less relevant in France than elsewhere.


The New York Convention

16     Is the state a party to the 1958 New York Convention? If yes, what is the date of entry into force of the Convention? Was there any reservation made under Article I(3) of the Convention?

France is a party to the New York Convention, which was signed on 25 November 1958 and ratified on 26 June 1959. The Convention entered into force in France on 24 September 1959.

France had initially made the two reservations permitted by the Convention: the commercial and reciprocity reservations. The commercial reservation was withdrawn on 17 November 1989. The reciprocity reservation remains in force.

However, French courts rarely apply the New York Convention, since French law is more arbitration-friendly. The French provisions on recognition and enforcement apply, whether or not the award was rendered in a New York Convention contracting state.

Recognition proceedings


Time limit

17     Is there a time limit for applying for the recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award?

The Code of Civil Procedure and the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings do not provide for a time limit for applying for a recognition and enforcement order (called an exequatur order). Once this order has been issued, enforcement can be sought for a period of 10 years (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article L. 111-4).


Competent court

18     Which court has jurisdiction over an application for recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award?

International awards rendered in France may be enforced only by the president of the civil court of first instance that has territorial jurisdiction where the award was rendered (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1516). If annulment proceedings are pending, the award may be enforced by the president of the court of appeal that has territorial jurisdiction, or by a judge in charge of the case management, once the case has been referred to him or her (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1521).

If the award was rendered abroad, the president of the court of first instance in Paris has exclusive jurisdiction to enforce it (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1516).

However, in two circumstances, award enforcement will not be handled by the president of a civil court of first instance.

First, in international arbitration, the decision of a court of appeal dismissing an application to set aside an award (for awards rendered in France) or dismissing an appeal lodged against an exequatur order (for awards rendered abroad) has the effect of automatically enforcing the award (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1527).

Second, pursuant to case law, when enforcement requires a review of whether the award complies with ‘mandatory rules of French public law relating to the occupation of public land or rules governing public expenditure’, the administrative courts of first instance have exclusive jurisdiction over enforcement, not the civil courts (Trib. confl., 24 April 2017, No. C4075; Trib. confl., 11 April 2016, No. C4043; CE, Ass., 9 November 2016, No. 388806; and CA Paris, 4 July 2017, No. 15/16653). This exception is directly linked to the duality of the French judicial system. Unlike in common law jurisdictions, cases with public law elements are handled by administrative courts, whereas private law cases are heard by civil and criminal courts.


Jurisdictional and admissibility issues

19     What are the requirements for the court to have jurisdiction over an application for recognition and enforcement and for the application to be admissible? Must the applicant identify assets within the jurisdiction of the court that will be the subject of enforcement for the purpose of recognition proceedings?

French courts have jurisdiction over applications for the enforcement of international arbitral awards, whether domestic or foreign, so long as the applicant can establish a legitimate interest in the success of its application within the meaning of Article 31 of the Code of Civil Procedure. According to the Court of Cassation, the applicant has a legitimate interest if the award is in its favour (Cass. civ. 1, 25 May 2016, No. 15-13.151).

The applicant is not required to identify assets within the jurisdiction of the court.


Form of the recognition proceedings

20     Are the recognition proceedings in your jurisdiction adversarial or ex parte? What are the different steps of the proceedings?

Pursuant to Article 1516 of the Code of Civil Procedure, exequatur proceedings are ex parte. An application for recognition or enforcement, filed by a lawyer admitted to practise in France, consists of a handwritten note on the first page of the award, setting out the application for enforcement. This application is filed at the registry of the court of first instance. The exequatur order only has to state reasons when exequatur is refused.

The exequatur order is notified by the applicant to the other party and enforcement proceedings become adversarial as soon as the other party lodges an appeal against the exequatur order or applies to set aside the award (if the seat of arbitration was in France).


Form of application and required documentation

21     What documentation is required to obtain recognition?

Pursuant to Articles 1515 and 1516(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure, the party applying for exequatur must provide the original award and the arbitration agreement, or duly authenticated copies of these documents. In practice, in Paris, the judge requires the original award, an authenticated copy of the arbitration agreement and an extra copy of each of these documents.

