Comparative Corporate Responsibility in the United States and France for Human Rights Violations Abroad
Anna F. Triponel
Public International Law & Policy Group
September 28, 2010
GLOBAL LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT LAW FOR THE PRACTICING LAWYER, pp. 59-158, Andrew P. Morriss and Samuel Estreicher, eds., Kluwer Law International, 2010
A number of multinational corporations today now surpass the economic power of many states. As discussion regarding the status of international human rights obligations on non-state actors proceeds, another phenomenon is emerging: the increasing reliance over the past decade on national laws to hold a company accountable for misconduct that infringes on human rights abroad. Indeed, over the past decade, lawsuits brought against companies in their place of domicile or incorporation alleging human rights violations overseas have proliferated.
Comparative research across legal systems can assist in chartering the current status of national laws in the area of business and human rights. Accordingly, this chapter contrasts the methods that are employed to engage the responsibility of U.S. companies for their human rights-related conduct abroad with those used for French companies operating overseas.
Although both the United States and France are witnessing an increase in litigation based on their companies’ human rights conduct overseas, the modalities used to engage corporate responsibility differ widely. For example, variations can be observed in the laws used to trigger their companies’ responsibility, the methods for justifying that a court may rule on conduct taking place outside of its jurisdiction, the modalities for establishing a parent company’s liability for acts that are committed by third parties including foreign subsidiaries and governments, and the individuals who are eligible to bring these types of claims.
By juxtaposing the United States, a common law system that has a unique statute in this area, the Alien Tort Claims Act, with France, a civil law country that is increasingly influenced by European Union regulations, this chapter’s aim is threefold. First, the chapter sets forth the current status of the law in the area which, as evidenced by numerous recent evolutions, is in constant movement. Second, by analyzing how legal concepts have been applied in practice in both countries, this chapter enables a comparison of the opportunities available to, and hurdles faced by, plaintiffs in each country. Similarly, it enables a comparison of the legal standards applicable to companies incorporated in both countries. Finally, this chapter seeks to inform the ongoing work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises by indicating how areas such as extraterritorial regulation and complicity are addressed differently in the United States and France; and by illustrating the importance of other less obviously related concepts, such as standing to sue and other procedural restrictions.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 100
Keywords: Business and Human Rights, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Complicity, Alien Tort Claims Act, French Law, Negligence, Extraterritorial Regulation
JEL Classification: K33, K29, K31Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 20, 2010 ; Last revised: May 14, 2012
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