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2 Oct 2017

Tara Van Ho, Aarhus University’s Department of Law, on Just Security

International Legal Personality of Corporations: How Investment Law Answers the Supreme Court Question in Jesner

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In Jesner v. Arab Bank, the US Supreme Court must decide a single question: can corporations violate international law? Answering this question first requires identifying the extent to which corporations are international actors with a distinct legal personality. In the discussions surrounding Jesner, there has been little analysis of the approach towards corporate personality in international investment law (IIL)...IIL delineates international rights and responsibilities for corporations, which, as a matter of public international law, are distinct from their shareholders. IIL also grants corporations independence from their home and host states, and allows corporations to enforce their rights through international tribunals. As such, corporations meet the elements of international legal personality in IIL. This suggests that the appropriate question is not whether corporations can violate international law, but only which obligations they have...

I first establish that IIL recognizes a clear international legal personality for corporations. I then consider the implications of this personality, concluding that corporations can have both explicit and implicit rights and obligations under international law...

Part of the following timelines

US Supreme Court rules that foreign corporations cannot be sued for human rights abuses under the Alien Tort Statute

Arab Bank lawsuit (re terrorist attacks in Israel)