The application itself, filed by a lawyer admitted to practise in France, usually consists of a plain handwritten note on the first page of the award, setting out the application for enforcement.


Translation of required documentation

22     If the required documentation is drafted in a language other than the official language of your jurisdiction, is it necessary to submit a translation with an application to obtain recognition? If yes, in what form must the translation be?

Under Article 1515(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, a full translation is required if the required documentation is not drafted in French. The applicant may be invited to provide a certified translation by a sworn translator, although this is not a requirement in principle. In the authors’ experience, a certified translation is usually required in Paris.


Other practical requirements

23     What are the other practical requirements relating to recognition and enforcement? Are there any limitations on the language and length of the submissions and of the documentation filed by the parties?

To apply for the recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award, applicants must be represented by a lawyer admitted to practise in France, as per Article 813 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

The application usually consists of a plain handwritten note on the first page of the award, setting out the application for enforcement. There are no other practical requirements relating to recognition and enforcement.


Recognition of interim or partial awards

24     Do courts recognise and enforce partial or interim awards?

In principle, French courts recognise and enforce all decisions that can be characterised as ‘awards’ within the meaning of French law.

Case law defines an award as a decision resolving the dispute submitted to the arbitrators, in full or in part, whether on the merits, on the jurisdiction of the tribunal, or another procedural objection putting an end to the proceedings (Cass. civ. 1, 12 October 2011, No. 09-72439).

Accordingly, a partial award may be enforced in France. The enforcement of an interim decision is more controversial, though the Paris Court of Appeal found that a decision whereby a tribunal ordered interim measures for the duration of the arbitral proceedings did constitute an award (7 October 2004, No. 2004/13909).

Importantly, French courts do not consider themselves bound by the language used by arbitral tribunals to characterise their decisions; therefore, even an award labelled as a procedural order may be enforced in France if it can be regarded as a final decision on a disputed issue.


Grounds for refusing recognition of an arbitral award

25     What are the grounds on which an arbitral award may be refused recognition? Are the grounds applied by the courts different from those provided under Article V of the New York Convention?

Pursuant to Article 1514 of the Code of Civil Procedure, recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award shall be granted by the court of first instance if:

  • its existence is demonstrated by the applicant who has provided the required documentation in this respect; and
  • recognition or enforcement of the award would not be manifestly contrary to French international public policy.

In the context of the ex parte exequatur proceedings, the court of first instance carries out a prima facie review of compliance with international public policy. If an appeal is lodged against the enforcement order or if annulment proceedings are brought against the award itself, the court of appeal may scrutinise the award more intensely, under the conditions set forth in Article 1520 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

The most significant distinction with the grounds provided under Article V of the New York Convention is that an arbitral award that has been set aside at the seat of arbitration may be recognised or enforced in France (Cass. civ. 1, 9 October 1984, No. 83-11.355, Norsolor; Cass. civ. 1, 23 March 1994, No. 92-15.137, Hilmarton; Cass. civ. 1, 29 June 2007, Putrabali, Bull civ. 1, No. 05-18.053).


Effect of a decision recognising an arbitral award

26     What is the effect of a decision recognising an arbitral award in your jurisdiction?

Pursuant to Article 1526 of the Code of Civil Procedure, arbitral awards are enforceable immediately once exequatur is granted, even if a challenge against the exequatur order or against the award is pending.

Once exequatur is granted at the request of a party, the other party may appeal the exequatur order if the award was rendered abroad (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1525). These appeal proceedings do not have a suspensive effect.

The exequatur order may be repealed only on the grounds described for the set-aside proceedings, namely that:

  • the arbitral tribunal wrongly upheld or declined jurisdiction;
  • the tribunal was irregularly constituted;
  • the arbitral tribunal ruled without complying with the mandate conferred on it;
  • the due process requirement was violated; or
  • recognition or enforcement of the award would violate international public policy.

If the award was rendered in France, the order granting exequatur cannot be appealed, unless the parties expressly waived their right to bring annulment proceedings against the award in advance (Code of Civil Procedure, Articles 1522 and 1524).

