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Trans Pacific Partnerships’ major problem – Investor-State Dispute Settlements

the easiest way to fix ISDS is to throw it out. Several countries, including India,Indonesia and Ecuador, have told their trade partners they’re considering terminating bilateral treaties because of ISDS. Some experts question whether the system is necessary even in the situations it was originally designed for
 
texy-TPPThe Big Problem With The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Super highly-recommendedCourt That We’re Not Talking About,
Huffington Post, David Dayen Financiers will use it to bet on lawsuits, while taxpayers foot the bill. August 30, 2016 A secretive super-court system called ISDS is threatening to blow up President Barack Obama’s highest foreign policy priority.

Investor-state dispute settlement — an integral part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal — allows companies to sue entire countries for costing them money when laws or regulations change. Cases are decided by extrajudicial tribunals composed of three corporate lawyers. Buzzfeed, in a multi-part investigation launched Sunday, called it “the court that rules the world.”

 Although the ISDS process has existed for years, TPP would drastically expand it. The most common criticisms of the system are that it’s secret, that it’s dominated by unaccountable big-firm lawyers, and that global corporations use it to change sovereign laws and undermine regulations. That’s all true.
 But here’s what most of the coverage and the critics are missing.

The ISDS system ― which is now written into over 3,000 international trade treaties, including NAFTA ― was designed to solve a specific problem. When corporations invest abroad, they fear that their factories might be nationalized or their products expropriated by governments that also control the local courts. ISDS is meant to give companies confidence that if a country seizes their accounts or factories, they’ll have a fair, neutral place to appeal.

 But instead of helping companies resolve legitimate disputes over seized assets, ISDS has increasingly become a way for rich investors to make money by speculating on lawsuits, winning huge awards and forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.

Here’s how it works: Wealthy financiers with idle cash have purchased companies that are well placed to bring an ISDS claim, seemingly for the sole purpose of using that claim to make a buck. Sometimes, they set up shell corporations to create the plaintiffs to bring ISDS cases. And some hedge funds and private equity firms bankroll ISDS cases as third parties — just like billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against Gawker Media.

It’s the same playbook that hedge funds were following when they bought up Argentine, Puerto Rican and other U.S. housing debt for pennies on the dollar. As The Huffington Post reported in May, the financiers were betting they could use lawsuits and lobbying to influence the political system in favor of the creditors like them and reap huge rewards.

Indeed, the damage of ISDS goes far beyond the money that investors manage to extract from public coffers and extends to the corruption of a political system by investors who buy off scholars, economists and politicians in pursuit of whatever policy outcome leads to a payoff. And there’s nothing stopping plutocrats with agendas that go beyond profit-making from getting involved ― again the way Thiel did with Gawker. That alone changes the power dynamic: If you’re the government of Thailand, the billionaire you’re negotiating with has one extra threat at his disposal.

If these investors are able to cement ISDS as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the opportunities for hedge funds to do what they’ve already done to Argentina will be endless ― possibly even in cities and states under financial pressure in the U.S., like Detroit and Illinois.

So-called third-party funding of “international arbitration against foreign sovereigns” has been expanding quickly, according to Selvyn Seidel, a pioneer in the litigation finance industry and now CEO of the advisory firm Fulbrook Capital Management.

“You can get an award for billions of dollars when that award would never come out in domestic law,” said Gus van Harten, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. “It’s just a jackpot for speculators.”……….

Third-party funding shields corporations from the upfront costs of litigation, making it easier to sue. Since companies generally don’t have to disclose that they’ve received third-party funding for an ISDS case, and since international arbitration usually proceeds in comparative secrecy, pursuing a claim through ISDS can shield companies from the public criticism that accompanies challenging a law in regular courts. “You can actually ask for enormous amounts of money without anybody criticizing you,” said Verheecke of Corporate Europe Observatory.

With ISDS permitted under some 3,000 treaties, there are a huge number of opportunities to sue. And “unlike some other legal systems, the default remedy is a cash payment,” said Todd Tucker, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute with a decade of experience researching trade and investment policy. The awards are also uncapped, meaning they can be enormous. If a corporation sought damages on future profits in perpetuity and the arbitrators agreed, the sovereign would have no recourse. Dozens of cases have resulted in awards of over $100 million, according to a 2016 report from van Harten, the law professor.

Those possibilities have the ISDS claim-financing industry booming. Hedge funds, private equity firms and institutional investors are flocking to fund lawsuits as they would any other speculative asset, according to experts in the field. And the lack of transparency means that lawyers acting as arbitrators or advocates in one case could be unnamed investors in other cases, and nobody would ever know.

Defenders of ISDS argue that the outcome of any case is uncertain and that companies win only about one-quarter of the time. But that’s only the cases that have been publicly identified and it doesn’t include settlements, where the corporation can also extract a monetary award. If funding ISDS suits was really such a bad bet, the industry probably wouldn’t be expanding so quickly.

Fulbrook Capital Management’s primer on the litigation finance industry, updated this year, includes a section entitled “International, the name of the game.” It lists numerous big-city hubs for arbitration: London, New York, Paris, Toronto. About ISDS in particular, the primer reads, “Investment claims against Sovereigns are often subject to Treaty and, within the Treaty, subject to arbitration. This promotes investments. … While investors are known to shy away from financing claims in ‘third world’ courts, particularly claims against the host court’s sovereign, they view international arbitration in a far more favorable light.”

Between 2009 and 2015, rulings in 16 ISDS cases have noted the existence of third-party funding, according to a report from Jean-Christophe Honlet, a partner at the global law firm Dentons. But the scale of third-party funding for ISDS cases is probably significantly larger than that number suggests. The International Council for Commercial Arbitration suggests that at least 60 percent of ISDS cases “enquired about (but not necessarily sought or obtained) third-party funding before their cases were lodged.” Just this month, Canadian gold mining company Rusoro won a $1.2 billion claim against Venezuela that was “third-party funded,” according to Global Arbitration Review………..

Giving financiers the ability to extract taxpayer dollars from around the globe transfers wealth upwards. It’s another way the rich get richer by accessing tools unavailable to most citizens. That has massive follow-on effects for economic and political power worldwide, including right here in the U.S.

Now, upcoming trade agreements would dramatically expand this system. Public Citizen estimates that 9,000 new companies would gain ISDS rights to sue the United States under TPP alone. That’s 9,000 new opportunities for financiers to reach down into state and local coffers, in addition to the federal government, to grab cash. TPP would also expand the “minimum standard of treatment” clause, which sets up the most flexible type of ISDS claim, to cover financial services companies, meaning almost any change in the expected future profits of a bank could be challenged. “TPP was a win for the banks on ISDS,” said van Harten, the law professor……..

the easiest way to fix ISDS is to throw it out. Several countries, including India,Indonesia and Ecuador, have told their trade partners they’re considering terminating bilateral treaties because of ISDS. Some experts question whether the system is necessary even in the situations it was originally designed for……http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/isds-lawsuit-financing-tpp_us_57c48e40e4b09cd22d91f660

September 12, 2016 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, Legal, politics, USA

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