£400 million ‘corporate court’ case highlights need to abolish ISDS system

22 March 2017 - 4:15pm
Press release

A private justice case in which Canada was sued for £400 million ($500 million) by a pharmaceutical corporation has ended in favour of the state – highlighting the urgent need for the ‘corporate court’ system to be abolished.

War on Want Senior Trade Campaigner Mark Dearn said: “This long-running case highlights how ISDS ‘corporate courts’ are an attack on democracy used as form of taxpayer-funded risk insurance for corporations.

“This case has dragged on for four years. In that time Canada has spent millions of taxpayers’ money defending itself – money that could have been better spent elsewhere. And in the meantime, who knows what kind of chilling effect this case had on new regulations?

“If the UK government believes itself to be immune from such challenges in any future trade deals it will negotiate, in particular with the USA, it is mistaken.

Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly sued Canada under the controversial NAFTA trade deal for hundreds of millions of dollars after the Canadian government refused patents for two of its new drugs.

Under Canadian law, the Federal Court of Canada decides on the validity of patents. In total, nine different Canadian judges rejected Eli Lilly’s arguments before it launched secret ISDS proceedings against the country.

Eli Lilly has been ordered to pay Canada’s £4 million legal costs.

Research commissioned by the UK government into the impacts on the UK of including ISDS in the EU-US deal TTIP found that the UK could expect to face more ISDS cases than Canada. Canada is the most sued country under ISDS in the northern hemisphere.


Notes to editors

For further information and interviews, contact Ross Hemingway on +44 7983 550728 or Mark Dearn on +44 7804 289680

Eli Lilly vs Canada:



Impacts of ISDS on the UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/260380/bis-13-1284-costs-and-benefits-of-an-eu-usa-investment-protection-treaty.pdf

Canada the most sued Northern country under ISDS: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/nafta-chapter-11-investor-state-disputes-january-1-2015

The European Commission is currently pursuing the establishment of a ‘Multilateral Investment Court’ based on the rebranded ISDS found in EU-Canada deal, CETA.

EU Multilateral Investment Court:



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