Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs, relatives of eight Bolivian civilians killed in 2003 during a period of civil crisis in Bolivia, filed suit under the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) against the former President of Bolivia and the former Defense Minister of Bolivia for the extrajudicial killings and wrongful deaths of their family members based on their alleged conduct in perpetuating the crisis. After the jury rendered its verdict, the district court granted defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on the TVPA claims.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court conflated the standard for an extrajudicial killing with the theory of liability tying defendants to the decedents' deaths. The court also held that the evidence of deaths caused by a soldier acting under orders to use excessive or indiscriminate force could provide a legally sufficient foundation to support a TVPA claim. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to determine, in the first instance and under the correct standard, whether plaintiffs put forth sufficient evidence to show that the deaths were extrajudicial killings, and, if so, whether there is sufficient evidence to hold defendants liable for such killings under the command-responsibility doctrine. In regard to the wrongful-death claims, the court held that the district court erroneously admitted the State Department cables. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded for a new trial on the wrongful-death claims. View "Rojas Mamani v. Sanchez De Lozada Sanchez Bustamante" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit as shareholders on behalf of Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB), alleging that defendants used LCB to facilitate a money-laundering scheme benefiting Hezbollah. Plaintiffs contend that defendants' conduct violated an actionable norm of international law that confers a cause of action on them over which the federal courts have jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The district court held that the prohibition against financing terrorism is a universal, specific, and obligatory norm of international law, and allowed plaintiffs to proceed with their suit.The Second Circuit reversed and held that plaintiffs' effort to amend their complaint is futile, because – even if "financing terrorism" violates a universal, specific, and obligatory norm of international law – their cause of action is based on harm that falls outside the scope of any such norm. In this case, plaintiffs' economic harm is disconnected from the risks that would bring the financing of terrorism within the purview of international law, and the ATS does not confer federal jurisdiction over the alleged violations of corporate law principles that ground plaintiffs' claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Abu Nahl v. Abou Jaoude" on Justia Law

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TIG filed an emergency motion for attachment-related relief and a writ of execution, seeking to satisfy a long-pending judgment by attaching a building that the Republic of Argentina listed for sale in the District of Columbia. After Argentina removed the property from the market, the district court concluded that the property was immune from execution because Argentina's removal meant that the property would not be "used for a commercial activity" at the time the writ would issue.The DC Circuit held that whether a property is "used for a commercial activity" depends on the totality of the circumstances existing when the motion for a writ of attachment is filed, not when the writ would issue. Therefore, the district court applied the incorrect legal standard in this case. The court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to determine whether, at the time of filing, the totality of the circumstances supported characterizing the property at issue as one "used for a commercial activity" and, if so, whether any of Argentina's other defenses bar attachment of its property. View "TIG Insurance Co. v. Republic of Argentina" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's order confirming a $622 million arbitration award. The parties are oil and gas companies incorporated in different countries, and the dispute arose from the Agreement for the Provision of Drilling Services (DSA). About two years into the DSA's term, Vantage and Petrobras executed the Third Novation and Amendment Agreement, which included an arbitration clause.As a preliminary matter, the court stated that it need not decide the issue of whether the appeal waiver was enforceable. On the merits, the court held that there was no public policy bar to confirmation of the arbitration award. In this case, the district court did not engage in inappropriate deference to the arbitrator's decision and the district court did not base its decision just on "mutual mistake." The court also held that Petrobras has not shown that the district court abused its discretion in denying the discovery motions. Finally, the court rejected Petrobras' motion to vacate the arbitration award. View "Vantage Deepwater Co. v. Petrobras America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Saw worked for Avago’s Malaysian subsidiary and could acquire ordinary shares and stock options of Avago stock under a management shareholders' agreement governed by the laws of Singapore. The agreement allowed Avago to repurchase shares and options at fair market value should an employee be terminated “for any reason whatsoever” within five years from the date of purchase. After Saw’s position was eliminated in 2009, Avago repurchased his equitable interest. Saw sued Avago’s subsidiary for wrongful termination and obtained a favorable judgment in Malaysia. Saw separately sued Avago in San Mateo County, asserting that Avago breached the shareholders' agreement by relying on an unlawful termination to repurchase his shares.The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of Avago. Saw is not entitled to any relief under Singapore law. The shareholders' agreement's choice of law provision requires the application of the substantive law of Singapore. Whether his termination was lawful or unlawful under Malaysian law has no bearing on Avago’s contractual right to repurchase shares acquired by a former employee. Saw’s breach of contract claim fails as a matter of law under the express terms of the shareholders' agreement. Saw has no viable cause of action under an implied duty of good faith. View "Saw v. Avago Technologies, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Schneider, a longtime Hay employee, was elevated to CEO in 2001. Hay terminated Schneider in 2003 for “good cause.” Schneider sued in the Labor Court of Germany and in the Netherlands. The Dutch courts found that under Dutch law there had been no valid resolution approving Schneider’s termination. In 2012, the German trial court dismissed Schneider’s claims. The German Higher Regional Court reversed in part in 2014, giving preclusive effect to the Dutch court’s findings concerning Schneider’s contract. The Hay entities were required to pay Schneider over $13 million.In 2004, Hay filed suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging nine causes of action with varying degrees of overlap with the German litigation. After the German proceedings became final, the district court lifted a stay and granted Schneider summary judgment, holding that Hay’s claims were precluded by the German judgment, assuming that the relevant inquiry was whether Hay could have brought its claims as counterclaims in the German litigation.The Third Circuit reversed in part. Under Pennsylvania preclusion law, the correct question is whether Hay was required to bring its claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. Under German law, Hay was not required to plead these claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. Since Hay’s contract assignment claim seeks to functionally undo the German litigation, however, the court affirmed summary judgment on that claim. View "Hay Group Management Inc v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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Members of the Valambhia family filed an action to recognize the High Court of Tanzania's judgments in the District of Columbia. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Tanzania's motion to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).The court held that the Valambhias have not explained how even a loose construction of the third clause of the FSIA commercial activity exception could support the conclusion that Tanzania's previous and optional use of a New York bank account constitutes a direct effect or an immediate consequence in the United States of Tanzania's conduct abroad. Furthermore, the Valambhias' claim of a direct effect stemming from the family's citizenship and residence in the United States is insufficient. The court dismissed the remaining claims and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Valambhia v. United Republic of Tanzania" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for discovery pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1782(a), seeking discovery from four investment banks related to their work as underwriters in the Tencent Music IPO. Petitioner alleged that he intended to use the documents in his pending CIETAC arbitration against the Ocean Entities and its founder.28 U.S.C. 1782(a) authorizes federal courts to compel the production of materials "for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal" upon "the application of any interested person." In In National Broadcasting Co. v. Bear Stearns & Co., 165 F.3d 184 (2d Cir. 1999) ("NBC"), the court held that the phrase "foreign or international tribunal" does not encompass "arbitral bod[ies] established by private parties."The court held that nothing in the Supreme Court's decision in Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 U.S. 241 (2004), alters its prior conclusion in NBC that section 1782(a) does not extend to private international commercial arbitrations. Furthermore, the arbitration at issue here is a non-covered, private, international commercial arbitration. View "In re: Application and Petition of Hanwei Guo" on Justia Law

