Sailors exposed to Fukushima radiation one step closer to justice, Beyond Nuclear, 23 Oct 16 Lawyers for U.S. sailors suffering illnesses associated with radiation exposure from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe presented oral arguments before the 9th circuit court in Pasadena, CA in September. This follows two victories before the district federal court in San Diego, CA and two legal appeals by TEPCO who is being sued for compensation in this first-of-its-kind case. Determination in this case is expected within 60 days.
According to Nuclear Hotseat, present at the arguments, the sailors are experiencing a number of health impacts including, leukemia, ulcers, gall bladder removal, brain cancers and tumors, testicular cancers, thyroid illnesses, stomach complaints, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, and still births and birth defects among their children. A number of these maladies are rare for the sailors’ age and condition, and were not present before the relief operation Tomadachi, undertaken by the U.S. in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in Japan. According to statements at a press conference, filmed here by Ecological Options Network, seven people have already died including a child who was riddled with tumors. The number of sailors in the lawsuit is currently 400 and additional plantiffs continue coming forward.
Radiation diseases are so complex, the Veterans Administration cannot figure out how to treat many of the ill. As a result, they are often diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), which is a catchall meaning they don’t know what the malady is. This type of unclear diagnosis also occurred after the atomic bomb explosions (bura-bura disease) and after the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown(vegetative distonia).
Lawyers for the sailors say any delay in the case is a delay of justice and proper health resources for these radiation-affected people. It’s been about 4 years already since the suit began and only judicial and legal wrangling has been undertaken in court. Specifics of the catastrophe, exposure scenarios and health information has not been allowed as of yet. According to plantiffs’ lawyers, this is a ploy by TEPCO to keep case from being heard………http://www.beyondnuclear.org/radiation-health-whats-new/2016/10/6/uss-reagan-sailors-one-step-closer-to-justice.html
Dairyland Power gets major compensation for radioactive trash from its nuclear reactor that closed in 1987
Feds to pay Dairyland $73.5 million in nuclear settlementDairyland Power has reached a major settlement with the U.S. Department of Energy over nuclear waste stored from its former nuclear reactor located at the La Crosse Boiling Water Reactor in Genoa.
Amy Goodman showed us the perils of standing up to the fossil fuel industry https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/18/amy-goodman-perils-standing-up-fossil-fuel-industry
The rights of activists and journalists are under threat wherever communities challenge Big Oil – in North Dakota and beyond. For far too long, the world had been ignoring the North Dakota anti-pipelines protests. Then the Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman captured private security forces (employed by a fossil fuel company)sicking dogs on Native Americans during a peaceful demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which encroaches on their sacred lands and waters. For that, she nearly went to jail.
The video made Goodman a target of North Dakota authorities, who brought charges of trespassing and rioting against her and the native leaders on the ground during the dog attack. Yes, a journalist was threatened with punishment for reporting on the horrific attack on indigenous people.
Authorities said Goodman didn’t deserve press protections because her opinions made her an “activist” instead of a journalist. Are we to punish every journalist who calls out state violence as he or she sees it? How could you not have an opinion in the face of such brutality? Should Walter Cronkite have gone to prison for his words about Vietnam?
Clearly not. Organizations defending freedom of the press decried the charges against Goodman. Activists like ourselves rallied behind her cause online because we understand the importance of a free press to social change. And on Monday, a North Dakota judge dropped the charges due to lack of probable cause.
It’s a win for freedom of the press, but intimidation by the fossil fuel industry and its government allies is far from over. Native leaders at the Standing Rock camps know this all too well, as they continue to face arrests by North Dakota police and pressure by Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline.
There’s no question that Goodman’s fearless reporting helped make this act of brutality a turning point in the fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Soon after her broadcast, the Obama administration stepped in and paused the project until there could be “further consultation” of indigenous peoples. Suddenly, TV news and the mainstream media took up the story in a serious way for the first time. Thousands of more people headed out to the camp.
The trampling of our rights as activists, or as journalists, isn’t just a problem in North Dakota. It’s also a fight that’s playing out around the world wherever communities stand up to the fossil fuel industry and other corporate interests destroying our communities and climate.
We see it in the murder of activists like Berta Cáceres in Honduras. We see it in the Philippines, where anti-mining activists are being murdered by paramilitary groups. According to a report by Global Witness, 185 environmental activists in 16 countries were killed last year and the number is just going up.
Despite this violence, the movement to challenge the fossil fuel industry has continued to grow more powerful, and we’re not backing down. As the work to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline continues, I’m honored to stand in solidarity with the incredible Native American leaders at Standing Rock who are putting their bodies on the line to shut this destructive project down. The photos and videos of their brave actions have become lightning rods, channeling tremendous new energy into this movement. This is a historic fight unfolding in real time.
