Mayer Brown secured a high-profile victory for HSBC at the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in an Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) lawsuit, Bernhardt v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al.— shielding HSBC from potentially billions of dollars in liability. This win marks the latest in a string of victories the firm has compiled for HSBC and the banking community facing similar claims.
In 2018, families of two deceased American contractors sued four HSBC-related financial institutions under the ATA for allegedly aiding and abetting the al-Qaeda-directed suicide bombing of a CIA base in Afghanistan known as Camp Chapman, by virtue of providing banking services to two Iranian banks and a Saudi bank with alleged ties to terror financing.
In November 2020, US District Judge Timothy Kelly adopted arguments advanced by the Mayer Brown team and dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.
On appeal, the team secured a victory in September 2022 when the DC Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal, echoing the team’s arguments that (1) the non-US HSBC entities could not be subjected to personal jurisdiction in the US in this action, and (2) the plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that HSBC possessed the required mental state for an aiding-and-abetting claim or that it “knowing and substantially assisted” al-Qaeda when providing services to other commercial banks.
The team was led by partner Mark Hanchet (New York) and included partner Andrew Pincus (Washington DC), who argued the appeal, and partner Robert Hamburg (New York).