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30 Apr 2018

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Landmark Supreme Court Opinion Shuts Door to ATS Suits Against Foreign Corporations

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...[T]he Supreme Court issued a 5-4 opinion in Jesner v. Arab Bank Plc., foreclosing foreign plaintiffs’ ability to bring human rights claims against foreign corporations under the ATS.  The opinion promises to reshape the landscape of human rights litigation in the United States and could have a substantial impact on lawsuits brought by terror victims...[T]he Supreme Court’s opinion appears to leave open the question of whether claims can be brought under the ATS against U.S. corporate entities, although the Court’s reasoning...suggest that such claims are unlikely to succeed in the absence of congressional action...[I]ts ultimate impact is difficult to predict...[T]he Justices...drew a path for human rights activists by suggesting that they target the “human agents” of corporate conduct...[T]he Jesner decision may not so much end human rights litigation under the ATS as redirect it against corporate directors and officers...[I]t is unlikely that Jesner will be the last word on corporate liability in the human rights space, or on the role of U.S. courts in adjudicating such claims...Jesner changes, but does not eliminate, the risk of human rights litigation for corporate defendants.  The dual prospect of foreign proceedings asserting human rights claims..., whether brought against the corporation itself or its officers, directors or employees, strongly suggests the need for corporate entities to monitor carefully their compliance with evolving human rights standards and obligations.