There have been two recent developments in the UK which further highlight the litigation risk for international companies in respect of the activities of their foreign subsidiaries. The UK is certainly not the only regime where there has been a notable increase in human rights related litigation but a distinct pattern is emerging.
PGI Group (PGI), a group of companies that operate in the agribusiness and renewable energy spaces, and its Malawian subsidiary, Lujeri Tea Estates Ltd (Lujeri), are facing a legal action in the UK High Court in connection with alleged systemic sexual abuse, including rape, sexual assault and discrimination, in Malawi. Lujeri is a supplier to a number of known UK tea brands, including Typhoo, Yorkshire Tea and Tetley. It is also a major supplier of macadamia nuts, which are grown in its Malawi orchards.
In the meantime, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Imperial Brands sought last month to strike out claims made against them and their subsidiaries by Malawian tobacco farmers, which were filed in the UK High Court last December.
These cases add to the growing list of companies to have faced legal claims in the UK courts in respect of the actions of their foreign subsidiaries (see our previous commentary on Camellia plc, Royal Dutch Shell plc and Vedanta Resources plc). The cases also highlight the increasing litigation risk dynamic amid the growing trend of human rights and environmental litigation and underline the importance of UK companies taking steps to identify, prevent and mitigated human rights-related risks both in their own operations and also in the operations of their subsidiaries.
Continue Reading Business and Human Rights in the UK – Litigation Risk