Huge corporations and the seriously wealthy will be the big winners from the controversial US-EU trade deal known as TTIP. That’s the implication of a new study which shows that billions of pounds have been won by giant companies like Mobil, EDF, Enron, Suez and Cargill, which have sued governments under similar treaties for taking action they believe to be ‘unfair’.
The most controversial element of TTIP is the ‘corporate court’ system, formally called ISDS. This system allows multinational corporations and other foreign ‘investors’ to sue governments for enacting regulation which damage their profits. Proponents argue that this offers investors, like small business, protection against ‘arbitrary’ government action.
But such corporate courts already exist in numerous other agreements and have allowed corporations to take action against many developing countries for freezing water and electricity prices, raising the minimum wage, introducing a sugar tax and putting health warnings on cigarette packages.
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Gus van Harten’s new report shows that the really big winners of these cases are, unsurprisingly, really big corporations (over $1 billion in annual revenue) and super rich individuals (over $100 million wealth). Almost 95% of all compensation awarded in the corporate court cases studied went to these groups.
The report also shows that the success rate of cases brought by such corporate giants is around 71% – far greater than the success rate of smaller companies and investors.
This means, as has often big argued, corporate courts act to redistribute income from the public purse to the richest people in the world. $6.7 billion has been won in 48 cases, with another $1 billion being won by super rich individuals. While smaller companies and investors do sometimes take action, the report suggests that any winnings on their part is normally wiped out by the legal costs.