On July 15, 2010, the District Court for the District of Columbia held an Initial Scheduling Conference for the claim filed by Jorge Vila, an independent banking consultant in emerging markets, against the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC), the private sector lending arm of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The Conference issued a time schedule for the compilation of documentary and witness evidence to be presented by the IIC and Vila at the trial, expected to take place early next year. Depositions of IDB and IIC officers are expected to begin shortly.
In a setback for the IIC, Judge Walton, at the Conference, granted Vila’s Motion to Strike the IIC’s renewed claim to immunity, a matter decided against the institution by the District Court in February 2008 and confirmed by the Court of Appeals in June 2009.
This case is receiving increasing attention from Government, the media and other observers of international organizations, since the Court decisions already handed down represent a very important judicial precedent concerning lawsuits in the U.S. against international organizations. At the trial, the focus is expected to be on the internal controls and audits, transparency and accountability of the IIC and the IDB, in addition to their relationship with external contractors.
Vila sued the IIC in October 2006, claiming that the IIC repeatedly requested, received and benefitted from his services from January to August 2003, but then refused to compensate him. Court papers show that Vila was given broad authority to negotiate on behalf of the IIC with clients and potential co-financiers the terms and conditions of IIC loans. He was also asked to participate in internal project and credit discussions, as well as in external negotiations with clients and counterparts, and drafted internal and external IIC documentation for the signature of IIC senior management.
The IIC claimed immunity under the International Organizations Immunities Act, but, in a very significant series of judicial setbacks for the IIC, several District Court and Court of Appeals decisions from February 2008 to October 2009 unanimously confirmed that the IIC is not immune to claims from independent contractors like Mr Vila.
The International Organizations Immunities Act has been subject to growing criticism in recent years, as, among other things, it deprives the staff members of these organizations of access to an impartial judiciary forum in labour disputes.
The law firm of Arnold & Porter is representing the IIC, whereas Douglas Hartnett of Elitok and Hartnett, is representing Mr Vila.
Bea Edwards is the International Reform Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.