#TogoLeaks #USA #Israel Scandale Brenham Oil une petite société yankee sans expérience dans l’OFFSHORE dégage ENI grâce à l’ami d’enfance de Gnassingbé, Dammipi Noupokou ! #Corruption Raphy Edery, Daniel Dror, Scott Gaille, Rog Hardy #Italie #TGS #Houston Meba Leopold Siah, Gnassinbe Essolissam, Yair Green, Pius Agbetomey, SOKPOH Jonas Vienyemenu Florent #HuntOil

Américains et israéliens voleurs du pétrole togolais clandestin depuis les années 1970 !

NABOUREMA CIA ET LES CONNARDS DE LA DIASPORA AUX USA ALLEZ VOUS FAIRE ENCULER PAR TRUMP !

Déjà en 2002 Hunt Oil a signé un contrat de partage de production avec le Togo fin juillet pour le premier puits en eau profonde du pays. La société a obtenu le droit exclusif sur toute la zone offshore de Togo en mai dernier. La zone contractuelle, précédemment divisée en 15 blocs, couvre 4 067 km2.

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Damoupou l’ami d’enfance du tohossou à droite

 

 

En novembre, le gouvernement a appelé les entreprises qui avaient manifesté leur intérêt pour des blocs offshore ouverts à officialiser leur intérêt.

Par conséquent,  Brenham Oil & Gas, une filiale d’American International Industries, a déclaré qu’il avait été invité à «négocier les modalités et les conditions d’accès à de multiples blocs d’exploration en eau profonde».

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L’Illuminati américano-israélien Daniel Dror marchand de tapis mais sûrement pas spécialiste du crude ! Escroquerie en bandes organisées

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Brenham a déclaré que quatre autres entreprises ont également été identifiées dans les lettres comme participant à la proposition et aux pourparlers.

Les principaux dirigeants de Brenham incluent Scott Gaille, anciennement chez Occidental, et Rogers Hardy, qui travaillait avec Unocal. Un porte-parole du ministère des Mines, de l’Industrie et de l’Energie a refusé d’identifier les autres sociétés.

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Scott Gaille le yankee amateur pote de la Haram Farida Nabourema

 

•• Brenham a lancé un procès pour ingérence délictuelle contre TGS et Eni concernant le bloc 2 en eau profonde au large du Togo.

Un tribunal de district au Texas a fixé une date de procès pour le 23 juillet.

M. Brenham a déclaré avoir négocié un accord de partage de production couvrant le bloc 2 avec le gouvernement togolais, mais il allègue qu ‘ »un ancien employé de TGS a contacté le ministre togolais du pétrole et a interféré avec les droits contractuels de Brenham ».

Les autorités de Lomé ont ensuite signé un PSA avec Eni fin 2010.

Le procès allègue également que la compagnie pétrolière italienne « a conspiré » avec TGS « pour interférer avec les droits de Brenham à la concession du Togo ».

Après la rencontre avec Gaille, Siah a envoyé un mail à Welch:

Ce fut une bonne rencontre avec M. Gaille de la compagnie Brenham Oil & Gas. Nous avons aussi noté que le ministre [s] était une très petite entreprise inexpérimentée. Nous leur avons donné des copies du modèle PSA et du code des hydrocarbures. Nous leur avons également dit d’entrer en contact avec PGS [sic] pour plus d’informations en termes d’évaluation des données et de licence de données. S’il vous plaît pouvez-vous nous informer sur le prix du paquet de données, la procédure de licence et les détails du volume de données à afficher et licenerd [sic].
Merci pour votre précieuse coopération à ce sujet.
Dans les coulisses de TGS, la nouvelle que Brenham Oil parlait au Togo du Bloc 2 n’était pas la bienvenue. Welch faisait partie de l’équipe de TGS Afrique, Moyen-Orient et Asie Pacifique («AMEAP») et subordonnée à David Hicks, vice-président de la division. Avant de répondre à l’enquête de Siah sur Brenham Oil, Welch avait envoyé un courriel à Hicks et à son collègue de l’équipe AMEAP, Kim Abdallah, qui travaillaient tous les deux à Houston. Welch a écrit: «Savez-vous quelque chose au sujet de Brenham Oil & Gas … Ils rencontreront le ministre demain pour essayer d’obtenir le bloc 2. Si c’est un petit co., Ils n’achèteront pas de données et essayeront de promouvoir le bloc. pour nous ou le Togo.  »

Brenham Oil a envoyé son vice-président, L. Rogers Hardy, pour examiner les données situées au siège social de TGS à Houston. Hardy a contacté Hicks, a visité le bureau de TGS à Houston et a conclu un accord de confidentialité pour voir les informations. Quand Hicks a rapporté que le « gars de Brenham » était venu en s’enquérant des données, Welch a envoyé un mail, « J’ai déjà dit au Togo de ne pas traiter avec eux. »

 

Rog Hardy

Rog Hardy

Oil & Gas Exploration & Production Leader and Founding Principal of Canopy E&P Services LLC

Région de Houston, Texas, États-Unis

Expérience

 

Le 17 mai, Brenham Oil a appris l’évaluation négative que Welch avait faite à Siah. Gaille a répondu en envoyant un courriel à Welch, en joignant une courte biographie pour montrer sa compétence. Gaille a écrit:

Je voulais vous fournir des informations sur mes antécédents. Bien sûr, vous n’avez jamais entendu parler de Brenham Oil & Gas. Brenham Oil & Gas est un nouveau véhicule que j’utilise pour placer des capitaux dans des opportunités d’exploration internationales, et je travaille avec mon réseau de contacts auprès des grandes compagnies pétrolières et gazières et des gouvernements pour acquérir des intérêts dans le secteur de l’exploration. Nous prévoyons construire un portefeuille d’environ 10 puits au cours des trois prochaines années. Notre objectif est l’exposition des capitaux publics et privés à une série de puits à fort potentiel. . . .
Nous vous serions très reconnaissants de votre soutien et de celui de votre équipe dans nos efforts au Togo et ailleurs, et nous comprenons qu’il est important que vous ayez une compréhension précise de nos antécédents et de notre expérience. Si vous avez besoin d’une référence ou si vous avez d’autres questions, n’hésitez pas à me contacter.
Quatre jours plus tard, Abdallah a envoyé un courriel à deux collègues de TGS basés à Houston: Juan Santana, membre de l’équipe AMEAP, et Julie Halbison, représentante des ventes. Abdallah leur a enseigné comment évaluer les données pour Brenham Oil, écrivant, « faites-le haut ».

Welch a plus tard fait écho à ce sentiment. Dans un échange de courriels, Jim McNeil, employé de TGS, a dit à Welch qu’il pourrait fournir à Hardy «une liste des puits que nous avons quand nécessaire» et lui a demandé de «me faire savoir si vous voulez que je fasse quelque chose en ce moment». Welch a répondu: «Je vais attendre jusqu’à ce qu’il absorbe le prix», notant que Brenham Oil s’en plaindrait probablement au gouvernement. En réponse à une question posée quelques jours plus tard par Halbison au sujet de la tarification des données pour Brenham Oil, Welch a écrit: «Je ne pense pas que cela va aller, Brenham ne sera pas prêt à payer quelque chose d’important pour obtenir le bloc. obtenir une entreprise sérieuse, je vais vous laisser faire les prix. « 

Le 24 mai, Brenham Oil a présenté au Togo un projet d’accord de partage de production. En juin, Gaille s’est rendu au Togo
[472 S.W.3d 753]
une fois de plus et a tenu une série de réunions avec les fonctionnaires pour élaborer les termes de l’accord.

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Yair Green, un avocat israélien, a participé aux côtés du gouvernement togolais. En juillet, Brenham Oil pensait avoir conclu un accord avec le Togo: son conseil d’administration avait approuvé l’éventuel accord, et des courriels avaient été échangés sur l’organisation d’une cérémonie de signature à Paris. Cependant, les parties ne se sont jamais rencontrées à Paris et aucun accord n’a été signé. Au fil des mois, Gaille a continué à demander à Green de signer l’accord. En octobre, Brenham Oil a appris par des reportages que le Togo avait conclu un accord pour développer le bloc 2 avec ENI S.p.A., la compagnie pétrolière italienne qui allait forer dans le bloc 2.

L’enquête d’ENI sur les opportunités d’exploration près du Togo et les négociations pour l’achat de données sismiques étaient en cours depuis la réunion initiale de Brenham Oil en mai 2010. Dès janvier 2010, Sara Stephens, employée de TGS à Londres, communiquait par courrier électronique avec Illiberi Leonardo, employé de l’ENI à Milan, pour promouvoir la vente des données de TGS à ENI. En mars, Stephens travaillait avec Juan Santana, employé d’AMEAP basé à Houston, et Jana Spencer, coordinatrice des ventes de TGS, également à Houston, pour la finalisation d’un accord de licence. En avril, Stephens, qui continuait à communiquer avec Leonardo et ENI pour le compte de TGS, se plaignait du retard pris par ENI dans la réalisation de la vente. Les retards étaient troublants pour Santana et les autres membres de l’équipe TGS.

À la fin de mai, Santana a souligné à ses collègues l’importance de conclure la vente avec ENI. Dans une série d’emails, il a écrit: « Nous avons besoin d’ENI mauvais! » et «Pour info, nous avons besoin d’Eni … pour arriver à des prévisions, ne faites pas de prisonniers … montrez-moi l’argent! Néanmoins, ce n’est qu’en novembre 2010, après la conclusion d’un accord de production avec le Togo par ENI, que la vente des données sismiques a été achevée.

Brenham Oil a d’abord intenté une action contre TGS et une filiale américaine d’ENI, ENI Petroleum Co. Inc. Toutefois, Brenham Oil a par la suite désapprouvé la filiale et modifié ses plaidoiries pour poursuivre directement la société mère, ENI, S.p.A. Brenham Oil a allégué que TGS avait entravé de manière délirante ses relations d’affaires potentielles avec le Togo «en faisant des déclarations fausses, négligentes, intentionnelles, frauduleuses et / ou diffamatoires à des fonctionnaires togolais». Brenham Oil comptait surtout sur le courriel que Welch avait envoyé à Siah pour appeler Brenham Oil «une très petite entreprise» et lui recommandait de ne pas envisager un permis d’exploration pétrolière. Brenham Oil allègue en outre qu’ENI a sciemment aidé ou encouragé les actes délictuels de TGS.

ENI a déposé une comparution spéciale en faisant valoir que le tribunal n’avait pas compétence à son égard. Le tribunal de première instance a accordé la comparution spéciale et a rejeté les réclamations contre ENI. Brenham Oil a promptement déposé un avis d’appel accéléré.

Le litige s’est poursuivi au tribunal de première instance entre Brenham Oil et TGS, qui a déposé plusieurs requêtes constitutionnelles: une requête en rejet fondée sur le forum non conveniens; une requête en irrecevabilité pour absence de compétence matérielle; une requête en jugement sommaire alléguant l’absence de qualité pour agir et l’impossibilité de prouver des dommages-intérêts; et une «requête finale pour un jugement sommaire», abordant les mérites de la revendication d’ingérence délictuelle de Brenham Oil. Dans sa requête en irrecevabilité pour forum non conveniens, TGS a soutenu que l’affaire devrait être examinée au Togo, et non pas dans le comté de Harris. Après avoir tenu plusieurs audiences, tenu un long exposé et reçu des éléments de preuve, le tribunal de première instance a finalement accueilli la requête du forum non conveniens et rejeté l’affaire sans statuer sur les autres requêtes de TGS.
[472 S.W.3d 754]
Brenham Oil a déposé un avis d’appel en temps opportun. TGS a alors déposé un appel incident.

Alors que la compétence générale est aveugle au différend, la compétence spécifique tient compte de la relation entre le défendeur, le forum et le litige. Moki Mac, 221 S.W.3d à 575-76. La compétence spécifique «surgit lorsque (1) le défendeur utilise délibérément des activités dans l’État du forum, et (2) la cause d’action découle de ou est liée à ces contacts ou activités». Kelly, 301 S.W.3d, p. 658. [TRADUCTION] « [L] orsqu’un conseil de défendeur non résident est appelé à soutenir un exercice de compétence spécifique, il doit y avoir un lien important entre ces contacts et les faits du litige ». Moki Mac, 221 S.W.3d à 585.

La pétition de Brenham Oil a nommé une cause d’action contre ENI: aider et encourager les délits de TGS. Cependant, ces allégations n’étaient pas liées à des assertions factuelles. Les seules références à ENI dans la section des faits de la pétition de Brenham Oil concernent une conduite non délictuelle. Par exemple, Brenham Oil a allégué qu’ENI négociait une vente de données sismiques avec TGS, qu’elle a finalement obtenu le droit de forer dans le bloc 2 du Togo, qu’elle a conclu l’achat de données sismiques auprès de TGS seulement après avoir obtenu des droits dans le bloc 2, il est actuellement en train de forer au large de la côte togolaise.

