Case of the Day: Micula v. Government of Romania

The case of the day is Micula v. Government of Romania (D.D.C. 2015). Viorel Micula alleged that he had made investments in Romania in reliance on certain incentives offered by the Romanian government. He claimed that Romania later revoked the incentives, causing him to suffer a loss, and that Romania had acted in violation of its bilateral investment treaty with Sweden. Micula demanded an ICSID arbitration, which resulted in an award in his favor (and in favor of several other investors) of more than $116 million.

Romania asked ICSID to annul the award, and at Romania’s request, ICSID’s secretary-general granted an initial stay of enforcement of the award. Shortly thereafter, Micula brought a petition in Washington under 22 U.S.C. § 1605a seeking ex parte confirmation of the award. (Ex parte confirmation is a well-established procedure in the SDNY; I discussed the issue in a post on Mobil Cerro Negro v. Venezuela). ICSID later constituted an ad hoc committee to consider whether the award should be stayed pending a decision on annulment. The committee agreed to a further stay, but only if Romania gave a written assurance that it would pay the award in full if annulment were denied. Romania failed to give the written assurance, and the committee revoked the initial stay.
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Case of the Day: Alberta Securities Commission v. Ryckman

The case of the day is Alberta Securities Commission v. Ryckman (Del. Super. Ct. 2015). In 1996, the Alberta Securities Commission, following a hearing, found that Lawrence G. Ryckman, the chairman and director of Westgroup, had violated Alberta securities laws by participating in a “complex scheme that created a false and misleading appearance of trading designed to deceive investors to trade at artificial prices.” The administrative decision imposed nearly $500,000 in costs. The Commission obtained a judgment in Canada against Ryckman on the basis of the administrative decision.

Ryckman moved from Canada to Arizona in 1997. The Commission obtained an Arizona judgment against Ryckman in an action in an Arizona Superior Court, which was affirmed on appeal. It then sought to enforce the Arizona judgment in Delaware under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, the law in force in most states under which states grant full faith and credit to sister-state judgments. It was undisputed that the Commission would not have been able to obtain recognition of the Alberta judgment directly in Delaware, for two reasons. First, the statute of limitations under Delaware law had expired; and second, Delaware law (the UFCMJRA) does not provide for recognition and enforcement of foreign money judgments to the extent the judgment is for a fine or other penalty.
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Case of the Day: Larson v. Yoon

The case of the day is Larson v. Yoon (Wash. Ct. App. 2015). Keith and Cynthia Larson sued Kyungsik Yoon after an auto collision in King County, Washington. The Larsons lived there; Yoon was a resident of South Korea. The Larsons sued and sought to serve Yoon with process by service on the Washington secretary of state, as provided by Washington statutes. The secretary of state then mailed the documents to Yoon, again as provided by statute. Yoon sought summary judgment on the grounds that he had not been properly been served. The court denied the motion, and Yoon took an interlocutory appeal.
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The Axact Scandal and Authentication of Diplomas

The New York Times ran a terrific investigative story about Axact. The main claim is that Axact, a Pakistani firm, ran a worldwide diploma mill scam. For what it is worth, Axact has responded to the article, though it’s response focuses mostly on supposed motives and doesn’t appear to directly rebut the claims. In any case, the following part of the story held special interest for me:

A more lucrative form of upselling involves impersonating American government officials who wheedle or bully customers into buying State Department authentication certificates signed by Secretary Kerry.

Such certificates, which help a degree to be recognized abroad, can be lawfully purchased in the United States for less than $100. But in Middle Eastern countries, Axact officials sell the documents—some of them forged, others secured under false pretenses—for thousands of dollars each.

“They would threaten the customers, telling them that their degrees would be useless if they didn’t pay up,” said a former sales agent who left Axact in 2013.

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Case of the Day: In re Skyport Global Communications

The case of the day is CenturyTel, Inc. v. Schermerhorn (In re Skyport Global Communications, Inc. (S.D. Tex. 2015). The case was a complicated bankruptcy dispute that I won’t attempt to summarize. One of the parties in an adversary proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court sought to serve a party, Wilson Vukelich LLP, in Canada. Service was effected via the Hague Service Convention, but the Article 6 certificate stated that service had been made by delivering the documents to Wilson Vukelich’s receptionist. The Bankruptcy Court granted Wilson Vukelich’s motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process, and the other party, Schermerhorn, appealed to the District Court.
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Lago Agrio: Brad Pitt Options Paul Barrett’s Book

Back in September, when I reviewed Paul Barrett’s book, Law of the Jungle, I rued my lack of appreciation for the market for popular treatments of the Chevron/Ecuador case:

As I was reading Paul M. Barrett’s new book, Law of the Jungle I was kicking myself. There’s obviously a market for popular treatments of the Chevron/Ecuador case. Barrett’s book is not the only one: Michael Goldhaber’s Crude Awakening has just been published, too. I coulda been a contender!

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Case of the Day: Helmerich & Payne v. Venezuela

The case of the day is Helmerich & Payne International Drilling v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (D.C. Cir. 2015). Helmerich & Payne, an Oklahoma oil company, operated in Venezuela through subsidiaries incorporated under Venezuelan law. Beginning in 2007, its subsidiary made contracts with the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, for the use of the subsidiary’s drilling rigs. But PDVSA quickly fell behind on payments under the contract. PDVSA did, however, promise that payments would be forthcoming, and H&P’s subsidiary completed the work under the contract. The subsidiary then prepared its equipment to be removed from the country, but the Venezuelan government then sent its national guard to prevent removal of the equipment and to force the negotiation of new contractual terms. Venezuela issued press releases stating that the drilling rigs had been nationalized. The government later issued a decree of expropriation and some Hugo Chavez-flavored anti-American press releases. Venezuela brought two eminent domain actions in its courts, supposedly to compensate H&P’s subsidiary. But the subsidiary never received service of process in the first case, and the second case was stayed indefinitely. H&P sued Venezuela and PDVSA. The defendants argued the claim was barred by the FSIA and under the act-of-state doctrine.
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