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Latest Legal Insight

Many multinationals uttered a sigh of relief upon the verdict of the US Supreme Court in Kiobel II because the decision was believed to have significantly narrowed the scope of application of the Alien Tort Statute. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Alien Tort Statute has previously been engaged to hold private actors, including corporations, liable for international crimes committed outside of the United States.

Since the revival of this 200+ year old piece of legislation in the 1980s against a Paraguayan ex-policeman in the case of Filartiga it seems that its scope of application was set to continually grow and capture an ever-increasing range of defendants – the floodgates had been opened. However, the first time a claim under the ATS reached the Supreme Court in 2011, the Supreme Court put a spanner in the works by finally reversing a decision by a lower court holding the defendant liable and upholding the presumption against extraterritoriality. That is, the assumption of jurisdiction and application of US domestic law to events outside of its national borders. Even “better” for the business community was that the case involved a corporation as the defendant.

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