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Lawsuits Against Financial Institutions Under the Federal Anti-Terrorism Act

Civil lawsuits related to terrorist activities have increased significantly over the last few years. The federal Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 18 U.S.C. § 2331, establishes a cause of action for any U.S. national who has been injured by an act of international terrorism. Civil liability can extend to donors and sponsors of terrorist activity (such as charities and governments) as well as service providers (such as banks or news media outlets). Plaintiffs have sought billions of dollars in damages against financial, media and agricultural entities for providing support to terrorist groups or affiliates who participate in terrorist activity. Plaintiffs may recover treble damages for injuries and expenses associated with the litigation, thereby making claims under the ATA an attractive means of redressing grievances for individuals who have been harmed by terrorist activities.

Financial institutions have been at the center of many ATA-related claims. In lawsuits against financial institutions, claimants allege that a bank violated criminal laws that ban the provision of material support to a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the U.S. Department of State or to any entity that participates in terrorist activity, such as collecting funds for a foreign terrorist organization. The majority of plaintiffs in these cases have asserted that international banks handled wire transfers for organizations labeled as terrorist entities by the United States government. The ATA broadly classifies “material support” as providing a variety of financial services.

Linde v. Arab Bank, PLC, No. 16-2119 (2d Cir. 2018) was the first civil lawsuit filed under the ATA. In Linde, approximately 500 terror victims or representatives injured as a result of acts of international terrorism between 2000 and 2004 brought legal action against the Arab Bank, a Jordanian-based financial establishment with a New York branch. The lawsuit claimed that Arab Bank provided its terrorist-affiliated clients with banking services. These clients, including organizations such as the Saudi Committee and Hamas, were known to be actively engaged in terrorism. The Saudi Committee compensated terrorist’s families for suicide bombings and Hamas maintained an account at Arab Bank. In 2014, Arab Bank was found liable for funding or supporting two dozen terrorist activities in the Middle East, including knowingly offering financial services to Hamas from 2001 to 2005. Arab Bank was the first financial imitation to be held civilly liable for its participation in terrorist activities under this statute. (On appeal, a three-judge panel vacated the judgment finding that the district court had erred in one of its instructions. However, it is anticipated that plaintiffs will recover the amounts set forth in the confidential settlement agreement).

In 2016, Congress expanded the civil liability provisions under the ATA to any person who aids and abets an act of international terrorism pursuant to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Since the Linde case, a minimum of five new actions have been filed against financial establishments for violations of the ATA.

Levy Konigsberg LLP is a nationally recognized law firm that litigates complex cases involving catastrophic injuries. With three decades of experience handling large scale litigation and federal jurisprudence, our firm has successfully brought cases against all types of corporations and entities for conduct leading to devastating injuries. We can help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. If you or a member of your family has been a victim of a terrorist attack, please contact our lawyers at(800) 315-3806 for a free consultation.

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