Republic of Argentina v. Weltover, Inc., 504 U.S. 607 (1992)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit

No. 91-763. Argued April 1, 1992—Decided June 12, 1992

As part of a plan to stabilize petitioner Argentina's currency, that country and petitioner bank (collectively Argentina) issued bonds, called "Bonods," which provided for repayment in United States dollars through transfer on the market in one of several locations, including New York City. Concluding that it lacked sufficient foreign exchange to retire the Bonods when they began to mature, Argentina unilaterally extended the time for payment and offered bondholders substitute instruments as a means of rescheduling the debts. Respondent bondholders, two Panamanian corporations and a Swiss bank, declined to accept the rescheduling and insisted on repayment in New York. When Argentina refused, respondents brought this breach-of-contract action in the District Court, which denied Argentina's motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that the District Court had jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), 28 U. S. C. 1602 et seq., which subjects foreign states to suit in American courts for, inter alia, acts taken "in connection with a commercial activity" that have "a direct effect in the United States," 1605(a)(2).

Held: The District Court properly asserted jurisdiction under the FSIA.

Pp. 610-620. (a) The issuance of the Bonods was a "commercial activity" under the FSIA, and the rescheduling of the maturity dates on those instruments was taken "in connection with" that activity within the meaning of 1605(a)(2). When a foreign government acts, not as a regulator of a market, but in the manner of a private player within that market, its actions are "commercial" within the meaning of the FSIA. Cf. Alfred Dunhill of London, Inc. v. Republic of Cuba, 425 U. S. 682, 695-706 (plurality opinion). Moreover, because 1603(d) provides that the commercial character of an act is to be determined by reference to its "nature" rather than its "purpose," the question is not whether the foreign government is acting with a profit motive or instead with the aim of fulfilling uniquely sovereign objectives. Rather, the issue is whether the government's particular actions (whatever the motive behind them) are the type of actions by which a private party engages in commerce. The Bonods are in almost all respects garden-variety debt instruments,


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