La pétition alléguait également qu’à «tout moment important pour cette poursuite, Eni S.p.A faisait des affaires à Houston, dans le comté de Harris, au Texas». Cela était suffisant pour supporter le fardeau initial de Brenham Oil de plaider des faits juridictionnels. Voir George v. Deardorff, 360 S.W.3d 683, 687 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2012, aucun animal de compagnie.); Huynh c. Nguyen, 180 S.W.3d 608, 619 (Tex.App.-Houston [14e Dist.] 2005, aucun animal de compagnie.).

Parce que Brenham Oil alléguait des faits de compétence suffisants dans sa requête, la charge a été transférée à ENI pour annuler toutes les bases de compétence alléguées. Voir Kelly, 301 S.W.3d, page 658. Lançant une contestation factuelle des allégations de compétence, ENI joint l’affidavit de Bollini à sa comparution spéciale. L’affidavit, à travers de nombreuses négations, a effectivement nié qu’ENI fasse des affaires au Texas. Par exemple, il a affirmé qu’il n’a pas de
[472 S.W.3d 764]
adresse postale ou bureau dans l’état, ne vend pas de biens ou de services au Texas, et ne dirige pas la publicité vers le Texas. L’affidavit traitait également des allégations contenues dans la pétition de Brenham Oil concernant la relation d’ENI avec TGS:

En ce qui concerne les faits allégués par la demanderesse, les employés d’Eni SpA ont communiqué avec une employée de TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company (TGS), Sara Stephens, basée au Texas, concernant une licence pour l’utilisation de données géophysiques liées à la République togolaise (Aller). Mme Stephens s’est rendue à Milan, en Italie, au début de 2010, pour la seule réunion qui a eu lieu concernant l’octroi de licences pour ces données. Aucun employé d’Eni S.p.A. n’a jamais voyagé au Texas dans le cadre des licences de données. Tous ces employés étaient situés en Italie à l’époque et se trouvent toujours là.
. . . .
Eni S.p.A. n’a jamais commis un délit en tout ou en partie au Texas.

S’appuyant sur la déclaration de son témoin expert, l’ancien juge togolais Kokouvi Pius Agbetomey, Brenham Oil soutient que le Togo n’est pas un forum alternatif disponible parce que le droit matériel du for empêche un tribunal togolais d’exercer sa juridiction sur ce litige. Bien que TGS ait stipulé qu’elle se soumettrait à la juridiction d’un tribunal togolais aux fins de résoudre ce différend, Brenham Oil souligne la déclaration d’Agbetomey selon laquelle un tribunal togolais ne pouvait légalement pas exercer sa juridiction sur deux sociétés étrangères:

Un juge togolais ne peut, sans risquer une violation desdites dispositions de procédure [du Code de procédure civile togolais], accepter un renvoi de cette nature concernant une affaire civile concernant deux matières constituées aux États-Unis et qui n’ont pas leur domicile. au Togo.
Brenham Oil affirme que la soumission de TGS à la juridiction du Togo ne satisfait pas la disponibilité. Ainsi, Brenham Oil conclut que TGS n’a pas satisfait
[472 S.W.3d 768]
son fardeau de montrer que le Togo est un forum disponible.

Malgré la preuve de Brenham, TGS a offert la déclaration de son propre témoin expert, l’avocat togolais Viennemenu Florent Jonas Sokpoh, qui est parvenu à la conclusion opposée sur la question de la compétence. Brenham Oil soutient que la déclaration de Sokpoh ne pouvait pas être considérée par le tribunal parce qu’elle n’était pas authentifiée, mais lorsqu’il s’agit de trancher une question de droit étranger, un tribunal de première instance peut considérer «tout matériel ou toute source, recevable ou non». TEX.R. EVID. 203 (prévoyant des procédures pour déterminer la loi étrangère).

Sokpoh a estimé que « dans tous les cas, l’exception pour l’absence de compétence en droit togolais doit être soulevée avant toute défense de base ou tout refus catégorique ». Ainsi, conclut-il, «si Brenham devait intenter une action devant les tribunaux togolais, ils ne pourraient se déclarer incompétents si aucune des parties ne soulève cette exception d’incompétence». De plus, Sokpoh a affirmé que le Code des Hydrocarbures du Togo exige expressément que les demandes de Brenham Oil soient déposées au Togo. Dans la déclaration, Sokpoh a expliqué son raisonnement sur ces deux points en citant le Code de procédure civile togolais, le Code des hydrocarbures et le Code pénal (qui, a-t-il expliqué, pourrait être référencé par analogie pour les questions de droit civil).

Brenham Oil n’est pas d’accord avec les avis juridiques de Sokpoh, arguant que son interprétation du Code des hydrocarbures togolais est erronée. Cependant, Agbetomey n’a pas donné d’avis sur les dispositions contestées du code des hydrocarbures. Lorsqu’ils procèdent à une analyse du forum de common law non conveniens, les tribunaux ont tenu compte du témoignage non contredit d’un expert en droit étranger pour étayer la décision du tribunal de première instance selon laquelle un tribunal étranger est disponible. Voir Robinson c. TCI / US West Comms. Inc., 117 F.3d 900, 908 (5ème Cir.1997); accord Satz v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 244 F.3d 1279, 1282-83 (11ième Cir.2001). Brenham Oil soutient en outre que Sokpoh n’était ni qualifié ni fiable, mais il n’a pas contesté ses qualifications ou sa fiabilité au niveau du tribunal de première instance. En conséquence, Brenham Oil a renoncé à toute erreur pour ces motifs. TEX.R.App. P. 33.1 (a); Maritime Overseas Corp. c. Ellis, 971 S.W.2d 402, 411 (Tex.1998) (estimant qu’une contestation de la fiabilité des témoins experts scientifiques doit être faite en temps opportun pour préserver l’erreur).

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Le togolais Pius Agbetomey le juge devenu ministre pour service rendu à la mafia américano israélienne et de la Kozah Nostra.

 

 

Enfin, Brenham Oil fait valoir que le Togo ne devrait pas être considéré comme un forum disponible car, selon Agbetomey, les tribunaux togolais n’ont pas le pouvoir de contraindre le témoignage de responsables togolais comme Siah qui a participé aux négociations avec Brenham Oil. Cet argument est mal orienté. La composante «disponibilité» d’une analyse de forum non conveniens se concentre sur la question de savoir si «l’ensemble du dossier et toutes les parties peuvent relever de la juridiction de ce forum». Voir Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d à 674. La disponibilité du processus obligatoire pour la présence des témoins est correctement traitée comme un facteur d’intérêt privé. Voir In re Gen. Elec. Co., 271 S.W.3d 681, 688 (Tex.2008) (« D’ordinaire, une autre instance est indiquée si le défendeur est » apte à traiter « dans l’autre juridiction. »); Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. à 508, 67 S.Ct. au 843 (énumérant «la disponibilité du processus obligatoire de comparution des témoins récalcitrants» en tant que facteur d’intérêt privé).

Nous concluons que le tribunal de première instance n’a pas abusé de son pouvoir discrétionnaire en se fondant sur la preuve d’opinion d’expert de TGS pour conclure qu’un forum togolais était disponible. Voir Robinson, 117 F.3d à 908.

Brenham Oil présente plusieurs raisons pour lesquelles il soutient que le Togo est un inadéquat
[472 S.W.3d 769]
forum pour essayer sa revendication d’ingérence délictuelle. Il affirme d’abord que «l’applicabilité d’un jugement au Togo est discutable» et que «TGS n’a fourni aucune preuve au-delà d’une conclusion non étayée dans les conclusions et conclusions de la Cour selon laquelle tout jugement pourrait être exécuté». Cette contestation ne tient pas compte de la présomption légale que le droit substantiel du for étranger est présumé adéquat à moins que le plaignant ne prouve le contraire, ou à moins que les conditions dans le forum étranger porté à la connaissance du tribunal démontrent clairement que le plaignant est hautement improbable d’y obtenir une justice élémentaire. Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d, p. 674. Brenham Oil n’indique rien dans le dossier pour vaincre cette présomption et appuie sa prétention que l’applicabilité d’un jugement est discutable.

Brenham Oil fait également valoir que le Togo est un forum inadéquat car, selon son expert Agbetomey, les tribunaux togolais ne peuvent pas contraindre un ressortissant étranger à témoigner lors d’un procès civil et le Togo ne juge pas les affaires civiles devant les jurys. Cette dernière considération, prise isolément, ne rend pas un forum alternatif inadéquat. Voir Vinson v. Am. Bureau of Shipping, 318 S.W.3d 34, 45 (Tex.App.-Houston [1ère Dist.] 2010, animal de compagnie refusé). La première considération, comme expliqué précédemment, est correctement examinée comme l’un des facteurs d’intérêt privé. Voir Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. à 508, 67 S.Ct. à 843.

Nous concluons que le tribunal de première instance n’a pas commis d’erreur en concluant que le Togo est un forum alternatif disponible et adéquat.

Les facteurs d’intérêt privé sont: (1) la facilité relative d’accès aux sources de preuve; (2) la disponibilité du processus obligatoire pour la participation de non consentant, et le coût de l’obtention de la présence de témoins disposés; (3) la possibilité de voir des locaux, si la vue serait appropriée à l’action; (4) la force exécutoire d’un jugement une fois obtenu; et (5) tous les autres problèmes pratiques qui rendent le procès facile, rapide et peu coûteux. Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. à 508, 67 S.Ct. à 843; En ce qui concerne ces facteurs d’intérêt privé, Brenham Oil soutient que la majorité des témoins se trouvent au Texas, que la majeure partie de la preuve se trouve au Texas, que les prétendus actes d’ingérence délictuelle se sont produits au Texas ou au Texas. étaient supervisés et dirigés à partir du Texas, et un procès togolais serait excessivement coûteux. Il repose sur le fait que les deux parties ont leur siège social au Texas et qu’une grande quantité de découverte a déjà eu lieu alors que l’affaire est en instance devant le tribunal de première instance. En outre, Brenham Oil fait valoir que, selon son expert
[472 S.W.3d 770]
témoin, les tribunaux togolais ne peuvent contraindre des ressortissants étrangers ou des représentants du gouvernement togolais à témoigner.

Nous ne sommes pas d’accord avec le fait que le tribunal de première instance a abusé de son pouvoir discrétionnaire pour soupeser les facteurs d’intérêt privé. Les arguments de Brenham Oil se concentrent sur ce qu’il prétend être la disponibilité supérieure de la preuve et des témoins à Houston, ainsi que la plus grande commodité pour les parties de juger l’affaire dans une juridiction où elles ont leur siège social. Bien que Brenham Oil ait raison de dire que ses propres témoins, tels que Gaille et Hardy, et les membres de l’équipe AMEAP de TGS qui sont basés à Houston, tels que Hicks et Abdallah, sont commodes à Houston et soumis à une assignation, il y a autres témoins matériels qui se trouvent au Togo et en Israël. Le gouvernement togolais a été assisté lors des négociations avec Brenham Oil par Yair Green, un avocat israélien, et Raphael Edery, un conseiller économique israélien. Il n’est pas contesté que Siah et son supérieur Dammipi Noupokou, le ministre togolais de l’Energie et des Mines, sont situés au Togo. TGS affirme ne pas pouvoir obtenir un témoignage essentiel de la défense dans un tribunal texan car les témoins togolais ont refusé de participer à la découverte au Texas et leur témoignage n’a pu être obtenu par le tribunal du Texas parce que le Togo n’est pas partie à la Convention de La Haye. Preuve de preuves à l’étranger. Comme indiqué dans ses conclusions de fait et ses conclusions de droit, le tribunal a pris en compte l’endroit des témoins étrangers, écrivant que «tous les témoins matériels autres que les témoins de Brenham sont situés au Togo ou en Israël, et cette Cour n’a pratiquement aucun moyen de contraindre leur témoignage, l’individu responsable de l’envoi de la correspondance au Togo, qui est la base de la réclamation de Brenham contre TGS, est situé au Royaume-Uni et n’est plus employé par aucune entité TGS.

TGS a souligné devant le tribunal de première instance que garantir le témoignage de Siah et de Noupokou serait essentiel pour sa défense. Pour recouvrer une ingérence délictuelle dans des relations d’affaires éventuelles, le demandeur doit démontrer que l’ingérence alléguée a empêché le demandeur d’obtenir un contrat. Voir Richardson-Eagle, Inc. c. William M. Mercer, Inc., 213 S.W.3d 469, 475-76 (Tex.App.-Houston [1ère Dist.] 2006, pet. Denied) (délimitant les éléments du délit). TGS a fait valoir que sans le témoignage des décideurs togolais, Siah et Noupokou, il serait incapable d’explorer les causes de la décision du Togo d’attribuer le bloc 2 à ENI plutôt qu’à Brenham Oil.

