Gater Asset Limited, Lloyd's Underwriters at London v AO Moldovagaz, Republic of Moldova - United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit No 19-3550 - 22 June 2021
Appellants AO Moldovagaz and the Republic of Moldova appeal the judgment of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Preska, J.) entered on November 1, 2019-and explained in the district court's opinions of September 30, 2018, and September 27, 2019-in favor of Appellee Gater Assets Limited. Gater sought to renew a default judgment, which the district court entered in 2000, that enforced a Russian arbitration award in favor of Lloyd's Underwriters against the appellants. Lloyd's assigned its default judgment to Gater in 2012. The district court entered a renewal judgment in Gater's favor after concluding that it had personal jurisdiction over the appellants as well as subject-matter jurisdiction over the renewal claims. We disagree with those conclusions.
First, the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over Moldovagaz. The Due Process Clause prohibits federal courts from exercising personal jurisdiction over Moldovagaz because Moldovagaz has no contacts with the United States. We have recognized an exception to this rule when a defendant is a foreign sovereign or a sovereign's alter ego. But contrary to the district court's conclusion, Moldovagaz is not an alter ego of the Republic of Moldova.
Second, the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Gater's claim for renewal against the Republic of Moldova. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330, 1391(f), 1441(d), 1602-11, provides that federal courts lack subject- matter jurisdiction over claims brought against foreign states unless one of the FSIA's immunity exceptions applies. The Republic of Moldova is a foreign state and no immunity exception applies to Gater's claim against it. The district court invoked the FSIA's exception for confirming awards that are issued pursuant to a qualifying arbitration agreement "made by the foreign state." 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(6). The Republic of Moldova, however, was not a party to the underlying arbitration agreement and no equitable theory, even assuming such theories apply under § 1605(a)(6), supports abrogating the Republic's sovereign immunity in this case.
Accordingly, we VACATE the district court's judgment in Gater's renewal action and REMAND with instructions to dismiss the renewal action for lack of jurisdiction. We nevertheless AFFIRM the district court's refusal to vacate its original default judgment because the appellants have failed to demonstrate that the district court had no arguable basis to exercise jurisdiction to enter that judgment.