Dames & Moore v. Regan

In reaction to the seizure of the U.S. embassy and American nationals in Iran, President Jimmy Carter invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and froze Iranian assets in the United States. When the hostages were released in 1981, Treasury Secretary Donald Regan affirmed the agreements made the Carter administration that terminated all legal proceedings against the Iranian government and created an independent Claims Tribunal. Dames & Moore attempted to recover over $3 million owed to it by the Iranian government and claimed the executive orders were beyond the scope of presidential power.

Rule:

Congressional purpose in authorizing blocking orders is to put control of foreign assets in the hands of the President.

Brief Fact Summary:

Where Congress has a history of acquiescence, as with claims settlement, it thereby implicitly approves of the President’s actions regarding that specific subject matter about which Congress was silent.

Case Commentary:

The Court kept its decision relatively narrow in finding that the President does not have plenary power to settle claims, but in reality there has been a consistent trend of the President doing so by executive agreement without seeking approval from Congress. This decision thus offers a more limited understanding of executive power than what related laws and other documents suggest.