In light of the Second Circuit’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, here is a business plan for all corporate entities that would like to maximize profits for their shareholders. Although theoretically any corporation could implement this business plan, it is recommended primarily for companies that have less invested in their branding, or for companies that are better able to insulate their parent companies from any negative public relations fall outs. For instance, producers of fungible goods like diamonds, oil, and bananas should pay particularly close attention to the following.
Step 1: Create a Subsidiary organized under the laws of Randomcountryastan, a third world nation with a weak and relatively ineffectual government, and which is not particularly concerned about human rights abuses.
Step 2: With the help of Randomcountryastan’s government, enslave a couple thousand members of the nation’s undercaste. Make sure that children are not exempt from this enslavement. If any of your new “employees” resist this arrangement, beat them up, and maybe kill a few for good measure.
Step 3: Make sure any officers of Subsidiary are immune from U.S. jurisdiction. This is not actually all that important for the corporation’s purposes, but it will probably be easier to find people to agree to be officers if the U.S. has no personal jurisdiction over them.
Step 4: Use your slave labor to make extra cheap widgets. As a bonus measure, obtain the right to mine Randomcountryastan’s natural resources at sub-market rates by bribing the appropriate government officials. Use those resources to make your widgets.
Step 5: Sell the widgets to Parent company at an extremely attractive price. Parent can then retail them to consumers outside of Randomcountryastan, with a large mark up.
Step 6: Hire really good lawyers to structure these transactions, as well as Subsidiary’s incorporation, so as to make sure there is no paper trail connecting any U.S. officer/director of Parent to personal knowledge of Subsidiary’s use of slavery to make widgets. Also make sure that Parent and Subsidiary observe all corporate formalities.
Step 7: Profit!
Am I wrong, though?
People don’t commit human rights abuses just because they’re evil bad guys who like doing evil things. People commit human rights abuses because they’re profitable, either in terms of gaining/retaining power or in terms of making money.
In general, states violate human rights for the power motive. But in this day and age, if someone is doing something to make money, they are probably going to be doing it through a corporate form. Because that’s how things are done now.
And, conveniently, so long as a business remembers to sign its magical incorporation papers first, the people running it can go out and violate human rights norms for profit and keep all the money they make from doing it!