Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Triumph of Helms-Burton and the Costing of Rights: It's not the Litigation But the Settlements that Count

Pix Credit: CiberCuba

One of the great consequences of the re-construction of national courts as heroic institutions at the front lines of the inevitable march toward social justice and the apotheosis of the individual and their collectives into something approaches (if only a momentary) perfection, is that it tends to overlook one of the important economic roles of the judicial system. That role is a markets oriented one--a sorting device for the valuation of rights as against the costs of their vindication.  At the same time it tends to undervalue the role of statutes--not as conduct commands--but rather as a pricing tool for conduct.  This view, of course, is anathema to those who have over the last few generations devoted their life energies toward the construction of the heroic narrative of courts as the liberal democratic system's answer to the Marxist-Leninist challenge of vanguard parties (of professional revolutionaries as Lenin early suggested) as the leading forces for social justice for individuals within collective human organizations. 

Much of the literature (especially among lawyers and economists) has focused on the legal framework end of this process.  This approach focuses on the relationship, for example, between contracting, litigation, and lawmaking (see eg here).  One of the more interesting markers of such valuation is settlement of judicial claims before trial (Jules Coleman, Markets, Morals and the Law (Justice in Settlements pp. 202-242)). Settlement does not produce a heroic justice, but it does indicate the value of norms, or the costs of norm avoidance.  And in that sense it represents a form of norm making through the  development of market transactions in justice (represented form time to time in memorializations of that concept in the specifics fo statutes or of common law). All of this is well known, to some extent, and represents a contemporary elaboration of the fundamental problem of justice identified in the West in the Institutes in the profoundly simple statement of that "Justice is the set and constant purpose which gives to every man his due."

One of the more prosaic and banal narratives--of institutional structures as sorting and valuation systems--of norm valuation systems within individual contexts and in the face of evolving social consensus,  has been much on display in the context of what may be one of its more serendipitous triumphs: the lifting of the stay of legal actions under Title III of the Helms Burton Act. While much of the commentary has been on the justice of Title III in the context of Cuban history and Cuba-US relations (as well as of the consequences for US relations with its friends and enemies), perhaps the most interesting aspect of Title III is the way in which it serves as an engine for the valuation of rights. More accurately, perhaps, the rights framework of Title III reveal the pricing (or costing) mechanisms of political rights and objectives reduced to legal form and especially the the costs of negotiating incompatible rights systems. It is here that settlement serves a most useful purpose.  By creating a market for the waiver of those rights it effectively produces a system in which market actors may now reduce the risk of operating in a politically contentious environment. To those ends, it is likely that European firms would be the most likely to take advantage of the opportunity. There is no heroism here.  There is merely a markets driven approach to the valuation of rights, or the costs of breaching them.  In the process it serves as a reminder that the equally heroic notion of human rights (for example) as non-waivable and absolute, may be quite contestable.   

It is in this context that one might better appreciate the move toward one of the first settlements of Art. III Helms Burton claims. In WILLIAM H. CLAFLIN, IV; et. al., Plaintiffs, vs. LAFARGEHOLCIM LTD, set seq. the American Claflin/Allen/Weeks families sought compensation of about $270 million for the benefit derived by the defendant enterprise in using the land that had once been part of their sugar plantation, later converted to a cement factory. The defendants include the merged successor to Swiss companies (LafargeHolcim); a Spanish corporation (Ibersuizas), a Spanish subsidiary of LafargeHolcim (UMAR), a Dutch so called shell company (De Ruiter), and others The terms of settlement are as yet unknown. Also unknown is the reaction of the Cuban authorities (other than their denunciation of Helms Burton which continues unabated).

One is not debating justice here; one is pricing rights. And rights themselves construct the framework within which justice is given meaning and can be costed. That end product, of course, provides the foundational political-cultural framework within it it may be more accurately possible to understand the tenor and thrust of global legalization of politics and its management through judicial organs.

 The original Complaint may be accessed HERE.

The stipulation ending settlement may be accessed HERE

Reporting by Wilfredo Cancio Isla for CiberCuba (Spanish original and my crude ransltion) follow with links.



First victory of the Helms-Burton Act: expropriated family reaches settlement in lawsuit against multinational


27 May 2021

It is the first claim for damages under the Helms-Burton Act to be resolved in US courts since Title III of the legislation was implemented two years ago.

Wilfredo Cancio Isla (CiberCuba journalist. Doctor in Information Sciences from the University of La Laguna (Spain). Editor and editorial director at El Nuevo Herald, Telemundo, AFP, Diario Las Américas, AmericaTeVe, Cafe Fuerte and Radio TV Martí) .

