May 1, 2024

Munger, Tolles & Olson Secures Appellate Victory for the World Bank in Important Sovereign Immunities Case

On April 26, 2024, Munger, Tolles & Olson achieved a significant appellate victory on behalf of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (commonly known as the “World Bank”), when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the World Bank is immune from a suit seeking to force the World Bank to surrender funds that were designated for humanitarian relief in Afghanistan.

In 2020, victims of a 2016 terrorist bombing in Afghanistan obtained a $138.4 million default judgment in a lawsuit brought against the Taliban. The plaintiffs attempted to collect this judgment by targeting International Monetary Fund and World Bank funds that they claimed were the Afghan central bank’s property, which, after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021, by default purportedly belonged to the Taliban. Finding it did not have jurisdictional authority, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the case, but the plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the D.C. Circuit.

Representing the World Bank on appeal, MTO argued that the Bank had immunity from being sued in U.S. courts under both the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the International Organizations Immunities Act, and that the funds were in any event funds provided by member nations for humanitarian aid rather than funds belonging to the Taliban. The claimants contended that federal anti-terrorism laws overcame the Bank’s immunity. The D.C. Circuit Court, persuaded by MTO’s immunity argument, agreed with the firm’s motion to uphold the district court’s dismissal order.

The MTO appellate team included Ginger Anders, Sarah Weiner and Helen White.

The case garnered media coverage in Law360.

About MTO’s Appellate Practice

Munger, Tolles & Olson’s appellate and Supreme Court practice is recognized as among the best in the nation and routinely handles the highest-stakes matters before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. courts of appeals, and state appellate courts. Our lawyers have secured victories in cases of historic importance and have won ground-breaking appeals around the country on a wide range of subjects, including antitrust, securities, intellectual property, cross-border disputes, and regulatory matters.

Learn more about our appellate practice.