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By Louis M. Solomon
Continental Transfert Technique
Limited v. Federal Government of Nigeria,
Civil Action No. 08-2026 (D.D.C. Aug. 2011), [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers] grants summary judgment in favor of a plaintiff to enforce
both an arbitral award and a money judgment. As to both grounds there are
interesting international practice rulings in the decision.
The matter arose out of an
arbitration award issued in the United Kingdom under Nigerian law. On
prevailing in the arbitration, Continental applied to a U.K. court to have the
award recognized. Nigeria defended by seeking a stay of the proceeding based on
its challenging the award in a Nigerian court. The U.K. court granted the stay
provided that Nigeria pose security of 100 million pounds, which Nigeria didn't
In the proceedings here, Continental
sought in its complaint to enforce the arbitral award under the Federal
Arbitration Act (FAA) and the New York Convention (the Convention on the
Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, opened for signature
June 10, 1958, 21 U.S.T. 2517, [enhanced version ] reprinted
in 9 U.S.C. § 201) (for users of this blog, see the International Documents Library link on this blog page)).
It thereafter sought to enforce the U.K. judgment under the Uniform
Foreign-Money Judgments Recognition Act, which the District of Columbia enacted
in D.C. Code §§ 15-381 et seq. (UFMJRA). While these proceedings were
pending, the Nigerian court apparently found that the award "cannot be set aside"
and "is VALID and ENFORCEABLE".
It was on this record that the
District Court made its rulings:
First, the Court determined that the
New York Convention contemplated summary proceedings to recognize or enforce an
arbitral award unless the Court finds one of the specific grounds for refusal
to do so that are specified in the Convention. The District Court rejected
Nigeria's argument, which was that the U.S. proceedings should be stayed
because "Nigeria cannot challenge the substance of the award elsewhere" (i.e.,
other than in Nigeria). The rejection was due in part to the Nigerian court's
rejection of the challenge to the award. The District Court did not address
whether Nigeria was right in its assertion that it could challenge the award
only in Nigeria. The New York Convention provides:
The award has not yet become binding
on the parties, or has been set aside or suspended by a competent authority of
the country in which, or under the law of which, that award was made".
So it would appear that there were
other forums for Nigeria to challenge the award; indeed, there is no evidence
from the decision that Nigeria was even an appropriate place (it would only be
if Nigerian law governed the arbitration).
Second, the Court ruled that under
the UFMJRA it was required to give the U.K. judgment full faith and credit,
again on summary judgment.
The Court did not address any
Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act issues that might arise from the attempt to
enforce the judgment against a non-U.S. sovereign (see our discussion of attempts to enforce non-U.S. judgments against
International Practice Law Blog for more analysis of international
and foreign law issues.
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