Celestin v. Caribbean Air Mail, Inc., No. 20-1412 (2d Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that Haitian government officials and multinational corporations conspired to fix the prices of remittances and telephone calls from the United States to Haiti. Plaintiffs allege a price-fixing claim under the Sherman Act and related state law claims, alleging that defendants agreed to produce official instruments (a Presidential Order and two Circulars of the Bank of the Republic of Haiti) to disguise their agreement as a tax for domestic education programs.
The Second Circuit held that the act of state doctrine does not bar adjudication of a claim merely because that claim turns on the "propriety" of the official acts of a foreign sovereign. Instead, the doctrine forecloses a claim only if it would require a court to declare that an official act of a foreign sovereign is invalid, i.e., to deny the act legal effect. In this case, even assuming the Presidential Order and Circulars have their full purported legal effect under Haitian law, the court concluded that plaintiffs' antitrust claim under U.S. federal law remains cognizable. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the antitrust claim under the act of state doctrine and vacated the dismissal of the fifteen state law claims for reanalysis under the proper standard. The court also vacated the dismissal on the alternative grounds of forum non conveniens because the district court did not give due deference to U.S.-resident plaintiffs' choice of forum. The court remanded for further proceedings.