L’affirmation de Brenham Oil selon laquelle l’ingérence délictuelle présumée s’est produite à Houston, il est incontesté que, si les Togolais étaient en fait influencés par la lettre négative de Welch à Siah, alors la lettre doit avoir influencé les fonctionnaires togolais situés au Togo. Voir Re re Omega Protein, 288 SW3d 17, 21-22 (Tex.App.-Houston [1ère Dist.] 2009) (orig.proceeding) (accordant la requête de mandamus pour obtenir le forum non conveniens le rejet des réclamations contre la compagnie basée au Texas lorsqu’un accident s’est produit en Virginie et que «les personnes les plus au courant» du délit allégué étaient situées en Virginie). En plus du témoignage des officiels togolais eux-mêmes, toute correspondance interne ou mémorandum des fonctionnaires et du gouvernement togolais est vraisemblablement situé au Togo. Voir Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d, p. 677. Ainsi, en raison de la disponibilité des éléments de preuve, l’effet de la lettre au Togo est important pour établir la validité des revendications en cause. Compte tenu de l’importance potentielle des témoins étrangers et de toute preuve documentaire togolaise pour déterminer l’effet de l’ingérence présumée de TGS sur le gouvernement togolais, le tribunal de première instance aurait pu raisonnablement peser les premier et deuxième facteurs d’intérêt privé en faveur du licenciement. Voir Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d à 677 (forum de maintien
[472 S.W.3d 771]
licenciement non conveniens lorsque la preuve des intimés

 

Les autres considérations soulevées par Brenham Oil, telles que le coût du procès devant les tribunaux togolais qui utilisent la langue française, la grande quantité de découvertes déjà effectuées dans le comté de Harris et l’opinion de son expert selon laquelle les tribunaux togolais ne peuvent contraindre les témoins à témoigner démontrer que le tribunal de première instance a abusé de son pouvoir discrétionnaire. Bien que les tribunaux doivent considérer comme facteur d’intérêt privé « tous les autres problèmes pratiques qui rendent le procès facile, rapide et peu coûteux », la nécessité pour une entreprise texane de se rendre dans un pays étranger et de demander réparation devant des tribunaux qui utilisent une autre langue n’est pas déterminant. Voir Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d, page 33 (considérant que c’est une erreur pour un tribunal d’exiger que chaque facteur de Gulf Oil favorise le congédiement); DTEX, 508 F.3d à 801 (en évitant les difficultés au plaignant de plaider dans une juridiction étrangère lorsque ses réclamations découlaient de sa décision d’effectuer des achats à l’étranger). En outre, un procès à Houston impliquant des témoins potentiels britanniques, israéliens et togolais, ainsi que des documents rédigés en français et en hébreu, comporterait ses propres dépenses et inexactitudes. Voir Pirelli Tire, 247 S.W.3d 678-79 (en observant que le litige dans l’un ou l’autre forum nécessiterait une certaine quantité de voyage et de traduction). En outre, le tribunal avait le droit d’examiner et de créditer l’opinion de l’expert de TGS, Sokpoh, que les preuves accumulées seraient admissibles dans une procédure togolaise et que les tribunaux togolais pourraient exiger la déposition de témoins situés au Togo.

Enfin, nous notons que notre conclusion accorde une grande déférence à la décision du tribunal de première instance. Bien que Brenham Oil affirme que le tribunal de première instance n’aurait pu rejeter l’affaire que «si TGS était en mesure de prouver que tous les facteurs de Gulf Oil pesaient fortement en faveur du Togo», ce n’est pas la norme appropriée. Voir Quixtar, 315 SW3d, p. 33. Ici, le tribunal de première instance aurait raisonnablement pu soupeser les facteurs d’intérêt privé en faveur du licenciement en accordant plus de poids à la preuve au Togo qu’à la barrière de la langue ou à d’autres difficultés pratiques de porter l’affaire au Togo. Voir, par exemple, SES Prod., Inc. c. Aroma Classique, LLC, n ° 01-12-00219-CV, 2013 WL 2456797, à * 6 (Tex.App.-Houston [1ère Dist.] 6 juin 2013 »(mem.op.) (constatant que la pondération des facteurs par les tribunaux de première instance était raisonnable, même si les éléments de preuve démontrant que les facteurs d’intérêt privé auraient pu être plus forts, parce que« les facteurs de Gulf Oil prévoient une souplesse enquête, aucun facteur n’étant déterminant « ).

Les facteurs d’intérêt public sont: (1) les difficultés administratives pour les tribunaux lorsque des litiges sont entassés dans des centres congestionnés au lieu d’être manipulés à leur origine; (2) le fardeau du devoir de jury qui ne devrait pas être imposé aux gens d’une communauté sans rapport avec le litige; (3) intérêt local à avoir des controverses localisées décidées à la maison; et (4) éviter les conflits de lois. Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. à 508-09, 67 S.Ct. à 843; Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d à 33-34.

Brenham Oil n’aborde pas le premier facteur, affirmant que les problèmes administratifs et la congestion du rôle sont « minimalement pertinents » dans cette affaire. De plus, en qualifiant le «devoir de juré comme un fardeau improbable dans les circonstances», il concède essentiellement que le deuxième facteur ne pèse pas lourdement pour ou contre le congédiement.

Au lieu de cela, Brenham Oil soutient que les troisième et quatrième facteurs d’intérêt public – l’intérêt local à avoir des controverses localisées
[472 S.W.3d 772]
décidé à la maison et en évitant les problèmes de conflits de lois-favorisent fortement les litiges au Texas. Il souligne que les deux parties ont leur siège social à Houston et affirme que « les actions de TGS sont survenues directement à Houston ou ont été supervisées et approuvées par TGS à Houston ». Brenham Oil tente de comparer ces faits à ceux de deux décisions récentes de ce tribunal, Vinmar et Benz Group. Vinmar a intenté un procès intenté par deux sociétés mexicaines contre une société dont le siège social se trouvait au Texas et qui comptait de nombreuses opérations internationales. 336 S.W.3d, p. 667. Brenham Oil se fonde sur le passage suivant:

Les jurés texans ne sont pas très intéressés à résoudre un litige découlant de transactions commerciales mexicaines, de contrats exécutés au Mexique et de prétendus délits émanant du Mexique, dirigés contre une société multinationale qui prospère dans ses activités sur les marchés internationaux émergents. De manière significative, cette controverse est née au Mexique et concerne principalement les résidents mexicains.
Id. à 679-80. Brenham Oil fait remarquer que le tribunal du groupe Benz a cité ce langage à l’appui d’un rejet non conventionnel du forum des réclamations initiées par les plaignants du Texas contre les défendeurs brésiliens. 404 S.W.3d, p. 99. Ainsi, Brenham Oil se fonde sur le fait que, contrairement à Vinmar et Benz Group, cette affaire concerne à la fois un plaignant texan et un défendeur texan.

La différence que Brenham Oil cherche à mettre en évidence entre les faits de l’espèce et ceux de Vinmar et Benz Group est imparfaite. Bien que Brenham Oil ait raison de dire que les parties en l’espèce, contrairement à celles des décisions antérieures, sont toutes deux résidentes du Texas et que les prétendus délits auraient été «émanés» de l’équipe AMEAP basée à Houston, d’autres raisons invoquées de licenciement dans Vinmar et Benz Group s’appliquent également au litige entre Brenham Oil et TGS. En regardant le dossier devant le tribunal de première instance, la controverse actuelle est qualifiée de «transaction commerciale» au Togo et implique une société, Brenham Oil, qui espère «prospérer» en «menant des affaires sur les marchés internationaux émergents». Comme Gaille l’a déclaré dans sa lettre à Welch, Brenham Oil est «un nouveau véhicule que j’utilise pour placer des capitaux dans des opportunités d’exploration internationales».

Dans Benz Group, le tribunal, après avoir cité le langage de Vinmar, a déclaré que le défendeur « a apporté la preuve que le Brésil était le principal endroit pour les négociations, les accords, les méfaits présumés et les affaires en cours. » Id. Ces faits, et non la résidence des parties, étaient ce que le tribunal du groupe Benz a jugé important dans l’analyse de Vinmar. En outre, ces faits ont des parallèles dans le présent différend, même si, contrairement au défendeur du groupe Benz, TGS est une société texane. Les négociations de Brenham Oil ont eu lieu au Togo avec des responsables togolais et leurs conseillers israéliens, le méfait présumé était d’interférer dans ces négociations, et les « activités en cours liées au conflit », le forage, auraient eu lieu dans les eaux togolaises.

Brenham Oil soutient que la loi du Texas s’appliquerait à ses réclamations. Cependant, il soutient cette affirmation en se référant à une partie de son mémoire traitant de la compétence des tribunaux togolais à l’égard des parties. En l’absence d’arguments ou d’autorité à l’effet contraire, le tribunal de première instance était en droit de soupeser la possibilité que le droit étranger s’applique au procès en faveur du licenciement. Voir Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d à 679 (notant que la simple possibilité que la loi étrangère puisse éventuellement s’appliquer a été traitée comme un facteur militant en faveur du rejet du forum non conveniens); SES Prods., 2013 WL 2456797, à * 6 (identique).

Brenham Oil n’a pas démontré que le tribunal de première instance a abusé de son pouvoir discrétionnaire en
[472 S.W.3d 773]
pondération des facteurs d’intérêt privé ou public. Nous concluons donc que le tribunal de première instance n’a pas commis d’erreur en rejetant la poursuite de Brenham Oil pour forum non conveniens. Comme nous affirmons le jugement du tribunal de première instance rejetant les réclamations de Brenham Oil, nous n’avons pas besoin de traiter les questions de compétence soulevées dans les cros de TGS.

Ayant laissé partir ENI, seul opérateur pétrolier à explorer l’offshore togolais (AEI n°718), le gouvernement du président Faure Gnassingbé se démène pour signer avec de nouveaux opérateurs capables de mettre en valeur les découvertes Oti1 et Kara mises au jour par la major italienne sur le bloc 2. Dans cette entreprise, plusieurs hommes d’affaires israéliens jouent un rôle de premier plan. C’est le cas de Raphy Edery et de son fils Liron. Ils conseillent, depuis 2005, le gouvernement togolais sur les questions minières, dont le secteur des phosphates (AMI 352).

Edery père et fils s’occupent également des questions pétrolières et ont joué un rôle dans les négociations, au début de la décennie, entre le Togo et la junior américaine Brenham Oil & Gas, qui voulait opérer le bloc 2, finalement attribué à ENI. Brenham a attribué l’échec de ses pourparlers à TGS-Nopec, qui conseillait alors le Togo et avait indiqué au pays que la société n’avait pas les moyens de développer le bloc. En 2014, la junior a porté plainte contre ENI et TGS-Nopec au Texas. Sa plainte a été rejetée en première instance et en appel.

Dans ses négociations avec Brenham, le Togo était représenté par le cabinet d’avocat israélien Yair Green, longtemps très proche du parti travailliste en Israël et éclaboussé par l’affaire Bernard Madoff en 2013.

Le sommet Israël-Afrique, que Faure Gnassingbé avait prévu d’organiser en septembre dernier à Lomé (LC 757), devait également servir à drainer des investisseurs pétroliers. Las : la situation sociale explosive au Togo a contraint le régime à annuler ce raout. La tenue de ce dernier était également combattue par plusieurs pays africains, comme l’Afrique du Sud.

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At the invitation of ENOC Marketing International Business Development Unit and at the instance of the President of Republic of Togo, a delegation of senior Togo Government officials visited ENOC during early July 2013. The delegation consisted of Mr. Gnassinbe Essolissam, Advisor to the President of the Republic of Togo and Mr. Meba Leopold Siah, Director general, Department of Hydrocarbons, Government of the Republic of Togo.

The objective of this delegation is to secure a strategic alignment with ENOC Group towards the oil marketing industry in Togo.

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BRENHAM OIL & GAS v. TGS-NOPEC GEOPHYS. CO.

NOS. 01-13-00349-CV & 01-13-00610-CV.

472 S.W.3d 744 (2015)

BRENHAM OIL & GAS, INC., Appellant/Cross-Appellee, v. TGS-NOPEC GEOPHYSICAL COMPANY, Appellee/Cross-Appellant, and ENI S.p.A., Appellee.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston (1st Dist.).

Opinion issued July 30, 2015.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Fleming, Nolen & Jez, L.L.P., Rand P. Nolen George M. Fleming G. Sean Jez Jessica A. Kasischke Kelsey L. Stokes , for Appellant.

Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., Sean Gorman Jamie Alan Aycock , for Appellee.

Panel consists of Justices Massengale, Brown, and Huddle.


OPINION

Michael MassengaleJustice.

Appellant Brenham Oil & Gas, Inc. filed suit against TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company and ENI S.p.A. Brenham Oil had pursued an oil production agreement with the Republic of Togo, but it alleged those efforts failed due to the tortious interference of TGS, a company that gathers and markets seismic data for the hydrocarbon industry. ENI, an Italian oil company, was accused of aiding and encouraging TGS’s tortious conduct.

ENI filed a special appearance and the claims against it were dismissed. TGS, a Delaware corporation headquartered in

[472 S.W.3d 751]

Houston, successfully moved to dismiss based on forum non conveniens. Brenham Oil appealed the dismissal of both parties. TGS cross-appealed arguing that the trial court also should have dismissed Brenham Oil’s claims for lack of standing or want of subject matter jurisdiction over Togolese real property.We affirm the dispositive orders of the trial court and dismiss the cross-appeal as moot.

