Does the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) Bar Prosecution in U.S. Courts of Commercial Enterprises Owned by Foreign States?


On January 17, 2023, the Supreme Court will hear argument in Turkiye Halk Bankasi A.S. v United States on the issue: Do federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over criminal prosecutions against foreign sovereigns and their instrumentalities, in light of the FSIA? The prosecution for money laundering in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran is a major issue for Turkey, and the case has serious implications for U.S. law enforcement and national security.

Halkbank argues that a sovereign state and its instrumentalities enjoy absolute immunity from criminal prosecution in the courts of a foreign state, and that the FSIA itself bars this prosecution. The same FSIA argument was made by an Egyptian bank resisting a grand jury subpoena in the Mueller investigation. So far, the courts have denied immunity to state-owned enterprises applying FSIA criteria without deciding whether the statute applies.

Our panel, including a drafter of the FSIA and three distinguished scholars on foreign state immunity, will discuss: (1) Does the FSIA apply at all to criminal prosecutions? (2) If it is relevant, do the statutory exceptions to immunity apply? (3) If the FSIA does not apply, what rules apply?


? Mark. B. Feldman, former Acting Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State

Featured Speakers:

? Professor Chimene Keitner, Alfred and Hanna Fromm Chair in International and Comparative Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law
? Professor David P. Stewart, C0-Director of Center for Transnational Business and the Law and the Global Law Scholars Program, Georgetown University Law Center
? Professor Ingrid (Wuerth) Brunk, Associate Dean for Research, Helen Strong Curry Chair in International Law and Director, Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program, Vanderbilt Law School

Michael Teodori, President of the Washington Foreign Law Society, will host the session.

Date and Location

Tuesday, January 10, 2023 - 5:30pm to 6:30pm