Three recent Hong Kong first instance court decisions have left undecided the question of whether a winding-up petition will trump an agreement to arbitrate when it comes to a winding-up and particularly in the context of cross-claims. A Court of Final Appeal decision this spring had seemed to provide pointers that the parties' agreement would be upheld but the issue – particularly when it comes to unmeritorious and late arbitration applications – is dividing the courts.
A recent judgment of the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Brake & Anor v The Chedington Court Estate Ltd  UKSC 29 (10 August 2023) is likely to be a welcome decision for liquidators and trustees in bankruptcy in setting clear boundaries as to who has standing to challenge their decision-making in corporate or personal insolvency contexts.
The Cayman Islands Grand Court recently delivered its judgment in Re Shinsun Holdings (Group) Co., Ltd. FSD 192 of 2022 (DDJ) (21 April 2023) (unreported) (the “Shinsun Judgment”) in which the court determined the ultimate beneficial owner of bonds, held through Euroclear, did not have standing or authority to progress a winding up petition as a contingent creditor. In this article, we explore similar cases in other offshore and common law jurisdictions.
Shinsun Judgment and the Cayman Position
Re Gatecoin Limited (Gatecoin) is a landmark decision concerning the winding-up of a cryptocurrency exchange.
Liquidators secured over 50 types of cryptocurrencies with an aggregate value of over HK$140m. To aid the liquidator’s allocation of the seized cryptocurrencies, the Court of First Instance decided two key issues.
The court held that:
In the case of Re Guangdong Overseas Construction Corporation  HKCFI 1340, the Honourable Madam Justice Linda Chan recognized and provided assistance to a mainland China appointed administrator over a mainland China company in liquidation despite the administrator's application being outside the scope of the insolvency cooperation mechanism between Hong Kong and mainland China courts. The Hong Kong court affirmed that its jurisdiction to recognize and assist office-holders appointed by a court of another jurisdiction derives from common law.
Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal (CFA) recently handed down its judgment in the case of Guy Kwok-Hung Lam v Tor Asia Credit Master Fund LP  HKCFA 9, upholding the Court of Appeal's earlier decision that a creditor's bankruptcy petition presented in Hong Kong should not be allowed to proceed where the petitioned debt is disputed and arises from an agreement with an exclusive jurisdiction clause (EJC) in favour of a foreign court.
In Simplicity & Vogue Retailing (HK) Co., Limited  HKCFI 1443, the Hong Kong Companies Court (the “Court“) made a winding up order against the Company on the basis that it failed to pay security in time. In considering the Company’s opposition grounds, the Court commented that it retains discretion to wind up a company in cases involving an arbitration clause.
In the latest decision of the Hong Kong court to consider the interplay between arbitration clauses and winding-up or bankruptcy petitions, on 22 May 2023, the Hon. Linda Chan J (the Judge) made a winding-up order against Simplicity & Vogue Retailing (HK) Co. Limited (the Company) and rejected the Company’s argument that the dispute over the underlying debt should be referred to arbitration.
In Re Guy Lam Kwok Hung  HKCFA 9, the Court of Final Appeal clarified when a debtor can resist a bankruptcy petition based on an exclusive jurisdiction clause (EJC) in his contract with the petitioner creditor. It is important to appreciate the Court’s reasoning and how it can be applied to various factual scenarios.
Currently, the British Virgin Islands has no legislative framework for regulating third party litigation funding. Until recently, the absence of such a framework led many to believe that the rules against maintenance and champerty still operated so as in practice to prevent litigants from raising funds from third parties to prosecute or to defend claims. In Crumpler v Exential Investments Inc (BVIHC(COM) 2020/0081; 29 September 2020) Jack J clarified that third party funding arrangements were enforceable in the BVI.