Recent case law in the UK courts has established the possibility for the parent companies of multinational corporations (MNCs) to hold liability in tort negligence for harms caused by their foreign-based subsidiaries. The UK’s approach – a general duty of care for cross-border torts – is noteworthy in that it has developed organically through the common law despite conflicting with established principles of company law. By comparison, European neighbours such as France, Switzerland and Germany have developed statutory regulatory regimes which utilize due diligence obligations that appear more reflective of recent international accountability standards, such as the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) of the late John Ruggie.
This work serves as an in-depth investigation for scholars of tort law, company law, private international law and human rights, who are interested in understanding this rapidly developing area of practice from an English perspective. This work is offered in two parts. This first part contextualizes the current law within contemporary academic discourse and offers a historically informed explanation for the conceptual underpinnings of the unique approach currently taken within English jurisprudence and their coherence with the broader principles of domestic UK company law.
The second part offers an analysis of UK law as it stands including the caselaw that builds the corpus of parent company liability in England and Wales. It analyses how effective the current liabilities identified by the Courts are in securing fair remedy for corporate misfeasance. It identifies and categorizes its key features and contrasts them with comparative elements of statutory due diligence approaches adopted by France and Germany or pursued as in the case of Switzerland. It will finally consider whether they offer any concepts worthy of consideration for the regulation of parent company liabilities in future.Business Law Review