Crystallex Int’l Corp. v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

In this international collections action, the Third Circuit ruled that the District Court did not reach a final decision under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and thus the appellate court did not have jurisdiction. The action arose after the plaintiff prevailed in an arbitration proceeding against Venezuela and was awarded a $1.4 billion judgment. The plaintiff, however, has found collecting the judgment from Venezuela to be challenging. To get the money, the plaintiffs wanted to auction the Venezuelan government’s ownership shares of a Delaware shell corporation that essentially controls CITGO. To further complicate matters, political forces crept into the case after an election in Venezuela left the true winner — and the country’s presidency — in a state of limbo. The United States filed a statement with the District Court urging it not to permit the sale, as it could make matters worse for the person the United States wished to see installed as president. The District Court split the baby. It ruled that the parties could take all of the preparatory steps necessary for the sale to be undertaken. But all parties agreed that the Office of Foreign Assets Control needed to issue a specific license for the sale to proceed and that license would not be issued under the current circumstances. Venezuela, its agencies, and the shell companies appealed. The Third Circuit ruled that it lacked jurisdiction “because the District Court’s judicial role in this civil action is far from over.”

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