Aggregate Litigation across the Atlantic and the Future of American Exceptionalism
53 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2008 Last revised: 25 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2009
This article analyzes the emerging phenomenon of trans-Atlantic civil litigation on an aggregate basis - chiefly, though not exclusively, by way of class actions. European systems have shown a growing receptiveness for aggregate litigation, but treatments of this development have consisted largely of description. This article offers an analytical framework with which to anticipate the structural dynamics of transnational aggregate litigation in the twenty-first century.
Simply put, these structural dynamics will tend to recreate the difficulties seen in the context of nationwide class action litigation within the United States. The nationalization of US commerce led to aggregate litigation of a commensurately national scope. The result, however, was regulatory mismatch - for the scope of aggregation to expand to match the scope of the disputed nationwide activity, rather than the jurisdictional sovereignty of the forum. The globalization of commerce, coupled with the very multiplicity of approaches to aggregate litigation seen today, has a considerable tendency to replicate these mismatches - now, with international proportions. The recent Vivendi securities class action in the United States and the pathbreaking Royal Dutch Shell settlement under the 2005 Dutch collective settlement act confirm this trend.
The article then analyzes the vehicles by which to address regulatory mismatches. Here, too, the US experience is instructive, underscoring both the centrality and the limitations of the two vehicles by which to achieve a kind of de facto, informal governance: the principles for transnational claim preclusion and the latitude available for private contracts to shift disputes from litigation to arbitration.
Keywords: class actions, aggregate litigation, group litigation, Royal Dutch Shell settlement, Vivendi securities litigation, preclusion, arbitration, CAFA, comparative procedure, American exceptionalism, European civil procedure
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