An American family scored the first victory in a lawsuit under the Helms-Burton Act after reaching a compensation agreement with the French-Swiss multinational LafargeHolcim for the use of property confiscated by the Cuban government in 1960.

The agreement between the Claflin / Allen / Weeks family, originally from Boston, and the powerful building materials conglomerate, was reached on May 19, and ends a lawsuit that began last October in federal court in Miami.

The plaintiffs demanded from LafargeHolcim compensation of at least $ 270 million dollars for obtaining profits from the "Carlos Marx" cement factory in Cienfuegos, built on the land of what was once the Compañía Azucarera Soledad.

It is the first claim for damages under the Helms-Burton Act to be resolved in US courts since Title III of the legislation was implemented two years ago, on May 2, 2019.

After a month of negotiations, both parties reached an agreement in principle, but are still working to execute and fulfill a definitive agreement, with the assistance of mediators, according to court documents obtained by CiberCuba.

The final amount of the compensation is unknown and the closing date of the agreement is still pending, which must be certified by federal judge Aileen Mercedes Cannon.

Attorney David Baron, who represents the plaintiffs, declined to comment to CiberCuba about the settlement. The law firms Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe and Fields PLLC, both based in Washington, and Roig, Tutan, Rosenberg, Martin & Bellido, of Miami, were involved in the claim.

No reaction was obtained from LafargeHolcim's legal representatives either.

The lawsuit filed against LafargeHolcim, based in Jona, Switzerland, alleges that the multinational used "a complex network of entities and fictitious transactions" to hide the fact that it partially owns, operates and receives benefits from the cement plant "Carlos Marx ", in association with the Cuban government since 2000.

Inaugurated on May 29, 1980, the "Carlos Marx" is the largest cement factory in Cuba and one of the largest production capacity in Latin America. In 2001, Cementos Cienfuegos S.A. emerged as a Mixed Company. and underwent a modernization project with German-made equipment, with the participation of LafargeHolcim Ltd.

The Cuban government's agreement with the Ibersuizas-Holderbank firm to establish a joint venture in the "Carlos Marx" plant has been public since July 2000. Holderbank became known first as Holcim and later LafargeHolcim, as of 2014.

The multinational operates in more than 80 countries with leadership in the production of cement, aggregates, ready-mixed concrete and other construction materials. his annual earnings are estimated at $ 27,000 million.

Compañía Azucarera Soledad is among the 5,913 US firms certified by the Claims Commission of the Department of Justice. In 1969 the value established for the company was $ 11.6 million dollars with fixed interest of 6% for each year after the expropriation.

Although the plaintiffs claim $ 270 million as the current value of the property, in addition to attorneys' fees, the law allows certified companies to receive three times more compensation, which in this case would amount to $ 810 million.

However, it is considered that the agreed compensation could range between $ 50 and $ 60 million. About 20 individual beneficiaries are listed as plaintiffs.

The case sets a notable precedent in ongoing litigation under the Helms-Burton Act, which has thus far been bogged down or had been dismissed in US courts.

Of the 40 lawsuits filed under Title III of the US law, only 15 correspond to certified companies, a condition required to advance the judicial processes. A total of four claims have been dismissed by federal courts and have escalated to the appellate circuits.

None have come to trial so far.

The Cuban government is unaware of the jurisdiction of the Helms-Burton Act, passed in 1996, and has only responded to one lawsuit in U.S. courts: the one presented by the Exxon Mobil company against the state owned enterprises CIMEX and CUPET. The litigation is still in its early dphase before a court in Washington DC, after the legal team of the Cuban side requested that the case be dismissed.

The Biden administration has set out to assess the prevalence of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act as part of the overall review of policy toward Cuba, but does not consider an immediate deadline for making a decision. The US president has 14 days to anticipate to Congress a possible suspension of Title III, but the White House has not yet ruled on the legislation.


Primera victoria de la Ley Helms-Burton: Familia expropiada logra acuerdo en demanda contra multinacional 


27 May 2021

Es la primera reclamación por daños y perjuicios mediante la Ley Helms-Burton que se resuelve en los tribunales estadounidenses desde que el Título III de la legislación fue implementado hace dos años.

Wilfredo Cancio Isla (Periodista de CiberCuba. Doctor en Ciencias de la Información por la Universidad de La Laguna (España). Redactor y directivo editorial en El Nuevo Herald, Telemundo, AFP, Diario Las Américas, AmericaTeVe, Cafe Fuerte y Radio TV Martí).

Una familia estadounidense se anotó la primera victoria de una demanda amparada bajo la Ley Helms-Burton tras llegar a un acuerdo de compensación con la multinacional franco-suiza LafargeHolcim por la utilización de propiedades confiscadas por el gobierno cubano en 1960.

