Continental Transfert Technique Ltd. v. Fed. Govt. of Nigeria, No. 08-cv-2026 (D.D.C. Apr. 28, 2015) [click for opinion]

In connection with its effort to enforce a breach-of contract judgment against the Government of Nigeria, Plaintiff served on Nigeria a deposition notice pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6), seeking to discover information regarding assets that could be used to satisfy the judgment.  Nigeria moved to strike the deposition notice on the grounds that (1) Nigeria’s status as a foreign sovereign should bar the discovery, and (2) the Rule 30(b)(6) notice should be quashed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1)(A).  The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the motion.

The court rejected all of Nigeria’s arguments about its status as a foreign sovereign. First, the court rejected Nigeria’s argument that the deposition notice constitutes an “arrest” prohibited by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 13301602 et seq. because it would temporarily deprive the Nigerian representative being deposed of his or her liberty.  The court held that there was no grounds to equate a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice with an “arrest,” and therefore the notice does not trigger Nigeria’s “arrest” immunity under the FSIA. 

Second, the court rejected Nigeria’s argument that foreign sovereigns are not a proper subject of a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition.  The court observed that “a ‘foreign government’ is an ‘entity’ that fits comfortably within [the list of proper recipients of a Rule 30(b)(6) notice],” and observed that other federal courts have authorized the use of a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition addressed to foreign sovereigns.

Third, the Court rejected Nigeria’s contention that the Rule 30(b)(6) notice is “‘clearly aimed at ‘Execution’” of Nigerian property that may be immune from execution under the FSIA. The Court observed that “[the notice] does not attach Nigeria’s property, nor does it have any legal effect whatsoever on Nigeria’s property; it simply mandates Nigeria’s compliance with the subpoena.”

Steven Chasin of the Washington, DC office contributed to this summary.