With respect to awards enforced by the administrative courts of first instance, the Council of State (the Supreme Court for public law matters) has jurisdiction to hear applications for annulment. Although its grounds for refusing to enforce awards appear to be similar to those set out in Article 1520 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the Council of State scrutinises awards more intensely than the civil courts, in particular on grounds relating to public policy. Indeed, the Council of State reviews compliance with public policy broadly, whereas the civil courts’ scope of review is limited to international public policy (see, for example, CE, Ass., 9 November 2016, No. 388806).

There are no challenges available to third parties in international arbitration.


Decisions refusing to recognise an arbitral award

27     What challenges are available against a decision refusing recognition in your jurisdiction?

Pursuant to Articles 1523 and 1525 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a decision refusing recognition or enforcement of an arbitral award may be appealed within a month of service.

If the arbitral award was rendered in France, a party (logically the respondent to the appellate proceedings against the decision refusing recognition of the award) may also apply to set aside the award, unless that party has waived its right to set aside, or the time limit for setting-aside proceedings has expired (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1523(3)).


Recognition or enforcement proceedings pending annulment proceedings

28     What are the effects of annulment proceedings at the seat of the arbitration on recognition or enforcement proceedings in your jurisdiction?

Pursuant to Article 1526(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure, challenges against an award rendered in international matters in France or abroad do not have suspensive effect; therefore, courts will not typically adjourn enforcement proceedings pending the outcome of annulment proceedings.

Nevertheless, the court can suspend or adapt enforcement proceedings if a party can show that it is likely that its rights would be severely harmed by the enforcement of the award (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1526(2)). Obtaining the suspension or adaptation of enforcement proceedings is generally difficult. Case law shows that such measures are granted only in exceptional circumstances (Paris Court of Appeal, 18 October 2011, Revue de l’arbitrage 2012, No. 2, p. 393). Nevertheless, in one decision, the Paris Court of Appeal agreed to suspend immediate enforcement on the basis that restitution of the amounts paid by the debtor would be ‘uncertain’ should the enforcement order be later repealed, insofar as the creditor wanted to transfer the assets from France to the Czech Republic (Paris Court of Appeal, 23 April 2013, No. 13/02612).


Security

29     If the courts adjourn the recognition or enforcement proceedings pending annulment proceedings, will the defendant to the recognition or enforcement proceedings be ordered to post security?

Article 1526(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure allows a court to adapt the enforcement of the award. Thus, if the rights of the obligor under the award are likely to be ‘severely prejudiced’ by the enforcement of the award, the court may order the obligor to post security, possibly for the full amount awarded by the arbitral tribunal. Whether such an order is necessary depends on the circumstances of the case.


Recognition or enforcement of an award set aside at the seat

30     Is it possible to obtain the recognition and enforcement of an award that has been fully or partly set aside at the seat of the arbitration? If an arbitral award is set aside after the decision recognising the award has been issued, what challenges are available?

The only grounds on which an award may be refused recognition and enforcement in France are the five stated in Article 1520 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Annulment of the award at the seat is not listed among them.

Therefore, French courts may recognise or enforce an award even though it has been set aside abroad (Cass. civ. 1, 9 October 1984, No. 83-11.355, Norsolor; Cass. civ. 1, 23 March 1994, No. 92-15.137, Hilmarton; Cass. civ. 1, 29 June 2007, Putrabali, Bull civ. 1, No. 05-18.053).

Likewise, annulment of an award after the decision enforcing the award has been issued is not a ground for challenging this decision.

Service


Service in your jurisdiction

31     What is the procedure for service of extrajudicial and judicial documents to a defendant in your jurisdiction? If the extrajudicial and judicial documents are drafted in a language other than the official language of your jurisdiction, is it necessary to serve these documents with a translation?

Service of extrajudicial and judicial documents by a bailiff is always permitted (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 651). Such documents may be served by other means only where the law expressly allows it. For example, between lawyers admitted to practise in France, documents may be served directly by registered mail (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 671).

Special rules apply when the documents to be served on a defendant residing in France originate from a foreign state (see Code of Civil Procedure, Article 688-1 et seq.) In particular, a recipient of documents who does not know the language in which the documents are written can refuse service and request a translation of the documents.


