Transactional Liability and Global Corporate Governance: Some Recent Developments


Corporate Governance - International Journal for Enhancing Board Performance

2003, vol. 3, n°2, pp.8-11

Départements : Droit et fiscalité

ln the absence of a commonly accepted zone where corporate governance principles and international norms overlap, foreign direct liability suits against multinational corporations (MNCs) have long been presented as a promising means to impose minimum. corporate governance standards worldwide. Throughout the past decades, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and public interest lawyers have initiated a series of lawsuits against corporate parents in their home countries, for damages caused via their affiliates in developing countries, in areas as diverse as environment, personal injuries or human rights. To date, this strategy bas achieved mixed results. Foreign direct liability suits have been limited in number, and typically confined to common law countries (V.S, U.K, Canada, Australia). As a result, corporate headquarters remain less concerned by these lawsuits' legal implications than by the press attention they receive. This situation is now changing, however. Due to a growing "criminalisation" of corporate liability, that is, a shift from tort law to criminal law, continental European courts have started offering altogether alternative and complementary venues for foreign direct liability suits. Using the recent ex ample of the pending criminal lawsuits against TotalFinaElf in France and in Belgium, this paper argues that this evolution - and the potential for forum shopping it entails - should bring some flesh to the notion of global corporate governance.