Dole Food Company v. Patrickson - Oral Argument - January 22, 2003

Dole Food Company v. Patrickson

Media for Dole Food Company v. Patrickson

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 22, 2003 in Dole Food Company v. Patrickson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 22, 2003 in Dole Food Company v. Patrickson

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 01-593, the Dole Food Company versus Patrickson, and a companion case.

Mr. Paden.

Peter R. Paden:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The Dead Sea Bromine Company is an instrumentality of Israel under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for three principal reasons.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Is it... is it owned in the same capacity now as it was earlier?

Peter R. Paden:

No... no, it is not, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And was it owned at the time the suit was filed?

Peter R. Paden:

At the time this suit was filed, the company had been privatized.

It was privatized in 1995.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Right.

Right, and so are you going to address, then, how it comes under the statute at all in those circumstances?

Peter R. Paden:

I certainly intend to do that, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Yes.

Peter R. Paden:

The three reasons, in sum, are that, throughout the period of time giving rise to the claims, Israel owned a majority of the shares or other ownership interests in the company.

We contend that this broad phrase plainly encompasses the majority ownership of Dead Sea Bromine that Israel indisputably possessed through a tiered ownership structure.

Secondly, a contrary interpretation cannot be reconciled with the basic purposes of the act.

The same policy that Congress found applicable to directly owned entities apply equally to their subsidiaries where the foreign State retains a majority interest.

To restrict instrumentalities to entities in which States hold legal title to the shares of stock would exclude a large number of the very types of State-owned commercial enterprises, shipping and airlines, mining operations and the like, that Congress specifically intended to bring within the reach of the statute.

Antonin Scalia:

Yes, but it's a lot of trouble to track these things back, you know, who owns shares many tiers up, and Congress might well have simply determined we will honor the sovereignty of other States when they're the principal stockholder of a corporation.

Where... where they are not, we are not impugning their sovereignty by going ahead and permitting... permitting suit against the entity.

That's certainly a rational... a rational disposition, and the language seems to suggest that.

Peter R. Paden:

Well, Your Honor, I... I don't disagree that that would be a rational disposition, but I don't think there's any indication in the case law, and there have been numerous cases where tiered entities have appeared before courts, that it's posed any particular problem to identify the tiered ownership structure.

I... I'm not aware of any cases where... where that's posed an enormous issue, and the computation of ownership and corporate... corporate responsibility for subsidiaries is an issue that lawyers deal with every day in commercial litigation, and lawyers have well-established techniques to ferret out the corporate change of ownership and it's... it's done all the time.

We don't think... it clearly can be an issue, but we don't think that that's a particularly insurmountable issue here, and, in fact, there's certainly no indication--

Antonin Scalia:

Your... your principle would apply no matter how many tiers up they go?

I... I assume you don't think the second tier is the limit?

Peter R. Paden:

--So long as the State's ownership interest is the majority ownership interest, Your Honor, there could be--

Antonin Scalia:

Even though the name of the State does not appear until you get six tiers up?

Peter R. Paden:

--That's correct.

Our position would be that so long as the State's interest is a majority interest, that would be the limiting principle, and I think that's what the words of the statute seem to us to suggest--