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Shell Settles ATCA Nigeria Suit

Despite a victory by American Chevron Corp. in a similar case, Royal Dutch Shell (a foreign corporation) has settled an Alien Tort Claims Act suit for $15,500,000. The settlement admits no responsibility, as usual, but nonetheless represents a striking victory for attorneys who had sued a foreign corporation in US courts for actions allegedly committed abroad.

The suit, scheduled to be heard before a jury and Judge Kimba Wood in U.S. District Court in New York, claimed that Shell had colluded with Nigeria's former military government to silence environmental activists in the country's oil-producing Ogoni region, resulting in the execution by hanging of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and six others.

The act lay almost dormant until June 30, 1980, when the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. courts had jurisdiction over a case where the international norm that was violated was the prohibition on torture in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 630 F.2d 876 (1980).

Plaintiffs have never taken an ATCA claim to a jury and prevailed, though several settlements like this one have intervened.

Here's the WSJ report of the settlement.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.