Transnational Corporations and Human Rights (20648). 3 units. Apple’s use of child labor; Goldcorp's operations in Guatemala; the complicity of Dow Chemical/Union Carbide in the Bhopal chemical disaster; Shell’s involvement in the executions of activists protesting the company’s environmental and development policies in Nigeria. These are just a few examples of alleged corporate malfeasance that have emerged on the international stage.
The purpose of this seminar is to introduce students to the debate concerning the accountability of transnational corporations that are complicit in rights-violating activities. At the international level, there has been a striking new strategy in the protection of human rights: a transition from focusing solely on rights violations committed by governments to a detailed examination of transnational corporate conduct. Indeed, it has now become trite to say that particular corporations have directly or indirectly participated in violations of human rights.
To address the fundamental question of whether corporations should in fact be socially responsible, the seminar will begin with an introduction to corporate theory. Students will then explore some of the key issues in the debate. Namely, whether transnational corporations can properly be included under the international law of state responsibility; mechanisms for self-regulation (e.g., voluntary corporate codes of conduct); the utility of the U.S. Alien Tort Statute; the advantages and disadvantages of U.N. initiatives (e.g., the work of the former U.N. Special Representative on Business and Human Rights); and the relevance of domestic corporate and securities law mechanisms (e.g., shareholder proposals and social disclosure).
The course will provide a comparative analysis of the U.S. and Canadian experiences, in particular. Significant paper required. Enrollment limited to fifteen (eight YLS students and seven SOM students). Also MGT 661a. A. Dhir.
Note: No drops will be approved after the open add/drop period. Attendance at the first class meeting is required. The use of laptop computers (or other similar electronic note-taking devices) is not permitted. The course will follow the Law School calendar.