Nestlé, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland lawsuit (re Côte d'Ivoire)

child labour Côte d’Ivoire Credit - International Labour Rights Forum

In 2005, three individuals from an NGO filed a class action lawsuit in the USA against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland, and Cargill alleging they had been trafficked from Mali as child slaves and forced to work in the Côte d'Ivoire on plantations which supplied the companies. They further alleged the companies aided and abetted their torture and ill treatment at these plantations. The case is ongoing. 


Pour la version française de ce profil, cliquez ici.

On 14 July 2005, three individuals from Mali and Global Exchange (a human rights organization) filed a class action lawsuit in California federal court against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill.  The individuals alleged they had been trafficked from Mali as child slaves and forced to work harvesting and/or cultivating cocoa beans on farms in Côte d’Ivoire.  The plaintiffs allege that they were forced to work long hours without pay, kept in locked rooms when not working and suffered severe physical abuse by those guarding them.  The plaintiffs allege that the companies aided, abetted or failed to prevent the torture, forced labour and arbitrary detention that they had suffered as child slaves.  The lawsuit alleges violations of the Alien Tort Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act, US Constitution and California state law.  The plaintiffs further claimed that the companies’ economic benefit from the labour of children violates international labour conventions, the law of nations and customary international law. 

In August 2005, Nestlé filed a motion to force the disclosure of the names of the former child slave plaintiffs, which was opposed by the plaintiffs.  In addition, the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the case.  On 27 July 2006, the court ordered further briefings to be filed on various issues related to aiding and abetting standards.  On 8 September 2010 the court dismissed the case finding that the case could not be brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  The court concluded that existing authorities did not demonstrate that corporate liability was sufficiently well established and universal to satisfy a claim under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal.  In December 2013, a federal appeals court overturned the 2010 ruling and allowed the plaintiffs to refile the lawsuit.  In September 2014, the federal appeals court replaced its December 2013 opinion with an expanded one reversing and vacating the lower court's dismissal of the case. The new opinion sets forth expanded reasoning for allowing the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to show the connection their claims have to the United States to address the US Supreme Court's holding in Kiobel v. Shell. The court found that the plaintiffs have standing to bring their Alien Tort case because of the universal prohibition against slavery.  In September 2015, the defendants petitioned the Supreme Court to throw out the federal appeals court’s ruling and want it to decide if companies are subject to liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  In January 2016 the Supreme Court declined to hear the companies' appeal.

In July 2016, the plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint.  In March 2017, a judge dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the plaintiffs could not sue over forced labour in Côte d'Ivoire when they could not prove that there was conduct by the companies in the US linked to the wrongdoing overseas.  On 30 March 2017, the plaintiffs filed an appeal, arguing that Nestle's and Cargill's decisions to give the cocoa farmers money and technical support were made at the companies’ US headquarters and, therefore, the lawsuit had a sufficient link to the US. On 23 October 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal allowed the lawsuit against Nestle and Cargill under the Alien Tort Statute to proceed.

In January 2020, the US Supreme Court signaled interest in hearing the case when they asked the Trump administration for advice on whether they should take the case. Nestlé and Cargill have requested that the Supreme Court end the suit against them.   

In July 2020, the US Supreme Court granted certiorari and will hear the case. The Trump administration has submitted an amicus brief arguing domestic corporations are not subject to liability under the Alien Tort Statute.

-"U.S. Supreme Court signals interest in child-slavery cocoa lawsuit," Bloomberg, 14 Jan 2020
- "Chocolatiers Face Tough Slog in Slave Labor Appeal", Helen Christophi, Courthouse News, 7 June 2018 
- "Nestle, Cargill Win Dismissal of Ex-Child Slaves' Lawsuit", Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg, 10 Mar 2017
- "Child Slavery Claims Against Nestle, Cargill Get One More Chance", Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg, 9 Jan 2017
- "US Supreme Ct. rejects Nestlé, ADM & Cargill's bid to dismiss Alien Tort case alleging complicity in forced child labour", Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 11 Jan 2016
- "9th Circuit Digs Into Nestle Child Slavery Suit", Courthouse News Service (USA), 5 Sep 2014
Ivory Coast says its cocoa not tainted by slavery”, Reuters, 13 Feb 2006
-[FR] « Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland et Cargill attaquées pour travail des enfants » GRESEA, 28 septembre 2005
- “U.S. companies sued in Calif. over child labor claims”, Reuters, 16 Jul 2005