Service out of your jurisdiction

32     What is the procedure for service of extrajudicial and judicial documents to a defendant outside your jurisdiction? Is it necessary to serve these documents with a translation in the language of this jurisdiction?

To serve extrajudicial and judicial documents on a person who habitually resides outside France, bailiffs must send them to the public prosecutor’s office of the court in which the claim is brought, in which the decision was rendered or in which the party serving the documents is domiciled (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 684). The public prosecutor’s office must then collaborate with the Ministry of Justice to proceed with the service of the documents outside France. There are no specific rules providing for a translation of documents in the language of that jurisdiction.

These rules do not apply in cases governed by international treaties or European regulations that allow the bailiff to directly serve the documents on the recipient or on the authority that has jurisdiction in the state where the documents are meant to be served.

Identification of assets


Asset databases

33     Are there any databases or publicly available registers allowing the identification of an award debtor’s assets within your jurisdiction?

Several public registers may be useful to an award creditor seeking to identify its debtor’s assets prior to enforcement. For information about ownership of real estate property in France, one must send a form to the local land registry service. General information on corporations may be found in the Register of Commerce (more information about this is available at www.infogreffe.com). Finally, bailiffs have access to a national register of bank and other similar accounts (known as the FICOBA), which contains information about accounts held by individuals and corporations.


Information available through judicial proceedings

34     Are there any proceedings allowing for the disclosure of information about an award debtor within your jurisdiction?

There are no proceedings allowing for the disclosure of information about an award debtor in France. However, as some decisions are publicly available, it may be possible to find useful information about a debtor by scrutinising these decisions, including in the context of bankruptcy proceedings.

Enforcement proceedings


Attachable property

35     What kinds of assets can be attached within your jurisdiction?

It follows from Articles L. 112-1 and L. 112-2 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings that all assets belonging to a debtor can be attached, except certain assets specifically mentioned by law.


Availability of interim measures

36     Are interim measures against assets available in your jurisdiction?

Interim measures against assets are available in France (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Articles L. 511-1 to L. 533-1).


Procedure for interim measures

37     What is the procedure to apply interim measures against assets in your jurisdiction?

As a general rule, Article L. 511-1 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings provides that a party must obtain prior court authorisation before applying for interim measures. The party must show that:

  • the existence of the debt appears to be well founded; and
  • certain circumstances are likely to threaten the recovery of damages (e.g., a risk of insolvency or financial difficulties).

Authorisation is granted ex parte by a specialist court, responsible for enforcements in civil proceedings. The court must state the amount of the debt to be guaranteed and the assets to which the interim measure shall apply (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 511-4). The authorisation expires if the measure in question is not performed within three months (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 511-6).

Award creditors do not need prior court authorisation. Indeed, under Article L. 511-2 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, prior court authorisation is not necessary when the creditor already holds an enforceable title or when its claim is based on a judicial decision that is not yet enforceable. Arbitral awards constitute judicial decisions within the meaning of this Article (Cass. civ. 2, 12 October 2006, No. 04-19.062).

In any case, when the measure is performed without an enforceable title, the creditor is required to initiate proceedings or to carry out the necessary formalities to obtain a properly enforceable title within a month of performance of the measure, failing which the measure will be voided (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 511-7). Hence, an award creditor would have to apply for enforcement soon after obtaining interim relief.

Finally, the debtor can apply to lift an interim measure at any time, provided that the two conditions set forth in Article L. 511-1 are not met (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article L. 512-1). If the measures are indeed lifted and have caused the debtor to suffer a loss, the creditor may be required to compensate the debtor for his or her loss (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article L. 512-2).


Interim measures against immovable property

38     What is the procedure for interim measures against immovable property within your jurisdiction?

Under Article L. 531-1 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, creditors may be granted security over immovable property. Among the forms of security, liens are automatically attached to court decisions and arbitral awards that have been granted exequatur in France (Civil Code, Article 2412). Under French law, liens allow a creditor to seize immovable property if the debtor defaults.

