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AWB Wins Dismissal of Fifth Suit Over Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme

On February 12, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted Cravath’s motion to dismiss with prejudice an action against AWB Limited, the corporate successor to the Australian Wheat Board, which is now known as Agrium Asia Pacific Limited. This is the fifth time Cravath has successfully represented AWB in a suit concerning the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme (the “Programme”). This suit involves claims by a number of U.S. citizens who were allegedly injured in terrorist attacks. Plaintiffs assert that those attacks were funded by Saddam Hussein using illegal kickbacks that he received from participants in the Programme. Although AWB was not named as a defendant in the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, the individuals and entities that were named as defendants brought a third-party complaint against AWB and 61 other entities that also participated in the Programme. The third-party complaint asserts a claim for contribution against AWB and the other third-party defendants in the event the defendants in the underlying action are found liable to plaintiffs for violating the Antiterrorism Act (“ATA”).

In his opinion, Judge Grant H. Miller dismissed the third-party complaint with prejudice and without leave to replead, holding that there is no express right of action for contribution under the ATA and that there is no basis for implying such a right. Judge Miller also held that there was no basis for creating a right to contribution for violation of the ATA under federal common law. Because the Court held that the claim for contribution fails as a matter of law, it denied leave to replead because any amendment would be futile.

Cravath previously obtained the dismissal of four separate suits against AWB Limited in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York regarding its participation in the Programme. One suit was brought by American wheat farmers, two suits were brought by Iraqi citizens and one suit was brought by the Republic of Iraq. The suits alleged various claims, including antitrust, RICO, FCPA, Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act claims. Please click herehere and here to view the related news items.

The AWB team includes partners Robert H. Baron and Timothy G. Cameron and associate Alexander J. Scolnik. The case is Abecassis et al. v. Wyatt, et al., No. 09 Civ. 3884 (GHM), 2014 WL 580877 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 12, 2014).