Allan Gerson

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Person.png Allan GersonRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Allan Gerson.jpg
Died1 December 2019 (Age 74)
Chairman of AG International Law (AG-IL)

Allan Gerson (born 1945) was a Washington DC attorney who is recognised as having engineered a practical basis for suing foreign governments for acts of terrorism. After the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Allan Gerson initiated the first civil suit against a foreign state (Libya) on behalf of families of the Lockerbie victims.[1] In 1996, Gerson was instrumental in the passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act which provides US citizens with the right to sue foreign governments in US courts for complicity in terrorism.[2]

The outcome of Allan Gerson's efforts, in conjunction with other attorneys such as Frank Duggan and Mark Zaid, was an historic $2.7 billion settlement with Libya. This groundbreaking work was chronicled in a 2001 book which Gerson co-authored with Jerry Adler.[3]

Following Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial address to the Congress on 3 March 2015 criticising US policy on Iran, Allan Gerson wrote an article in the Huffington Post suggesting that President Obama may be violating Congressional prerogatives in making deals with Iran if it is unprepared to renounce terrorism:

Dealing with any country designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, absent special exemptions, is subject to stringent criminal penalties. For example in dealing with Libya, successive US administrations made clear that Libya would first have to renounce terrorism as an instrument of state policy before any agreement could be effectuated that would eliminate US sanctions against Libya imposed after the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988.[4]

Legal education

Allan Gerson earned a J.D. (Juris Doctor) from New York University Law School (1969), an LL.M. (Master of Laws) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1972), and a J.S.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science) from Yale Law School (1976).[5]

Legal career

In 1977, Allan Gerson joined the US Justice Department as a trial attorney. He was awarded Distinguished Performance Awards for his work with the Appellate Section of the Civil Division, and later with the Office of Special Investigations of the Criminal Division. In 1981, Dr Gerson was chosen to serve as Senior Counsel to US Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and in 1985 to her successor, General Vernon Walters. In 1985 and 1986, he was Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legal Counsel and Counsellor for International Affairs with the US Department of Justice. From 1986 to 1989 he was a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and from 1989 to 1995 he was a Distinguished Professor of International Law and Transactions at George Mason University. In 1998 through 2002, he was Senior Fellow for International Law and Organizations at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2003, he was Senior Counsel to the US Delegation to the Commission on Human Rights. He is admitted to the New York and District of Columbia Bars, the US Supreme Court Bar, and various US Courts of Appeals Bars.

Private practice

Allan Gerson's private practice revolves around his role as Chairman of AG International Law, PLLC (AG-IL) which is a Washington, DC-based firm that specialises in complex issues of international law, including mass tort litigation against governments and institutions complicit in gross human rights violations and unlawful confiscation of property. The firm has substantial experience in surmounting foreign sovereign immunity defenses and in innovating cutting-edge solutions to problems that lie at the intersection of international law and politics. In conjunction with other major law firms with whom it forms litigating partnerships, and drawing on renowned academicians, AG-IL pursues a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to client problems.[6]

Recent AG-IL cases include:

  • Initiation of first civil lawsuit against a foreign government (Libya) for complicity in terrorism for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Representation resulted in an historic $2.7 billion settlement.
  • Successful representation of the co-insurers of the hull of the Pan Am Flight 103 aircraft.
  • Instrumental in the passage of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, enabling American courts to exercise jurisdiction over foreign governments complicit in terrorism.
  • Representation (with Motley Rice) of victims of 9-11 against various financial institutions (Burnett, et al. v. Al Baraka Investment and Development Corporation, EDNY, 8/15/2002).
  • Representation (with Motley Rice) of victims of Hamas terrorist attacks (see Almog, et al. v. Arab Bank, PLC, EDNY, 12/21/2004).
  • Representation (with Crowell & Moring) of claims against Uzbekistan and Coca-Cola for illegal expropriation of private property.
  • Representation of the People's Mujahedin of Iran in challenging their designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.
  • Representation of heirs of renowned art collectors in restitution claims for works illegally confiscated during international armed conflict.

Lockerbie lawyers' fees: $810,000,000

According to an article in The Scotsman of 6 December 2003, the US law firm Kreindler & Kreindler, which represented 128 of the families of Lockerbie victims, could expect to receive up to $384 million out of a total $810 million in contingency fees from the $2.7 billion compensation package offered by Libya to the 270 victims' families. Kreindler's fees of 30 per cent would therefore reduce each family's $10 million compensation payment by $3 million, leaving a balance of just $7 million.

The same article said that another law firm, Speizer Crowse, which represented 60 families (30 of them British), could net legal fees amounting to $180 million.[7]

Allan Gerson and his colleagues Frank Duggan and Mark Zaid represented most if not all of the remaining 82 Lockerbie families. Gerson's team could thus have shared, between the three of them, as much as $246 million in contingency fees. According to Fox News:

"The compensation deal calls for Libya to pay each victim's family $4 million when UN sanctions against Libya are lifted, another $4 million when the United States lifts its own sanctions against the country, and $2 million when Libya is removed from the State Department's list of countries sponsoring terrorism, said Mark Zaid, an attorney representing more than 50 relatives of victims."[8]

Prolific author

A prolific author, Allan Gerson has authored several books and contributed to multiple professional journals. His writings focus on promoting the rule of law, privatisation of justice, post-conflict resolution, sovereign immunity, and innovative approaches to representing victims of terrorism and genocide.[9]

In March 2011, at the start of the West's campaign to topple Muammar Gaddafi from power in Libya, Allan Gerson wrote an article in the Huffington Post querying the legal basis for regime change and arguing that the Libyan rebels (the devil that we do not know) could be far worse than the "devil" that we know.[10]


Allan Gerson is also an accomplished photographer, whose works are held in several museums, and in corporate and private collections.

External links

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