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First National City Bank v. Banco Para El Comercio Exterior De Cuba

United States Supreme Court
462 U.S. 611 (1983)


In 1960, the government of Cuba established Banco Para el Comercio Exterior de Cuba (Bancec) (plaintiff) as an “official autonomous institution for foreign trade…with full juridical capacity…of its own.” Later that year, Bancec sought to collect on a letter of credit issued by First National City Bank (Citibank) (defendant) issued in favor of Bancec in support of a contract for delivery of Cuban sugar to a buyer in the United States. Days after receiving the request for collection, all of Citibank’s assets located in Cuba were seized and nationalized by the Cuban government. Bancec brought suit in United States federal district court against Citibank on the letter of credit, and Citibank counterclaimed on that ground that it had a right to set off the value of its seized Cuban assets from the total amount to be collected. At trial, Bancec claimed the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) of 1976 immunized it, as an instrumentality owned by a foreign government, from suit on a counterclaim based on actions taken by that government. The court of appeals held that Cuba’s seizure of Citibank’s assets violated international law and permitted Citibank the setoff. The United States Supreme Court considered the case.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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