Oct. 26, 2016

Although U.S. Chamber of Commerce Denounces Lawsuits, It Goes to Court Every Other Day

Report Reveals Vast Scope of Chamber’s Litigation to Aid Big Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Although the U.S. Chamber of Commerce regularly denounces the “costly” American legal system and the number of lawsuits filed, the Chamber itself is a prodigious litigator, a new report (PDF) from Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch shows.

The Chamber files a court case or amicus brief roughly every other day of the five-day work week, according to the report (PDF), “Chamber of Litigation.” And despite its claim to represent small businesses, only 7 percent of the cases have been in favor of small business.

The Chamber went to court to argue that fines against BP for the Deepwater Horizon explosion should be reduced; to block a class-action suit against BP by small businesses; to contend that a Buckeyball magnetic toy owner shouldn’t be liable for a recall despite ignoring ample warnings; to support Maurice Greenberg, the disgraced former CEO of AIG; to argue that former students shouldn’t be allowed to sue Corinthian Colleges for fraud; and to block a federal effort to reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

“It turns out that the leading propagator of the litigation crisis lie is itself a serial litigator – on behalf of the world’s largest corporations and against the interests of consumers, the environment, workers and even small business,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

The Chamber is well known as the nation’s largest lobbyist and as one of the largest dark money outside spenders on elections. Today [Oct. 26], the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform will gather hundreds of members at its annual Legal Reform Summit, featuring former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the keynote speaker, to explore what it considers to be the perils of over-litigation.

Chamber Watch analyzed approximately 500 cases over a roughly three-year period in which the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center – a Chamber affiliate – was either a plaintiff or an amicus. Chamber Watch found that:

  • In the past 10 years, the Chamber has been involved in more than 1,100 lawsuits.
  • The Chamber’s legal filings supported at least one Fortune 500 company almost 60 percent of the time, but supported a small business only 7 percent of the time.
  • The Chamber filed a brief in support of foreign multinationals (57 times) almost twice as often as it did on behalf of domestic small businesses (29 times).
  • The No. 1 legal issue addressed by the Chamber was restricting consumer and small business access to the courts. The second and third were employment and labor relations issues and environmental issues, respectively.
  • The government agency that the Chamber most frequently opposed was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 15 cases against the EPA, the Chamber was the plaintiff. It filed amicus briefs in cases against the EPA 11 times.
  • Ford was the company most frequently directly assisted by the Chamber. State Farm and Dow tied for second. ExxonMobil was third. Koch Industries and Bank of America tied for fourth.

“By looking at the Chamber’s widespread use of litigation on behalf of the nation’s biggest corporations, it quickly becomes apparent that the Chamber is not a voice for the vast majority of American main street businesses, but rather a force to defend the interests of Big Business,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

Added Dan Dudis, director of Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch program and author of the report, “Whether it’s suing to block environmental policies or standing in the way of worker and consumer rights, the Chamber uses litigation as a weapon against progressive reforms. The nature and frequency of the Chamber’s litigation that is highlighted in this report reveals the true face of the Chamber. Despite claiming to represent small businesses and condemning civil lawsuits, the Chamber wields litigation as a force on behalf of Big Business.”

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