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Last October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit issued an extraordinary decision allowing a lawsuit to proceed in U.S. courts against more than 50 U.S. and foreign corporations for their role in aiding and abetting South Africa’s oppressive apartheid policies. The suit had been filed on behalf of millions of South Africans who claimed they’d been harmed by apartheid before it crumbled in the late 1980s. The ruling set off alarms among business organizations fearful that the decision would lead to American companies being hauled into American courts by foreign parties to defend against allegations of misdeeds far from U.S. soil. Last week, the companies involved filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the ruling. The petition in American Isuzu Motors Inc., et al. v. Ntsebeza, et al., argues that the lawsuit should not be allowed in light of the strong objections of both the United States and the government of South Africa. South Africa sees the suit as a “completely unacceptable” infringement of its sovereignty and an interference with its reconciliation policies, and the United States says the suit has already undermined its foreign policies. “Review by the Court is imperative,” says the brief, filed by counsel of record Francis Barron of New York’s Cravath, Swaine & Moore. More than a dozen other firms are also involved. If granted, the case would likely not be argued until next term.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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