Public Citizen | August 2023
Egregious corporate attacks on public interest policies
Many free trade and investment agreements allow multinational corporations to undermine democracy via a secret pseudo-court system known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Below are case studies of some of the most expensive and outrageous ISDS attacks on public health, environmental, and other critical policies.
WHAT IS ISDS?
Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) empowers multinational corporations to sue governments before panels of corporate lawyers.
These lawyers can award the corporations unlimited sums to be paid by taxpayers, including for the loss of expected future profits that the attorneys surmise the corporations would have earned if not for the challenged policy. The corporations need only convince the lawyers that a law, safety regulation, court ruling, or other government action violates the investors’ rights that an agreement enforced by ISDS grants them.
ISDS tribunals often make countries pay for tribunal costs even when dismissing corporate attacks, so the mere threat of a case has a chilling effect on domestic and international policies.
By elevating individual corporations to the same status as sovereign governments, ISDS drastically consolidates and formalizes corporate power.
Below are some of the most egregious ISDS attacks on public interest policies, but there are likely many more that we may never know about due to the secretive nature of ISDS.