Appeal bid in Adia and Citi ruling

A lawyer for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) has urged a judge in the United States to overturn an arbitration panel's ruling favouring Citigroup in a dispute over a US$7.5 billion (Dh27.5bn) investment in Citi during the subprime meltdown.

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NEW YORK // A lawyer for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) has urged a judge in the United States to overturn an arbitration panel's ruling favouring Citigroup in a dispute over a US$7.5 billion (Dh27.5bn) investment in Citi during the subprime meltdown.

Adia, which was created in 1976 and invests on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Government, last year lost the arbitration case, which sought $4bn in damages from what it said were fraudulent representations by Citi leading up to the deal.

At a hearing in the US district court in Manhattan, a lawyer for the fund said the arbitrators applied the wrong law to come to the decision. "They manifestly disregarded the principles," David Elsberg, a lawyer for Adia, said on Thursday.

Judge George Daniels repeatedly pressed Mr Elsberg on how the arbitrators used the wrong legal analysis. "You can't simply say they gave them credit for 10 things and us for eight, and so that's a manifest disregard of the law," he said.

Adia bought into Citigroup in November 2007, as the bank moved to boost its balance sheet following billions of dollars in writedowns from subprime mortgage investments.

Under the deal, Citi bonds bought by Adia would convert to common stock in 2010 and last year, at prices of between $31.83 and $37.24 between March 2010 and September last year.

But in December 2009, Adia began arbitration, accusing Citi of "grossly misstating" the bank's financial condition, according to court papers. Adia sought to rescind the investment or receive $4bn in damages.

Shares in Citi on the day it disclosed the arbitration in 2009 had closed at $3.56. By the close of trade on Thursday, they were much higher, at $36 a share and down 0.14 per cent on the day.

In October last year, a three-arbitrator panel of the International Centre for Dispute Resolution of the American Arbitration Association issued an award finding Adia had failed to establish its claim. Adia went to court in January seeking to vacate the award.

The fund argues that the arbitration tribunal incorrectly applied New York law to its claims of fraud rather than those of Abu Dhabi, which do not require as much proof.

Mr Elsberg said applying the wrong law to the case was equal to a baseball umpire using the wrong rule book. "Because of the choice of law, it was judged against the wrong standard," Mr Elsberg said.

But the Citigroup counsel, Leslie Fagen, said the panel had laid out all the factors for why it would follow New York law instead. "They went through everything," he said. "They didn't disregard anything."

In court papers, Citigroup has also argued the court should confirm the award.