Muskin Law Offices


International Practice

Financial Litigation

The accelerating pace of international financial activity has led to complex litigation in this era of financial instability.

Examples: In one case in which we are defending a major French banking institution, the liquidator in an offshore bankruptcy is seeking to claw back money the client received for share redemptions prior to the exposure of the Madoff ponzi scheme. The action has been consolidated with over 200 similar cases. In another case, the client was paid for its shares in a large leveraged buyout but is now, along with numerous others, facing a clawback claim for recovery of those funds.

Estate Administration

It is increasingly common for families to accumulate assets in different countries. When a death occurs, a lack of careful planning can lead to serious issues as to whose laws apply. Since U.S. estate and inheritance laws are radically different from the norms in most other countries, the conflicts can have enormous consequences as to the distributions to the beneficiaries, the amounts of taxes due and the countries to which they must be paid.

We work closely with law firms in France and elsewhere to resolve these and similar issues. In Russia, we work with a well-known Moscow law firm in collecting assets left in the United States for beneficiaries in Russia. We have done similar work for beneficiaries in France.

Example: One case, still ongoing, involves a multinational estate, administered in France but involving trust, estate and tax issues in New York, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Switzerland in addition to France. Working with the client’s French counsel, we have handled the New York phase of the case, assembled the legal team for the other U.S. jurisdictions, and coordinated all developments with the home jurisdiction in Paris.

Commercial Law

Distributorship Contracts

Example: The client, a French manufacturer of fragrance products, terminated its contract with its United States distributor and invoked contractual arbitration in New York. The distributor, in turn, sued in a French court and obtained an interim order requiring our client to continue delivering the products despite the contractual termination. In the arbitration, the distributor contended that the French court order required dismissal of our client’s claim. Working with French counsel, we convinced the arbitrators that this contention was contrary to French law. After a full trial, the arbitrators upheld the termination.

If you are seeking to market or distribute products in the United States, our experience in this area can help you draw up a contract that will prevent many issues from turning into court cases.


Litigation

Example: The client, a large French corporation, had purchased heavy industrial equipment in the United States, for use in a plant being constructed in the former Yugoslavia. It was later discovered that similar equipment, previously installed in a similar plant in the Middle East, did not work. Under a rarely litigated provision of the Uniform Commercial Code, we persuaded the federal court in New York to grant summary judgment upholding the client’s revocation of acceptance and award damages, even though the unit had never been installed. Victor’s ability to review files and interview witnesses, all in French, without translators, was key to the success achieved in this case. The case is reported at Creusot-Loire, International, Inc. v. Coppus Engineering Corporation, 585 F.Supp. 45 (S.D.N.Y. 1983).

Trademark Litigation

We work closely in international trademark matters with intellectual property law firms in Geneva and Paris.

Example: In one case, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office sustained our opposition to the applicant's trademark, DALINI, holding that it infringed our client's trademark in the name of SALVADOR DALI, the famous artist.

Natural Resources Litigation

The world's major oil companies frequently acquire drilling rights from small companies who lack the financial ability to exploit concessions that they own. The terms of acquisition typically include the grant of an overriding royalty on oil produced from the concession area. In some countries the validity of such royalty interests has been affected by political changes.

Examples: In a pair of cases, we represented royalty owners whose payments stopped even though production continued. The concessionaires mounted multiple defenses. First they claimed that a nationalization payout of hundreds of millions of dollars was for physical assets only, thus extinguishing the royalty. We successfully opposed dismissal on that ground. Then, working with Delaware counsel, we defeated the concessionaires’ attempt to transfer the cases to Venezuela. The concessionaires answered by starting a new suit against our client in Venezuela. We obtained a stay of the Venezuela case, and both of the US cases were later settled. One of the decisions is reported at Reavis v. Gulf Oil Corp., 85 F.R.D. 666 (D.Del. 1980).

In another case concerning royalties from concessions elsewhere in South America, the court reached the opposite result due to certain administrative decrees of the military dictatorship then in power. The court did rule, however, that certain pre-nationalization royalty payments had been miscalculated in breach of contractual requirements, and it granted our client judgment against the producers for the underpayments. The ruling on appeal is reported at Phoenix Canada Oil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 842 F.2d 1466 (3d Cir. 1988).