- Nestlé S.A.: [PDF] The Cocoa Plan: Nestlé and sustainable cocoa
- Archer Daniels Midland: [PDF] ADM Supports Responsible Cocoa Farming, 7 Feb 2006
- Cargill: Responsible Cocoa Sourcing and Production

- Global Exchange: “Nestle Taken to Court for Trafficking, Torture, and Beatings of Child Laborers on West African Cocoa Farms,” 03 Feb 2006

International Rights Advocates (co-counsel for plaintiffs):
- Nestle, Archers Daniel Midland, and Cargill [summary of case, includes links to certain legal documents]
Plaintiffs' Notice of Appeal, 30 Mar 2017
- IRAdvocates file second amended complaint in Nestle in an attempt to bring justice to former child slaves in West Africa, 15 Jul 2016
- Amended complaint, 14 Jul 2016

Doe v. Nestlé et al., US District Court, Central District of California
- [PDF] Order granting defendants' motion to dismiss, 2 Mar 2017

Doe v. Nestlé et al., US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- [PDF] Order reversing lower court's dismissal, 4 Sep 2014
- [PDF] Brief of amicus curiae EarthRights International in support of Plaintiffs/Appellants, 1 Jul 2011
- [PDF] Defendants' answering brief, 30 Sep 2011
- [PDF] Plaintiffs' opening brief, 24 Jun 2011

Doe v. Nestlé et al., US District Court, Central District of California
- [PDF] Order granting defendants' motion to dismiss, 8 Sep 2010
- [PDF] First amended complaint, 22 Jul 2009
- [PDF] Declaration of Herman N. (Rusty) Johnson in Support of Plaintiffs’ Supplementary Brief [with information about company sourcing practices], 9 Aug 2006
- [PDF] Defendants’ Joint Opening Brief in Response to Court’s July 27, 2006 Order, 9 Aug 2006
- [PDF] Declaration in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, 2 Jan 2006
- [PDF] Individuals (John Doe I, II & III) and Global Exchange, v. Nestle, Archers Daniels Midland, Cargill, et al. , 14 Jul 2005 [complaint]

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+ Français - Hide

Author: Bloomberg et Intellivoire

« Nestlé et Cargill auraient utilisé le travail d'enfants maliens en Côte d'Ivoire : La Cour suprême américaine va se prononcer », 3 juillet 2020.

...La Cour suprême des États-Unis...a accepté jeudi d'entendre les appels de deux sociétés...Les deux sociétés demandent aux neuf juges d'annuler une décision de justice qui a autorisé le procès, déposé au nom d'enfants Maliens qui travaillaient dans les plantations de cacao en Côte d'Ivoire...

L'affaire concerne la loi américaine du XVIIIe siècle appelée « Alien Tort Statute ou ATS »...Un tribunal de district fédéral de Los Angeles a rejeté le procès à deux reprises...La 9e Circuit Court of Appeals des États-Unis...a relancé les allégations, citant les allégations selon lesquelles les sociétés auraient fourni du financement aux agriculteurs locaux pour garantir le cacao à un prix plus bas. Le 9ème circuit a constaté que les paiements s'apparentaient à des pots-de-vin et que le faible prix du cacao dépendait du travail des enfants esclaves...

La Chambre de commerce des États-Unis, Coca-Cola et Chevron Corp ont toutes déposé des mémoires demandant au tribunal d'entendre les appels de Nestlé et Cargill....

