No, but it doesn’t seem as hale and hearty as it used to. In Vava v Anglo American South Africa Ltd, [2012] EWHC 1969 (QB), Anglo American South Africa Ltd (AASA) sought a declaration that the English courts had no jurisdiction to hear claims made in England by a group of South African mine-workers, on the grounds that the company was domiciled in South Africa, not England. Under applicable EU regulations, corporate domicile is where a company has its (a) ‘statutory seat’, (b) ‘central administration’ or (c) ‘principal place of business’. Because AASA was incorporated and had its registered office in South Africa, AASA’s statutory seat was there, but the judge thought there was a good arguable case (the test on a jurisdiction motion) that its central administration (and maybe, but less probably, place of business) was actually in England; there was evidence to suggest that AASA’s UK parent, Anglo American plc, had the real decision-making power over AASA and effective control of its ‘entrepreneurial management’.

Sure, all of this turns on an EU regulation and a lot of European academic commentary, but taken with another recent case (Chandler v Cape plc, [2012] EWCA Civ 525 (reported in the BLG Monthly Update, July 2012), where a parent company was liable in tort for the failures of its subsidiary), there seems to be an increasing willingness on the part of commonlaw judges to consider affiliates under a theory of group enterprise, without the need to engage in traditional veil-piercing (which is predicated on a fraudulent or other nefarious purpose in trying to hide behind corporate formalities, absent in both Vava and Cape).

[Link available here and here].