Luis Li on ‘Getty Bronze’ and Legal Boundaries of Restitution

Munger, Tolles & Olson attorney Luis Li co-authored an article in the 2017 edition of the Chapman Law Review about the decades-long legal battle over the ownership of the Greek statue known as the “Getty Bronze,” exploring the novel questions the cases poses about the foundation and reach of restitution laws.

In “The Getty Bronze and the Limits of Restitution,” 20 CHAP. L. REV. 25 (2017), Mr. Li traces the ownership history of the Getty Bronze, an ancient Greek statue that was discovered by Italian fishermen in international waters in the 1960s. After its discovery, the statue exchanged hands in Italy on numerous occasions before being purchased by the Getty Museum in 1977. It has remained at the museum ever since.

Mr. Li recounts the Italian government’s legal efforts to seize the statue, which include the prosecution of the now-deceased fisherman, and the ensuing litigation in Italy. The case raises the question why the Italian government should have a claim on the statue, which was made in Greece, discovered in international waters and has resided at the Getty Museum for 40 years – significantly longer than it resided in Italy after it was discovered. He also delves into the traditional justifications for restitution and whether those justifications should apply in a case like the one surrounding the Getty Bronze.

Mr. Li is a trial lawyer whose practice focuses on corporate crisis management, internal corporate investigations, complex business litigation, art law, international enforcement matters and white collar criminal defense.