Washington International Law Journal


Since its emergence in 1975, the English freezing injunction has grown to have a robust and global extraterritorial reach, but its exercise in extreme cases is jurisdictionally unsound. The “real connecting link” between assets and forum required for the grant of a worldwide freezing order in aid of foreign proceedings has become significantly looser, notably with an element of fraud acting as catalyst. This jurisdictional link is further weakened by the receding of reciprocity imperatives between the United Kingdom and member states of the European Union following Brexit. In its place is the enforcement principle, enabling a high degree of tenuousness in the jurisdictional link, most vividly seen in the recent issuances of freezing orders of cryptocurrency assets against defendants worldwide and unknown. Common sense and pragmatism offer a catch-all explanation—fraudulent defendants must not be allowed to get away. But this comes at the cost of clear jurisdictional justification. In contrast, U.S. courts have shown a much more consistent and reasonable jurisdiction in its provisional measures while weathering heavy criticisms for lacking similar pre-judgment measures. The resulting evaluation of policy justifications drawn on national considerations, the first of its kind on freezing injunction jurisdiction, suggests that English courts will maintain the current extraterritorial reach of freezing injunction due to its limited impact on comity.