Broidy Capital Management LLC v. Muzin, No. 20-7040 (D.C. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Broidy, an activist businessman, urged the government to oppose Qatar’s alleged funding and harboring of terrorists and to support the efforts of Qatar’s neighbors to isolate it economically. Broidy alleges that Qatar engaged in “a multi-million dollar dark money effort to recruit lobbyists and influencers to polish Qatar’s public image.” Qatar allegedly paid the defendants, U.S.-citizen public relations contractors, millions in hopes of rehabilitating its image with “the Republican, American Jewish community and other conservative supporters of Israel.” They allegedly retained a cybersecurity firm “to coordinate an offensive cyber and information operation against” Broidy and his company.
Broidy sued, alleging violations of RICO, Stored Communications Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Defend Trade Secrets Act, and California law. Without acknowledging involvement in the alleged scheme, the defendants claimed immunity based on Broidy’s allegations regarding their relationship to Qatar, a foreign sovereign. The court dismissed certain claims as legally inadequate and rejected the immunity defense.
The D.C. Circuit affirmed. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act by its terms does not apply. Qatar has not said that the challenged conduct was at its behest nor has it urged the United States to recognize the defendants’ immunity. The State Department has never suggested that the defendants are immune as agents of Qatar. Without any such acknowledgment or suggestion, a private party claiming foreign sovereign immunity bears a heavy burden. The defendants here are U.S. citizens sued in their private capacities by U.S. plaintiffs for violations of U.S. and California law within the U.S.