A federal judge in Pittsburgh on Monday said an international aluminum industry bribery case can move forward despite the defendant’s argument that none of the alleged bribes occurred on U.S. soil.
U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose denied Alcoa Inc.’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by Aluminium Bahrain BSC that claims Alcoa reaped more than $400 million in illegal profits by overcharging for alumina, which is used to make aluminum.
The foreign aluminum maker, which is known as Alba and is controlled by the Bahrain government, claims agents for Alcoa paid 26 bribes to senior company executives and government officials who then allowed the company to overcharge for the alumina. The company, one of the world’s largest aluminum smelters, is seeking more than $1 billion in damages.
Alcoa, which is headquartered in New York and has an operations center on the North Side, had argued that Ambrose should throw out the case because none of Alba’s claims involve events on U.S. soil or are directly tied to local company officials.
During a hearing on the motion in March, a lawyer for Alba argued that all of the decisions by Alcoa of Australia and other foreign entities lead back to the North Shore. Alcoa owns 60 percent of Alcoa of Australia.
The judge agreed that Alba’s claims, if proved, show that “control of the enterprise, the decision-making vital to sustainability of the enterprise, came from Pittsburgh.”
An Alba spokesperson couldn’t be reached for comment.
Lori Lecker, an Alcoa spokeswoman, said in an email, “A decision on a motion to dismiss is not a ruling on the merits of the case, and we look forward to presenting the facts relating to Alba’s allegations and to vigorously defending our position as this litigation unfolds.”