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Ninth Circuit orders new accounting of Ferdinand Marcos assets

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Friday remanded [opinion, PDF] a case involving the assets of former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos [official profile] to the district court for investigation. The court found that 30 million dollars held by Merrill Lynch for more than 30 years has been handled in a "curious" manner by US District Court Judge Manuel Real. The assets of Marcos were turned over after his death in 1988 and handed over to Real to distribute to his victims, as Real had presided over human rights cases [AP report] against Marcos in Hawaii. The Ninth Circuit found that:

This curious [account] statement plainly fails to account for all transactions involving the assets during the eight years they were held in the clerk of court's custody. It does not identify any earnings attributable to interest or dividends; it does not itemize gains or losses, or the prices of any securities bought or sold; it does not list specific transactions such as sales of securities or transfers of funds, who authorized any such transactions or the reasons therefor. It doesn't give the reader even a basic understanding of the path by which $33.8 million worth of assets deposited in September of 2000 came to be worth $34.7 million today.

The matter has been remanded to the district court for further investigation.

In June 2008, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion text; JURIST report] that an interpleader action to determine ownership of assets held by Marcos could not continue because an indispensable party is protected by sovereign immunity. The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) claimed ownership of funds improperly moved out of the Philippines by Marcos and invested with US investment bank Merrill Lynch, as did Mariano Pimentel, the representative of a class of 9,539 people holding an unsatisfied human rights judgment [opinion text] against Marcos' estate. Merrill Lynch initiated the interpleader action to settle ownership of the funds, listing the Philippines, PCGG, and Pimentel, among others, as claimants. The Philippines and PCGG asserted their sovereign immunity from the suit and moved to dismiss the entire action, arguing that they were indispensable parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(b) [text]. The Court ruled that the Philippine government was an indispensable party, overturning a decision by the Ninth Circuit and remanding the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the interpleader action.

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