Barack Obama’s former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal recently argued before the Supreme Court, advocating for U.S. corporates to not be punishable for “aiding and abetting” child slavery.
Katyal, who is a staunch critic of President Trump and author of Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump, argued that if an American corporation aids and abets child slavery in a foreign country, its victims cannot sue the company in an American court.
Advocating on behalf of companies Nestle and Cargill, Katyal’s case focused on a class-action lawsuit filed by six citizens of Mali, allegedly trafficked to the Ivory Coast between the ages of 12 and 14.
“Once there, they were allegedly forced to work on cocoa plantations for no pay and little food. They say they were regularly whipped and tortured by overseers who routinely inflicted sadistic punishments. One plaintiff tried and failed to escape; when he was caught, his overseers allegedly cut the soles of his feet, rubbed chile pepper into the wounds, then tied him to a tree and beat him until he sustained severe, permanent injuries,” summaries of the case note.
In response, Katyal proposed that all corporations should be shielded from legal punishment for “aiding and abetting” child slavery, as the former slaves allege Nestle and Cargill “knew their suppliers enslaved children yet continued to provide financial and technical assistance to cocoa plantations.”
“The companies allegedly exerted substantial influence over the plantations to maintain the supply of cheap cocoa even after discovering human rights abuses,” summaries added.
Katyal attempted to broaden the immunity foreign corporations have from Alien Tort Statute (ATS) lawsuits, arguing to expand the immunity, which would allow foreigners to sue over violations of international law, to American corporations. In effect, no corporations, foreign or domestic, could ever be sued under the statute.
He attempted to draw a distinction between “allowing” and “aiding and abetting” child slavery”
First: Clarence Thomas (!) asks Katyal, isn’t there an international norm allowing corporate liability for slavery?
Katyal says: Well, this is just *aiding and abetting* slavery, so it’s different. pic.twitter.com/Tf72y4TKU7
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) December 1, 2020
Even conservative Justice Samuel Alito told Katyal, “your arguments lead to results that are pretty hard to take.”