Brattle client Jason Rezaian awarded $180 million in Iran lawsuit

06 December 2019 2 min. read
More news on

Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist, was awarded nearly $180 million by a US federal judge in a lawsuit against Iran after he spent 544 days in captivity on dubious espionage charges. Brattle Group, an economics, finance, and regulatory consulting firm, provided economic analysis and damages calculations on behalf of Rezaian and his family.

In 2014, Rezaian, an accredited journalist for the Washington Post, was arrested at gunpoint in Tehran alongside his wife Yeganeh Salehi. The dual US and Iranian citizen was then convicted in a closed Revolutionary Court trial on still-unexplained espionage charges.

Rezaian spent 544 days in an Iranian prison, during which time he was abused and denied sleep and medical care.  He and three other Americans were released in January 2016 in exchange for seven Iranians held in the US, the same day an international accord was signed which gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbing its nuclear program. The US would go on to withdraw from that accord in May 2018.

Back in the US, Rezaian and his family subsequently filed a suit against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, seeking damages for lost earnings potential and the torture and abuse he endured.

Brattle client Jason Rezaian awarded $180 million in Iran lawsuit

Law firm WilmerHale retained a team from Brattle led by principal Benjamin Sacks to calculate economic damages. Sacks calculated the economic losses suffered by Rezaian, his brother, and his mother, and then submitted an expert report.

On November 22, 2019, US District Judge Richard J. Leon ordered Iran to pay nearly $180 million in damages. “Iran seized Jason, threatened to kill Jason, and did so with the goal of compelling the United States to free Iranian prisoners as a condition of Jason's release," Leon stated in his ruling. "Holding a man hostage and torturing him to gain leverage in negotiations with the United States is outrageous, deserving of punishment and surely in need of deterrence.”

The total includes nearly $10 million in economic damages (in line with Sacks’ estimate), over $20 million in damages for pain and suffering, and $150 million in punitive damages.

Several days after the ruling, Iran rejected the court order, with Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi calling Rezaian’s decision to seek damages “strange.”

“Mr. Jason Rezaian... was a security convict and the Islamic Republic of Iran commuted his (sentence of maximum punishment) to imprisonment," said Mousavi. “He was pardoned and despite having an open case... he was released.”

There is a possibility that Rezaian could still receive a portion of the damages from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which previously distributed funds to hostages of the 1979 US Embassy takeover in Tehran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was a defendant in the case, was designated a terrorist organization by Trump earlier this year.