Tomskneft Prevails in France in Challenge of Exequatur of $140 Million Arbitral Award Obtained by Yukos Capital

January 16, 2013

Cleary Gottlieb’s client OAO Tomskneft has successfully challenged enforcement in France of an international arbitral award obtained by Yukos Capital S.a.r.l. in 2007 in New York.

On January 16, 2013, the Paris Court of Appeal overruled an ex parte exequatur order because due process had been violated during the arbitration. The Court concluded that Tomskneft did not receive a number of significant communications necessary to its ability to defend itself in the arbitration, including procedural orders, the transcript of the hearing, and the order declaring the proceedings closed. The Court held that Tomskneft’s failure to participate in the proceedings – based on its belief that there was no valid agreement to arbitrate – did not relieve the arbitrator from his duty to inform Tomskneft of all aspects of the proceedings. The Court of Appeal further ordered Yukos Capital to pay a portion of Tomskneft’s legal fees.

Under the ICC award, Tomskneft was held in default under three loan agreements totaling 4.35 billion Russian rubles (approximately $140 million), which it was ordered to pay together with interest of 9% per year and 0.1% per day. Courts in Russia previously declined to enforce the award on the same due process grounds, and they have declared the underlying loan agreements void.

Because the Paris Court of Appeal ruled in Tomskneft’s favor on due process grounds, it did not reach other defenses invoked by Tomskneft, including that there was no valid arbitration agreement, that enforcement of the awards would violate French public international order because the loan agreements on which they rested were an integral part of Yukos Oil’s tax fraud scheme, and the addition of daily interest was illegal.