En 2018, la cour d'appel américaine du neuvième circuit avait annulé le rejet d'une action en justice contre Nestlé, Cargill les accusant d'avoir aidé et encouragé le travail des enfants esclaves en Côte d'Ivoire

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En 2018, la cour d'appel américaine du neuvième circuit avait annulé le rejet d'une action en justice contre Nestlé, Cargill les accusant d'avoir aidé et encouragé le travail des enfants esclaves en Côte d'Ivoire

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3 July 2020

USA: Supreme Court will hear case against Nestlé, Cargill, and Doe alleging child labour in the Côte d'Ivoire

Author: Corporate Accountability Lab

"More trouble ahead for the ATS? SCOTUS grants cert in Nestle case," 2 Jul 2020

The US Supreme Court just granted Nestlé’s cert petition in a case based on forced child labor in Côte d’Ivoire...

Both the alleged facts inJohn Doe I et al v. Nestlé (forced child labor in the supply chains of giant chocolate brands) and the contours of the law under which Plaintiffs are suing (corporate liability for overseas abuses under the ATS) are significant. The cocoa industry notoriously uses child labor, and companies including Defendants Nestlé and Cargill have made ineffective voluntary commitments to address it for nearly twenty years. As for the law, the once-promising ATS, which gives non-US citizens the right to seek justice for violations of international law (including human rights abuse) in US courts, has been gutted over the years. The Supreme Court’s decision to review this case means that corporate accountability under the ATS may see more trouble...

Plaintiffs filed suit under the ATS, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and California law, although only the ATS claims have endured. Over the last decade and a half, the case has ping-ponged between federal district court in California and the Ninth Circuit on appeal and remand related to corporate liability under the ATS...

Unsurprisingly, Nestlé’s certpetition filed last September argued that conduct amounting to aiding and abetting should not be enough to overcome the presumption against extraterritoriality under the ATS, meaning that liability would require an actus reus more than a US company’s oversight of a foreign subsidiary. It also argued that unlike natural persons, corporations should not be subject to ATS liability at all...

In May, the Solicitor General’s office (SG) filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Trump administration, arguing that the Court should grant cert and find that 1) domestic corporations are not subject to liability under the ATS; 2) there is no aiding and abetting liability under the ATS; and 3) even if domestic corporations are subject to liability and aiding and abetting liability holds, a US company’s oversight of a foreign subsidiary is too attenuated to constitute aiding and abetting under the ATS as a matter of law..


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5 June 2020

USA: Government argues that domestic corporations should not be liable for human rights violations under Alien Torts Statute

Author: William S. Dodge, Just Security

"Trump Administration Reverses Position on Corporate Liability Under Alien Tort Statute," 1 June 2020

[T]he Trump administration reversed its position on corporate liability under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), urging the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in Cargill, Inc. v. Doe I and to hold that domestic corporations are not subject to suit for human rights violations under the ATS…Three months after the Canadian Supreme Court held that Canadian corporations may be sued in Canadian courts for human rights violations abroad, the Trump administration is advocating that the U.S. Supreme Court turn in precisely the opposite direction.

…The plaintiffs in Cargill have alleged that Cargill and Nestle operated a cocoa supply chain based on child slave labor, providing financial support and technical aid to growers in Ivory Coast while knowing that these growers used children as slaves.

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Author: William S. Dodge, Just Security

[日本語翻訳記事提供: 経済人コー円卓会議日本委員会]


先週提出されたブリーフ(簡易書簡)の中で、トランプ政権は外国人不法行為請求権法(Alien Tort Statute 以下ATS)に基づく企業責任についての立場を覆し、ATSに基づく人権侵害の訴訟は国内企業(法人)は対象外であるとし、最高裁判所にカーギル社の証明書を認めるよう要請しました。同ブリーフはさらに、裁判所に、ATSに基づく幇助責任(間接的関与責任)の可能性を否定するか、または代替案として、違反が米国国外で発生した場合、幇助責任は問われないと主張することを求めました。カナダの最高裁判所が、カナダの企業は海外で発生した人権侵害に関して、カナダの裁判所で訴えられる可能性があるとの判決を下してから3か月後、トランプ政権は米国の最高裁判所がまったく反対の方向に向かうことを提唱しています。

