Case of the Day: Osei v. Standard Chartered Bank

The case of the day is Osei v. Standard Chartered Bank (SDNY 2015). The plaintiff, Akwasi Boakye Osei, alleged that Standard Chartered Bank and Standard Chartered Bank Ghana Ltd. wrongfully dishonored several checks, causing him to suffer an injury. He sued in the High Court in Ghana, claiming breach of contract, conspiracy, and defamation and seeking more than $40 billion (!) in damages. He claims to have won a judgment of $14 million in Ghana, and he sought recognition in New York and other relief.

Osei was a citizen of Ghana and a permanent resident of the United States under a grant of political asylum (that is, not as a lawful permanent resident). Standard Chartered was an English corporation with its headquarters in England. Standard Chartered Ghana was a Ghanaian bank with its principal place of business in Ghana.

The court properly dismissed the case for want of subject matter jurisdiction. The precedents provide that someone in the United States under a grant of asylum is not a permanent resident, and in any event, due to a statutory amendment in the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011, the diversity of citizenship statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, no longer provides for jurisdiction in cases between aliens, even if they are lawful permanent residents. I noted this issue in my post on Global Discoveries v. Realtec in 2013.

It should go without saying, but it’s worth noting that diversity of citizenship was the only possible basis for jurisdiction, because the law of recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments is state law, not federal law.

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