After the meeting with Gaille, Siah wrote an email back to Welch:

It was a good meeting with M. Gaille from Brenham Oil & Gas company. We also the minister an[d] I noted that it si [sic] very small unexperienced company. We gave them copies of model PSA and hydrocarbon code. Also we told them to make contact with PGS [sic] for further information in terms of data evaluation and data licencing. Please can you brief us on data package price, licencing procedure and details of volume of data to be shown and licenerd [sic].Thank you for your precious cooperation on this matter.

Behind the scenes at TGS, the news that Brenham Oil was talking to Togo about Block 2 was not welcome. Welch was part of TGS’s Africa, Middle East, and Asia Pacific (« AMEAP ») team and subordinate to David Hicks, the divisional vice president. Prior to answering Siah’s inquiry about Brenham Oil, Welch had emailed Hicks and fellow AMEAP team member Kim Abdallah, both of whom worked in Houston. Welch wrote, « Do you know anything about Brenham Oil & Gas. . . . They are meeting with minister tomorrow to try and get block 2. If it is a small co. they will not buy data and try to promote block—not good for us or Togo. »

Brenham Oil dispatched its vice president, L. Rogers Hardy, to examine the data located at TGS’s Houston headquarters. Hardy contacted Hicks, visited TGS’s Houston office, and entered into a confidentiality agreement to view the information. When Hicks reported that the « guy from Brenham » had come by inquiring about the data, Welch emailed back, « I’ve already told Togo not to deal with them. »

On May 17, Brenham Oil learned of the negative evaluation Welch had given to Siah. Gaille responded by emailing Welch, attaching a short biography to show his competence. Gaille wrote:

I wanted to provide you with information regarding my background. Of course, you have not heard of Brenham Oil & Gas. Brenham Oil & Gas is a new vehicle that I am using to place capital in international exploration opportunities, and I am working with my network of contacts at the large oil and gas companies and governments to acquire exploration block interests. We expect to build a portfolio of approximately 10 wells over the next three years. Our goal is exposure of public and private capital to a series of high potential wells. . . .We would very much appreciate you and your team’s support in our efforts in Togo and elsewhere, and we understand it is important that you have an accurate understanding of our background and experience. If you need a reference or have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Four days later, Abdallah sent an email to two Houston-based TGS colleagues: AMEAP team member Juan Santana and sales representative Julie Halbison. Abdallah instructed them how to price the data for Brenham Oil, writing, « make it high. »

Welch later echoed that sentiment. In an email exchange, TGS employee Jim McNeil told Welch that he could provide Hardy « a list of the wells we have when necessary » and asked him to « please let me know if you want me to do anything at this time. » Welch replied, « I’ll wait until he absorbs the price, » noting that Brenham Oil would likely complain about it to the government. In response to a query a few days later from Halbison about pricing the data for Brenham Oil, Welch wrote, « I don’t think that this is going anywhere, Brenham will not be prepared to pay anything significant to get the block. If we get a serious company I will let you guys do the pricing. »

On May 24, Brenham Oil presented Togo a proposed production-sharing agreement. In June, Gaille traveled to Togo

[472 S.W.3d 753]

once more and held a series of meetings with officials to work out the terms of the agreement. Yair Green, an Israeli lawyer, participated on the side of the Togolese government. By July, Brenham Oil thought that it had settled on an agreement with Togo: its Board had approved the prospective agreement, and emails were exchanged about scheduling a signing ceremony in Paris. However, the parties never met in Paris and no agreement was signed. As the months went by, Gaille continued to press Green about signing the agreement. In October, Brenham Oil learned through news reports that Togo had entered an agreement to develop Block 2 with ENI S.p.A., the Italian oil company that ultimately would drill in Block 2.

ENI’s investigation of exploration opportunities near Togo and negotiations for the purchase of seismic data had been underway since before Brenham Oil’s initial May 2010 meeting there. As early as January 2010, TGS’s AMEAP employee Sara Stephens, based in London, was communicating by email with Illiberi Leonardo, an ENI employee in Milan, promoting the sale of TGS’s data to ENI. By March, Stephens was working with AMEAP employee Juan Santana, based in Houston, and TGS sales coordinator Jana Spencer, also in Houston, on finalizing a licensing agreement. In April, Stephens, who continued to communicate with Leonardo and ENI on behalf of TGS, was complaining of ENI’s delay in consummating the sale. The delays were troubling to Santana and the other TGS team members.

At the end of May, Santana emphasized to his colleagues the importance of concluding the sale with ENI. In a series of emails, he wrote, « We need ENI bad! » and « FYI, WE NEED ENI . . . to reach forecast. Take no prisoners. . . . show me the money! » Nonetheless, it was only in November 2010, after ENI had entered into a production agreement with Togo, that the sale of seismic data was completed.

Brenham Oil initially filed suit against TGS and an American ENI subsidiary, ENI Petroleum Co. Inc. However, Brenham Oil later nonsuited the subsidiary and amended its pleadings to sue the parent, ENI, S.p.A., directly. Brenham Oil alleged that TGS had tortiously interfered with its prospective business relations with Togo « by making false, negligent, intentional, fraudulent, and/or defamatory statements to Togolese officials. » Brenham Oil relied especially upon the email Welch sent to Siah calling Brenham Oil « a very small company » and recommending that it not be considered for a petroleum exploration permit. Brenham Oil further alleged that ENI knowingly assisted or encouraged TGS’s tortious acts.

ENI filed a special appearance arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over it. The trial court granted the special appearance and dismissed the claims against ENI. Brenham Oil promptly filed notice of an accelerated appeal.

Litigation continued in the trial court between Brenham Oil and TGS, which filed several dispositive motions: a motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens; a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction; a motion for summary judgment alleging lack of standing and inability to prove damages; and a « Final Motion for Summary Judgment, » tackling the merits of Brenham Oil’s tortious interference claim. In its motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens, TGS claimed that the case should be litigated in Togo, not Harris County. After holding multiple hearings, entertaining extensive briefing, and receiving evidence, the trial court ultimately granted the forum non conveniens motion and dismissed the case without ruling on TGS’s other dispositive motions.

[472 S.W.3d 754]

Brenham Oil timely filed notice of appeal. TGS then filed a cross-appeal.

Analysis

I. ENI’s special appearance

Brenham Oil argues that the trial court erred by granting ENI’s special appearance. It contends that the trial court had both general and specific jurisdiction over ENI.

A. Brenham Oil’s motion to strike affidavit

As a preliminary matter, Brenham Oil argues that the trial court erred by denying its motion to strike an affidavit ENI offered in support of its special appearance. ENI employee Marco Bollini’s detailed affidavit, dated May 24, 2012, was phrased in the present tense but noted that its statements were « true and correct now and for all applicable time frames involving the plaintiff’s allegations in this case. » It contained a litany of specific denials supporting his employer’s assertion that while it has numerous American subsidiaries that do business in Texas, ENI itself has no presence in Texas. For example, Bollini denied that ENI « sell[s] goods or provide[s] any services in Texas, » and he asserted that ENI « does not and has never maintained an office or any other facility in Texas. »

Brenham Oil presents two reasons why the affidavit should have been struck. Both relate to paragraph 18, which stated:

A small number of ENI S.P.A. employees may be assigned to EM S.P.A. subsidiaries in the United States on a temporary basis. During the term of a temporary assignment, an assigned employee enters into an employment agreement with the U.S. subsidiary that has the right to direct and control the details of the employee’s work. EM S.p.A. relinquishes the right to direct and control the details of any assigned employee’s work. Accordingly, the subsidiary to which an employee is assigned pays all compensation during his or her term of assignment.

Brenham Oil contends that the entire affidavit should be struck because it is materially false. In the alternative, it argues that the challenged paragraph should be struck as conclusory.

We review a trial court’s ruling on a motion to strike an affidavit or portion thereof for abuse of discretion. In re BP Prods. N. Am., Inc., 263 S.W.3d 106, 117 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, orig. proceeding). A trial court may determine a special appearance on the basis of affidavits. SeeTEX.R. CIV. P. 120a(3). The affidavits, however, must « be made on personal knowledge » and « set forth specific facts as would be admissible in evidence. » Id. Consequently, the affidavits used must be direct, unmistakable, and unequivocal as to the sworn facts, allowing perjury to be assigned on them. Wright v. Sage Eng’g Inc., 137 S.W.3d 238, 250 n. 8 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, pet. denied).

Brenham Oil argues that paragraph 18 is materially false because it partly contradicts numerous letters of invitation sent by ENI U.S. Operating Co. Inc. to the United States Consulate in Milan regarding working visits to the United States by ENI S.p.A. employees. For example, a letter submitted on June 25, 2009 by ENI US Operating Co. on behalf of Chiara Guiducci, said:

This is to explain the business visit to the United States by Ms. Chiara Guiducci. She is currently employed by ENI S.p.A. in San Donato, Italy in the position of Lead Reservoir Engineer for ENI S.p.A. Exploration and Production.. . . . ENI U.S. Operating Co. Inc. would like to invite Ms. Chiara Guiducci to attend meetings on behalf of and as an employee of ENI S.p.A. She will be visiting and attending meetings relating to the Kashagan Field Development project.Ms. Chiara Guiducci will continue to be an employee of ENI S.p.A. and will remain on its payroll throughout her staying the United States. She will receive no remuneration in the United States.

Other letters, dated as early as January 2008 and as late as July 2010, use similar language. Brenham Oil points out that the claims in the letters that an employee « will continue to be an employee of ENI S.p.A. and will remain on its payroll » contradict the statements in Bollini’s affidavit that « an assigned employee enters into an employment agreement with the U.S. subsidiary that has the right to direct and control the details of the employee’s work, » that ENI S.p.A. « relinquishes the right to direct and control the details of any assigned employee’s work, » and that « the subsidiary to which an employee is assigned pays all compensation during his or her term of assignment. »

Despite the difference between the affidavit submitted by ENI and the documentation noted by Brenham Oil, the comparison does not conclusively establish that the statements in Bollini’s affidavit are false. ENI correctly notes that, while the invitation letters identified by Brenham Oil indicate that ENI employees who visited Texas would remain on ENI’s payroll, the letters were each written in the future tense to describe proposed visits. As such, the letters were not direct evidence of the eventual employment arrangement for the visiting employees. Perhaps more compellingly, Bollini’s affidavit statement that the U.S. subsidiary « pays all compensation » during a temporary assignment is not inherently at odds with that employee remaining on the parent’s « payroll » during that time. Both statements could be true if the subsidiary reimbursed the parent for the costs of the employee’s compensation during the temporary assignment. See, e.g., PHC-Minden, L.P. v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., 235 S.W.3d 163, 176 (Tex. 2007) (discussing parent-subsidiary arrangement in which subsidiary’s executives received paychecks from parent, but funds for paychecks came from subsidiary’s revenues).

In any case, Brenham Oil also offers no authority for the proposition that statements in an affidavit should be struck for the reason that they that conflict with other statements by the same party or its subsidiary on the same subject matter. The fact that an affidavit submitted by a corporate party contradicts another piece of evidence in the record, even if the other evidence is a statement of the party’s subsidiary, does not conclusively establish that the affidavit is false or perjurious. Cf. Randall v. Dallas Power & Light Co., 752 S.W.2d 4, 5 (Tex.1988) (per curiam) (« [I]f conflicting inferences may be drawn from a deposition and from an affidavit filed by the same party in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, a fact issue is presented. »). Such a conflict in the evidence merely presents the trial court with a fact issue, see id. to be resolved with the merits of the special appearance.

Brenham Oil argues in the alternative that the affidavit should have been struck because paragraph 18 is conclusory. Specifically, it contends that the assertion, « ENI S.p.A. relinquishes the right to direct and control the details of any assigned employee’s work, » is conclusory because it is unaccompanied by statements of relevant underlying facts. It relies on a prior decision, Golden Agri-Resources Ltd. v. Fulcrum Energy LLC, No. 01-11-00922-CV, 2012 WL 3776974 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] Aug. 30, 2012, pet. denied) (mem.op.), in which this court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in striking certain statements in an affidavit

[472 S.W.3d 756]

supporting a special appearance as conclusory. 2012 WL 3776974 at *11.

We disagree because Golden Agri-Resources is distinguishable. Unlike the affidavit in that case, the challenged statement in Bollini’s affidavit was supported by additional factual statements regarding the nature of the control purportedly exerted by the other entities. The Bollini affidavit affirmed that « an assigned employee enters into an employment agreement with the U.S. subsidiary » and that « the subsidiary to which an employee is assigned pays all compensation during his or her term of assignment. » Both claims, that an agreement existed between the assigned employee and the subsidiary and that the subsidiary paid the employee’s wages, are « direct, unmistakable, and unequivocal as to the sworn facts, allowing perjury to be assigned on them. » See Wright, 137 S.W.3d at 250 n. 8. Indeed, Brenham Oil’s first argument, that the statements in the affidavit are perjurious because they contradict the statements contained in the letters from the subsidiary to the American consulate, illustrates the manner in which allegations of perjury may be leveled against claims that an employment agreement existed or that wages were paid by a particular entity.