 ATSは、1789年の裁判所法の規定であり、「法律または米国の条約に違反する不法行為に対する外国人の民事訴訟」の管轄権を連邦裁判所に認めるものです。ソーサ訴訟案件(2004)では、最高裁判所は、確立された人権法の規範に対するATSの下での暗黙の訴訟要因を認めました。その後、続く連邦第2巡回区控訴裁判はKiobel訴訟案件(2010)で生じましたが、人権侵害に対する企業責任については、ソーサ基準を満たすほど十分に確立されていませんでした。  最高裁判所は、企業責任の問題を解決するために証明書を認めましたが、代わりに、Kiobel案件(2013)におけるATSの訴訟要因に域外性に対する推定を適用することにより、訴訟を破棄しました。裁判所は、Jesner訴訟(2018)での企業責任の疑義を判定するために再度、証明書を許めましたが、ATSの訴訟原因は外国企業には適用されないと主張することで、この問題を再度回避しました…

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1 June 2020

USA: Government urges Supreme Court to shield domestic companies from liability in alleged child labour lawsuits

Author: Kimberly Strawbridge Robsinon, Bloomberg Law

"DOJ Urges High Court to Shield Companies From Slave Labor Suits," 26 May 2020

U.S. companies should be shielded from liability under a centuries-old law for assisting in child slavery, the Justice Department has told the Supreme Court.

That argument was delivered in a Trump administration filing on Tuesday urging the justices to review a lower court ruling that allowed former child slaves to move forward with their decade-long suit against U.S. manufacturers, processors, and retailers of cocoa beans accused of aiding and abetting human rights abuses. 

The former slaves say they were kidnapped and forced work up to 14 hours a day without pay, while others were beaten and tortured.

The justices requested the government weigh in on whether it should take up the case and they often, though not always, follow the DOJ’s recommendation.

“The United States unequivocally condemns child slavery and those who aid and abet it, and is committed to fostering respect for human rights,” the DOJ told the justices. “This case, however, involves more specific issues,” in particular whether the case is sufficiently connected to the United States to allow for suit there.

At the heart of the case is whether the 1789 Alien Tort Statute, meant to avoid diplomatic tensions, allows for suits in U.S. courts for human rights abuses abroad.

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20 January 2020

USA: Supreme Court seeks to protect companies from lawsuits by victims of abuse overseas in case against chocolate makers over alleged child slavery

Author: Bloomberg

"U.S. Supreme Court signals interest in child-slavery cocoa lawsuit", 14 Jan 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court signaled interest in giving companies a broader shield from lawsuits by victims of overseas atrocities...on a case stemming from child slavery on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. 

Nestle’s U.S. unit and Cargill Inc. are urging the court to end a suit that accuses them of complicity in the use of forced child labor...The Supreme Court on Monday asked U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco to advise whether the justices should hear the companies’ appeals.

The case would test a centuries-old law, the 1789 Alien Tort Statute...The court decided in 2013 that the law generally doesn't apply beyond U.S. borders, and in 2018 that foreign corporations can't be sued in that context. 

But a federal appeals court said the allegations against Nestle and Cargill might have enough of a U.S. connection if the plaintiffs amended their lawsuit to provide more specifics.

“The allegations paint a picture of overseas slave labor that defendants perpetuated from headquarters in the United States,”...

