Case of the Day: Micula v. Government of Romania

The case of the day is Micula v. Government of Romania (D.D.C. 2015). Viorel Micula alleged that he had made investments in Romania in reliance on certain incentives offered by the Romanian government. He claimed that Romania later revoked the incentives, causing him to suffer a loss, and that Romania had acted in violation of its bilateral investment treaty with Sweden. Micula demanded an ICSID arbitration, which resulted in an award in his favor (and in favor of several other investors) of more than $116 million.

Romania asked ICSID to annul the award, and at Romania’s request, ICSID’s secretary-general granted an initial stay of enforcement of the award. Shortly thereafter, Micula brought a petition in Washington under 22 U.S.C. § 1605a seeking ex parte confirmation of the award. (Ex parte confirmation is a well-established procedure in the SDNY; I discussed the issue in a post on Mobil Cerro Negro v. Venezuela). ICSID later constituted an ad hoc committee to consider whether the award should be stayed pending a decision on annulment. The committee agreed to a further stay, but only if Romania gave a written assurance that it would pay the award in full if annulment were denied. Romania failed to give the written assurance, and the committee revoked the initial stay.

The statute provides:

An award of an arbitral tribunal rendered pursuant to chapter IV of the convention shall create a right arising under a treaty of the United States. The pecuniary obligations imposed by such an award shall be enforced and shall be given the same full faith and credit as if the award were a final judgment of a court of general jurisdiction of one of the several States. The Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. 1 et seq.) shall not apply to enforcement of awards rendered pursuant to the convention.

The judge emphasized the language in the statute requiring courts to treat ICSID awards as they would state court judgments. Of course, a federal court does not simply register and enforce a state court judgment; it’s necessary to bring an action on a state court judgment if you want to enforce it in federal court. This approach, the judge held, is consistent with the ICSID Convention. While the Convention (art. 54) provides that a federal state that enforces ICSID awards in its federal courts can treat the award “as if it were a final judgment of the courts of a constituent state.”

There is, as far as I know, no appellate case on point, so it will be interesting to see whether this conflict ever gets resolved.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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