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2nd Circuit: Banking a known terrorist organization does not, by itself, establish Antiterrorism Act liability
On April 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed summary judgments (see here and here) dismissing amended complaints filed in two actions seeking to hold a U.K. bank and a French bank, respectively, liable under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 (ATA) for allegedly “providing banking services to a charitable organization with alleged ties to Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) alleged to have committed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel in 2001-2004.” The complaints alleged that the U.K. bank and the French bank knowingly provided banking services, including sending millions of dollars in wire transfers, to organizations previously designated by the U.S. as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The district court referred to the 2nd Circuit’s decision in Linde v. Arab Bank PLC, in which the appellate court held that “a bank’s provision of material support to a known terrorist organization is not, by itself, sufficient to establish the bank’s liability under the ATA,” and that “in order to satisfy the ATA’s requirements for civil liability as a principal,” the bank’s act must “also involve violence or endanger human life.” Moreover, the Linde opinion held, among other things, that a bank’s act must be intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population or influence or affect a government, and that the bank “ must have been ‘generally aware of [its] role as part of an overall illegal or tortious activity at the time’” the assistance was provided.
The plaintiffs argued in a consolidated appeal that the district court misapplied the Linde holding and erred in concluding that the evidence presented was “insufficient to permit an inference that the bank was generally aware that it was playing a role in terrorism.” The banks countered that if the appellate court reversed the judgments, the claims should be thrown out for lack of personal jurisdiction. On appeal, the 2nd Circuit agreed with the district court’s dismissal of claims “on the ground that plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient evidence that the bank itself committed an act of international terrorism within the meaning of §§ 2333(a) and 2331(1)” of the ATA. The opinion noted, among other things, that the plaintiffs’ experts said the charities to which the banks transferred funds as instructed by one of the organizations actually performed charitable work and that there was no indication that they funded terrorist attacks. As such, the banks’ conditional cross-appeal was dismissed as moot.
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