The English Commercial Court has held that an asymmetric jurisdiction clause is an exclusive jurisdiction clause for the purposes of the recast Brussels Regulation. The English court was therefore entitled to continue with its proceedings where it was the chosen court but proceedings had been commenced earlier in Greece: Commerzbank Aktiengesellshcaft v Liquimar Tankers Management and another [2017] EWHC 161 (Comm).

The recast Brussels Regulation, which applies to proceedings commenced since 10 January 2015, contains a number of improvements over the previous version. These include provisions aimed at defusing so-called "torpedo" actions by which a party could seek to delay proceedings in the court the parties had chosen in their jurisdiction clause by commencing proceedings in breach of the clause elsewhere in the EU.

There has been doubt however as to whether these new "anti-torpedo" provisions would be effective where the parties had agreed an asymmetric jurisdiction clause rather than an exclusive jurisdiction clause binding on all parties. An asymmetric clause (also known as a unilateral or one-way clause) provides that one party, typically a borrower, can only sue in one jurisdiction whereas the other party, typically a finance party, can sue in any available jurisdiction.

The English Commercial Court in Perella Weinberg Partners UK LLP v Coder SA [2016] EWHC 1182 (Comm) considered the "anti-torpedo" provisions should apply equally to an asymmetric clause (see blog post here) but the comments were obiter. The present decision is significant in reaching the same conclusion after a detailed analysis of the arguments. In the court's view, however, whether a jurisdiction clause is exclusive for the purposes of these provisions is a question of autonomous interpretation of the Regulation, rather than English law, so until there is CJEU authority on the point there remains a risk of a torpedo action being effective.

The case is also of interest in once again rejecting the approach of the French courts which have held that asymmetric clauses are invalid, at least in some circumstances (see our blog posts on the decisions in Mme X v Societe Banque Prive Edmond de Rothschild 13, First Civil Chamber, 26 September 2012, Case no 11-26022 here, Societe eBizcuss.com v Apple, First Civil Chamber, 7 October 2015, Case No. 14-16898) here and Mauritius Commercial Bank Limited v Hestia Holdings Ltd and Another [2013] EWHC 1328 (Comm) here).