Crystallex International Corp v. Petroleos de Venezuela SA, No. 16-4012 (3d Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Crystallex, a Canadian gold producer, owned the rights to Venezuela's Las Cristinas gold reserve. In 2011, Venezuela nationalized its gold mines and expropriated Crystallex’s rights. Crystallex initiated arbitration before the World Bank, claiming that Venezuela had violated a bilateral investment treaty with Canada. Venezuela was the sole defendant. The arbitrators found that Venezuela had breached the treaty and awarded Crystallex $1.202 billion. The district court confirmed the award (Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1). Venezuela owns 100% of Petróleos de Venezuela, (PDVSA). PDVSA is allegedly Venezuela’s alter ego, a “national oil company through which Venezuela implements government policies.” PDVSA owns 100% of PDVH, which owns 100% of CITGO Holding, which owns 100% of CITGO Petroleum (Delaware corporations). Crystallex sued PDVH in Delaware, alleging that PDVH had violated the Delaware Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act’s (DUFTA) prohibition against fraudulent transfers. The complaint alleged Venezuela orchestrated a series of debt offerings and asset transfers among PDVSA, PDVH, CITGO Holding, and CITGO Petroleum so that $2.8 billion in “dividends” ended up with PDVSA (Venezuela) outside the U.S. and could not be reached by Venezuela’s creditors. The court denied PDVH’s motion to dismiss, concluding that there had been a transfer “by a debtor.” The Third Circuit reversed, stating that it did not condone the debtor’s actions but that a transfer by a non-debtor (PDVH) cannot be a “fraudulent transfer” under DUFTA.