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A group of international bond investors plans to sue Switzerland in U.S. courts for expropriation over the losses it suffered after the state-organized rescue of Credit Suisse.
The case is being handled by the Quinn Emanuel law firm, according to people familiar with the matter. Quinn Emanuel is already suing Swiss financial regulator Finma over its decision to retire $17 billion in Credit Suisse bonds when the bank was acquired by UBS six months ago.
Quinn Emanuel’s lawyers are laying the groundwork for a lawsuit against Switzerland in the United States, where they say they have a better chance of convincing a judge to overturn the country’s sovereign immunity rights.
The lawsuit could be filed by the end of the year, but it is not certain whether it will proceed, people involved in the discussions say.
“Essentially the claim would be for damages for the destruction [investors’] property rights,” said a person with knowledge of the plans. The plaintiffs would “assert recourse claims for expropriation. . . through the write-off order,” they added.
At the heart of the case is the Swiss government’s decision in March to introduce emergency legislation that allowed Finma to write off an additional $17 billion in Tier 1 bonds from Credit Suisse. The decision overturned the traditional hierarchy among bank creditors, as Credit Suisse shareholders still stood to make $3.4 billion from the takeover.
A few weeks after the deal was agreed, Quinn Emanuel and London-based law firm Pallas filed separate Swiss lawsuits against Finma over the decision. Quinn Emanuel represents plaintiffs with $6 billion in AT1 claims, while Pallas’ clients have about $2 billion.
A lawsuit in the U.S. would not include the same claims that plaintiffs had made in the Finma case, people familiar with the plans said.
The Swiss government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Quinn Emanuel declined to comment.
The law firm has a long history of taking nation states to court, most notably Argentina in a long-running legal dispute over government bonds that the country issued as part of its debt restructuring after the financial crisis.
Quinn Emanuel won a London High Court case in April that ordered Argentina to pay more than 1.3 billion euros to compensate investors for losses on bonds linked to the country’s economic growth.
Argentina had already paid out $9.3 billion to its creditors in 2016 after the country defaulted on nearly $100 billion in 2001 in what was dubbed the “sovereign debt lawsuit of the century.”
It is unusual for sovereign states to be sued for expropriation, as many nations have reciprocal investment treaties. However, Switzerland is not a party to investor-state treaties in many countries where the AT1 investors are based, particularly in the USA.
The group represented by Quinn Emanuel includes private and institutional investors who were long-term owners of the AT1 bonds, as well as some hedge funds that speculatively bought the debt at deep discounts in the final months before the Swiss bank’s demise.
UBS’s takeover of Credit Suisse was planned by Swiss authorities to prevent the collapse of the 167-year-old lender from becoming a larger European banking crisis.
But the takeover – dubbed the “deal of the century” by Swiss politicians – has already sparked a flood of lawsuits from Credit Suisse investors who have lost billions of dollars.
Former Credit Suisse employees have considered suing Finma over the losses they suffered after more than $400 million in bonuses were canceled when the AT1 bonds were written off.
In addition, several lawsuits were filed by stock investors against UBS at the Zurich Commercial Court.
Source : www.ft.com