Judging Corporate Accountability in the Global Economy


As foreign victims and human rights advocates increasingly turn to U.S. courts to hold multinational corporations accountable for violations of international law and related abuses arising from their global operations, an international clash of jurisdictions is intensifying. The growing role of U.S. courts in defining standards of corporate conduct in the global economy represents a direct challenge to U.S. foreign policy leadership. But legislative, judicial or even executive efforts to restrict access to relief in the United States are neither wise nor effective policy, this Essay argues. Rather, U.S. policy makers should recognize that U.S. national interests are advanced by corporate accountability in the global economy. They should seek to leverage what will be an inevitable litigation to advance these interests. The Essay identifies three pillars on which a U.S. strategy to promote accountability should be based. First, the U.S. should encourage local accountability and promote resolution of disputes in the jurisdictions where alleged abuses have occurred. Second, U.S. policy should create soft law “safe harbors” to shield companies that take effective action to prevent abuses or correct them when they are discovered. Finally, the United States should support the development of multilateral efforts to create accountability, with the experience of the OECD Bribery Convention as a model.