The images of resistance at Standing Rock are a call to action. We cannot let the rights of indigenous peoples be sidelined by the fossil fuel industry, and we can’t afford another pipeline if we want to maintain a livable planet.
We also must fiercely defend the rights of activists and journalists alike to tell stories like these, stories that often unfold in sacrifice zones far from the “halls of power”, and to tell them fairly and honestly. This won’t be the last fight against a pipeline and Amy Goodman won’t be the last journalist brought to court for reporting about the fossil fuel industry. The struggle continues, together.
Energy industry coalition sues NY PSC over nuclear subsidies Reuters 19 Oct 16 An energy industry coalition including competitive non-nuclear electricity producers sued on Wednesday to oppose a plan to subsidize nuclear power plants in New York State.
The lawsuit in federal court said the New York Public Service Commission’s (PSC) plan to raise electric rates across the state by requiring consumers to pay for zero emission credits (ZECs), infringes illegally into federal regulators’ territory.
The coalition said in a statement that the litigation was “solely to save several New York nuclear plants that, allegedly, can no longer compete successfully in the federally-regulated wholesale electric power market.”…..Coalition members opposed to the nuclear subsidies include units of Dynegy Inc and NRG Energy Inc. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-new-york-nuclear-idUSKCN12J2N2
When the law really IS an ass – International Court of Justice rejects Marshall Islands’ nuclear weapons case
Nuclear Standoff, CounterPunch, OCTOBER 14, 2016 “…………the Republic of the Marshall Islands has lost its case in the International Court of Justice. On a technicality, no less! Phon van den Biesen, lead attorney for the tiny island nation, which had sued the world’s nine nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — to begin real nuclear disarmament negotiations, said the case was dismissed earlier this month on a “micro formality,” which in my layman’s grasp of the matter might be called, instead, a desperate legal cop out.
JOHN PILGER – Breaking The Silence – 2016
The ICJ’s dissenting judges (in the case against Great Britain, the verdict to dismiss was 9-7, against India and Pakistan it was 8-8), expressed as much incredulity as I did on hearing the news.
The Marshall Islands lawsuits (a second suit was also filed, specifically against the United States, in U.S. federal court, and is still pending) demanded compliance with Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, signed by the U.S. in 1970, which reads: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
“General and complete disarmament — do these words actually have meaning?” I asked last January. “Right now the Marshall Islands stand alone among the nations of Planet Earth in believing that they do.”
This tiny nation of islands and atolls — this former U.S. territory — with a population of about 70,000, was the scene of 67 nuclear test blasts in the 1950s, back when bigger was better. Some people’s homes were destroyed for eternity. The islanders suffered ghastly and often lethal levels of radiation and were essentially regarded, by their U.S. overlords, as human guinea pigs — a fantastic opportunity to study the effects of nuclear fallout. Eventually, the U.S. atoned for its destruction by paying the Republic of the Marshall Islands a pathetic $150 million “for all claims, past, present and future.”
Now this nation is trying to save the rest of the planet by insisting that nuclear disarmament negotiations must get underway.
In a dissenting opinion, ICJ Judge Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade of Brazil lamented that the world needed to recognize the “prevalence of human conscience” over national interests.
As Rick Wayman of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation pointed out, of the ICJ justices who voted not to hear the case on its merits, six were from nuclear-armed nations (the U.S., Russia, China, France, Great Britain and India) and the other two from nations (Japan, Italy) “deeply invested in the U.S. ‘nuclear umbrella.’”
The nations of the dissenting judges included Brazil, Somalia, Jamaica, Australia and Morocco…….. The human conscience is dismissed on a technicality……. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/14/nuclear-standoff/
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson says more than 50 workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have been exposed to toxic vapors and the “culture of indifference to worker safety must end.”
From January through July, Hanford workers reported suspicious smells or symptoms that indicate exposure to chemical vapors, according to The Tri-City Herald. ( http://bit.ly/2dVsCtf )
U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas Rice in Spokane heard arguments on the safety issue and the federal agency’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Rice said he would rule at a later date.
Lawyers for the Energy Department have argued in motions that the state lacks standing to bring the lawsuit. Hanford Challenge, an advocacy group, and the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 598 are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The agency has said the plaintiffs in the case have not shown harm to Hanford workers from vapors. It has argued that symptoms like headaches are common and don’t necessarily indicate exposure to vapors.
The state called that claim astounding.
The trial for the case is set for Sept. 18, 2017, but Ferguson said workers can’t wait that long to have a safe workplace.