Creditors, or their lawyer admitted to practise in France, must register the lien with the local land registry service by providing the documents specified in Article R. 532-1 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings and Article 2428 of the Civil Code. The documents must then be served on the debtor by a bailiff within eight days of registration (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 532-5).

After registration, the debtor may still dispose of its immovable property, but the property remains encumbered by the lien after being sold, which makes it more difficult to find a purchaser.

It must be noted that registration of the lien is only provisional. Conversion into a final or permanent registration is possible if the creditor can provide an enforceable title to the real estate office at least one month after the provisional registration (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 532-6).


Interim measures against movable property

39     What is the procedure for interim measures against movable property within your jurisdiction?

Under Article L. 521-1 et seq. and R. 521-1 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, a creditor may instruct a bailiff to seize its debtor’s movable assets temporarily, even if they are held by a third party. In practice, the assets are to be frozen, that is to say the debtor is no longer able to dispose of them.

If the debtor is present when the seizure is performed, the bailiff must give, among other things, oral notification to the debtor that the assets may no longer be disposed of, and a copy of the related document (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 522-2). If the debtor is absent, the bailiff must serve the documents relating to the interim measure on the debtor, who then has eight days to inform the bailiff of the existence of any prior attachment (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 522-3).


Interim measures against intangible property

40     What is the procedure for interim measures against intangible property within your jurisdiction?

The following information focuses on corporate shares, goodwill, transferable securities, claims against third parties and intellectual property rights.

Under Article L. 531-1 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, creditors may be granted a pledge over corporate shares, transferable securities and goodwill. However, pledges are only valid after certain formalities have been completed. The creditor must:

  • with respect to a pledge over goodwill, register it with the clerk of the commercial court that has territorial jurisdiction (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 532-2);
  • with respect to a pledge over corporate shares, notify the company whose shares are concerned (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 532-3); and
  • with respect to a pledge over transferable securities, notify a person identified by the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings (see Articles R. 532-4, R. 232-1, R. 232-2, R. 232-3 and R. 232-4).

Creditors can also instruct a bailiff to temporarily seize the debtor’s corporate shares, transferable securities or even its claims against third parties (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Articles R. 523-1 and R. 524-1). The bailiff must serve various documents on the debtor within eight days of the seizure (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Articles R. 523-3 and R. 524-2).


Attachment proceedings

41     What is the procedure to attach assets in your jurisdiction?

Pursuant to Article L. 111-7 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, a creditor may decide which enforcement measure it wishes to carry out, as long as the measure is proportionate and necessary. Therefore, attachment of a debtor’s assets is possible and does not require prior court authorisation, as long as the creditor has a valid enforceable title or when its claim is based on a judicial decision that is not yet enforceable, such as an arbitral award (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article L. 511-2; Cass civ. 2, 12 October 2006, No. 04-19.062).


Attachment against immovable property

42     What is the procedure for enforcement measures against immovable property within your jurisdiction?

First, the creditor must put the debtor on formal notice to pay, by mandating a bailiff to serve an order to pay, which is equivalent to a writ of attachment (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Articles L. 321-1 and R. 321-1 to R. 321-3). The attachment then needs to be registered in a special land registry service (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article L. 321-5). Finally, the creditor must comply with various deadlines, before the property is sold by public auction or, upon judicial authorisation, private sale.

The proceeds of the sale are distributed among the creditors participating in the procedure. The remaining balance is returned to the debtor.


Attachment against movable property

43     What is the procedure for enforcement measures against movable property within your jurisdiction?

First, the creditor must put the debtor on formal notice to pay, by instructing a bailiff to serve an order to pay (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Articles R. 221-1 to R. 221-4). If the debtor fails to pay within eight days, the creditor can then instruct a bailiff to seize the debtor’s movable property, whether held by the debtor or a third party (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 221-10). If the debtor is not present during the attachment, the bailiff must serve the documents relating to the measure within eight days (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 221-26). The debtor then has one month to voluntarily sell its assets to settle its debt (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 221-30), failing which the property is sold by public auction.

The proceeds of the sale are distributed among the creditors participating in the procedure. The remaining balance is returned to the debtor.


