The Court of Justice of the European Union has delivered its ruling in the Novo Banco case (C‑253/19) on 16 July 2020.
The issue before the Court was the determination of the center of main interests (COMI) of individuals not exercising an independent business or professional activity under the Insolvency Regulation, and thus the jurisdiction of the courts of the Member States to open insolvency proceedings against such individuals.
Article 3(1) of the Insolvency Regulation provides that the COMI of such individuals is presumed to be at their place of habitual residence. The issue was more precisely how this presumption could be rebutted.
In this case, the individuals were English residents who were employed in Norfolk. Yet, they claimed that the centre of their main interests was not their habitual residence in the United Kingdom, but rather in Portugal, the Member State where the sole immovable asset which they own was located and where all the transactions and all the contracts leading to their insolvency were conducted and concluded. Furthermore, there was no connection between their place of habitual residence and the events that led to their insolvency, which occurred entirely in Portugal.
The Court ruled:
28 Although the location of the debtor’s assets is one of the objective criteria, ascertainable by third parties, to be taken into consideration when determining the place where the debtor conducts the administration of his or her interests on a regular basis, that presumption may be reversed only following an overall assessment of all the objective criteria. It follows that the fact that the only immovable property of an individual not exercising an independent business or professional activity is located outside the Member State of his or her habitual residence is not sufficient on its own to rebut that presumption.
29 In the present case, the applicants in the main proceedings also argue before the referring court that Portugal is not only the Member State where their only immovable property is located but also the Member State where all the transactions and all the contracts leading to their insolvency were conducted and concluded.
30 In that regard, although the cause of the insolvency is not, as such, a relevant factor for determining the centre of the main interests of an individual not exercising an independent business or professional activity, it nevertheless falls to the referring court to take into consideration all objective factors, ascertainable by third parties, which are connected with that person’s financial and economic situation. In a case such as the one in the main proceedings, as was observed in paragraph 24 above, that insolvency situation is located in the place where the applicants in the main proceedings conduct the administration of their economic interests on a regular basis or the majority of their revenue is earned and spent, or the place where the greater part of their assets is located.
31 In view of all of the foregoing factors, the answer to the question is that the first and fourth subparagraphs of Article 3(1) of Regulation 2015/848 must be interpreted as meaning that the presumption established in that provision for determining international jurisdiction for the purposes of opening insolvency proceedings, according to which the centre of the main interests of an individual not exercising an independent business or professional activity is his or her habitual residence, is not rebutted solely because the only immovable property of that person is located outside the Member State of habitual residence.