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Haugesund Kommune V. Depfa Bank Notes

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This is an extract of our Haugesund Kommune V. Depfa Bank 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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HAUGESUND KOMMUNE V. DEPFA BANK FACTS In the early years of this century a number of Norwegian local authorities entered into so-called "swaps" transactions, on the advice of a Norwegian financial adviser, with the aim of making money from investments in order to provide better local services or reduce taxes. These contracts went disastrously wrong and the episode has been regarded as somewhat of a scandal in Norway. The English courts have become involved in the aftermath. This appeal from the judgment of Tomlinson J [2010] Lloyd's Rep PN 21 dated 4 September 2009 and his order of 1 October 2009 concerns so-called "zero coupon swaps agreements" between two particular Norwegian municipalities and an Irish bank, which is an indirect subsidiary of a German bank. I will refer to the two individual municipalities, who are the claimant appellants, as "Haugesund" and "Narvik", and to them collectively as "the kommunes". I will refer to the defendant respondent bank as "Depfa". The other party to the appeal is a firm of Norwegian lawyers, called Wikborg Rein & Co. It is both well known and highly respected. I will refer to it as "Wikborg". It advised Depfa on various aspects of the "swaps contracts" before they were concluded. For present purposes the key issue on which Wikborg advised was whether the kommunes had the legal power and authority to enter into the swaps contracts in the light of the terms of section 50 of the Norwegian Local Government Act 1992, which deals with the purposes for which Norwegian local authorities can raise loans. (The text of section 50 is set out in the appendix to this judgment.) Wikborg advised Depfa that the proposed zero coupon swaps contracts were not "loans" within section 50 of the 1992 Act and that the kommunes had the power and authority to enter into the agreements, which would therefore create valid and binding obligations on them. Eventually, in January 2008, the resolutions of the kommunes to make the investments were annulled by superior Norwegian administrative authorities and, effectively, the kommunes were ordered to sell off the investments, which they did at a considerable loss. Haugesund's loss on its sale was about NOK125m; Narvik's loss was about NOK142m. At current exchange rates the combined losses of the kommunes on their investments total about PS26*7m. Shortly after the kommunes were directed to sell the investments, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice published its opinion that "swaps" such as the contracts the kommunes had concluded did constitute loans within section 50 of the 1992 Act.

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