Summary of Secrets of a Global Super Court

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A parallel global legal system largely hidden from public view and run by a corporate elite is undermining democracy around the world. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Chris Hamby’s 18-month investigation results in an exposé that reads like a thriller novel. Hamby traveled across three continents to uncover the mechanisms of an obscure provision buried in the world’s vast network of trade and investment treaties, which allow foreign businesses to sue sovereign governments. A cabal of corporate lawyers – acting as arbitrators – dispenses binding, often onerous rulings that can gut government regulations designed to protect the public. This four-part investigative article for Buzzfeed offers a deep dive into one of the core contemporary controversies surrounding free trade agreements and their relationships to economic justice. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends this series to scholars, activists, watchdogs and policy makers interested in the intersection of free trade and social, political and economic justice.

About the Author

Chris Hamby is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and a Pulitzer Prize-winner for Investigative Reporting.



The Most Powerful Legal System You’ve Never Heard Of

A private, international “super court” gives corporate behemoths the power to bring governments to their knees. A corporation can go to this super court to sue a foreign government for trying to stop pollution or to prosecute a corrupt chief executive and then demand a huge sum of money as punishment. Elite corporate attorneys – who sometimes call themselves “The Club” or “The Mafia” – stand to profit directly from expanding the authority of the court, alternating between rendering judgments one day and arguing cases another. Their rulings, often issued in secret, are binding and unfettered by precedent or public oversight. Oftentimes, governments feel cowed into offering vast concessions in a settlement arrangement simply to avoid an unpredictable, possibly devastating trial judgment.

Corporations manipulate this global legal system, working quietly behind closed doors, to shield themselves from government oversight. This system, known as “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS), is written into a large network of international trade and investment treaties – among them the Trans-Pacific Partnership...

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