Introductory Note to U.S. v. Assa Co.

The American Society of International Law was kind enough to ask me to write an introductory note about United States v. Assa Co., a case I covered here in August and that Bill Dodge and Ingrid Wuerth criticized in a paper that I covered later that month and that I cite in the note. I’m reprinting the introductory note, which has been accepted for publication in ASIL’s International Legal Materials for 2020. One technical note: because ASIL owns the copyright, this post is “all rights reserved,” and my ordinary Creative Commons license does not apply.


On August 9, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided United States v. Assa Co.1 The decision is significant for its holding that a civil forfeiture action in rem concerning property of a foreign state or its instrumentality is not an action against the foreign state or instrumentality for purposes of the jurisdictional and immunity provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).2 (more…)

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William Dodge and Ingrid Wuerth on the Assa Case

William S. Dodge and Ingrid Wuerth have published a post at Just Security on United States v. Assa Co., a Second Circuit FSIA case I noted recently. Assa is the case holding that the FSIA does not forbid a court from exercising jurisdiction in rem over property of a foreign sovereign in a civil forfeiture case. (more…)

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Case of the Day: United States v. Assa Co.

The case of the day is United States v. Assa Co. Ltd. (2d Cir. 2019). This is one of several Iran-related FSIA decisions the Second Circuit issued last week. In Assa, the facts were these: Assa Corp. was a New York corporation formed in 1989. Its parent company is Assa Co., Ltd., a Jersey company. The Jersey parent was, in turn, owned by Harter Holdings Ltd., which Bank Melli, an Iranian state-owned bank, purchased in 1993. In 1995, the bank transferred Harter to Davood Shakeri and Fatemeh Aghamiri, but there was a dispute whether the bank continued to control Harter, and thus Assa, after the imposition of sanctions against Iran in 1995.

In 2008, the government brought a civil forfeiture action, seeking forfeiture of all of the interest of Assa and of the Bank in 650 Fifth Avenue Co., which owned the skyscraper at 650 Fifth Ave. in midtown Manhattan. There were several questions in the case, but I will focus on just one: in a civil forfeiture case, where the property is owned by a foreign state or an instrumentality of a foreign state, does the government need to show that jurisdiction exists under the FSIA? (more…)

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