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March 16, 2017

U.S. Chamber’s Continued Commitment to Protecting Corporate Bad Actors Is Shown in Its Anti-Consumer and Anti-Environmental Litigation

Report Reveals the Troublesome Nature of Chamber’s Litigation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has played a leading role in many of the most notorious civil cases of recent years, a new report from Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch showed today. Seemingly, willing to support almost any corporate litigant, no matter how egregious its conduct, the Chamber uses its busy litigation practice to advance a reactionary agenda.

This evening, the U.S. Chamber’s Litigation Center will gather corporate interests for its 40th anniversary. At the core of the Chamber’s agenda is the notion that big corporations should be above the law. The Chamber litigates to limit the right of consumers, investors and small businesses to use the court system to hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing while it simultaneously litigates to limit government enforcement actions against corporate bad actors.

The Chamber’s litigation consistently favors big businesses over small businesses, seems to support almost any action to increase corporate profits no matter the effect on workers, consumers or the environment, and opposes commonsense regulations that would correct market failures.

U.S. Chamber Watch analyzed approximately 500 cases over a roughly three-year period in which the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center – a Chamber affiliate – was either a plaintiff or an amicus. The cases cited below stand out as some of the most egregious examples of the U.S. Chamber’s devotion to pro-corporate influence and profits at any cost.

What’s more, Public Citizen’s review of the Chamber’s filings in these cases revealed that the arguments it makes in one case often are at odds with the arguments it makes in another case. Indeed, hypocrisy is an almost pervasive feature of the Chamber’s legal filings.

Among the most shocking cases Public Citizen examined, the Chamber:

  • Sided with British Petroleum over thousands of American small businesses in litigation related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Chamber filed a total of four briefs in support of BP in Deepwater Horizon-related litigation;
  • Filed an amicus brief in support of the CEO of the company that sold Buckyballs, a toy that injured more than 1,700 young children. The Chamber argued that the CEO shouldn’t be liable for recall costs despite his continuing to have sold the toy once its dangers were widely known;
  • Filed an amicus brief in support of for-profit Corinthian Colleges’ efforts to prevent students it had fraudulently misled from suing it in court. The Chamber supported Corinthian in spite its well-documented history of fraud;
  • Sided with the Canadian energy giant behind the Keystone XL pipeline over American ranchers and farmers who didn’t want the pipeline being routed through their land;
  • Filed a brief in favor of striking down Seattle’s $15 an hour minimum wage, claiming that it would be bad for workers;
  • Filed an amicus brief opposing Vermont’s GMO labeling law, arguing that it was supported by “fringe” groups and impinged upon corporations’ free speech rights;
  • Filed briefs supporting foreign multinationals in cases involving Nigerian and Papua New Guinean plaintiffs who alleged that these companies had been complicit in gross human rights abuses including rape, pillage and aerial bombardment of civilians;
  • Filed a brief supporting Walmart’s effort to prevent shareholders from voting on a proxy resolution calling for the company’s board to examine its sale of high-capacity firearms; and
  • Filed a brief opposing municipal anti-fracking ordinances.

“By looking at just who the Chamber supports via its litigation, it quickly becomes apparent that the Chamber is not a voice for small business, but rather a force to defend the interests of big business, no matter the cost,” said Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen’s vice president for legislative affairs.

Added Dan Dudis, director of Public Citizen’s Chamber Watch project and author of the report, “BP, Corinthian, Keystone XL, Buckyballs, fracking, guns at Walmart – the Chamber’s litigation truly is a little shop of horrors. The Chamber will defend almost any corporate bad actor, and it doesn’t hesitate to advance often conflicting arguments from one case to the next.”

Read the report.

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