EghtesadOnline: The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up Iranian government-owned Bank Melli’s appeal of a lower court ruling that allowed victims of militant attacks allegedly backed by Iran to seek millions of dollars in compensation from the bank.
The justices left in place the lower court’s ruling that allowed some plaintiffs, trying to satisfy part of nearly $1 billion in court judgments against Iran, to go after roughly $17.6 million that Visa Inc and Franklin Resources Inc owed to Bank Melli related to credit card use in Iran.
This marked the second time in two weeks the justices have acted in a case in which Iran has refused to pay judgments won in American courts by US plaintiffs who have accused Tehran of complicity in militant attacks, Reuters reported. The high court on Feb. 21 rejected a bid by another set of plaintiffs to seize priceless Persian artifacts held at a Chicago museum to satisfy a separate $71.5 million court judgment against Iran.
Both disputes center on the reach of a 1976 federal law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that largely shields foreign governments from liability in American courts, except for countries like Iran that have been designated by the US government as state sponsors of terrorism, according to Financial Tribune.
Bank Melli had appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the $17.6 million, funds frozen due to US sanctions against Iran, cannot be seized because the bank does not actually own it. Rather, it is owed to the bank by Visa and Franklin.
The San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2016 that Bank Melli had no immunity because a 2002 law known as the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act allows victims to access certain frozen assets of a country designated as a terrorism sponsor or one of its banks.
The 9th Circuit also said the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act included a right for victims of militant attacks to collect on judgments regardless of commercial activity or other exemptions. The Supreme Court effectively overruled that finding in its Feb. 21 decision.