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Dismissal of Woori lawsuit against Merrill upheld by U.S. court

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by South Korea's Woori Bank against Bank of America Corp's Merrill Lynch unit over losses from $143 million in mortgage-related investments.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said Woori's 2012 lawsuit was filed after the three-year statute of limitations under South Korean law had expired.

Woori, which is owned by Woori Finance Holdings Co Ltd <053000.KS>, had argued that the three-year clock did not start until January 2011, when the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission published a report outlining the causes of the housing market meltdown.

But the court said that government investigations into Merrill Lynch, lawsuits filed against Merrill Lynch over the collateralized debt obligations in question and "overall publicity" surrounding the investments were enough to show that Woori was aware of its potential claims more than three years before it filed its lawsuit.

A U.S. lawyer for Woori did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday.

The dismissal, initially made by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in February, is one of three such defeats in a U.S. court for Woori Bank, which was put under state control following financial crises.

In March, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain dismissed a Woori lawsuit against Citigroup Inc , saying Woori had failed to show that Citigroup acted fraudulently in selling it $95 million in CDOs. Swain permitted the bank to file an amended complaint, which it did in August.

And in December, another Manhattan federal judge dismissed Woori's lawsuit against Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc over losses on $80 million of debt securities. Woori has appealed that decision to the 2nd Circuit.

The case is Woori Bank v. Merrill Lynch et al., 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-829.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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