Attachment against intangible property

44     What is the procedure for enforcement measures against intangible property within your jurisdiction?

Attachment against intangible property, including patents, is governed by similar procedural rules as are applicable to movable property (see Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R. 231-1 et seq.).

Creditors can instruct a bailiff to seize a debtor’s intangible property (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article R.232-5). The bailiff must serve various documents on the debtor within eight days of the seizure (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article 232-6).


Attachments against bank accounts

45     Is it possible in your jurisdiction to attach bank accounts opened in a branch or subsidiary of a foreign bank located in your jurisdiction or abroad? Is it possible in your jurisdiction to attach the bank accounts opened in a branch or subsidiary of a domestic bank located abroad?

Pursuant to the territoriality principle, only bank accounts opened in entities that are located in France can be attached. An entity is considered to be located in France if its headquarters are in France or if it has an entity in France that holds the funds to be attached (Cass. civ. 2, 10 December 2020, No. 18-17.937 and No. 19-10.801). It follows, inter alia, that it is possible to attach bank accounts opened in a foreign subsidiary of a French bank (Cass. civ. 2, 14 February 2008, No. 05-16.167).

Enforcement against foreign states


Applicable law

46     Are there any rules in your jurisdiction that specifically govern recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards against foreign states?

There are no rules that specifically govern recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards against foreign states. French courts will thus apply the general principles of recognition and enforcement.

However, a special set of rules came into force on 9 December 2016 (Sapin II Act) to regulate the issue of state immunity from enforcement (see Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Articles L. 111-1-1, L. 111-1-2 and L. 111-1-3).

Paragraph 3 of Article L. 111-1-2 specifically relates to the possibility of performing enforcement measures against a state’s assets on the basis of an arbitral award.


Availability of interim measures

47     May award creditors apply interim measures against assets owned by a sovereign state?

Article L. 111-1-2 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings provides that assets belonging to a sovereign state are, in principle, immune from enforcement or interim measures in France, unless:

  • the state has expressly consented to the enforcement measure in question;
  • the state has allocated or earmarked the asset in question for the satisfaction of the claim that is the object of the proceedings; or
  • a judgment or an arbitral award has been rendered against the state and (1) the asset in question is specifically used, or was intended to be used, by the state other than for a non-commercial public service, and (2) has a connection with the entity against which the proceedings were directed.

The Code further sets out that, in applying Article L. 111-1-2(3), the following assets are notably considered to be specifically used, or intended to be used, by a state for the purposes of a non-commercial public service:

  • assets, including bank accounts, that are used, or intended to be used, within the performance of the state or its consular offices’ diplomatic mission, their special missions, their missions in international organisations, or within the functions of the state’s delegations in the bodies of international organisations or in international conferences;
  • assets that have a military character or are used, or intended to be used, within the scope of military functions;
  • assets that are part of the cultural heritage of the state or its archives and are not put up, or intended to be put up, for sale;
  • assets that are part of an exhibition of objects having scientific, cultural or historical value and are not put up, or intended to be put up, for sale; and
  • tax debts or social security debts of the state.

The award creditor must apply for judicial authorisation before applying interim measures against the assets of a foreign state (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article L. 111-1-1). The application is brought ex parte, without prior notice to the state, and is heard by the division of the Paris Court of First Instance specialising in enforcement matters (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Articles L. 111-1-1 and R. 111-1).


Service of documents to a foreign state

48     What is the procedure for service of extrajudicial and judicial documents to a foreign state? Is it necessary to serve extrajudicial and judicial documents with a translation in the language of the foreign state?

To serve extrajudicial and judicial documents on a foreign state (or indeed any other beneficiary of jurisdictional immunity), bailiffs must send them to the public prosecutor’s office of the court in which the claim is brought, in which the decision was rendered or in which the party serving the documents is domiciled (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 684). The public prosecutor’s office must cooperate with the Ministry of Justice, which will serve the documents through diplomatic channels.

The above rules do not apply in cases governed by specific international treaties or European regulations. However, according to the Paris Court of Appeal, diplomatic channels are the only option if the recipient of the document is protected by jurisdictional immunity (Paris Court of Appeal, 6 December 2011, No. 10/11533). Consequently, it appears that service of a document on a foreign state cannot be made through the mechanism provided under the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters.

