Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum: Beyond the Alien Tort Statute—Broadly Extending the Presumption Against the Extraterritorial Reach of US Law
Since the Second Circuit decided Filártiga v. Pena-Irala in 1980, plaintiffs have deployed the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS") to great effect against multinational corporations. The statute—which had lain dormant since 1789—has for the past 30 years allowed non-US plaintiffs to hale non-US and US companies into federal court for alleged wrongs in violation of the "law of nations." Often involving claims of significant human rights violations, including torture and mass atrocities, these cases posed enormous financial and reputational risk to defendants. With the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, those days now may be over—but with much broader ramifications than many would have imagined.