The injunction would force the agency and its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, to provide supplied air for all workers within certain areas. The state also seeks the installation of additional monitoring and alarm equipment to warn workers when toxic vapors are being emitted.
Hanford’s 177 underground storage tanks contain more than 50 million gallons of toxic waste, the byproducts of decades of plutonium production, Ferguson said in a statement. Over a few days in late April and May, at least 48 workers were exposed to vapors from the tanks, and more were exposed in June.
The longterm effects are not known, he said.
Marshall Islands nuclear arms lawsuit thrown out by UN’s top court, Guardian, 6 Oct 16
Pacific atoll took India, Pakistan and Britain to international court of justice arguing they had failed to honour non-proliferation treaty The UN’s highest court has narrowly thrown out landmark cases brought by theMarshall Islands against India, Pakistan and Britain for allegedly failing to halt the nuclear arms race.
In majority and sharply divided decisions a 16-judge bench at the international court of justice (ICJ) ruled there was no evidence that the islands’ government had a prior dispute with any of the three nuclear powers or had sought negotiations on the issue.
“The court upholds the objection to jurisdiction” raised by each of the countries, presiding judge Ronny Abraham said in separate rulings, and therefore the tribunal “cannot proceed to the merits of the case”.
The Pacific island republic, population 55,000, was ground zero for a string of devastating nuclear tests on its pristine atolls between 1946-58, carried out by the United States as the cold war arms race gathered pace.
After the hearings the Marshalls government said it would “study the ruling”, which is final and without avenue of appeal……..https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/06/marshall-islands-nuclear-arms-lawsuit-thrown-out-by-uns-top-court
PARIS AGREEMENT TO ENTER INTO FORCE IN A MONTH Historic climate treaty passes both thresholds The Climate Group 6 Oct 16 LONDON: Today, the Paris Agreement has officially passed the necessary threshold to begin the process for its official entry into force – meaning the Agreement will officially enter into force globally in a month’s time. In doing so, it will become the first comprehensive climate agreement that commits all countries to taking climate action with the goal of keeping global warming “well below” the 2 degrees Celsius limit.
“Much like the adoption of the Paris Agreement itself in December last year, the entry into force of the treaty is a truly historic moment,” comments Damian Ryan, acting CEO, The Climate Group. “Few international agreements have entered into force at such speed and arguably none have been so important to our common future as the Paris Agreement.
“The decision by many world leaders to act quickly and boldly over the past 10 months is to be applauded. Thanks should also go to the business leaders as well as politicians in state and regional governments whose actions and policies, such as committing to 100% renewable power, have helped create the momentum and political belief that a better, safer and more prosperous world can be created through bold climate action.”
A LONG JOURNEY
The first paragraph of article 21 in the Agreement states that it will enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which it passes its twin thresholds – namely, when at least 55 parties to the UNFCCC, accounting for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with the UN. Or in less technical terms, when more than half of the world has ratified the climate deal.
In April, 175 political leaders signed the Agreement in a record-breaking signing ceremony organized in New York. The event built on the climate momentum generated by Paris, but many underlined that signing was just the first step of a much longer journey: there was still the more complicated ratification process, where countries discuss the issue internally and then formally commit to the agreement with a document presented to the UN.
However, just last month, US and China – the two biggest emitters in the world, accounting for about 40% of global carbon emissions – officially ratified the Paris climate agreement, spurring an unstoppable momentum toward the goal of 55% of world’s emissions. Last Sunday, India – the world’s fourth biggest emitter, responsible for 4% of emissions – also ratified the climate deal.
“This is a momentous occasion,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “What once seemed unthinkable, is now unstoppable. Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is a testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation, grounded in national action, is essential to meet the climate challenge.”
Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, commented: “Above all, entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The Paris Agreement will entry into force on November 4, just before the Conference of the Parties in Marrakech (COP22), where political leaders will discuss how to implement the ambitious goals set in Paris………https://www.theclimategroup.org/news/paris-agreement-enter-force-month
The suit, filed by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), is significant because it is the first to allege that a private company is violating the Clean Water Act and hazardous waste laws by failing to adequately prepare for climate change impacts such as sea level rise and stormwater runoff from increased instances of heavy rainfall events.
According to the suit — filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts — the Exxon facility in Everett, Massachusetts, just to the northwest of Boston, has a stormwater drainage system that is easily overrun during extreme precipitation events, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change.
The suit contends that climate change-fed heavy rainfall is flooding the facility, which emits harmful contaminants into a tributary of the Mystic River in violation of the facility’s permit.
The reporting revealed that instead of incorporating the risks into its planning and being transparent about them, the company chose to fund climate denial groups and withhold its research from shareholders.
