July 24, 2019

Successors to nationalized Cuban bank seek compensation under Helms-Burton Act

On July 10, 2019, the successors to Banco Nuñez, a Cuban bank that was nationalized in 1960, sued Société Générale, S.A. for violations of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, 22 USC § 6021, et seq. (the “Libertad Act.” also known as Helms-Burton).  According to the complaint, the bank was the second largest Cuban-owned financial institution in Cuba before the owners fled the country and the bank’s operations and $7.8 million in assets were nationalized and absorbed into Banco Nacional de Cuba, the state-controlled entity operating all financial institutions in Cuba.  The plaintiffs allege that they were never paid for the loss of the bank, and should be compensated by Société Générale for “trafficking” because it conducts commercial activities with the bank, and has derived a profit of $1.4 billion from these activities.  

As of April 17, 2019, US citizens have been able to exercise the statutory private right of action to sue foreign companies that “traffic” in property in Cuba that was formerly owned by US nationals.  The plaintiffs claim that Société Générale knowingly and willfully violated the economic embargo of Cuba by using credit facilities to conduct business with the Banco National de Cuba, and is liable under the Trading with the Enemy Act, 50 USC. §§ 4303, 4305, and 4315(a) and the rules promulgated thereunder.

The plaintiffs seek monetary damages, including the treble damages allowed under the Libertad Act.