On March 19, 2019, a never-before-used Cuban embargo measure went into effect that makes it possible for U.S. claimants to sue the Cuban government in U.S. courts for confiscated Cuban property. The measures could be further expanded on April 17, 2019, to permit lawsuits against non-Cuban entities operating in Cuba.

Since its enactment, Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act has threatened to be a potent weapon against entities that do business in Cuba by providing U.S. nationals with a private right of action in U.S. federal courts against entities that “traffic in property which was confiscated by the Cuban Government on or after January 1, 1959.” Of course, the United States has never implemented that private right of action because every president since Bill Clinton has postponed the enactment of Title III for consecutive six-month periods, in part because many foreign governments objected to the idea that non-U.S. companies could be sued in U.S. federal court because of their commercial dealings with Cuba.

Therefore, it was a surprise on March 4, 2019, when U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo announced a partial exception to decades-long waivers of Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act. The exception is effective beginning March 19, 2019, and provides a cause of action for certain U.S. nationals against Cuban entities and sub-entities (but only those listed on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List (CRL) (see Department of State Nov. 14, 2018, press release here) that “traffic in property which was confiscated by the Cuban Government on or after January 1, 1959.”

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