In its brief, the U.S. Chamber urged the Ninth Circuit to hold that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) does not permit the exercise of jurisdiction over claims against corporations based on their commercial relationships with foreign companies. Although the Chamber took no position on the factual allegations in this case, the Chamber’s brief made it clear that the Chamber unequivocally condemns forced labor practices. However, the question at issue in this case is not whether such wrongs occurred but rather it is whether private plaintiffs can stretch a U.S. statute beyond its explicit and intended scope. According to the Chamber's amicus brief, the plaintiffs’ legal theory effectively makes United States companies liable for their mere commercial relationships with foreign partners, which discourages essential investment in developing countries. The Chamber also argued that such liability places United States companies at a competitive disadvantage, and expansive assertions of jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute discourages foreign investment in the United States. Moreover, allowing ATS suits directed at corporations based on their lawful commercial activities overseas ensnares them in costly and damaging attacks on their reputations, and can expose U.S. companies to abusive, burdensome and diplomatically sensitive discovery.
Peter B. Rutledge of the University of Georgia served as co-counsel to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center.