There are no specific rules providing for a translation of documents to be served in the language of the foreign state.


Immunity from enforcement

49     Are assets belonging to a foreign state immune from enforcement in your jurisdiction? Are there exceptions to immunity?

Article L. 111-1-2 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings provides that assets belonging to a sovereign state are, in principle, immune from enforcement in France, unless:

  • the state has expressly consented to the enforcement measure in question;
  • the state has allocated or earmarked the asset in question for the satisfaction of the claim that is the object of the proceedings; or
  • a judgment or an arbitral award has been rendered against the state and (1) the asset in question is specifically used, or was intended to be used, by the state other than for a non-commercial public service, and (2) has a connection with the entity against which the proceedings were directed.

The Code further sets out that, in applying Article L. 111-1-2(3), the following assets are notably considered to be specifically used, or intended to be used, by a state for the purposes of a non-commercial public service:

  • assets, including bank accounts, that are used, or intended to be used, within the performance of the state or its consular offices’ diplomatic mission, their special missions, their missions in international organisations, or within the functions of the state’s delegations in the bodies of international organisations or in international conferences;
  • assets that have a military character or are used, or intended to be used, within the scope of military functions;
  • assets that are part of the cultural heritage of the state or its archives and are not put up, or intended to be put up, for sale;
  • assets that are part of an exhibition of objects having scientific, cultural or historical value and are not put up, or intended to be put up, for sale; and
  • tax debts or social security debts of the state.

The award creditor must apply for judicial authorisation before applying enforcement measures against the assets of a foreign state (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article L. 111-1-1). The application is brought ex parte, without prior notice to the state, and is heard by the division of the Paris Court of First Instance specialising in enforcement matters (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Articles L. 111-1-1 and R. 111-1).


Waiver of immunity from enforcement

50     Is it possible for a foreign state to waive immunity from enforcement in your jurisdiction? What are the requirements of waiver?

Pursuant to Article L. 111-1-2(1) of the Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, a state may waive its immunity from enforcement. The waiver must be express but need not be specific.

A specific (and express) waiver is required with respect to assets used, or intended to be used, within the performance of the state or its consular offices’ diplomatic missions, their special missions or their missions to international organisations (Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Article L. 111-1-3; see also, for the rules applicable prior to the entry into force of this provision, Cass. civ. 1, 10 January 2018, No. 16-22.494, Commisimpex 2; Cass. civ. 1, 24 January 2018, No. 16-16.511).

Prior to the entry into force of the Sapin II Act, which regulates the issue of state immunity from enforcement (see Code of Civil Enforcement Proceedings, Articles L. 111-1-1, L. 111-1-2 and L. 111-1-3), the conclusion of an arbitration agreement was found to be an express waiver of a state’s immunity from enforcement (Cass. civ. 1, 6 July 2000, No. 98 19068, Creighton; Paris Court of Appeal, 12 December 2001, No. 2000/17431; Paris Court of Appeal, 31 January 2013, No. 12/10267). However, the Paris Court of Appeal more recently reached a different decision, holding that an arbitration agreement does not amount to an express waiver, even when the arbitration clause provides that the award shall be enforced immediately (Paris Court of Appeal, 5 September 2019, No. 18/17592). At the time of writing, this decision is being appealed before the Court of Cassation. Therefore, French law remains uncertain on this issue.


Piercing the corporate veil and alter ego

51     Is it possible for a creditor of an award rendered against a foreign state to attach the assets held by an alter ego of the foreign state within your jurisdiction?

Under French law, it is possible for a creditor of an award rendered against a foreign state to attach the assets held by an alter ego of the foreign state if French courts recognise the entity in question as an emanation of the state. It will do so if:

  • there is a lack of organisational independence of the entity from the state; and
  • the entity’s assets are not separate from those of the state (Paris Court of Appeal, 5 September 2019, No. 18/17592).

If these conditions are met, the entity is considered to be an alter ego of the foreign state. As such, it benefits from the same immunities as the state.


Notes



Source Google News