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Thirty-nine plaintiffs—two American and thirty-seven foreign—filed suit agianst Citigroup, claiming that fraudulent cash advances lured them into investing in or contracting with Oceanografía and that either Citigroup or Oceanografía knowingly misrepresented Oceanografía's financial stability.The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of Citigroup's motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens, holding that the district court did not apply the deference owed to the domestic plaintiffs, and it erred in weighing the Gulf Oil private interest factors as to all the plaintiffs because Citigroup did not satisfy its burden. In this case, the court held that the district court mistakenly gave only "reduced" deference to the domestic plaintiffs' choice of forum. The court also held that Citigroup—which had the burden of persuasion—did not support its claims that most of the relevant documents and witnesses are located in Mexico. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings, including consideration of the United States' interests under the public interest factors. View "Otto Candies, LLC v. Citigroup, Inc." on Justia Law

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Respondent appealed the district court's order confirming a $28 million international arbitration award in favor of EGI. EGI sought to enforce the Chilean award in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by filing a petition to confirm the international arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act.The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the district court that service in Brazil was proper and that this arbitration award should be confirmed. The court held that the district court did not err in finding that considerations of international comity counseled against reviewing the Brazilian court's determination that respondent had been properly served in accordance with Brazilian law, especially since the Convention on Letters Rogatory commits jurisdiction of this issue to the courts of Brazil.However, the court vacated the district court's order and remanded with instructions to correct two errors that the district court committed in enforcing the award. In this case, the district court clearly erred in accepting EGI's calculations, which converted UF to pesos to U.S. dollars on January 23, 2012, rather than the proper conversion date under the breach day rule, January 13, 2012. Furthermore, instead of enforcing the Arbitration Award as requested by EGI, the district court's order should have required respondent to pay the purchase price set out in the Shareholders' Agreement and the Award and in exchange required EGI to tender its shares. View "EGI-VSR, LLC v. Juan Carlos Celestino Coderch Mitjans" on Justia Law