…The companies are accused of aiding and abetting slave labor by giving Ivory Coast farmers financial assistance in the expectation that cocoa prices would stay low. The suit alleges the companies were fully aware that child slavery was being used…

Cargill said the plaintiffs “do not allege they worked on a farm from which Cargill purchased cocoa or to which Cargill provided any form of assistance.”…


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7 November 2018

Commentary: Chocolate makers facing lawsuits over failure to effectively address use of child labour in cocoa supply chains

Author: Rosa Furneaux, Mother Jones (USA)

"Your Halloween Candy’s Hidden Ingredient: Child Slave Labor", 31 Oct 2018

...[A] recent ruling by the US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit in a long-running lawsuit against Nestlé and...Cargill...alleges the companies aided and abetted child slavery on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast...The lawsuit is just one of several legal actions against chocolate giants in recent years involving human-rights abuses in West Africa...[T]hree American plaintiffs brought separate suits against Mars, Nestlé, and Hershey’s..., and argued that the companies were violating California consumer protection laws by failing to disclose that their products’ supply chain may involve child slave labor...[T]he Ninth Circuit upheld the Mars dismissal...The fates of the suits against Nestlé and Hershey’s are yet to be decided...

Nestlé, like most other large chocolate manufacturers, sources some of its beans from the Ivory Coast, making it difficult to remove the risk that their supply chain is infected with child labor...Nestlé...insists it is working to tackle the problem...According to Nestlé’s website, the company...has helped support families so they can afford to keep their kids in school rather than sending them off to work.  Nestlé also has put into place a monitoring system...and report the findings back to the company and its suppliers...The chocolate makers’ financial outlays to prevent child exploitation don’t necessarily reflect progress on the ground...

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Company response
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Author: Intellivoire (Côte d''Ivoire)

« Travail d’esclaves d’enfants Maliens en Côte d’Ivoire : Une Cour d’ appel aux États-Unis rétablit une action en justice contre Nestlé et Cargill », 25 Octobre 2018

Une cour d’appel fédérale de San Francisco a rétabli aujourd’hui pour la deuxième fois sa poursuite en justice contre [Nestlé USA et Cargill] par six maliens qui auraient été contraints de travailler comme enfants esclaves dans des plantations de cacao en Côte d’Ivoire...

Les six travailleurs anonymes allèguent que les sociétés américaines ont notamment donné aux producteurs de cacao et aux coopératives une somme supplémentaire équivalant à des pots-de-vin et envoyé des inspecteurs de leurs bureaux américains en Côte d’Ivoire, qui ont rendu compte des arrangements financiers...

nestlé cargil... ont tous deux publié un communiqué déclarant qu'ils envisageaient de faire appel et qu'ils ne toléraient pas le travail des enfants esclaves...

Nestlé USA, basé en Virginie, et Cargill, basé au Minnesota, ont tous deux publié un communiqué déclarant qu’ils envisageaient de faire appel et qu’ils ne toléraient pas le travail des enfants esclaves.

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Nestlé USA, basé en Virginie, et Cargill, basé au Minnesota, ont tous deux publié un communiqué déclarant qu’ils envisageaient de faire appel et qu’ils ne toléraient pas le travail des enfants esclaves.

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23 October 2018

Doe v. Nestle, Opinion on dismissal of claims

Author: Judge D.W. Nelson, Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (USA)

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23 October 2018

October 23, 2018 Court of Appeals Finds Nestle and Cargill can be Liable under Alien Tort Statute for Child Slavery in Cote d'Ivoire

Author: International Rights Advocates

A three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on October 23, 2018 that the IRAdvocates’ lawsuit on behalf of former child slaves against Nestle and Cargill for using child slaves in Cote D’Ivoire to harvest cocoa can proceed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. § 1350. The Court solidly rejected the companies’...argument that under new decisions by the Supreme Court no cases can be brought where the actual harmful act..occurred outside of the United States.  The Court...held that Plaintiffs’ case can proceed based on the legal theory that these two...multinationals “aided and abetted” child slavery from their corporate offices in the United
States by continuing across many years to knowingly purchase cocoa that was harvested by child slaves and providing funds, supplies, training and other assistance to the plantations in Cote D’Ivoire that the companies knew were using child slaves... There are several possible legal hurdles remaining, including the companies seeking further review by the Supreme Court...[T]he legal team will soon be filing a new complaint against Nestle, Cargill and other major companies for knowingly benefitting from the trafficking of children into slavery to harvest cocoa for these companies...

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