The reporting has sparked a public campaign against Exxon, known together with the reporting by the hashtag #ExxonKnew………
The lawsuit could pave the way for many more similar legal actions, and not just against Exxon, but other oil and gas companies too.
“America’s coastlines are dotted with oil and chemical tanks and other facilities that are at risk from rising seas.” http://mashable.com/2016/09/29/exxon-knew-lawsuit-massachusetts/#rjmvgqrODuq7
US trade negotiators are now working to include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in as many new treaties as possible, including both of the massive new free trade deals coming down the pike. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Obama signed in February 2016 and which Congress will likely ratify before he leaves office, already includes ISDS.
The Secret Tribunals That Corporations Use to Sue Countries, Moyers and company
These ad hoc courts are a main reason why so many politicians and activists are against trade agreements like the TPP. BY HALEY EDWARDS | SEPTEMBER 19, 2016 THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE NEWLY PUBLISHED BOOK SHADOW COURTS: THE TRIBUNALS THAT RULE GLOBAL TRADE BY HALEY EDWARDS.
The environmental activist Jane Kleeb was driving down Highway 281 near Lincoln, Nebraska, on a gray day in January 2016, when she got a call from a reporter.
At the time, Kleeb was still riding high off of her success organizing local farmers, ranchers and environmentalists in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have carried petroleum products from Canada’s tar sands across the Nebraska plains to the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to her and other activists’ efforts, President Barack Obama had announced in November 2015 that his administration would deny the Canadian company TransCanada permission to move forward with the project, ending an eight-year-long effort to get the pipeline built.
The reporter was calling to ask Kleeb about a new twist in the saga. Earlier that day, TransCanada had announced it was suing the US government for $15 billion on the grounds that Obama’s decision to block the project violated the North American Free Trade Agreement. It was the first Kleeb had heard of the suit. “I’m an organizer, so my reaction was, ‘When are the hearings? Where is this happening? Who’s the judge?’” she said recently. If TransCanada was challenging the decision in court, she wanted to be there. Could she protest on the courthouse steps? Arrange for a rally in a nearby town?
But that, Kleeb learned, was not how this case would go down. TransCanada wasn’t suing the US in a US court, or in a Canadian court for that matter. Its argument would not be heard by a judge, and the merits of the case would not be considered under the auspices of either country’s legal system. There would be no protest on any courthouse steps. Instead, the case would be heard by a tribunal, manned by three private arbitrators, operating under a supranational legal system that Kleeb had never heard of. “It was totally strange,” she told me. “A foreign company can sue us in some secret tribunal? How is that even possible?”
Investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, first appeared in treaties in 1969. The idea behind the mechanism was straightforward: If a foreign investor believed that his host country — the nation where his company was operating had violated an international treaty by seizing or destroying his factories, oil fields or other assets, he could file an ISDS claim directly against that country. He could do that without involving his own government and without having to wait endlessly for a developing country’s corrupt or biased court system to dispense judgment……..
ISDS was supposed to be a cool, efficient and apolitical dispute resolution system that kept powerful nations from interfering in the affairs of weaker countries, and that offered an extra layer of protection for foreign investors operating in countries with unreliable courts. But in the last 20 years, the mechanism has quietly changed, evolving into something much more powerful — and very political indeed……..
That modern interpretation has only cropped up in the last 20 years, but it has opened up a vast new gray area. Where ISDS claims were once about seized oil fields and bulldozed factories, now they are about tax increases and environmental regulations. Where is the line between a government’s right to regulate in the public interest and a foreign corporation’s claim to its own property?
US trade negotiators are now working to include ISDS in as many new treaties as possible, including both of the massive new free trade deals coming down the pike. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Obama signed in February 2016 and which Congress will likely ratify before he leaves office, already includes ISDS. Whether the mechanism will be inserted into the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, linking the US and Europe, is a subject of controversy…….http://billmoyers.com/story/shadow-courts-secret-tribunals-trade/
Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) said today that it has started legal action against the same company which is supplying two nuclear reactors to Hinkley Point C. City A.M. Jessica Morris, 29 Sep 16
It’s taking Areva to court over delays at Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor in Finland. The project, which was supposed to showcase EDF and its engineering partner Areva’s EPR technology, has been plagued by disputes, budget overuns and delays
A TVO spokesman told Reuters that it had not received assurances from plant supplier Areva that the Olkiluoto project would have the necessary resources to be ready to begin power production by 2018 as planned.
