Punishing U.S. Business for Other People’s Crimes Overseas, II

By December 2, 2008Briefly Legal, Energy

The AP story linked below on the lawsuit against Chevron for the harm done to Nigerian oilfield workers includes a citation of the NAM’s concerns, shared by many in business:

Business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have decried the growing popularity of these lawsuits and have called on the U.S. Supreme Court to take up one of the cases to clarify and narrow the scope of the law, which critics say is bad for business and international diplomacy.

“The fear is that companies will be held to different standards around the world,” said Quentin Riegel, deputy general counsel of the National Association of Manufacturers. The association has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in two such cases this year and five since 2002, urging courts to toss out the lawsuits.

“In light of the jury decision absolving Chevron for the acts of the Nigerian military, multinational companies the world over should be breathing a sigh of relief,” said Jonathan Drimmer, a lawyer who wasn’t involved in the Chevron case but has represented corporations in similar cases.

Still, Drimmer noted Chevron had to endure 10 years of litigation, attorney fees and bad publicity before prevailing Monday.

Quentin refers to other amicus briefs the NAM has filed in similar litigation, that is, suits invoking the Alien Tort Statute. You can read the description of the legal issues involved at the NAM website here, and the cases on which the NAM submitted briefs (or a letter) are:

  • NAM Amicus Brief in Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co. (11th Cir.) – 07/10/2008 (PDF)
  • NAM Amicus Brief in American Isuzu Motors, Inc. v. Ntsebeza (S. Ct.) – 02/11/2008 (PDF)
  • NAM Amicus Brief in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain (merits)(S. Ct.) – 01/23/2004 (PDF)
  • NAM Amicus Brief in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain (pet. for cert.) (S. Ct.) – 10/06/2003 (PDF)
  • NAM Amicus Brief in Doe I v. Unocal Corp. (9th Cir. en banc) – 04/30/2003 (PDF)
  • NAM Letter to Dept. of State on tort suits by foreign nationals – 09/27/2002 (HTML)
  • UPDATE (1:10 p.m.): Andy McCarthy, a national security expert, at National Review Online writes a column, “Sovereignty, Vindicated“:

    Transnational progressives abhor U.S. capitalism as the exploitation of poor countries. They abhor oil production as the root cause of environmentally ruinous “climate change.” And they abhor aggressive governmental security measures as a stifling of dissent — regardless of how lawlessly that dissent is posited. For the Left’s vanguard, the San Francisco case was potentially a trifecta.

    But they’ve lost this round. For that, we owe thanks to the good sense of jurors who realized that Americans overseas must be able to seek the protection of local authorities, and that American courts are not the right forum for influencing Nigerian behavior.

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