Parent Companies Are Not Parents, Subsidiaries Are Not Children

Okpabi v Shell Judgment Puts the Brakes on the Expansion of Parent Company Liability for Damage Caused By Its Subsidiaries

A recent judgment of the England and Wales Court of Appeal addressed important jurisdictional questions in relation to a parent company’s liability for damages caused by its subsidiaries. The court did not rule on the merits of the claim; rather, it analysed the preliminary issue of whether UK courts have jurisdiction to hear such claims. In determining whether there is jurisdiction, however, the English court did have to examine substantive law issues. This makes the case of great interest to parent company liability, and, as parent company liability overlaps with supply chain liability, also to the latter. Continue reading “Parent Companies Are Not Parents, Subsidiaries Are Not Children”

Swiss Referendum on Implementing Supply Chain Liability

a post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp

Following a clear trend, Switzerland is now also considering proposals to hold  Swiss companies liable for environmental damage and human rights violations in their supply chains. Possibly inspired by the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, the Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice (SCCJ) launched the Responsible Business Initiative (“RBI”) in 2015. The RBI involves a citizens’ petition to amend the Swiss Federal Constitution to impose “appropriate due diligence” obligations on Swiss companies in  accordance with  their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles, along with liability for breaches by their subsidiaries. In response to the RBI, the Swiss Senate adopted a somewhat narrower, less ambitious proposal. Pursuant to Article 139 of the Federal Constitution, the Swiss people will be asked to vote on the RBI in a popular referendum

This post discusses the RBI and highlights the key differences between the RBI and the Senate proposal. First, the background to the RBI proposal is briefly reviewed. I will then turn to the procedural and substantive provisions of the RBI. Finally, the international private law aspects of the proposal will be analyzed. Continue reading “Swiss Referendum on Implementing Supply Chain Liability”

The EU Conflict Minerals Regulation: The Uncertain Effects of Supply Chain Due Diligence

On 17 May 2017, a new regulation on supply chain due diligence was published in the European Union’s Official Journal. The regulation, known as the “EU Conflict Minerals Regulation,” imposes obligations on EU importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold (“3TG”) originating from conflict-affected and high-risk areas. Armed groups engaged in mining operations in these regions are believed to violate human rights and to use the proceeds from the sale of conflict minerals to finance their militia. The regulation is intended to disrupt the financial flows and, thus, stop the human rights abuses. Continue reading “The EU Conflict Minerals Regulation: The Uncertain Effects of Supply Chain Due Diligence”

French Constitutional Council Permits Civil, But Not Criminal Enforcement of Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law

A post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp

On 23 March 2017, the Constitutional council of the French Republic ruled on the constitutionality of the recently adopted Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law (hereafter “Law”). The Constitutional council held that the obligation imposed by the Law to establish a vigilance plan and the enforcement mechanisms of formal notice and injunction are not in conflict with the Constitution. Likewise, the mechanism for holding a company responsible in case of non-compliance with the obligation to establish the vigilance plan is in conformity with the Constitution. With respect to the criminal enforcement of the Law, however, the Constitutional council did identify a constitutional problem

Continue reading “French Constitutional Council Permits Civil, But Not Criminal Enforcement of Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law”

Supply Chain Liability: The French Model

A post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp

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On 21 February 2017, the French Parliament adopted a law (the “Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law” or “Law”) that creates novel corporate supply chain liability. Specifically, the Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law imposes a duty of vigilance on large companies to prevent serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and serious environmental damage in their supply chain. In a previous post, I discussed the concept of supply chain liability. As I pointed out there, the concept had not been defined by law makers yet. The French legislature has now attempted to operationalize the concept through new legislation.

Continue reading “Supply Chain Liability: The French Model”

The Mystery of Corporate Social Responsibility In a Market Economy

A post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp

The topic of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is old, but still much debated. For a long time, the dominant view has been that corporations do not have social responsibility, but the tide appears to have changed. Recently, both governments and corporations have explicitly endorsed CSR. But how can corporations pursue the common good in a competitive market economy? Clearly, by providing employment, goods and services, and entering into various transactions, corporations advance welfare, but in what sense other than normal commercial behavior can they be “socially responsible”? Continue reading “The Mystery of Corporate Social Responsibility In a Market Economy”

Supply Chain Liability: a Primer

A post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp

Supply chain liability is the liability of a company for a harm caused by its business partners. Until recently, this was merely an academic theory. It no longer is: we are beginning to see court cases on supply chain liability, and more such claims will likely be filed. Continue reading “Supply Chain Liability: a Primer”