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Supreme Court hears arguments on corporate liability for human rights abuses overseas, enjoining IRS
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Supreme Court hears arguments on corporate liability for human rights abuses overseas, enjoining IRS

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday heard cases involving when American corporations can be sued, and when they can sue.

The first case, Nestle v. John Doe I, et al., considers whether an American corporation can be held liable under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) for human rights abuses that occur outside of the US. The respondents seek to hold Nestle liable for aiding and abetting child slavery on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast. The court previously ruled in Jesner v. Arab Bank that the ATS does not allow plaintiffs to sue foreign corporations for alleged violations of international law in US federal court. The question is whether this ruling should apply to American corporations as well. Further, the question of whether aiding and abetting should be considered to have occurred inside the US, where decisions or made, or outside the US where human rights violations occurred. Finally, a looming question throughout the arguments, concerns whether there were enough facts to support the aiding and abetting charge against Nestle since there is not evidence to suggest that they knew the cocoa plantations relied on child slavery.

The second case of the day, CIC Services v. Internal Revenue Service, considers whether an American corporation can seek an injunction against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The petitioners, CIC Services, are challenging guidance issued by the IRS in 2016, 2016-66, which makes micro-capture transactions reportable transactions. As a result, companies like CIC Services have to provide additional information to the IRS or face penalties. CIC Services is challenging the guidance as “arbitrary and capricious” under the APA. However, the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) states, “no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court.” The question is whether the AIA overrides the APA and eliminates pre-enforcement review of IRS actions. If the answer is yes, the only way for CIC Services to challenge the new guidance is to violate the law first.