(Adds Arab Bank's court filings, paragraph 6)
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON May 27 The Obama administration has
asked the U.S. Supreme Court to turn away a case over whether
bank secrecy laws protect Arab Bank Plc from supplying
documents in lawsuits accusing it of providing services to
groups the United States brands as terrorist organizations.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said in court papers filed
on Friday that although lower courts made errors in handling the
case, they did not merit the Supreme Court's involvement.
In April, the New York Times reported that State Department
lawyers favored supporting Jordan-based Arab Bank in the case in
part because Jordan is a U.S. ally, but that the Justice
Department and Treasury Department were inclined to avoid taking
Arab Bank is challenging a federal judge's ruling against it
for failing to turn over documents in lawsuits that accuse the
bank of providing banking services to Hamas and other militant
groups the United States has put on its list of terrorist
Arab Bank said the judge's ruling was forcing it to choose
between running afoul of the U.S. court and violating bank
secrecy laws in Lebanon, Jordan and other countries.
In court filings, Arab Bank cites a U.S. district judge it
says ruled on the same evidence in another case that there was
no proof that anything but routine financial services were
provided to charities alleged to be front organizations. That
judge found that many of the same entities received grants from
the U.S. government when they held accounts with Arab Bank, the
The lawsuits were brought by U.S. citizens and foreign
nationals who were the victims, or the family members of
victims, of attacks blamed on Hamas in Israel and the
Palestinian territories between 1994 and 2005.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2013 upheld
the punishment imposed by U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon in
saying that a jury could take into account the fact the bank had
withheld certain documents when reaching a verdict.
In the new court filing, Verrilli said Gershon's sanction
would allow jurors to infer, if they wished, that the bank's
failure to produce those documents meant that it had knowingly
provided financial services to designated terrorist
Arab Bank issued a statement on Tuesday saying that
Verrilli's brief represented "a comprehensive critique of the
sanctions" imposed by Gershon.
The case is Arab Bank v. Linde, U.S. Supreme Court, No.
In a separate case, Verrilli filed a brief on Friday urging
the high court not to hear an appeal over whether the trustee
seeking money for the victims of convicted Ponzi-schemer Bernard
Madoff can recover damages from banks he accused of aiding in
Verrilli's brief backed various banks, including JPMorgan
Chase & Co and HSBC Holdings Plc, that had successfully argued
in lower courts that trustee Irving Picard could not recover
nearly $30 billion from those banks.
The case is Picard v. JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Supreme Court,
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and