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GIANNACOPOULOS v. CREDIT SUISSE

February 26, 1999

DIAMANTIS GIANNACOPOULOS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CREDIT SUISSE, AND ROBERT E. MENASCHE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Motley, District Judge.

                          OPINION GRANTING SUMMARY
                                 JUDGMENT

Plaintiff Diamantis Giannacopoulos alleges that misrepresentations by defendant Robert E. Menasche, an officer of defendant Credit Suisse, induced him to provide financial backing for an ill-fated Nigerian oil venture. The defendants have moved for summary judgment, arguing that there is insufficient evidence for the fraud and negligence claims and that the negligence claims are time-barred. For the below reasons, the summary judgment motion is granted and the case is dismissed.

I. CASE BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Diamantis Giannacopoulos is a financier residing in Greece. Defendant Credit Suisse is a bank under the laws of New York and defendant Robert E. Menasche is a vice-president of Credit Suisse in New York. The link between the parties is that Mr. Giannacopoulos and Mr. Menasche each played a role in helping a proposed Nigerian oil venture procure financial backing. The failure of that venture led to this dispute about Mr. Menasche's role in Mr. Giannacopoulos's decision to support the venture.

On November 30, 1992, Mr. Menasche assisted Way Refining-Ergis Intercambio Commercial y Industrial Oil Division ("Way" and "Ergis"), a joint venture of Way and Ergis, by writing a "letter of introduction" to potential financial backers of a proposed Way-Ergis oil venture in Nigeria. The letter read as follows on Mr. Menasche's Credit Suisse letterhead:

November 30, 1992

To Whom It May Concern:

  It is hereby a pleasure to introduce our dear friends
  and substantial clients, Way Refining - Ergis
  Intercambio Comercial y Industrial Oil Division.
  Both companies recently joined together for the
  purpose of lifting and processing crude oil for the
  international market.
  Ergis Oil Division is managed by Sheikh Faysal el Azem
  and Way Refining by David Fraser. Both have extensive
  knowledge in the crude oil industry with excellent
  experience of operating their business in a profitable
  way in the eight figures and more. We envision this
  joint operation with great prosperity for future
  liftings and processing of crude oil and we highly
  recommend Way - Ergis Oil Division.
  The character of the above two gentlemen are without
  reproach.

Very truly yours,

[siguature of "B. Menasche"]

Joint Pre-Trial Order ("JPTO"), Ex. 1. After the proposed Way-Ergis joint venture fell through in December 1992, Ergis continued to pursue the Nigerian oil venture without Way. In January 1993, Ergis reached agreement with two other companies, Interfina Limited ("Interfina") and Petraco Oil Company Limited ("Petraco"). Interfina brokered the deal in which Ergis would lift the oil from Nigeria for eventual sale by Petraco. Later that month, the deal was in jeopardy when Ergis and Interfina each breached a contractual obligation to issue a $300,000 performance bond. See JPTO at 2-3.

Jonathan Clegg, a British solicitor representing Petraco, enlisted Mr. Giannacopoulos, whom he knew as a wealthy businessman, to provide the $300,000 performance bond for Interfina. The bond was in place for the four weeks ending March 31, 1993. In exchange, Mr. Giannacopoulos received a $125,000 fee and an Ergis corporate guaranty indemnifying him for the $300,000 risk. Mr. Giannacopoulos never spoke with any parties to the venture, nor anyone at Credit Suisse, but reviewed the Interfina-Petraco contract, the Petraco letter of credit, and various Ergis documents: a corporate brochure; financial statements for a one-year period ending in April 1992; documents reflecting Ergis's efforts to lift the ...


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