Editorial: Jackpot justice afoot

U.S. trial lawyers have a nifty scheme to raid foreign banks
The Washington Times
October 13, 2013

Syria has been reduced to a small blip in the corner of the radar screen, if only for a moment, but the screen of the neighborhood is as busy as always. Bashar Assad still clings to power in the Syrian civil war, with the Russians standing by to “help,” as usual. Iraq continues to be a tinderbox. Egypt, an old ally, is fighting the Muslim Brotherhood without U.S. political support or military aid. Now Jordan, a steadfast American ally, faces a threat to economic stability in the form of an unusual lawsuit our own Supreme Court has been asked to consider.

The survivors, relatives and heirs of terrorist attacks in Israel have sued the largest financial institution in the Middle East, the Jordan-based Arab Bank, for financing these terrorist attacks by virtue of members of Hamas and Hezbollah using their banking services. The lawyers and their client have their eyes on millions of dollars of damages if they prevail. The trial commences in January. The bank wants the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene before the trial because, it says, American trial lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to require the bank to violate the bank secrecy laws of the countries where it does business.

To comply with a discovery order in the U.S. suit, Arab Bank turned over 200,000 documents after the Saudi Arabian government agreed to it. Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority declined to waive their laws for the American suit. The countries further warned the bank that any unauthorized disclosure would result in criminal prosecution of the bank officer who discloses such documents. In Jordan, that’s $70,000 per violation, with the possibility of a six-month jail sentence for the bank officer and revocation of the bank’s license. No matter what the bank does, there’s trouble.

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