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Ever since the start of the Ukraine conflict in 2022, Russia has halted payments to international creditors and individuals holding assets like stocks.

Is it possible for an average person who happens to possess Russian dividend-paying shares, such as those of Gazprom, to initiate a lawsuit against the Russian government in U.S. courts to assert their rights to the assets that have gone missing?

What would compensation look like? Would the U.S. federal government pay the individual on behalf of the Russian government before the State Department took over and issued an invoice? Or would we simply obtain a judgment, with the individual expected to pursue a foreign government on their own?

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  • They can't access SWIFT, I don't think they can pay you. Slava...
    – CodeAngry
    Oct 7, 2023 at 4:16

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Is it possible for an average person who happens to possess Russian dividend-paying shares, such as those of Gazprom, to initiate a lawsuit against the Russian government in U.S. courts to assert their rights to the assets that have gone missing?

Only if that Russian company has sufficient contacts with the U.S. to subject it to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, and even then, only against the Russian company, not against the Russian government, and even then, only if a choice of venue provision in the relevant contract doesn't preclude that forum. Often contracts like that are subject to arbitration in an international arbitration forum.

Would the U.S. federal government pay the individual on behalf of the Russian government before the State Department took over and issued an invoice?

No, even assuming that the U.S. courts had jurisdiction over the defendant and entered a judgment against it.

Or would we simply obtain a judgment, with the individual expected to pursue a foreign government on their own?

Yes. Usually, you wouldn't pursue the foreign government, however, you would pursue the entity that owed you money. Sometimes this might be possible from its non-Russian assets. If not, Russian courts might enforce the U.S. court order, but probably wouldn't.

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    @AlanSTACK Mostly it is just general principles of jurisdiction. There are cases involved Iran and Venezuela, the former from the 1980s and the latter from maybe 3-10 years ago. The broker generally isn't going to have liability if the issuer of a security isn't paying as agreed.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 6, 2023 at 20:44
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    @AlanSTACK JPM didn't cause the loss of access: they would be no more liable than if a(ny) share's price dropped to zero.
    – TripeHound
    Oct 6, 2023 at 21:35
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    @AlanSTACK - A quite recent case of suing an state in another state over debts was en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… . However, this is quite different of your Gazprom example, because the debtor was Argentina (the republic, non an Argentinian company) and at that moment it had assets in Ghana (the frigate).
    – Pere
    Oct 7, 2023 at 13:52
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    How could the company be liable? They would presumably pay if they could, but sanctions are preventing them.
    – Barmar
    Oct 7, 2023 at 20:54
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    @Barmar: US sanctions do not prevent Gazprom from making payments to Americans (they prevent payments in the opposite direction), and Russian sanctions would likely not be recognized by an American court. More philosophically, sanctions are supposed to hurt. They are supposed to subject you to liability and other problems. They are not going to be accepted as an excuse for non-payment. That would result in the judicial branch undermining the foreign policy decisions of the executive.
    – Kevin
    Oct 7, 2023 at 21:17

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