“We have asked for this several times but have not received the necessary assurances,” said Pasi Tuohimaa, spokesman for TVO, adding that the case was filed in a French commercial court…….http://www.cityam.com/250284/finnish-firm-takes-hinkley-point-c-nuclear-reactor-maker
Activists seek to bar plan by South African government to expand nuclear power http://af.reuters.com/article/southAfricaNews/idAFJ8N1BD01Z CAPE TOWN, Sept 22 (Reuters) – Activist groups are challenging a plan by South Africa’s government to expand the country’s nuclear power generation capacity on the grounds that the process was unconstitutional, they said on Thursday.
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute said in a statement that the High Court in Cape Town would hear their case on Dec. 13 and 14 this year to block plans to add 9.6 gigawatts of nuclear power. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia)
Liberals, Conservatives reimburse illegal SNC-Lavalin donations, ROBERT FIFE AND DANIEL LEBLANC OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail, Sep. 08, 2016 The federal Liberal and Conservative parties were forced to reimburse the government after the commissioner of elections found they had received $117,803 in illegal donations from SNC-Lavalin’s political slush fund.
The unlawful contributions span from March, 2004, to May, 2011, and showcase how dirty money that funded Quebec political parties also found a home in the federal arena.
The Liberal Party received the bulk of the illegal donations from the Quebec engineering giant, amounting to $109,615, while the Conservatives got $8,187. As part of its reimbursement, the Liberal Party covered $12,529 in donations that SNC-Lavalin gave in 2006 to the leadership campaigns of Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Stéphane Dion and Gerard Kennedy.
The Commissioner of Canada Elections, Yves Côté, announced Thursday morning that the company had signed a compliance agreement with the federal agency and committed to put in place a series of steps to ensure it does not make illegal donations in the future.
SNC-Lavalin has already admitted it made more than $1-million in illegal donations to Quebec political parties during the 2000s. Like other engineering firms in the province, managers and family members made personal donations to parties, which were then reimbursed with salary bonuses.
A commission of inquiry found that officials inside the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois were aware of SNC-Lavalin’s political slush fund, although there is no evidence the federal political parties knew the donations were illegal.
The Liberal Party said it was informed of the illegal donations by the Commissioner of Canada Elections last month, and immediately reimbursed the Chief Electoral Officer……….
An elections commissioner investigation found that senior SNC-Lavalin executives illegally donated $83,534 to the Liberal Party of Canada; $13,552 to various Liberal riding associations; $12,529 to contestants involved in the 2006 Liberal leadership race; $3,137 to the Conservative Party; and $5,050 to Conservative riding associations………
Facing the threat of getting barred from future federal contracts, SNC-Lavalin signed an “administrative agreement” last year with the Public Services and Procurement Department under the government’s new integrity regime. The agreement allows companies that have federal charges pending against them to continue to contract with or supply the government. As part of the deal, SNC agreed to strict conditions and third-party oversight of its business practices. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/snc-lavalin-violated-elections-act-with-contributions-to-liberals-tories/article31762290/?cmpid=rss1&click=sf_globe
The Big Problem With The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Super Court 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.”
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.
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
EDF representatives file legal challenge in France over Hinkley Point Five union members in France are seeking to annul decision on £18bn project to build nuclear reactors, Guardian, Angelique Chrisafis in Paris . Tensions over Britain’s proposed nuclear power station at Hinkley Point have flared again in France as five worker representatives on the board of the French power company EDF filed a challenge to overturn the company’s controversial decision to build the nuclear reactors.
The employee representatives believe EDF’s chief executive “did not communicate crucial information about a major project” he was aware of before the 28 July meeting at which the board of directors approved the £18bn project to build Britain’s first new nuclear reactors in decades, their law firm told Agence France-Presse.
The five union board members have filed a complaint with the Paris commercial court seeking to annul the decision because the Jean-Bernard Levy had not shared essential information with all board members.
The complaint also protests against the participation of several directors “with conflicts of interests”, according to the law firm Alain Levy. The challenge claims that some of the EDF board members who voted in favour of Hinkley Point represent companies that are EDF customers and could benefit from the UK contract. French firms Bouygues and Vallourec have denied that members of their boards who are also on the board of EDF had a conflict of interest in their Hinkley Point vote………
The nuclear reactors carry huge risks for both France and Britain. EDF will assume the upfront costs, which unions say could jeopardise the firm’s survival, while Britain has committed to pay a price twice current market levels for the power generated by the plant……..
A date for a Paris court hearing should be set on 5 September.
EDF is also being sued by its Works Council, which also wants to annul the vote because it argues it had not received the necessary documents from management to give non-binding preliminary advice to the company. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/31/edf-representatives-file-legal-challenge-in-france-over-hinkley-point
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