We further note the difference in the procedural postures of this appeal and Golden Agri-Resources. As noted above, a trial court’s ruling on a motion to strike a portion of an affidavit is reviewed for abuse of discretion. In re BP Prods., 263 S.W.3d at 117. In Golden Agri-Resources, we affirmed a ruling striking an affidavit, finding that ruling to have been within the trial court’s discretion. See Golden Agri-Resources, 2012 WL 3776974 at *11. Likewise, we find no abuse of discretion here: the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Brenham Oil’s motion to strike.

B. Personal jurisdiction

Brenham Oil argues that even if the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to strike Bollini’s affidavit, the record before the trial court establishes that the court had both general and specific jurisdiction over ENI. Since questions of general and specific jurisdiction present different inquiries, we will address both arguments in turn.

Texas courts may assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if the long-arm statute authorizes it and the exercise is consistent with due process. Moki Mac River Expeditions v. Drugg, 221 S.W.3d 569, 574 (Tex.2007). Given the broad scope of the Texas long-arm statute, an assertion of jurisdiction that comports with guaranties of due process under the standard of the federal constitution will invariably fall within the statute’s ambit. Am. Type Culture Collection, Inc. v. Coleman, 83 S.W.3d 801, 806 (Tex.2002).

The touchstone of jurisdictional due process is « purposeful availment. » Michiana Easy Livin’ Country, Inc. v. Holten, 168 S.W.3d 777, 784 (Tex.2005). Before a court may exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, there must be « some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws. » Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S.Ct. 1228, 1240, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283 (1958).

The Supreme Court of Texas has identified three significant aspects of purposeful availment. Michiana, 168 S.W.3d at 785. « First, it is only the defendant’s contacts with the forum that count[.] » Id. A defendant should not be called to court in a jurisdiction solely as a result of the unilateral activity of another party or third person. Id. « Second, the acts relied on must be `purposeful’ rather

[472 S.W.3d 757]

than fortuitous. » Id. « Sellers who `reach out beyond one state and create continuing relationships and obligations with citizens of another state’ are subject to the jurisdiction of the latter in suits based on their activities. » Id. (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 473, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 2182, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985)). « A defendant will not be hailed into a jurisdiction solely based on contacts that are `random, isolated, or fortuitous.' » Id. (quoting Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, 774, 104 S.Ct. 1473, 1478, 79 L.Ed.2d 790 (1984)). « Third, a defendant must seek some benefit, advantage, or profit by `availing’ itself of the jurisdiction. » Id. « Jurisdiction is premised on notions of implied consent—that by invoking the benefits and protections of a forum’s laws, a nonresident consents to suit there. » Id. « By contrast, a nonresident may purposefully avoid a particular jurisdiction by structuring its transactions so as neither to profit from the forum’s laws nor be subject to its jurisdiction. » Id.

Depending on their character and extent, a defendant’s contacts can vest a court with either specific or general jurisdiction. Coleman, 83 S.W.3d at 806. In order for a court to exercise specific jurisdiction, the defendant’s forum contacts must be purposeful and the cause of action must arise from or relate to those contacts. Id. In contrast, general jurisdiction allows a defendant to be pulled into court even if the cause of action did not arise from or relate to a defendant’s contacts with the forum. « General jurisdiction is present when a defendant’s contacts with a forum are `continuous and systematic,’ a more demanding minimum-contacts analysis than specific jurisdiction. » Id. In either case, the defendant’s forum contacts must be such that it should « reasonably anticipate » being called into a Texas court. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S.Ct. 559, 567, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980).

Besides requiring that defendants have the necessary « minimum contacts » with a forum, due process also requires that the exercise of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant comport with « traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. » Walden v. Fiore, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121, 188 L.Ed.2d 12 (2014) (citing Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945)). If a defendant contends that being forced to defend a suit in the foreign forum offends these notions, it is incumbent on it to present « a compelling case that the presence of some consideration would render jurisdiction unreasonable. » Burger King,471 U.S. at 477, 105 S.Ct. at 2185. « Only in rare cases, however, will the exercise of jurisdiction not comport with fair play and substantial justice when the nonresident defendant has purposefully established minimum contacts with the forum state. » Guardian Royal Exch. Assurance, Ltd. v. English China Clays, P.L.C., 815 S.W.2d 223, 231 (Tex.1991).

Whether a court has jurisdiction over a defendant is a question of law, but one that frequently requires a trial court to resolve questions of fact before making its determination. BMC Software Belg., N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789, 794 (Tex.2002). In this case, the trial court did not enter findings of fact and conclusions of law in relation to its ruling on ENI’s special appearance. Consequently, all facts necessary to support the ruling and supported by the evidence are implied. Id. at 795. Legal questions, on the other hand, are considered de novo. See id.

The Supreme Court of Texas has provided guidance on how to allocate the burden of proof in a special appearance dispute. See Kelly v. Gen. Interior Constr., Inc., 301 S.W.3d 653, 658-59 (Tex. 2010). The plaintiff bears the initial burden to plead sufficient allegations to bring

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the nonresident defendant within the reach of Texas’s long-arm statute. Id. at 658. ENI does not contest that Brenham Oil carried this initial burden. « Once the plaintiff has pleaded sufficient jurisdictional allegations, the defendant filing a special appearance bears the burden to negate all bases of personal jurisdiction alleged by the plaintiff. » Id. « Because the plaintiff defines the scope and nature of the lawsuit, the defendant’s corresponding burden to negate jurisdiction is tied to the allegations in the plaintiff’s pleading. » Id.

« The defendant can negate jurisdiction on either a factual or legal basis. » Id. at 659. « Factually, the defendant can present evidence that it has no contacts with Texas, effectively disproving the plaintiff’s allegations. » Id. « The plaintiff can then respond with its own evidence that affirms its allegations, and it risks dismissal of its lawsuit if it cannot present the trial court with evidence establishing personal jurisdiction. » Id. (footnote omitted). Alternatively, the defendant can make a legal argument. It can show that « even if the plaintiff’s alleged facts are true, the evidence is legally insufficient to establish jurisdiction; the defendant’s contacts with Texas fall short of purposeful availment; for specific jurisdiction, that the claims do not arise from the contacts; or that traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice are offended by the exercise of jurisdiction. » Id.

1. General jurisdiction

« A court may assert general jurisdiction over foreign (sister-state or foreign-country) corporations to hear any and all claims against them when their affiliations with the State are so `continuous and systematic’ as to render them essentially at home in the forum State. » Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (2011); see also Daimler AG v. Bauman, ___ U.S. ___ 134 S.Ct. 746, 761, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014). General jurisdiction is thus described as « dispute-blind. » PHC-Minden, 235 S.W.3d at 168. « It involves a court’s ability to exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant based on any claim, including claims unrelated to the defendant’s contacts with the state. » Id. (citation omitted) « Usually, `the defendant must be engaged in longstanding business in the forum state, such as marketing or shipping products, or performing services or maintaining one or more offices there; activities that are less extensive than that will not qualify for general in personam jurisdiction.' » Id. (quoting 4 WRIGHT & MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 1067.5 (2007)). As such, a general jurisdiction inquiry involves a « more demanding minimum contacts analysis, with a substantially higher threshold » than a specific jurisdiction inquiry. Id. In conducting the contacts analysis, « we do not view each contact in isolation. » Coleman, 83 S.W.3d at 809. « All contacts must be carefully investigated, compiled, sorted, and analyzed for proof of a pattern of continuous and systematic activity. » Id.

To begin, we note that the affidavit of Marco Bollini, with which ENI supported its special appearance, contained a laundry list of denials. Bollini denied, among other things, that ENI:

• is registered to do business in Texas;• maintains an agent who is authorized to receive service of process;• conducts any operations in Texas;• sells goods or provides services in Texas;• directs advertising toward Texas residents;• pays any employees that reside in Texas;• has any employees in Texas over which it maintains the right to direct or control the details of their work;• maintains an office or any other facility in Texas;• owns or leases any real or personal property in Texas; or,• has a telephone listing, post office box, or mailing address in Texas.

Bollini acknowledged, however, that ENI has several direct or indirect American subsidiaries that maintain offices or have their headquarters in Texas. At the same time, he averred that ENI: « does not direct or control the day-to-day operations of any of these subsidiaries or their employees; » that it maintains separate bank accounts, accounting systems, and payroll systems; and that its subsidiaries do not commingle corporate assets.

In support of its contention that ENI is subject to general jurisdiction in Texas, Brenham Oil notes evidence of a trip by ENI executives to an industry conference in Houston where they met with representatives of several oil companies, as well as two trips by ENI’s CEO to Texas for business meetings and speaking engagements. Brenham further observes that on 39 occasions between 2009 and 2012, other ENI employees visited Texas on business trips for the company, as evidenced by numerous letters of invitation from Texas subsidiary ENI U.S. Operating Co. to the American consulate in Milan. The stated purpose of these visits generally was to work with or advise ENT’s Texas subsidiaries. Finally, Brenham points to evidence that ENI assumed an active role in negotiating a lease of Houston office space on behalf of ENI U.S. Operating Co. ENI employees traveled to Houston to survey the property and offer support in making the new offices match the « ENI standard. » ENI also required its subsidiary to submit a cost estimate.

Although Brenham Oil emphasizes these ENI activities on behalf of its subsidiaries as a basis for jurisdiction, it does not deny that the subsidiaries are separate corporate entities or contend that the subsidiaries are merely ENI’s « alter egos. » See Preussag Aktiengesellschaft v. Coleman, 16 S.W.3d 110, 118 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2000, pet. dism’d w.o.j.) (plaintiffs did not argue alter ego theory, under which subsidiaries’ contacts are attributable to parent, on appeal).

The number of visits by ENI executives to Texas to attend industry conferences and meet with other oil companies matters little in determining whether ENI was essentially at home in Texas. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colom., S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416-18, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 1873-74, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984) (explaining that single trip by CEO to Houston for purpose of negotiating contract « cannot be described or regarded as a contact of a `continuous and systematic’ nature »). « Occasional travel to Texas is insufficient by itself to establish continuous and systematic contact with the state. » Waterman S.S. Corp. v. Ruiz, 355 S.W.3d 387, 410 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2011, pet. denied). In Helicopteros, a history of more numerous and systematic visits was deemed inadequate to uphold a Texas court’s assertion of general jurisdiction. There, the United States Supreme Court found that a Colombian helicopter operator which dispatched managers and technicians to view the Texas plants of its helicopter manufacturer and regularly sent its pilots to the state for training was not subject to general jurisdiction in Texas. Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 418, 104 S.Ct. at 1874. As the Colombian company had no other operations in the state, see id. at 411, 104 S.Ct. at 1870-71, these visits by its employees were inadequate to vest Texas

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courts with general jurisdiction. Id. at 418, 104 S.Ct. at 1874.

Nevertheless, Brenham Oil contends that the visits by ENI employees to its Texas subsidiaries are contacts that establish general jurisdiction. Brenham Oil insists that the invitation letters to the consulate written by ENI U.S. Operating Co. Inc. state the truth about the ENI employees who visited Texas. It maintains that these letters establish that the employees remained on the payroll and under the control of ENI, thus defeating ENI’s secondment theory. Accordingly, Brenham Oil relies on several cases affirming general jurisdiction over parent companies that paid and controlled employees in Texas. However, Bollini’s affidavit established that ENI employees entered into employment agreements with ENI subsidiaries, which paid all compensation for the employees. He further averred that ENI S.p.A. relinquished the right to direct and control the details of those employees’ work. « Whether an employee is seconded to a borrowing employer is a question of law that depends upon factual determinations of whether the borrowing employer has the right to direct and control the borrowed employee with respect to the details of the particular work. » Golden Agri-Resources, 2012 WL 3776974 at *11 (citing St. Joseph Hosp. v. Wolff, 94 S.W.3d 513, 537 (Tex.2003)). Under Texas law, seconded employees are considered employees of the borrowing employer. Deloitte & Touche Neth. Antilles & Aruba v. Ulrich, 172 S.W.3d 255, 265-66 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 2005, pet. denied). Here, Bollini’s affidavit supports a factual determination that the ENI subsidiaries had the right to direct and control the work of the borrowed employees. BMC Software, 83 S.W.3d at 795. Accordingly, the record supported a legal determination that the visiting employees became the employees, though borrowed, of the subsidiaries, and did not give rise to contacts with Texas. See Deloitte & Touche, 172 S.W.3d at 265-66.

