May 18, 2015

Senators Warren, Heitkamp and Colleagues Introduce Amendment to Stop Allowing Companies to Challenge U.S. Laws Outside U.S. Courts

Text of the amendment is available here

WASHINGTON, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) today joined 13 of their colleagues to introduce an amendment that would prevent "Fast Track" authority from being used to pass trade deals that include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). ISDS allows foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws and potentially pick up huge payouts from taxpayers without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. The amendment is cosponsored by Senators Joe Manchin (D - W.Va.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

"By giving foreign corporations special rights to challenge U.S. laws outside of our legal system, ISDS undermines U.S. sovereignty and tilts the playing field further in favor of big multinational corporations," Senator Warren said. "Whatever your views of our current trade policy, Congress should not pass a Fast Track bill that greases the skids for deals that include dangerous ISDS provisions."

"Since I served as North Dakota's Attorney General, I have voiced my opposition to ISDS because it puts states' sovereignty at risk and provides foreign companies the ability to skirt the U.S. judicial system. Before including it in another trade deal, let's fix it," said Senator Heitkamp.

Under ISDS, foreign companies that want to challenge U.S. regulations would be allowed to do so before an international panel of arbitrators consisting of private lawyers. Only international investors - largely big corporations - are able to access these tribunals, while other individuals and organizations such as labor unions must pursue challenges in traditional courts. Prominent legal experts recently raised concerns in a letter to congressional leaders that ISDS would undermine democratic norms and weaken the rule of law.