As we recently reported, Shell is in court on business and human rights right now.
Activists and their lawyers accuse the company of complicity in the death of Ogoni activists in the 1990's at the hands of the Nigerian government.
In particularly Ken Saro-Wiwa, who has become an iconic protest figure for many campaigners.
An hour ago Reuters reported the company has settled the case, before trial, for more than $15 million.
IF this is true, I am very surprised.
I expected Shell to fight this all the way, given their trenchant position that they had nothing to do with the execution of Sawo-Wiwa and the oppression of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta in the 1990's.
I've read a fair amount about the case and I do find it hard to believe any company would have approved of what Sani Abacha, Nigeria's dictator then, did to Sawo-Wiwa and the other unfortunate victims.
So I am a bit shocked that Shell settled the case.
However, settlement of Alien Tort Claims Act cases (civil cases for cash that use a 1789 US anti-piracy law), does have some precedent.
Unocal settled it's Burma ATCA case (due to pending takeover by Chevron) a few years ago.
The settlement was around $30 million US, much of which went to US lawyers, not villagers, according to my source on the case, who was a senior exec at the company.
So will Shell's settlement open the floodgates for more and more ATCA cases?
We'll see. I would expect an uptick. Tort lawyers in the US will be rubbing their hands.
For readers wanting more on this topic, search EthicalCorp.com for "Alien Tort Claims Act".