El acuerdo entre la familia Claflin/Allen/Weeks, originaria de Boston, y el poderoso conglomerado de materiales de construcción, fue alcanzado el 19 de mayo, y pone fin a un litigio iniciado el pasado octubre en un tribunal federal de Miami.

Los demandantes reclamaban a LafargeHolcim una compensación de al menos $270 millones de dólares por la obtención de beneficios de la fábrica de cemento "Carlos Marx", en Cienfuegos, construida en los terrenos de lo que fuera la Compañía Azucarera Soledad.

Es la primera reclamación por daños y perjuicios mediante la Ley Helms-Burton que se resuelve en los tribunales estadounidenses desde que el Título III de la legislación fue implementado hace dos años, el 2 de mayo de 2019.

Tras un mes de negociaciones, ambas partes alcanzaron un acuerdo en principio, pero se encuentran aún trabajando para ejecutar y cumplir un pacto definitivo, con la asistencia de mediadores, según documentos judiciales obtenidos por CiberCuba.

Se desconoce el monto final de la compensación y está aún pendiente la fecha de cierre del acuerdo, que debe ser certificado por la jueza federal Aileen Mercedes Cannon.

El abogado David Baron, que representa a los demandantes, declinó comentar a CiberCuba sobre el acuerdo. Los bufetes Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe y Fields PLLC, ambos con sede en Washington, y Roig, Tutan, Rosenberg, Martin & Bellido, de Miami, estuvieron involucrados en la reclamación.

No se ha obtenido tampoco reacción de los representantes legales de LafargeHolcim.

La demanda interpuesta contra LafargeHolcim, con sede en Jona, Suiza, alega que la multinacional utilizó "una compleja red de entidades y transacciones ficticias" para ocultar el hecho de que es parcialmente propietaria, opera y recibe beneficios de la planta de cemento "Carlos Marx", en asociación con el gobierno cubano desde 2000.

Inaugurada el 29 de mayo de 1980, la "Carlos Marx" es la mayor fábrica de cemento de Cuba y una de las de mayor capacidad productiva en América Latina. En 2001 surgió como Empresa Mixta Cementos Cienfuegos S.A. y fue sometida a un proyecto de modernización con equipamiento de fabricación alemana, con la participación de LafargeHolcim Ltd.

El acuerdo del gobierno cubano con la firma Ibersuizas-Holderbank para establecer una empresa conjunta en la planta "Carlos Marx” es público desde julio de 2000. Holderbank se conoció primero como Holcim y luego LafargeHolcim, a partir de 2014.

La multinacional opera en más de 80 países con liderazgo en la producción de cemento, áridos, hormigón premezclado y otros materiales de construcción. sus ganancias anuales se calculan en los $27,000 millones de dólares.

La Compañía Azucarera Soledad figura entre las 5,913 firmas estadounidenses certificadas por la Comisión de Reclamaciones del Departamento de Justicia. En 1969 el valor establecido para la compañía fue de $11.6 millones de dólares con intereses fijo del 6% por cada año posterior a la expropiación.

Aunque los demandantes reclaman $270 millones como valor actual de la propiedad, además de los honorarios de los abogados, la ley permite que las compañías certificadas puedan recibir una indemnización tres veces superior, que en este caso ascendería a los $810 millones.

Sin embargo, se considera que la compensación acordada pueda oscilar entre los $50 y $60 millones. Unos 20 beneficiarios individuales figuran como demandantes.

El caso sienta un notable precedente en los litigios en curso bajo la Ley Helms-Burton, que hasta el momento se encontraban empantanados o habían sido desestimados en los tribunales de Estados Unidos.

De las 40 demandas presentadas en virtud del Título III de la legislación estadounidense, solo 15 corresponden a compañías certificadas, una condición requerida para avanzar los procesos judiciales. Un total de cuatro reclamaciones han sido desestimadas por tribunales federales y han escalado hasta los circuitos de apelación.

Ninguna ha llegado a juicio hasta el momento.

El gobierno cubano desconoce la jurisdicción de la Ley Helms-Burton, aprobada en 1996, y solo ha respondido una demanda ante los tribunales estadounidenses: la presentada por la compañía Exxon Mobil contra las estatales CIMEX y CUPET. El litigio está aún en fase de discusión ante un tribunal de Washington DC, luego de que el equipo legal de la parte cubana solicitara desestimar el caso.

La administración Biden se ha propuesto evaluar la prevalencia del Título III de la Ley Helms-Burton como parte de la revisión general de la política hacia Cuba, pero no considera un plazo inmediato para tomar una decisión. El presidente estadounidense cuenta con 14 días para anticipar al Congreso una posible suspensión del Título III, pero la Casa Blanca no se ha pronunciado asta el momento sobre la legislación.


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