Law360 (November 27, 2018, 3:49 PM EST) -- Mark Hanchet of Mayer Brown LLP scored several big victories over the past year representing HSBC Bank in actions brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act, shaking off two suits for jurisdictional reasons and landing one dismissal that will define the relatively young statute for decades to come, earning him a spot among Law360’s 2018 Banking MVPs.
His biggest accomplishment this year:
In July, Hanchet led a counsel team to a major victory for both HSBC and the international banking industry when U.S. District Judge Denise Cote dismissed a lawsuit filed by American survivors of a suicide bombing in Jordan perpetrated by al-Qaida. The plaintiffs had alleged that HSBC provided services to a Saudi bank allegedly tied to terror financing, leading them to file claims under the recently enacted Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, an amendment to the ATA.
Judge Cote, known for being tough on banks, ultimately sided with the Mayer Brown team’s argument that the suit did not sufficiently plead that HSBC provided “knowing substantial assistance” to those behind the attack. In her ruling, the judge advised the plaintiffs against taking an overly broad view of JASTA, which became a law just two years ago, and advised them to scrupulously review its required elements before filing against international banks.
As both JASTA and the ATA remain relatively unsettled areas of law, Hanchet believes that Judge Cote’s decision was a watershed moment for the international banking community, even as the case goes through appellate proceedings.
“For her to issue such a strong opinion on what JASTA and the ATA do and what they don't do is incredibly valuable,” Hanchet said. “So that case is going to the Second Circuit and I'm very, very confident that she will be upheld, and that's going to be the leading case in the ATA space for like 20 years.”
The case he’s proudest of:
Although the ATA litigation may be his most significant from a legal scholarship perspective, Hanchet said the case he is most proud of from the past year came last fall, when he achieved an across-the-board victory in Munich-based BayernLB’s lawsuit over a series of guaranteed investment contracts.
While the matter was over less than $10 million, Hanchet said he was proud of the case not only because of his team’s outright victory for BayernLB, but also because trials are increasingly scarce, the case was challenging, and in the end, everything went as planned.
Hanchet hadn’t worked a jury trial in years, since his practice in the international banking space tends to end in arbitration, so getting back in front of a jury allowed him to flex some long-dormant muscles and find a way to coherently explain complicated financial products to non-legal minds.
“Being a lawyer is always the art of persuasion, and when you're trying to persuade to a judge, you've got a pretty sophisticated audience and you make a certain kind of argument,” Hanchet said. “But when you're persuading to a jury, it's a different audience and a much more challenging audience, and I find that exciting.”
What motivates him:
Hanchet’s tenure in the international banking field is not accidental. A Montreal native who studied in France and moved to New York for work, he’s always been interested in travel and has gotten to go all over the world during his 30-year career in law.
From different legal systems to different languages to different cultures, litigating in the international banking realm has provided Hanchet with opportunities that he says still have him waking up each morning thrilled to do the work that he does.
“It's fantastic — I love this job,” Hanchet said. “When I graduated from law school I thought, 'I want to do international law,' but I didn't really know what that meant. Now I look back to my aspirations when I was a grad student, and I'm sort of living my dream.”
His advice to young attorneys:
All too often, young attorneys come out of law school without a goal or a plan for what they want out of their law career and end up taking on the first job they can get. “That’s a bit of a trap,” Hanchet said.
Hanchet advises young lawyers to take ownership of their careers early on and take proactive steps to get into the field that interests them the most. Even rigorous legwork and steadfast determination can be undercut by a lack of passion, said Hanchet, who knows firsthand that surrounding yourself with people who share your spirit and gusto only serves to make you a better attorney.
“I want people who want to come to work, who want to work on my cases, and I would encourage every lawyer that wants to do whatever they want to do to seek out the people that do that and express their enthusiasm,” Hanchet said. “That's a win for everybody.”
— As told to Dean Seal
Law360's MVPs are attorneys who have distinguished themselves from their peers over the past year through high-stakes litigation, record-breaking deals and complex global matters. A team of Law360 editors selected the 2018 MVP winners after reviewing nearly 1,000 submissions.