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Kensington International v. Republic of Congo

2007 WL 2456993 (2007)

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Kensington International v. Republic of Congo

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

2007 WL 2456993 (2007)

Facts

Kensington International Ltd. (Kensington) (plaintiff) was trying to collect a $56 million judgment from the Republic of Congo (the Congo) (defendant) in New York. The law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP (Cleary) represented the Congo in the matter. Kensington noticed the deposition of a third-party witness, Méedard Mbemba, because Mbemba’s business dealings with the Congo meant that he might have information about the Congo’s assets and how Kensington could collect them. Mbemba did not have a lawyer but agreed to attend the deposition while he was visiting New York. Boaz Morag was one of the primary Cleary lawyers working on the Congo’s defense in New York, but Morag had a conflict on the scheduled deposition date. One of Cleary’s Paris lawyers, Jean-Pierre Vignaud, was known for his connections with the Congolese government. Vignaud personally reached out to Mbemba via email and phone calls. As Mbemba understood these communications, Vignaud told him not to attend the deposition and nonspecifically threatened him if he were to attend it. However, Vignaud later denied telling Mbemba not to go to the deposition or threatening him, admitting only that he told Mbemba that the lawsuit was about the Congo fighting off foreign vultures. Mbemba agreed not to go to the deposition but asked that Cleary tell Kensington’s lawyers about the cancellation. In an email, Morag told Kensington’s lawyers that (1) Mbemba had contacted Cleary, (2) Mbemba had asked Cleary to tell Kensington that he would not be attending the scheduled deposition because he wanted to consult with a lawyer first, and (3) Mbemba was open to rescheduling at a later date. However, Mbemba had never said anything about rescheduling to Cleary. Kensington’s lawyer then reached out to Mbemba, and Mbemba decided to go to the deposition after all. Vignaud called Mbemba again right before the deposition and tried to convince him not to go. Mbemba hung up on Vignaud and went to the deposition. When questioned, Vignaud admitted that his communications with Mbemba had been intended to protect the Congo’s interests, not Mbemba’s interests. Kensington moved to sanction Cleary for trying to convince Mbemba to not attend his deposition.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Preska, J.)

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