By lifting the suspension of the private right of action afforded by Title III effective May 2, 2019, the Trump administration has cleared the way for civil lawsuits against persons or companies trafficking in property confiscated by the Cuban government.
Yesterday, April 17, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration will lift the suspension of the private right of action afforded by Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. Effective May 2, Title III “will be implemented in full” and civil lawsuits may be filed by US citizens against persons trafficking in property that was confiscated by the Cuban regime. In his announcement, Secretary Pompeo warned that “any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement,” and “those doing business in Cuba should fully investigate whether they are connected to property stolen in service of a failed communist experiment.”
Under Title III, any US national “who owns the claim to . . . property” confiscated by the Cuban government after January 1, 1959, has the power to sue in federal court. Beginning on May 2, any person or corporation who “traffics” in property confiscated by the Cuban government may face suit under Title III. Potential defendants include those who directly “traffic” in the confiscated property, as well as those who “profit from” the trafficking.
Our April 1 LawFlash discusses in detail private rights of action under Title III and various defenses that may be available when faced with these lawsuits.