Golden Gate University Law Review


Pauline Abadie


Part I of this Comment provides a general background highlighting the tentacular role that multinational corporations play in our "globalized" world. Part I also stresses the link between extractive industries, environmental destruction and human rights violations, and uses three cases recently brought in U.S. federal courts against multinational corporations to illustrate such linkages. Part II provides general background information regarding the ATCA, its application and circumstances of its passage. Most important, Part II discusses the general opacity surrounding the birth of the ATCA and concludes that such nebulous origins contributed to the confusion practitioners meet today in its application. Part III analyzes the various hurdles met by plaintiffs in order to bring a successful claim. Various policy pressures militate against finding for the plaintiffs so that much time is spent fighting on doctrinal, constitutional and procedural grounds to the detriments of the merits of the claim. Part IV proves that a minimum standard of environmental protection in international law exists and constitutes a binding customary principle. This part focuses on the principle of prohibition of significant transboundary environmental harm. Governments and citizens in developed countries can find a substantial interest in the recognition of this principle because making profit from weak environmental regulations has shown to be dangerously shortsighted. Finally, the conclusion emphasizes the extreme importance of the ATCA, as the only legal tool existing so far to scrutinize MNCs' activities abroad.