Date: 15 Junes 2015
Author: Claire Provost and Matt Kennard
Fifty years ago, an international legal system was created to protect the rights of foreign investors. Today, as companies win billions in damages, insiders say it has got dangerously out of control
Luis Parada’s office is just four blocks from the White House, in the heart of K Street, Washington’s lobbying row – a stretch of steel and glass buildings once dubbed the “road to riches”, when influence-peddling became an American growth industry. Parada, a soft-spoken 55-year-old from El Salvador, is one of a handful of lawyers in the world who specialise in defending sovereign states against lawsuits lodged by multinational corporations. He is the lawyer for the defence in an obscure but increasingly powerful field of international law – where foreign investors can sue governments in a network of tribunals for billions of dollars.
Fifteen years ago, Parada’s work was a minor niche even within the legal business. But since 2000, hundreds of foreign investors have sued more than half of the world’s countries, claiming damages for a wide range of government actions that they say have threatened their profits. In 2006, Ecuador cancelled an oil-exploration contract with Houston-based Occidental Petroleum; in 2012, after Occidental filed a suit before an international investment tribunal, Ecuador was ordered to pay a record $1.8bn – roughly equal to the country’s health budget for a year. (Ecuador has logged a request for the decision to be annulled.) Continue reading The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries