April 27, 2016 - Assignment

Supreme Court clarifies the reach of courts’ review of jurisdictional decisions made by arbitral tribunals

In a decision of 21 April 2016, the Swedish Supreme Court clarified the meaning of section 2 of the Swedish Arbitration Act and confirmed that the provision entails that courts have authority to conduct a full review of an arbitral tribunal’s jurisdiction, in the same manner as the arbitral tribunal may decide on such matters.

The Supreme Court’s decision addresses an important issue of principle with respect to the relationship between courts and arbitral tribunals, by clarifying the scope of the court’s examination of the arbitral tribunal’s jurisdiction. The Supreme Court’s decision – that all jurisdictional objections can be referred to examination by a court – means that such issues can be decided by courts in an early stage of the arbitral proceedings, instead of remaining and be subject to challenge proceedings only after an arbitral award has been rendered. The decision (in Swedish), can be found here.

The decision came in relation to a case between the French company Elf Neftegaz S.A., an entity in the Total group, against the Russian company Interneft OOO and the Russian regions of Saratov and Volgograd. The Supreme Court’s decision was fully in line with Elf Neftegaz’s position with respect to how section 2 of the Arbitration Act is to be understood. The background to Elf Neftegaz’s action is an UNCITRAL arbitration that was initiated by the Russian entities in 2009. The arbitration is still on-going.

Mannheimer Swartling (partner Kristoffer Löf) was counsel for Elf Neftegaz in the Supreme Court proceedings, in a team consisting also of retired Mannheimer Swartling partner Kaj Hobér (now of 3 Verulam Buildings) and lawyers from Advokatfirman Vinge.