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Marc Rich V. Impianti Notes

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MARC RICH V. IMPIANTI FACTS Marc Rich are a well known Swiss corporation with major business activities world-wide. Impianti are an Italian company, partly state owned. At the beginning of 1987 Impianti sold a cargo of Iranian crude oil to Marc Rich. The contract for the sale was made or at any rate negotiated in Italy. Following the sale two disputes arose between the parties. The first dispute related to an allegation by Marc Rich as buyers that the cargo of oil was contaminated with water. The second dispute related to a contention by Marc Rich that the contract incorporated an English law and London arbitration clause. Samples of the oil were taken and analysed. Marc Rich wished to deal with the contamination dispute by arbitration. On Feb. 29, 1988 they appointed an arbitrator and asked Impianti to appoint an arbitrator too. Meanwhile, however, on Feb. 18 Impianti had issued proceedings in the Court in Genoa (Italy). In these proceedings they sought a declaration of non-liability. On May 20, 1988 Marc Rich issued an originating summons in the Commercial Court in London seeking the appointment of an arbitrator pursuant to s. 10(3) of the 1950 Act. They obtained leave to serve the summons out of the jurisdiction. On July 8, 1988 Impianti applied to set aside the order granting leave; Impianti contended that the contract did not contain an arbitration clause and that the dispute should be resolved in Italy. On Nov. 22, 1988 Marc Rich lodged a petition in the Corte di Cassazione seeking a declaration to the effect that by reason of the arbitration agreement the Courts in Italy lacked jurisdiction to try the dispute. By their judgment the Corte di Cassazione rejected the plea by Marc Rich that the proceedings in Genoa should be stayed. In summary they held (a) that as Marc Rich were a company registered in Switzerland they were not subject to the decisions of the European Court of Justice; (b) that there was no binding arbitration agreement between Marc Rich and Impianti because there was no agreement in writing as required by the New York Convention and because there was no basis for assuming that there had been a tacit acceptance by Impianti of the proposal to submit the dispute to arbitration. QUESTION Whether the decision of the Corte di Cassazione is a binding decision as to the existence of the arbitration agreement.

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