In an M&A contract, the parties consider agreeing on the jurisdiction of the German courts. The corporate guys get in touch: “Isn’t there this M&A chamber at the Frankfurt District Court, where they conduct proceedings in English…?”
There is a special M&A “chamber”, or Kammer, as we call these internal court units, at the District Court (Landgericht) Düsseldorf. The Frankfurt District Court has established a Chamber for International Commercial Matters.
The chamber in Düsseldorf is a civil chamber staffed by three professional judges. It does not hear cases in English. The chamber in Frankfurt is a chamber for commercial matters sitting with one professional judge and two lay judges. There, the case can be heard in English.
If you want the combination, that is, a specialized civil chamber with three professional judges and proceedings in English, then Mannheim or Stuttgart might be an option. However, you can only go there if the value in dispute exceeds EUR 2,000,000. If the value in dispute is just under EUR 2,000,000, you end up with a standard civil chamber and German language proceedings. In Düsseldorf, things start at EUR 500,000 and in Frankfurt am Main at EUR 5,000.
“English proceedings” in Frankfurt, Mannheim and Stuttgart means that oral proceedings will be in English, no translation of annexes are required, but written pleadings and the judgment have to be in German.
And if I haven’t overlooked anything, none of the courts proposes a model clause on its website with which to agree on its jurisdiction.
So is it then an arbitration clause after all, which takes effect regardless of the value of the dispute, allows for three “professional judges” and permits true English-language proceeding start to finish? I guess in many cases it will be.