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Martinez v. Deutsche Bank AG

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 12, 2017

SAUL MARTINEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DEUTSCHE BANK AG, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON, District Judge.

         Introduction and Background

         Now before the Court is defendants' motion to transfer (Docs. 30, 31, 71, 72 & 80).[1] Specifically, defendants move to transfer this case the Eastern District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) based improper venue and that the alleged conduct that took place in the United States occurred entirely in New York. Alternatively, defendants move to transfer the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to the Eastern District of New York. In support of transfer, defendants contend that this action is a very similar to another action filed in the Eastern District of New York in 2014 against six of the seven moving defendants and is currently pending there. See Freeman v. HSBC Holdings PLC, et al. 14-CV-06601 (DLI/CLP). Plaintiffs oppose the motion (Doc. 76). Plaintiffs contend that venue is proper in the Southern District of Illinois; that the Southern District of Illinois is more convenient than the Eastern District of New York and that if the Court finds that transfer is appropriate the Court should transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois. Based on the record and the applicable law, the Court grants defendants' alternative motion to transfer and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a), the Court transfers this matter to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

         On November 2, 2016, plaintiffs, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a), filed suit against Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings PLC, HSBC Bank PLC, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited, HSBC Bank USA, N.A., Barclays Bank PLC, Standard Chartered Bank, Royal Bank of Scottland, N.V., Credit Suisse AG, Bank Sanderat PLC, COMMERZBANK AG and John Does 1-50 as a civil action brought by citizens of the United States and/or their estates, survivors, or heirs, who have been injured by acts of “international terrorism, ” as such term is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2331(1) (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs seek “treble damages against six Western international banks (Defendants) who knowingly supported the nation of Iran and its banking agents (including Defendant Bank Saderat Plc, Bank Melli Iran, the Central Bank of Iran (“CBI”), Bank Mellat, Bank Tejarat, Bank Refah, and Bank Sepah), by evading U.S. economic sanctions, conducting illicit trade-finance transactions, and disguising financial payments to and from U.S. dollar dominated accounts.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 1). Plaintiffs allege that “each Defendant knew, or was deliberately indifferent to the fact, that Iran was thus able to provide material support and resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations which engaged in terrorist activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(a)(1); and knowing or having reasonable cause to know that a country (Iran) is supporting ‘international terrorism, ' engaged in financial transactions with that country in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2332d. Plaintiffs will show that each Defendant's specific aims and objectives was keeping U.S. depository institutions, law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies blind to Iran's movement of U.S. dollars through the international financial system.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 2). Plaintiffs bring claims against each defendants for committing acts of international terrorism in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339b and 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a) (Count I) and for conspiracy to commit acts of international terrorism in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B and 18 U.S.C. § 2332(a) (Count II). Additionally, plaintiffs bring claims for acts of international terrorism in HSBC defendants' violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2332d (financial transactions) (Count III), acts of international terrorism by defendants' Standard Chartered Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland N.V. and Commerzbank for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2332d (Count IV), civil liability against Commerzbank AG under 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a) for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B constituting acts of international terrorism (IRISL) (Count V), civil liability against Commerzbank AG under 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a) for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B constituting acts of international terrorism (Orphans Project Lebanon E.V.), and civil liability against Standard Chartered Bank under 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a) for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B constituting acts of international terrorism (Count VII).

         Initially, this case was assigned to District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel. On November 4, 2016, Judge Rosenstengel recused from the case and the case randomly was assigned to Senior District Judge J. Phil Gilbert for disposition (Doc. 7). On November 22, 2016, Judge Gilbert transferred the case to the Clerk of the Court and the Clerk of the Court randomly reassigned to the undersigned for disposition (Doc. 9).

         On January 12, 2017, defendants Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Bank USA, N.A., Barclays Bank PLC, Standard Chartered Bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland N.V., Commerzbank AG and Credit Suisse AG moved to transfer this action to the Eastern District of New York under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) or, in the alternative, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) (Docs. 30 & 31). Thereafter on January 23, 2017, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint (Doc. 45). That same day, the Court struck the amended complaint for Local Rule 15.1 violations and allowed plaintiffs up to and including January 30, 2017 to file an amended complaint (Doc. 46). Plaintiffs quickly refiled the amended complaint (Doc. 47).[2] On January 26, 2017, the Court granted plaintiffs' consent motion to file a response to the motion to transfer and allowed plaintiffs up to and including February 10, 2017 to respond (Doc. 54). On February 8, 2017, the Court granted defendants' motion of consent for leave to file supplement to motion to transfer and for extension of time to plead (Doc. 67). The Court allowed defendants up to and including February 17, 2107 to file the supplement, plaintiffs up to and including March 17, 2017 to file a response and defendants up to and including March 31, 2017 to file a reply. Defendants filed the supplement on February 17, 2107 (Docs. 71 & 72), plaintiffs filed their response on March 17, 2017 (Doc. 76) and defendants filed their reply on March 31, 2017 (Doc. 80). As the motion to transfer is ripe, the Court addresses the motion.

         Analysis

         First, defendants argue that venue is not proper in the Southern District of Illinois and that transfer to the Eastern District of New York is warranted under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). Plaintiffs oppose the motion contending that venue is proper in the Southern District of Illinois. The venue statute in 18 U.S.C. § 2334(a) states:

Any civil action under 2333 of this title against any person maybe instituted in the district court of the United States for any district where any plaintiff resides or where any defendant resides or is served, or has an agent. Process in such a civil action may be served in any district where the defendant resides, is found or has an agent.

         Thus, to satisfy the ATA's venue requirements, an action must be filed in a district “where any plaintiff resides, ” or in any district where “any defendant resides or is served, or has an agent.” 18 U.S.C. § 2334(a). The parties agree that definition of residency in 28 U.S.C. § 1391 governs. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c) provides in part:

(c) Residency.- For all venue purposes-
(2) an entity with the capacity to be sue and be sued in its common name under applicable law, whether or not incorporated, shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question and, if a plaintiff, only in the judicial district in which it maintains its principal place of business; and
(3) a defendant not resident in the United States may be sued in any judicial district, and the joined of such a defendant shall be disregarded in determining where the action may be ...

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