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Soldiers' Families Seek to Hold Banks Liable For Terrorism in Iraq

By William Peacock, Esq. on November 13, 2014 2:45 PM

Casualties, tragically, are a part of war. Soldiers, and their countries, enter into battle knowing that they may pay the ultimate price. And legally, soldiers' families can't sue over their lost lives.

But what happens when those sacrificed lives are taken by those outside of the war?

As Alison Frankel explains for Reuters, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1992 (ATA) gives these causalities a right of action against certain parties. And the families of a few fallen soldiers are now invoking that law against some of the largest banks in Europe, claiming that they conspired to evade sanctions on Iran, and that the funding passed through was used to sponsor Iranian-trained groups that attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

A Broad Interpretation of the ATA

The families of Brian Freeman and Clay Farr, two fallen U.S. soldiers, claim that five gigantic European banks -- HSBC, Standard Chartered, Credit Suisse, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays -- conspired with four Iranian banks which went on to pass more than $100 million to militant groups, including Hezbollah, in Iraq.

They seek to hold the European banks responsible even though, as experts told Frankel, the Anti-Terrorism Act does not explicitly extend to conspiracy. A previous ruling by the Second Circuit refused to stretch the law to cover aiding and abetting, making the case even more untenable.

More Than Money

Even if the case doesn't succeed on the merits, for many, it is about more than a financial judgment. Charlotte Freeman, the wife of Brian Freeman, said that she "hopes this case will make a statement." Others hope that it will spread the word about Iran's alleged involvement in training the terrorists who attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq. They claim that thousands of attacks were perpetrated by the Iranian-trained forces, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers.

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