Multinational Corporations as Objects and Sources of Transnational Regulation

26 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2008 Last revised: 7 Apr 2008

See all articles by Larry Catá Backer

Larry Catá Backer

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law


Regulatory power is increasingly exercised by autonomous non-governmental organizations. Though not lawmaking in the accepted sense, the regulatory power asserted has come to be asserted within the framework of institutionalized and self-contained systems that exercise state functions outside the state. At the same time, public law has sought to assert a measure of legislative control over private regulatory systems, especially those that seek to impose a harmonized ad institutionalized regulatory framework across borders. Among the most dynamic players in this are has been multi-national corporations. From the perspective of public law, the objective has been to develop a network of regulatory systems through which state actors can control such entities. From the perspective of the multinational corporation, the objective has been to develop governance systems of its own to regulate the factors of production of wealth wherever located. My object in this essay is, first, to describe the traditional public law regulatory framework and suggest its limitations and failures of perspective. Second, I will illustrate the response of multinational corporations to these limitations and failures. For this purpose I will focus critically on the institutionalized regulatory framework created by Gap, Inc, to regulate its global supplier network, a regulatory framework in which the state is substantially absent and the center of regulatory activity shifts to the corporation. Lastly, I will posit the rough contours of a theory of soft public regulatory power in private law, its connection to the basic premises of contemporary economic globalization, and suggest some consequences for the actors principally and those left out.

Keywords: multinational corporations, transnational law, private international law, soft law

JEL Classification: D82, K10, K22, K33, K42, L21, L23, L81, M14

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, Multinational Corporations as Objects and Sources of Transnational Regulation. ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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