P.M. BRIEFING : High Court Rules U.S. Can Take Part of Firm's Hostage Award

From Times Wire Services

The U.S. government is entitled to some of the money American companies are awarded by an international tribunal created as part of the settlement of the 1981 Iran hostage crisis, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled today.

The justices said the companies' rights are not violated by requiring them--rather than all U.S. taxpayers--to help defray the costs of the claims settlement process.

The court upheld a 1985 law that allows the U.S. government to deduct 1.5% of the first $5 million recovered by any company and 1% of anything exceeding that amount.

Justice Byron R. White, writing for the court, rejected arguments by Sperry Corp. that forcing companies to pay the fees is an unconstitutional confiscation of their property and that any costs to the government should be borne by the nation as a whole.

The Bush Administration said tens of millions of dollars were at stake, including about $12.7 million already deducted by the U.S. government from claims paid to companies.

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