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Donohue V. Armco Notes

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This is an extract of our Donohue V. Armco document, which we sell as part of our Conflict of Laws BCL Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford students.

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ONOHUE V. ARMCO D

FACTS The parties fall into two camps. One camp comprises Armco Inc, the parent company
of the Armco group, a conglomerate based in the United States, and four other
companies known by their initial letters (AFSC, AFSIL, APL and NNIC). These five
companies are plaintiffs in the New York proceedings already mentioned and
defendants (or potential defendants) in this English action and are named as appellants
before the House.
The second camp comprises, first of all, Mr Donohue, a defendant in the New York
proceedings and the claimant here. It also comprises a number of potential co­
claimants (PCCs), all of them defendants in the New York proceedings: Mr Rossi and
his Ohio company known as ITRS; Mr Stinson and his Ohio company known as
IROS; Wingfield Ltd, a Jersey company; and another Jersey company known as
CISHL. The Armco group formerly included several insurance companies together known as
the British National Insurance Group (BNIG). The BNIG ceased to write new
business and entered run­off status in 1984. It thus represented a liability to Armco,
since claims under existing policies had to be met, and negotiations for the sale of the
business were set in train. On the Armco side, the negotiations were conducted by
Messrs Rossi and Stinson, two senior and long­serving Armco executives, both of
them United States citizens and residents. The prospective buyers were Mr Donohue
and Mr Atkins, also senior and long­serving Armco executives, but United Kingdom
citizens resident in Singapore and England respectively. The shares in the BNIG were owned by AFSIL and AFSEL. To effect the sale of the
business Armco sold its shares in the BNIG. To this end it incorporated CISHL. On 3
September 1991 AFSIL and AFSEL each executed an agreement (referred to as "the
transfer agreements") transferring all their assets in the BNIG into CISHL. On the
same day Wingfield acquired all the shares in CISHL under a sale and purchase
agreement bearing the same date under which Wingfield was named as the purchaser.
After the sale the BNIG was renamed the North Atlantic Insurance Group (NAG). First, the only parties to these three agreements were (on the Armco side) AFSIL,
AFSEL and AFSC and (on what may be called the Donohue side) CISHL, Wingfield,
Mr Donohue and Mr Atkins. It is now accepted that, on the dissolution of AFSEL,
Armco Inc succeeded to the rights and obligations of that company, so it also is to be
treated as a party to one of the transfer agreements and to the sale and purchase
agreement. But the other companies in the Armco group (APL and NNIC) and
several of the PCCs (Messrs Rossi and Stinson and their respective companies ITRS
and IROS) were not parties to any of the three agreements. Secondly, each of the
three agreements contained an express stipulation that the contract was governed
by English law, made provision for service on a nominated agent of the vendor's
solicitors in England and, most importantly, provided for the exclusive jurisdiction of
the English court. In the sale and purchase agreement it was provided that "the
parties hereby irrevocably submit themselves to the exclusive jurisdiction of the

English Courts to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with this
Agreement." On 5 August 1998 proceedings were issued by the five Armco appellants in New
York against NAIC, Mr Donohue, Mr Atkins, all the six PCCs (Messrs Rossi and
Stinson and their respective companies, Wingfield and CISHL), and NPV Ltd (a
Nevis company). The proceedings were based on what the amended complaint
described as "an international fraud of immense proportions". It is not easily
summarised, but the broad thrust of the Armco companies' case is clear enough. They
contend that a secret agreement (recorded in writing) was made between Messrs
Donohue, Atkins, Rossi and Stinson in New York in April 1991. Pursuant to this
agreement Armco would be fraudulently induced to inject an extra­large sum into
the BNIG and the four would then buy the BNIG, thus enriched, through
Wingfield, a Jersey company which they (or some of them) owned. Since Messrs
Rossi and Stinson were Armco executives negotiating on behalf of their employer
their conduct was a flagrant breach of the duty they owed to their employer. The plan
was implemented. Much of the money injected into the group has, it is alleged, been
siphoned off by the four for their own ends. But the alleged fraud did not end there.
Armco also contend that, as part of the secret plan, the group of four fraudulently
induced Armco (by APL) to enter into debt collection contracts with NPV, the Nevis
company which they owned: these contracts are said to have been unduly favourable to
NPV and to have enabled the four to take exorbitant fees for themselves… The New
York proceedings also included claims under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act 18 USC §1962(c) (RICO), which enables a successful
plaintiff to recover triple, punitive and exemplary damages. All the PCCs (Messrs Rossi and Stinson and their respective companies, Wingfield
and CISHL) moved to dismiss the New York proceedings against them on various
grounds, a motion denied by Judge Schwartz sitting in the District Court of the
Southern District of New York on 30 September 1999…. The propriety of joining the
PCCs as claimants in this action is one of the major issues before the House. By a summons issued on 8 March 1999 Mr Donohue, the respondent to this appeal,
sought such an injunction against the five companies, all of them in the Armco
group, which are named as the appellants before the House. Scope of the Jurisdiction Clause is not disputed On the scope of the clauses, the Armco companies accept that the clauses cover
claims based on the conspiracy which preceded the making of the agreements as well
as the misrepresentations and concealment which procured them to be made. The
scope of the clauses was not the subject of argument before the House and I do not
think it appropriate to give detailed consideration to this aspect of the case. The
exclusive jurisdiction clause in the sale and purchase agreement, quoted above, was in
wide terms. The practice of the English courts is to give such clauses, as between the
parties to them, a generous interpretation. HOLDING

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