Brenham Oil relies further on Villagomez v. Rockwood Specialties, Inc., 210 S.W.3d 720(Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 2006, pet. denied), for the proposition that, apart from an alter ego theory under which a subsidiary is fused with its parent for purposes of contacts analysis, a parent’s ownership of a subsidiary and its activities directed at that subsidiary in the forum state are themselves contacts that may establish general jurisdiction. Brenham Oil thus contends that ENI’s practice of dispatching its employees from Italy to Texas to advise its Texas subsidiaries, as well as negotiating a lease of Texas real estate on a subsidiary’s behalf, are forum contacts that subject ENI to general jurisdiction in this state. Furthermore, Brenham Oil argues that the visits by ENI employees to Texas to work with ENI subsidiaries demonstrate that « ENI continuously and systematically sent its employees to Texas for various length of time. »

A parent corporation’s ordinary, « normal, » or « routine » interactions with its subsidiaries, outside an alter ego theory, do not alone suffice to subject the parent to jurisdiction in the state of the subsidiary. Preussag, 16 S.W.3d at 118-120, 123. In Preussag, the plaintiffs contended that a German holding company was subject to jurisdiction based on its system of ordering and facilitating the operations of its subsidiaries in Texas, which the court characterized as its « normal, corporate actions within the Preussag group system. » Id. at 118. These actions were « occasional audits; unified financial procedures for the annual reporting required by German law; a unified `banking’ system, involving loans and intercompany payments and requiring some deposits into the subsidiaries’ Texas bank accounts; parent approval of large

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expenditures and budgets; consideration of adopting a group benefits system; and the communications and visits that accompany these activities. » Id. at 118-19. Absent any alter ego theory, which the appellees had specifically disavowed, this court concluded that Preussag was not subject to jurisdiction in Texas on the basis of its routine interactions with its subsidiary. Id.at 123-25.

Here, the undisputed evidence shows that over a period of more than three years, from October 2008 to March 2012, ENI employees took 39 trips to Texas for various purposes. For example, employees traveled to Texas for a « meeting to review regional operations of Eni Subsidiaries, » to provide « consulting services to ENI U.S. entities » in support of business negotiations, to « conduct training and technology support, » and to « review U.S. market and operations. » Furthermore, implying a finding of all facts necessary to support the trial court’s ruling that are supported by the evidence, BMC Software, 83 S.W.3d at 795, the evidence before the trial court supported the conclusion that ENI had some involvement with a lease of real property in Texas by one of its subsidiaries, but ENI’s direct participation was limited to approving expenditures and ensuring that building security guidelines were met.

This evidence does not demonstrate that these activities relating to the support and oversight of ENI’s Texas subsidiaries exceeded the « normal parent-subsidiary relationship. » Id. at 125. In Preussag, the trial court deemed a visit to inspect and other monitoring activities—such as periodic audits and approving large expenditures—a component of normal parent-subsidiary relations which would not subject the parent to general jurisdiction in Texas. Id. at 124-25. ENI’s actions regarding its subsidiary’s leased office property are no different. Furthermore, although the descriptions contained in Bollini’s declaration, for example, « consulting services, » are vague, the evidence does not demonstrate that these activities went beyond ordinary parent-subsidiary dealings. Accordingly, these visits were not shown to be continuous and systematic contacts with Texas. See id.

Importantly, in Villagomez, the court did not hold that ownership of a subsidiary alone is sufficient to subject the parent corporation to general jurisdiction. See Villagomez, 210 S.W.3d at 732 (explaining that while « ownership of a local-operating subsidiary may not be enough for minimum contacts outside the context of alter ego or similar conceptual devices, it is nonetheless error to exclude this legitimate forum contact from consideration in toto with the defendant’s other forum contacts »). On the contrary, the court considered the particular dealings of the parent with its subsidiary in order to arrive at its minimum-contacts findings. See id. at 734-40. Significantly, the parent corporation in Villagomez had directly contracted to engage a president for its Texas subsidiary. The contract said:

We are pleased to confirm our offer of employment as President and Managing Director of our Clay Additives business on a full-time and exclusive basis. For purposes of facilitating your employment, you will be assigned to and employed by our subsidiary. . . . It is our understanding that you will commence employment on or before August 20, 2001. You will have direct reporting responsibility to the President of Rockwood Specialties, Inc. (hereinafter Rockwood). We reserve the right, at our discretion, to change your responsibilities or job title at any time.

Id. at 734. Although the person hired to serve as president considered the subsidiary his employer, the court found it clear,

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« both in practice and by written agreement, » that he was « directly accountable » to the parent. Id. at 742. As the court explained, the parent had contracted directly with the president to make him « ultimately accountable for the profitability of [the subsidiary’s] business in Texas. . . . » Id.In doing so, the parent « extended directly into Texas its business of owning other businesses and directly facilitating their profitability. » Id. Rather than have the president contract with the subsidiary, the parent company « chose to enter Texas to contract and interact » with the president « directly in its corporate capacity as [the parent], not from behind the veil of [the subsidiary’s] board of directors. » Id.

In sum, the general jurisdiction finding in Villagomez rested in large part on the parent’s decision to contract directly with the person it wanted at the helm of its Texas subsidiary, to require that person to report directly to the parent’s president, and to retain for itself the right to remove him from that position. See id. The facts in this case are easily distinguishable from those in Villagomez. Here, ENI submitted evidence in the form of Bollini’s affidavit that supports an implied finding that ENI did not retain the right of control over any employee working for its U.S. subsidiaries. See BMC Software, 83 S.W.3d at 795. Accordingly, we do not view ENTs actions directed toward its subsidiaries as sufficient minimum contacts to subject ENI to general jurisdiction. See Preussag, 16 S.W.3d at 124-25.

Finally, Brenham Oil attempts to distinguish Helicopteros on the basis that the nature of ENI’s contacts with Texas support general jurisdiction because those contacts were « central » to ENI’s business. To support its argument, Brenham Oil points to two cases involving bank defendants that maintained no offices or employees in the forum, but nevertheless made loans to residents in the forum. See Lakin v. Prudential Secs., Inc., 348 F.3d 704, 708-10 (8th Cir.2003); Provident Nat’l Bank v. Cal. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 819 F.2d 434 (3d Cir.1987); see also RSR Corp. v. Siegmund, 309 S.W.3d 686, 708 (Tex.App.-Dallas 2010, no pet.). Although the bank defendants argued that the loans were insufficient to establish general jurisdiction because the total loan amounts represented a small fraction of their total loan portfolios, the courts deemed general jurisdiction appropriate, noting that the lines of credit at issue were « central to the conduct of the [banks’] business. » Lakin, 348 F.3d at 709; Provident Nat’l Bank, 918 F.2d at 438. Thus, Brenham Oil reasons, general jurisdiction is appropriate here because visits to Texas by ENI employees are « central » to ENI’s business. Brenham Oil does not argue how the visits of ENI S.p.A.’s employees to Texas are « central » to its business, other than by stating that the visits constitute contacts closer to those of the bank defendants in Lakin and Provident Nat’l Bankthan those of the defendant in Helicopteros.

As we concluded above, the record supports a determination that the 39 visits by ENI employees described in Bollini’s supplemental declaration do not exceed the scope of the normal parent-subsidiary relationship. See Preussag, 16 S.W.3d at 124-25. The record similarly supports a determination that those visits were not « central » to ENI’s business in the same way that making loans is central to the business of a bank. Cf. Lakin, 348 F.3d at 709-10. Moreover, the Lakin and Provident Nat’l Bank courts did not confine their analysis to whether the defendants’ contacts with the forum were « central » to their business. Rather, those courts properly focused on whether the banking activity with the forum was « continuous and systematic, » Lakin, 348 F.3d at 709, observing that the banks’ actions constituted

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« substantial, ongoing, and systematic activity » in the forum. Provident Nat’l Bank, 819 F.2d at 438. By contrast, Bollini’s supplemental declaration indicated ENI employees took only 39 visits to Texas between 2008 and 2012. Such visits are a far cry from the « continuous and systematic » contacts of the bank defendants in Lakin and Provident Nat’l Bank. See Lakin, 348 F.3d at 709 (determining that bank defendant made loans that « can represent the establishment of lending relationships with hundreds, if not thousands of [the forum’s] residents »); Provident Nat’I Bank, 819 F.2d at 438 (observing that bank defendant « conducted business regarding [the] account with [a bank in the forum] every business day »). Thus, unlike the bank accounts held and accessed continuously in a forum state, the periodic visits of ENI employees to Texas « cannot be described or regarded as a contact of a `continuous and systematic’ nature. » Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 416, 104 S.Ct. at 1873.

In sum, the record supports implied findings necessary to uphold the legal determinations that ENI does not operate in Texas, and that its activities on behalf of Texas subsidiaries were confined to normal parent-subsidiary relations. See BMC Software, 83 S.W.3d at 795; Preussag,16 S.W.3d at 126. Viewing all of the contacts together, Am. Type Culture Collection, 83 S.W.3d at 809, we hold that ENI’s contacts with Texas were not shown to be sufficiently continuous and systematic as to render it « essentially at home » in Texas. See Goodyear, 131 S.Ct. at 2851. Therefore, Brenham Oil failed to demonstrate that ENI is subject to general jurisdiction in Texas.

2. Specific jurisdiction

While general jurisdiction is dispute-blind, specific jurisdiction takes into account the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation. Moki Mac, 221 S.W.3d at 575-76. Specific jurisdiction « arises when (1) the defendant purposefully avails itself of conducting activities in the forum state, and (2) the cause of action arises from or is related to those contacts or activities. » Kelly, 301 S.W.3d at 658. « [F]or a nonresident defendant’s forum contacts to support an exercise of specific jurisdiction, there must be a substantial connection between those contacts and the operative facts of the litigation. » Moki Mac, 221 S.W.3d at 585.

Brenham Oil’s petition named one cause of action against ENI: aiding and abetting the torts of TGS. However, these allegations were not tied to factual assertions. The only references to ENI in the fact section of Brenham Oil’s petition concern non-tortious conduct. For example, Brenham Oil alleged that ENI was negotiating a sale of seismic data with TGS, it ultimately was awarded the right to drill in Block 2 from Togo, it concluded the purchase of seismic data from TGS only after obtaining rights in Block 2, and it is presently drilling off the Togolese coast.

The petition also alleged that at « all times material to this lawsuit, Eni S.p.A. was doing business in Houston, Harris County, Texas. » This was sufficient to carry Brenham Oil’s initial burden of pleading jurisdictional facts. See George v. Deardorff, 360 S.W.3d 683, 687 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2012, no pet.); Huynh v. Nguyen, 180 S.W.3d 608, 619 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2005, no pet.).

Because Brenham Oil alleged sufficient jurisdictional facts in its petition, the burden shifted to ENI to negate all bases of jurisdiction alleged. See Kelly, 301 S.W.3d at 658. Launching a factual challenge to the jurisdictional allegations, ENI attached the Bollini affidavit to its special appearance. The affidavit, by way of numerous negations, effectively denied that ENI does business in Texas. For example, it affirmed that it does not have a

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mailing address or office in the state, does not sell goods or services in Texas, and does not direct advertising towards Texas. The affidavit also addressed the allegations in Brenham Oil’s petition regarding ENI’s relationship with TGS:With regard to the facts alleged by the Plaintiff, Eni S.p.A. employees communicated with one employee of TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company (TGS), Sara Stephens, who is based in Texas, regarding a license for the use of geophysical data related to the Togolese Republic (Togo). Ms. Stephens traveled to Milan, Italy in early 2010 for the only meeting that took place related to the licensing of this data. No Eni S.p.A. employee ever traveled to Texas in connection with the data licensing. All of these employees were located in Italy at the time and still are located there.. . . .Eni S.p.A. has never committed a tort in whole or in part in Texas.

These statements in Bollini’s affidavit corresponded to the factual allegations in Brenham Oil’s petition. They admit that ENI negotiated for and purchased seismic data from TGS. Apart from this non-tortious conduct, Brenham Oil’s petition was devoid of specific Texas-linked factual allegations regarding the alleged aiding and abetting. Given that the defendant’s burden to negate jurisdiction is « tied to the allegations in the plaintiff’s pleading, » id. ENI adequately negated the jurisdictional allegations by denying particular associations with Texas and concluding with the factual assertion that it had « never committed a tort in whole or in part in Texas. »

Once ENI had offered evidence to negate the jurisdictional allegations contained in the petition, the burden returned to Brenham Oil to « respond with its own evidence that affirms its allegations. » Id. at 659. In its reply to ENI’s special appearance, Brenham Oil pointed to evidence illustrating the history of negotiations between ENI and TGS over the data, the intense pursuit of the deal with ENI by TGS’s AMEAP employees, and the fact that ENI ultimately purchased the data after it had been awarded the concession from Togo. In particular, Brenham Oil relied on ENI’s communications with TGS employees in Houston. For example, although Stephens was based in London, her emails to ENI made clear that she was working as part of a team with leadership in Houston. Occasionally, ENI employees communicated by email with TGS employees in Houston, such as Santana. When ENI had trouble accessing the purchased data from TGS over the Internet, TGS sent a hard drive from Houston to ENI’s Milan office. This evidence, however, failed to show « a substantial connection between those contacts, » i.e. the negotiations with TGS to acquire data, « and the operative facts of the litigation. » See Moki Mac,221 S.W.3d at 585.

