courts but even before the contentious upswing, the
Netherlands was seen as a good jurisdiction for international litigation.
‘We are seen as excellent value,’ points out Janssen.
‘We have excellent judges but costs are significantly lower
than in other European financial centers such as London.
English is also widely spoken.’
The country’s solid litigation foundations and its excel-
lent international investment links have ensured that the
global downturn has thrown some interesting work the
way of the country’s lawyers. However, despite the deluge
all firms remain positive about the judiciary’s ability to
handle its burden. So far, the significant increase in cases
has yet to impact the smooth-running of the judiciary.
AKD is a full-service Dutch firm that is well-known for
its experience in regulatory matters. The firm continues to
see a substantial growth in its corporate litigation practice.
‘In some cases we do have to wait longer for verdicts,’
says Patrick Haas chairman of AKD’s 30-lawyer strong lit-
igation practice. ‘However, the litigation process as a
whole has become more efficient so the overall duration
of proceedings has not changed materially.’
Houthoff’s Knigge agrees that the courts are handling
their workload commendably compared to other juris-
‘The courts have adapted well to it; if there are no spe-
cific litigation issues then cases proceed reasonably expe-
ditiously,’ he says. ‘Court fees have recently been raised,
which resulted in a lower amount of cases in September
2011 and that also gave the courts more breathing
It is important that the courts are managing the cur-
rent flood with no deterioration because the signs are
that the amount of cases it handles is set to snowball; a
recent US judgement could mean that much more inter-
national litigation will end up on Dutch shores.
In the summer of 2010, following a judgement issued in
relation to Morrison vs. National Australia Bank Ltd (No.
08-1191), the Supreme Court of the United States effectively removed the potential for non-US investors to sue
foreign companies in American courts. The judgement
essentially stated that foreign investors could only proceed with securities fraud claims if the company they
were suing was listed on a U.S. exchange – a move that
basically put international investors outside of US jurisdiction. There is no doubt that this conclusion dealt a significant blow to the US plaintiff firms that would have traditionally handled class actions in the US on behalf of
The fall-out from the financial crisis
may have increased the amount of
international cases handled by
Dutch courts but even before the
contentious upswing, the Netherlands
was seen as a good jurisdiction for
European clients; for years Europeans, and other nation-alities, have been drawn to sue in the American courts
through the lure of its favourable class action laws.
Although, contrary to popular misconception, group
action law does exist in the EU, it is limited to only 14 out
of 27 member states and there are no ways to pursue
Independent Dutch firm BarentsKrans is a leader in
class action-type cases in the Netherlands. The firm
recently represented investor rights group Deminor in a
collective action against Wijs & Van Oostveen – the group
responsible for advertising Lehman Brothers’ financial
‘The Morrison decision makes it clear to the U.S. plain-
tiff bar that they will no longer have a role advising EU
clients on class actions in North America,’ says Martijn
van Maanen, head of the corporate litigation practice
group at BarentsKrans. ‘So we expect to see securities lit-
igation moving towards Europe – and the Netherlands in
The reason why the Netherlands is being viewed as a
particularly attractive venue for class actions can be found
on closer analysis of two recent landmark cases arising
out of the Dutch Act on the Collective Settlement of Mass
Claims (Wet collectieve afwikkeling massaschade or
WCAM), which entered into force in July 2005 and, like
the US system, works on an ‘opt out’ basis.
The first case saw Shell Petroleum N.V. agree a settlement with its shareholders, excluding all US shareholders,
following the recategorisation of certain oil and gas
reserves in 2004. The Amsterdam Court of Appeal
declared the settlement binding on all shareholders,
inferring that the binding declaration must be recognised
by the courts in all EU Member States and in Switzerland,
Iceland and Norway. As a test case, it was a success and
paved the way for the settlement of mass cases.
The next landmark judgement that impacted transatlantic litigation was the Converium case, whereby sever-