The Chinese government has asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to take judicial notice of a diplomatic note its embassy sent to the U.S. State Department voicing China’s concerns about a vitamin C price-fixing case and urging the U.S. government to file an amicus brief asserting that foreign governments’ formal statements about the interpretation of their own laws should be conclusive in U.S. courts. Animal Sci. Prods. Inc. v. HeBei Welcome Pharm. Co. Ltd., No. 13-4791 (2nd Cir., motion filed May 23, 2014).
The class action stems from claims that Chinese vitamin C manufacturers fixed prices and limited supply through an illegal cartel. China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM ) has been involved in the 10-year case since 2008, arguing to U.S. courts that the defendant companies were participating in a Chinese trade group system required to maintain their export licenses. Despite MOFCOM ’s argument and the companies’ invocation of the foreign sovereign compulsion doctrine, a U.S. district court allowed the case to proceed. A jury awarded the plaintiffs $54.1 million, which the court later trebled to $153.3 million plus an additional $4 million in attorney’s fees. On appeal, MOFCOM filed an amicus brief arguing that the trial court failed to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent on the interpretation of foreign law, and, in its note to the State Department, the embassy “urges the U.S. administration also to file a brief in the court of appeals in support of China’s positions.”