In Moki Mac, Texas parents sued a Utah river-rafting outfitter for negligence after their son died on one of the company’s trips to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Id. at 573. The outfitter filed a special appearance contesting personal jurisdiction. Id. The Supreme Court of Texas ultimately found that the state’s courts lacked specific jurisdiction over the parents’ claims. Id. at 588. While the outfitter had directed advertising to Texas that the parents asserted they relied upon, the Court reasoned that the operative facts of their claims did not pertain to the advertising but rather to what occurred during the outing in Arizona. See id. at 584-88. The Court wrote:

Certainly on a river rafting trip safety is a paramount concern, and we accept as true the [parents’] claim that [their son] might not have gone on the trip were it not for [the outfitter’s] representations about safety. However, the operative facts of the [parents’] suit concern principally the guides’ conduct of the hiking expedition and whether they exercised reasonable care in supervising [the son]. The events on the trail and the guides’ supervision of the hike will be the focus of the trial, will consume most if not all of the litigation’s attention, and the overwhelming majority of the evidence will be directed to that question. Only after thoroughly considering the manner in which the hike was conducted will the jury be able to assess the [parents’] misrepresentation claim.

Id. at 585. Thus, Moki Mac teaches that identifying the operative facts of a claim in order to analyze whether a court has specific jurisdiction is tantamount to identifying the facts that « will be the focus of the trial. » See id.

Brenham Oil alleged that ENI aided and abetted the alleged torts of TGS. In broad terms, it accused ENI of « substantially assist[ing] and/or encourag[ing] TGS to make false . . . and/or defamatory statements to Togolese officials regarding Brenham Oil & Gas, » and of « substantially assist[ing] TGS in causing the tortious interference. » As such, the focus at a trial on this claim—i.e., the operative facts of the claim—would be acts or communications assisting or encouraging TGS to malign Brenham Oil or otherwise interfere with its prospective business relations with Togo. However, Brenham Oil neither alleged nor offered evidence of particular tortious acts or communications by ENI directed at TGS, Brenham Oil, or Texas. See Siskind v. Villa Found. for Educ., Inc., 642 S.W.2d 434, 437 (Tex.1982) (holding that court lacked specific jurisdiction over foreign defendants when « no specific acts of conspiracy or misrepresentations » were attributed to them). The Texas-linked evidence relied upon by Brenham Oil pertains only to ENTs nontortious conduct in the purchase of seismic data from TGS. These forum contacts are not the operative facts of the litigation and therefore are not contacts that will support an exercise of specific jurisdiction. See Moki Mac, 221 S.W.3d at 585.

Nevertheless, Brenham Oil relies on four cases to support its argument that the trial court had specific jurisdiction over this case. The first case, H. Heller & Co., Inc. v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp.,is inapposite because it involved a post-judgment attack on a foreign judgment and therefore involves a highly deferential standard of review. 209 S.W.3d 844, 849 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, pet. denied) (requiring « the judgment debtor to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the foreign judgment should not be given full faith and credit »)

Each of the other three cases emphasized that specific jurisdiction was proper because the asserted claims arose directly from the defendants’ contacts with Texas that also constituted the operative facts of the litigation. See Paul Gillrie Inst., Inc. v. Universal Computer Consulting, Ltd., 183 S.W.3d 755, 763-64 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, no pet.) (holding in a libel suit that an out-of-state publisher’s conduct gave rise to plaintiff’s claims because the distribution of defamatory statements actually took place in Texas); see also Nogle & Black Aviation, Inc. v. Faveretto, 290 S.W.3d 277, 285 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2009, no pet.) (holding that a nonresident defendant’s contract with a Texas-based engineer to design an inspection procedure for a wing spar supported specific jurisdiction when the plaintiffs asserted negligence in the design and inspection of the wing spar); Glencoe Capital Partners II, L.P. v. Gernsbacher,269 S.W.3d 157, 167 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2008, no pet.) (holding that telephone board meetings involving Texas participants were the operative facts of the case and thus showed purposeful availment).

[472 S.W.3d 766]

Unlike the plaintiffs in the foregoing cases, Brenham Oil does not allege forum contacts that are substantially connected to the operative facts of the litigation.

Because Brenham Oil’s claims against ENI do not arise from the alleged forum contacts, the trial court did not err by dismissing them for lack of specific jurisdiction. See Kelly, 301 S.W.3d at 659. Brenham Oil’s issue is overruled.

II. TGS’s motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens

Brenham Oil also asserts that the trial court erred by granting TGS’s motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens. It argues that Togo is neither an available nor an adequate forum in which to bring its claim against TGS and that the traditional private- and public-interest factors favor litigation in Harris County.

An appellate court will reverse a trial court’s forum non conveniens determination only if the record shows a clear abuse of discretion. See Quixtar Inc. v. Signature Mgmt. Team, LLC, 315 S.W.3d 28, 31 (Tex.2010) (per curiam). A trial court abuses its discretion when it acts without reference to guiding rules or principles. Id. If the trial court has considered all the relevant private- and public-interest factors, and its balance of the factors is a reasonable one, its decision deserves substantial deference. Id. An appellate court should not conduct a de novo review by reweighing each of the factors. See id. at 35 (explaining that appellate court erred when it « mechanically re-weighed the [forum non conveniens factors] under the scope of an excessive burden of proof »).

« The `central focus of the forum non conveniens inquiry is convenience.' » Id. at 33 (quoting Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 249, 102 S.Ct. 252, 262, 70 L.Ed.2d 419 (1981)). The doctrine permits courts to dismiss a claim based on practical consideration that affect litigants, witnesses, and the justice system. See id. at 34-35. It allows a court to dismiss an impracticable action even when it has jurisdiction and venue as to the parties and claims. See Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 507, 67 S.Ct. 839, 842, 91 L.Ed. 1055 (1947); In re Smith Barney, Inc., 975 S.W.2d 593, 596 (Tex. 1998).

In deciding motions to dismiss based on forum non conveniens, Texas courts follow the analysis of the United States Supreme Court in Gulf Oil. See Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 33-34; In re Pirelli Tire, L.L.C., 247 S.W.3d 670, 677-78 (Tex.2007) (plurality op.); Benz Grp. v. Barreto, 404 S.W.3d 92, 96 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2013, no pet.). The parties here agree that the dismissal was predicated on the common law, as opposed to the Texas forum non conveniens statute, but courts in Texas « regularly consider United States Supreme Court precedent in both our common law and statutory forum non conveniens cases. » Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 32.

The burden of proof on a forum non conveniens motion lies with the defendant. Id. at 31. « A defendant seeking forum non conveniens dismissal `ordinarily bears a heavy burden in opposing the plaintiff’s chosen forum.' » Id. This burden is relaxed when the plaintiff is not a resident of the forum but is typically at full strength when the plaintiff is a forum resident. Id. Nonetheless, the burden is also diminished when « the plaintiff is a corporation that has chosen to conduct extensive business in foreign countries and then is injured or defrauded in the foreign venue as a result of those business transactions. » Vinmar Trade Fin., Ltd. v. Util. Trailers de Mex., S.A. de C.V., 336 S.W.3d 664, 678 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2010, no pet.) (citing DTEX, LLC v. BBVA Bancomer, S.A., 508 F.3d 785, 795 (5th

[472 S.W.3d 767]

Cir.2007)). Accordingly, even though Brenham Oil is a Texas corporation with its headquarters in Texas, we afford less deference to its choice of forum because its alleged injuries arose from its travels to Togo in search of an oil concession in foreign waters.

Before a case can be dismissed for forum non conveniens, the court must identify another forum that could hear the case. Reyno, 454 U.S. at 254 n.22, 102 S.Ct. at 265 (1981). The party seeking dismissal bears the initial burden of showing that the proposed alternative forum is available and adequate. Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 33. Once a court has determined that there is an adequate alternative forum that may hear the cause, it must weigh private- and public-interest factors to determine whether forum non conveniens dismissal is appropriate. See Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 33-34.

A. Available and adequate alternative forum

« A `foreign forum is available when the entire case and all the parties can come within the jurisdiction of that forum.' » Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d at 674 (quoting Sarieddine v. Moussa, 820 S.W.2d 837, 841 (Tex.App.-Dallas 1991, writ denied)). « [A]n alternative forum is adequate if the parties will not be deprived of all remedies or treated unfairly, even though they may not enjoy the same benefits as they might receive in an American court. » Pirelli Tire, 247 S.W.3d at 678 (internal quotations omitted); accord Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d at 674. « The substantive law of the foreign forum is presumed to be adequate unless the plaintiff makes some showing to the contrary, or unless conditions in the foreign forum made known to the court, plainly demonstrate that the plaintiff is highly unlikely to obtain basic justice there. » Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d at 674 (quoting DTEX, 508 F.3d at 796).

The trial court entered the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pertaining to the availability and adequacy of a Togolese forum:

• Brenham’s claims against TGS may be tried in the Republic to [sic] Togo.• The Republic of Togo offers an adequate remedy for Brenham’s claims against TGS.• The Republic of Togo is an available alternative forum.• Jurisdiction over Brenham and TGS exists in the Republic of Togo.

Brenham Oil, however, argues that Togo is neither an available forum nor an adequate forum to hear its tortious interference claim against TGS.

1. Availability of forum

Relying on the declaration of its expert witness, former Togolese judge Kokouvi Pius Agbetomey, Brenham Oil contends that Togo is not an alternative available forum because the substantive law of the forum precludes a Togolese court from exercising jurisdiction over this dispute. Although TGS stipulated that it would submit to the jurisdiction of a Togolese court for purposes of resolving this dispute, Brenham Oil points to Agbetomey’s statement that a Togolese court nevertheless lawfully could not exercise jurisdiction over two foreign corporations:

A Togolese judge may not, without risking a violation of said procedural provisions [of the Togolese Code of Civil Procedure], accept a referral of this nature concerning a civil case with regard to two subjects incorporated in the United States that do not have their domiciles in Togo.

Brenham Oil asserts that TGS’s submission to the jurisdiction of Togo does not satisfy the availability prong. Thus, Brenham Oil concludes that TGS failed to satisfy

[472 S.W.3d 768]

its burden to show that Togo is an available forum.

Brenham’s evidence notwithstanding, TGS offered the declaration of its own expert witness, Togolese attorney Vienyemenu Florent Jonas Sokpoh, who reached the opposite conclusion on the jurisdictional question. Brenham Oil contends that Sokpoh’s declaration could not be considered by the court because it was not authenticated, but when determining an issue of foreign law, a trial court may consider « any material or source, whether or not admissible. » TEX.R. EVID. 203 (providing procedures for determining foreign law).

Sokpoh opined that « in all cases, the exception for the lack of jurisdiction in Togolese law must be raised before any basic defense or any flat refusal. » Thus, he concluded, « [i]f Brenham were to file suit in the Togolese courts, they would not be able to declare themselves without jurisdiction if neither of the parties raises this exception of lack of jurisdiction. » Furthermore, Sokpoh asserted that Togo’s Hydrocarbon Code expressly requires Brenham Oil’s claims to be filed in Togo. In the declaration, Sokpoh explained his reasoning on both points, providing citations to the Togolese Code of Civil Procedure, Hydrocarbon Code, and Penal Code (which, he explained, could be referenced by analogy for questions of civil law »).

Brenham Oil disagrees with Sokpoh’s legal opinions, arguing that his interpretation of the Togolese Hydrocarbon Code is mistaken. Notably, however, Agbetomey did not give an opinion about the disputed provisions of the Hydrocarbon Code. When conducting a common-law forum non conveniens analysis, courts have considered the uncontroverted testimony of a foreign law expert sufficient to support a trial court’s determination that a foreign forum is available. See Robinson v. TCI/US West Comms. Inc., 117 F.3d 900, 908 (5th Cir.1997); accord Satz v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 244 F.3d 1279, 1282-83 (11th Cir.2001). Brenham Oil further argues that Sokpoh was unqualified and unreliable, but it did not object to his qualifications or reliability at the trial court level. As a result, Brenham Oil has waived any error on these grounds. TEX.R.App. P. 33.1(a); Maritime Overseas Corp. v. Ellis, 971 S.W.2d 402, 411 (Tex.1998) (holding that a challenge to the reliability of scientific expert witnesses must be timely made to preserve error).

Finally, Brenham Oil argues that Togo should not be considered an available forum because, according to Agbetomey, the courts of Togo lack authority to compel the testimony of Togolese officials like Siah who participated in the negotiations with Brenham Oil. This argument is misdirected. The « availability » component of a forum non conveniens analysis centers on whether « the entire case and all the parties can come within the jurisdiction of that forum. » See Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d at 674. The availability of compulsory process for the attendance of witnesses is properly addressed as a private-interest factor. See In re Gen. Elec. Co., 271 S.W.3d 681, 688 (Tex.2008) (« Ordinarily, an alternate forum is shown if the defendant is `amenable to process’ in the other jurisdiction. »); Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. at 508, 67 S.Ct. at 843 (listing « availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling witnesses » as a private-interest factor).

We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in relying upon TGS’s expert opinion evidence to conclude that a Togolese forum was available. See Robinson, 117 F.3d at 908.

