Federal Judge Approves Class Action Case against Ford and IBM for Helping South African Apartheid

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A federal District Court judge has ruled that those injured by the apartheid policies of the white-ruled South African government may sue Ford and IBM for providing assistance to that government in the form of military vehicles and computers. The racist policies of apartheid were in force between 1948 and 1994.


U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled Thursday that the Alien Tort Statute of 1789 (ATS), which has in recent years been used to hold U.S. corporations liable for human rights violations they facilitate overseas, is applicable in this case. In order to come to this conclusion, however, Scheindlin had to get around a previous ruling in the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, in which the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that corporations could not be sued under the ATS.


Scheindlin called that case “an outlier,” writing “it is the only opinion by a federal court of appeals…to determine that there is no corporate liability under the ATS.”


Bruce Nagel, whose firm Nagel Rice is representing the South Africans, was pleased by Scheindlin’s decision.  “Ford and IBM enabled the apartheid regime to function, and justice requires that they answer for their wrongdoing,” Nagel said.


Originally, more companies were targeted in the suit, but were dropped from the case in previous rulings by Scheindlin.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

South Africans Have Case for Aiding Apartheid (by Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service)

Federal Court Gives Go-Ahead for Africans to Sue Nestle in U.S. over Slave Labor Claims (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Supreme Court Helps Corporations Protect Themselves Against Human Rights Violations Overseas (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Aaron Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Judge Rules Apartheid Victims Can Sue Ford, GM and IBM (by Angela Chen, AllGov)


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