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Europeans Fear U.S. Courts Over Russian

Here is wake-up call, if ever there was one: In-house counsel employed by European businesses would prefer to face a major legal dispute in Russia or China over the United States. A report yesterday in Times Online cites a survey commissioned by the international law firm Lovells of 180 in-house counsel in five European countries in which 29 percent identified the U.S. as the jurisdiction they most wanted to avoid.

The US attracted almost twice as many votes as Russia and China. Despite fears of political interference and corruption in their legal processes, both were named by just 16 per cent of in-house counsel as their most feared jurisdiction.

I had the privilege of traveling to Russia last year to meet with judges, lawyers and journalists there as part of a delegation from Massachusetts. I was highly impressed with the quality and commitment of the judges I met during the trip. That said, it is tough to ignore the fact that the Russian legal system remains dogged by allegations of corruption and political influence. Suffice to say, China's system enjoys not the most stellar reputation either, at least from our vantage point here in the U.S.

So what is it about U.S. courts that induces even greater fear in the hearts of European GC? Although they see our system as less corrupt than others, they worry that it is "filled with traps in which the inexperienced or uninformed may easily become caught." Marc Gottridge, Lovells’ U.S. managing partner, told the Times Online that these traps include the complexity of the federal system, with its "multiplicity of courts, prosecutors and regulators at state and federal levels" and the tradition of targeting corporations as well as individuals in criminal cases.

What most keeps them awake at night, they report, are visions of our nation's overeager regulators and overly aggressive prosecutors. Given that, it is likely that some European GC could have been heard to say this week, "Do svidanya, Eliot Spitzer."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 18, 2008 at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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