2. Adequacy of forum

Brenham Oil presents several reasons why it contends Togo is an inadequate

[472 S.W.3d 769]

forum to try its tortious interference claim. It first asserts that « the enforceability of a judgment in Togo is questionable » and that « TGS provided no evidence beyond an unsupported conclusion in the Court’s findings and conclusions that any judgment would be able to be enforced. » This challenge fails to account for the legal presumption that the substantive law of the foreign forum is presumed to be adequate unless the plaintiff makes some showing to the contrary, or unless conditions in the foreign forum made known to the court plainly demonstrate that the plaintiff is highly unlikely to obtain basic justice there. Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d at 674. Brenham Oil identifies nothing in the record to overcome this presumption and support its contention that enforceability of a judgment is questionable.

Brenham Oil also argues that Togo is an inadequate forum because, according to its expert Agbetomey, Togolese courts may not compel a foreign national to testify during a civil trial and Togo does not try civil cases before juries. The latter consideration, standing alone, does not render an alternative forum inadequate. See Vinson v. Am. Bureau of Shipping, 318 S.W.3d 34, 45 (Tex.App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2010, pet. denied). The former consideration, as previously explained, is properly examined as one of the private-interest factors. See Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. at 508, 67 S.Ct. at 843.

We conclude that the trial court did not err in finding that Togo is an available and adequate alternative forum.

B. Private- and public-interest factors

Once a court has determined that there is an adequate alternative forum that may hear the cause, it must weigh the canonical private- and public-interest factors enunciated in Gulf Oil to determine whether forum non conveniens dismissal is appropriate. See Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 33-34. When reviewing the trial court’s decision to dismiss based on forum non conveniens, we must not conduct a de novo review of the evidence by mechanically reweighing each forum non conveniens factor. Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 35. The United States Supreme Court has refused to « lay down a rigid rule to govern discretion, » noting that « [e]ach case turns on its facts. » Reyno,454 U.S. at 249, 102 S.Ct. at 263. If « central emphasis were placed on any one factor, the forum non conveniens doctrine would lose much of the flexibility that makes it so valuable. » Id. at 249-50, 102 S.Ct. at 263. Admittedly, the various factors weighed by the trial court « may be difficult to quantify. » Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 35.

1. Private-interest factors

The private-interest factors are: (1) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (2) the availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining attendance of willing witnesses; (3) the possibility of view of premises, if view would be appropriate to the action; (4) the enforceability of a judgment once obtained; and (5) all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive. Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. at 508, 67 S.Ct. at 843; Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 33. With respect to these private-interest factors, Brenham Oil contends that the majority of witnesses are located in Texas, the majority of the evidence is located in Texas, the alleged acts of tortious interference occurred in Texas or were supervised and directed from Texas, and a Togolese trial would be inordinately expensive. It relies on the fact that both parties are headquartered in Texas and that a large amount of discovery has already taken place while the case has been pending in the trial court. Furthermore, Brenham Oil argues that, according to its expert

[472 S.W.3d 770]

witness, the Togolese courts may not compel foreign nationals or the Togolese government officials to testify.

We do not agree that the trial court abused its discretion in weighing the private-interest factors. Brenham Oil’s arguments focus on what it claims is the superior availability of evidence and witnesses in Houston, as well as the greater convenience to the parties of trying the case in a jurisdiction where they are headquartered. While Brenham Oil is correct that both its own witnesses, such as Gaille and Hardy, and the members of TGS’s AMEAP team who are based in Houston, such as Hicks and Abdallah, are convenient to Houston and subject to service of a subpoena, there are other material witnesses who are located in Togo and Israel. The Togolese government was assisted at the negotiations with Brenham Oil by Yair Green, an Israeli lawyer, and Raphael Edery, an Israeli economic adviser. It is undisputed that Siah and his superior Dammipi Noupokou, the Togolese Minister of Energy and Mines, are located in Togo. TGS asserts that it is unable to obtain vital defense testimony in a Texas court because the Togolese witnesses refused to participate in discovery in Texas, and their testimony could not be secured through the Texas court because Togo is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad. As shown in its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court took the location of foreign witnesses into account, writing, « all material witnesses other than Brenham’s witnesses, are located in Togo or Israel, and this Court has virtually no means to compel their testimony; the individual responsible for sending the correspondence to Togo, which is the basis for Brenham’s claim against TGS, is located in the United Kingdom, and is no longer employed by any TGS entity. . . »

TGS stressed before the trial court that securing the testimony of Siah and Noupokou would be critical for its defense. To recover for tortious interference with prospective business relations, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the alleged interference prevented the plaintiff from securing a contract. See Richardson-Eagle, Inc. v. William M. Mercer, Inc., 213 S.W.3d 469, 475-76 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, pet. denied) (delineating the tort’s elements). TGS argued that without the testimony of the Togolese decisionmakers, Siah and Noupokou, it would be unable to explore the causes of Togo’s decision to award Block 2 to ENI rather than Brenham Oil.

Brenham Oil’s contention that the alleged tortious interference occurred in Houston notwithstanding, it is undisputed that, if the Togolese were in fact influenced by Welch’s negative letter to Siah, then the letter must have swayed Togolese officials located in Togo. See In re Omega Protein, 288 S.W.3d 17, 21-22 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2009) (orig.proceeding) (granting mandamus petition to obtain forum non conveniens dismissal of claims against company headquartered in Texas when accident occurred in Virginia and « persons with the most knowledge » of the alleged tort were located in Virginia). In addition to the testimony of the Togolese officials themselves, any internal correspondence or memoranda of the officials and Togolese government is presumably located in Togo. See Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d at 677. Thus, as a matter of the availability of evidence, the effect of the letter in Togo is significant to establishing the validity of claims at issue. Given the potential importance of foreign witnesses and any Togolese documentary evidence to determining the effect that TGS’s alleged interference had on the Togolese government, the trial court could have reasonably weighed the first and second private-interest factors in favor of dismissal. See Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d at 677 (upholding forum

[472 S.W.3d 771]

non conveniens dismissal when appellees’ evidence « showed that much of the pertinent documentary evidence and witnesses [were] located in Mexico »); Omega Protein, 288 S.W.3d at 21-22.

The other considerations adduced by Brenham Oil, such as the expense of trial in Togolese courts that use the French language, the large amount of discovery already conducted in Harris County, and the opinion of its expert that Togolese courts cannot compel witness testimony, do not demonstrate that the trial court abused its discretion. Although courts must consider as a private-interest factor « all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive, » the need for a Texas company to travel to a foreign nation and seek relief in courts that use a different language is not determinative. See Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 33 (holding that is error for a court to require that every Gulf Oil factor favor dismissal); DTEX, 508 F.3d at 801 (discounting hardship to plaintiff of litigating in foreign forum when its claims arose from its decision to make purchases overseas). Moreover, a trial in Houston involving potential British, Israeli, and Togolese witnesses, as well as documents written in French and Hebrew, would carry its own set of expenses and inexpediencies. See Pirelli Tire, 247 S.W.3d 678-79 (observing that litigation in either forum would necessitate some amount of travel and translation). Furthermore, the court was entitled to consider and credit the opinion of TGS’s expert Sokpoh that the accumulated evidence would be admissible in a Togolese proceeding, and that Togolese courts could compel the testimony of witnesses located in Togo.

Finally, we note that our conclusion affords great deference to the trial court’s determination. Although Brenham Oil asserts that the trial court could only have dismissed the case « if TGS were able to prove that all Gulf Oil factors weighed strongly in favor of Togo, » that is not the proper standard. See Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 33. Here, the trial court reasonably could have weighed the private-interest factors in favor of dismissal by giving greater weight to the availability of evidence in Togo than to the language barrier or other practical difficulties for the parties of taking the case to Togo. See, e.g., SES Prods., Inc. v. Aroma Classique, LLC, No. 01-12-00219-CV, 2013 WL 2456797, at *6 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] June 6, 2013, no pet.) (mem.op.) (finding that trial court’s balancing of factors was reasonable, even though defendants « evidentiary showing under the private-interest factors could have been stronger, » because « the Gulf Oil factors provide for a flexible inquiry, with no one factor being dispositive »).

2. Public-interest factors

The public-interest factors are: (1) the administrative difficulties for courts when litigation is piled up in congested centers instead of being handled at its origin; (2) the burden of jury duty that ought not to be imposed upon the people of a community with no relation to the litigation; (3) local interest in having localized controversies decided at home; and (4) avoiding conflicts-of-law issues. Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. at 508-09, 67 S.Ct. at 843; Quixtar, 315 S.W.3d at 33-34.

Brenham Oil does not address the first factor, claiming that administrative problems and docket congestion are « minimally relevant » to this case. Further, characterizing « jury duty as an unlikely burden under the circumstances, » it essentially concedes that the second factor does not weigh heavily for or against dismissal.

Instead, Brenham Oil argues that the third and fourth public-interest factors—local interest in having localized controversies

[472 S.W.3d 772]

decided at home and avoiding conflicts-of-law issues—strongly favor litigation in Texas. It emphasizes that both parties are headquartered in Houston and asserts that « TGS’s actions arose directly in Houston or were supervised and approved of by TGS in Houston. » Brenham Oil attempts to contrast these facts from those in two recent decisions of this court, Vinmar and Benz Group. Vinmar involved a suit by two Mexican corporations against a company headquartered in Texas with extensive international operations. 336 S.W.3d at 667. Brenham Oil relies on the following passage:Texas jurors do not have a strong interest in resolving a dispute arising from Mexican business transactions, contracts executed in Mexico, and alleged torts emanating from Mexico, directed toward a multinational corporation that thrives on conducting business in emerging international markets. Significantly, this controversy arose in Mexico and primarily involves Mexican residents.

Id. at 679-80. Brenham Oil points out that the court in Benz Group quoted this language in support of a forum non conveniens dismissal of claims initiated by Texas plaintiffs against Brazilian defendants. 404 S.W.3d at 99. Thus, Brenham Oil relies on the fact that this case, unlike Vinmar and Benz Group, involves both a Texas plaintiff and Texas defendant.

The difference Brenham Oil seeks to highlight between the facts of this case and those in Vinmarand Benz Group is an imperfect one. While Brenham Oil is correct that the parties in this case, unlike those in the prior decisions, are both Texas residents and that the alleged torts could be said to have « emanated » from the Houston-based AMEAP team, other reasons relied upon in support of dismissal in Vinmar and Benz Group similarly apply to the dispute between Brenham Oil and TGS. Looking at the record before the trial court, the present controversy is fairly characterized as arising from a prospective Togolese « business transaction » and involves a corporation, Brenham Oil, with hopes to « thrive » by « conducting business in emerging international markets. » As Gaille stated in his letter to Welch, Brenham Oil is « a new vehicle that I am using to place capital in international exploration opportunities. »

In Benz Group, the court, after quoting the above language from Vinmar, said that the defendant « adduced evidence that Brazil was the main location for the negotiations, agreements, alleged misdeeds, and ongoing business relevant to the dispute. » Id. Those facts, not the residence of the parties, were what the Benz Group court found significant in Vinmar’s analysis. Furthermore, those facts have parallels in the present dispute, even though, unlike the Benz Group defendant, TGS is a Texas company. Brenham Oil’s negotiations took place in Togo with Togolese officials and their Israeli advisers, the alleged misdeed was to interfere with those negotiations, and the projected « ongoing business relevant to the dispute, » the drilling, would have allegedly eventuated in Togolese waters.

Brenham Oil contends that Texas law would apply to its claims. However, it supports this contention by referring to a section of its brief discussing the jurisdiction of the Togolese courts over the parties. In the absence of argument or authority to the contrary, the trial court was entitled to weigh the possibility that foreign law would apply to the suit in favor of dismissal. See Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d at 679 (noting that the mere possibility that foreign law may ultimately apply has been treated a factor militating in favor of forum non conveniens dismissal); SES Prods., 2013 WL 2456797, at *6 (same).

Brenham Oil has not demonstrated that the trial court abused its discretion in

[472 S.W.3d 773]

weighing the private- or public-interest factors. We therefore conclude that the trial court did not err in dismissing Brenham Oil’s suit for forum non conveniens. As we affirm the judgment of the trial court dismissing Brenham Oil’s claims, we need not address the jurisdictional issues raised in TGS’s cross-appeal, which we dismiss as moot. See Vinmar, 336 S.W.3d at 671-72 (a court may dismiss a case for forum non conveniens and bypass jurisdictional issues when judicial economy is best served thereby) (citing Sinochem Int’l Co. v. Malay. Int’l Shipping Corp.,549 U.S. 422, 431, 127 S.Ct. 1184, 1191-92, 167 L.Ed.2d 15 (2007)).

Conclusion

We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Publicités

Une réflexion sur “#TogoLeaks #USA #Israel Scandale Brenham Oil une petite société yankee sans expérience dans l’OFFSHORE dégage ENI grâce à l’ami d’enfance de Gnassingbé, Dammipi Noupokou ! #Corruption Raphy Edery, Daniel Dror, Scott Gaille, Rog Hardy #Italie #TGS #Houston Meba Leopold Siah, Gnassinbe Essolissam, Yair Green, Pius Agbetomey, SOKPOH Jonas Vienyemenu Florent #HuntOil

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