Owen Pell

Retired Partner of Counsel, New York


Owen Pell received the Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing in 2003 and again in 2014.


Owen Pell has represented governments, major banks and companies in complex, cross-border disputes, and also regularly assessed complex litigation risks, including devising litigation avoidance strategies. He has led teams and advised corporate leaders in matters involving the interaction of multiple legal systems, the extraterritorial reach of US laws, and issues under international human rights law, including matters relating to historical reparations. Owen has handled major cases in the area of corporate social responsibility, including as to World War II and the Holocaust, South Africa during the apartheid era, and African slavery in the United States. Owen has lectured widely on business and human rights issues, and delivered a TED talk on "Diplomacy 2.0", discussing the ways in which multinational companies and NGOs are changing how international legal norms are formed. He also formulated a proposal that was endorsed by the European Parliament for creating a title-clearing and dispute resolution entity to address claims to works of art looted from individuals during the Holocaust. Owen is now president of the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, the largest NGO training government officials in genocide and mass atrocity prevention. He has contributed to various published works, including a chapter on corporate behavior and atrocity prevention in Reconstructing Atrocity Prevention (S. Rosenberg ed.), published by Cambridge University Press. Owen has endowed an honors thesis program at Binghamton University that allows a select group of students in the Philosophy, Politics and Law department to spend a year writing thesis papers that are then defended and a thesis prize is awarded, and also helped found the Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, which offers a minor and Master's degree in this emerging field.

Bars and Courts
New York State Bar
US Supreme Court
US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
US District Court for the Southern District of New York
US District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Hon. PhD (Doctor of Laws)
State University of New York at Binghamton
University of Virginia School of Law
State University of New York at Binghamton
Phi Beta Kappa


TNK BP, 2002 – 2010
Owen successfully represented TNK-BP in a US$1.5 billion federal RICO action. The case tested the territorial limits of the RICO statute. In dismissing the case, the Second Circuit issued the first decision applying the Supreme Court's decision in 'Morrison v. Nat'l Australia Bank' to limit the extraterritorial reach of the US RICO statute. See 'Norex, Inc. v. Access Indus., Inc.', 2010 WL 4968691 (2d Cir. 2010).

Cato Institute, 2012
Owen represented the Cato Institute in filing two amicus curiae briefs in the US Supreme Court in 'Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell', an important case in which the Supreme Court held that the Alien Tort Statute (under which companies have been sued for aiding and abetting violations of international law) did not have extraterritorial application. 2012 WL 392541 (US) (Appellate Brief).

Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (an arm of the French Government), 2006 – 2008
Successfully represented the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (an arm of the French Government) in a class action seeking damages for property expropriated in France during World War II. 'Freund v. France', 592 F. Supp. 2d 540 (S.D.N.Y. 2008).

The Lebanese Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut Central District SAL, 2007
Successfully represented The Lebanese Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut Central District SAL in a federal action in which US courts refused to enjoin a Paris-based ICC arbitration brought against our client, holding that the US Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) does not authorize a US court to enjoin a foreign arbitration. 'URS Corp. v. The Lebanese Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut Central District SAL', 512 F.Supp.2d 199 (D. Del. 2007).

JP Morgan Chase, 2004 – 2006
Successfully defended JP Morgan Chase against class action claims premised on the bank's alleged historical connection to predecessor banks connected to African slavery in the United States prior to 1865. 'In re African-American Slave Descendants Litig.', 471 F.3d 754 (7th Cir. 2006).

Republic of Poland and its Ministry of State Treasury, 2003 – 2006
Successfully represented the Republic of Poland and its Ministry of State Treasury in a class action seeking return of property expropriated in Poland after World War II. 'Garb v. Republic of Poland', 440 F. 3d 579 (2d Cir. 2006).

Deutsche Bank, 2002 – 2006
Successfully represented Deutsche Bank in various actions arising from the collapse of Enron Corp., including a securities class action lawsuit. 'In re Enron Corp. Sec. Litig.', 310 F. Supp. 2d 819 (S.D. Tex. 2004) and 529 F. Supp. 2d 644 (S.D. Tex. 2006).

Speaking Engagements

Oct. 2006: SEC lecture on the changing nature of financial institution liability.


Banking Litigation, Business & Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts, 3rd Ed. (R. Haig ed.) (West 2012)

Historical Reparation Claims: The Defense Perspective, Holocaust Restitution: Perspectives on the Litigation and Its Legacy (M. Bazyler and R.P. Alford eds.) (NYU 2006)

How to Handle that Nazi-Era Art Trove, The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 19, 2013, p. A18 (op-ed piece on Holocaust looted art issues in Germany)

Issues to Consider in Drafting a Class Action Settlement Agreement, Managing Complex Litigation 2008: Legal Strategies and Best Practices in "High-Stakes" Cases (P.L.I. No. 14204), 2008

Increasing Role of State Courts in Complex Litigation and Streamlining Multi-Jurisdictional Cases through Procedural Methods, Bet the Company Litigation 2009: Best Practices for Complex Cases (P.L.I. No. 18259), 2009

Procedural Innovations to Streamline Complex Cases, Bet the Company Litigation 2010: Best Practices for Complex Cases (P.L.I. No. 23276), 2010

Awards and Recognition

Burton Awards for Distinguished Legal Writing, 2014 and 2003