The Finnish State – The Court of Appeal dismissed the action of Peter Fryckman against the Finnish State

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We successfully advised the Finnish State/the Ministry of Justice in a declaratory action in which the Helsinki Court of Appeal dismissed the claims of businessman Peter Fryckman and confirmed the non-existence of an arbitration agreement.

Fryckman had filed for arbitration before The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in February 2018. The request was based on a claim that the Finnish Minister of Justice had signed a consent to arbitration between Fryckman and the Finnish State in the PCA.

The State denied the existence of an arbitration agreement in its response to the request for arbitration and refused to appoint its own arbitrator. The Secretary-General of the PCA deemed that the document titled ‘Declaration of Consent’ was too ambiguous and general in nature, and therefore he could not appoint an arbitrator for the State to an arbitration conducted under the PCA Arbitration Rules 2012.

After this, Fryckman requested that the District Court confirm the existence of an arbitration agreement between him and the Finnish State, under which disputes between the parties concerning tax and debt collection actions against Fryckman and his companies, as well as the resulting damages, would be settled before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.  However, the District Court dismissed this action because the consent signed by the Minister of Justice was general in nature, its content was unspecified, and it was unclear whether the consent was even a matter that could be arbitrated. Furthermore, the District Court deemed that the consent signed by the Minister of Justice and the plaintiff’s application for commencement of arbitration were not identical and reciprocal, and there was no evidence of an agreement between the parties as to the commitment to and content of the agreement.

Fryckman appealed the District Court’s decision to the Court of Appeal, but in its judgement of December 2022, the Court of Appeal deemed that there was no cause to amend the District Court’s decision. The Court of Appeal found that the expression of will in the document titled ‘Declaration of Consent’ had not been made in accordance with the Ministry of Justice’s procedure for presentation and decision-making. According to the Court of Appeal, due to this key fault in the Ministry’s procedure, the free-form expression of will by the Minister did not have a binding effect on the parties. The Court of Appeal remarked that the plaintiff’s actions bore characteristics of an intent to bypass the Ministry’s customary procedure for decision-making. The Court of Appeal also noted that the Minister’s expression of will was encumbered by deficiencies in arbitrability and the subject matter of the consent as stated by the District Court, and referred to the grounds stated by the District Court in other respects as well.

On 5 May 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that no leave to appeal would be granted, and the judgment of the Court of Appeal is therefore final.