Who’s Lobbying for Legal Immunity? Large Corporations Pretending to Speak for Small Businesses

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY, NOT IMMUNITY

Welcome to the latest edition of “Corporate Accountability, Not Immunity,” a daily tipsheet highlighting key news and important facts on why Congress should not give corporations legal immunity from coronavirus-related harms to workers, consumers, patients and the public. Also refer to our tipsheet on misleading claims from industry groups and conservative lawmakers. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

LARGE CORPORATIONS BEHIND THE PUSH FOR LEGAL IMMUNITY: A review of quarterly lobby filings from Friends of the Earth released last week shows that polluting industries and groups representing large corporations are lobbying vigorously for businesses to be immune from liability related to COVID-19. ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobilBASF, the American Petroleum Institute, the Plastic Industry Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, the U.S. Chamber of CommerceHeritage ActionFreedomWorks and others reported lobbying on liability issues. These voices for big corporations are using small businesses as a smokescreen to push an agenda that would block both small businesses and individuals from using the courts to vindicate their rights.

BIG INSURANCE RUNS ADS CALLING LAWSUITS ILLEGITIMATE: A new group started in June to lobby for business immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits is running its first ad. Calling such lawsuits “illegitimate,” the ad claims that coronavirus-related lawsuits threaten economic recovery and impose burdens on businesses and workers. The ad fails to mention that the group behind the ad is a coalition of big insurance companies – not representatives of workers or small businesses. The ad also fails to disclose that, although the number of COVID-19-related lawsuits is relatively small, nearly one-quarter of all cases are against insurance companies. Granting big insurance companies immunity from liability to small businesses challenging denial of insurance claims may help the big companies, but it won’t ease the economic burden on small businesses or their workers.

SCHOOLS REOPENING COULD STRAIN TESTING CAPACITY: Many schools and universities reopening in the fall are planning to regularly test students and staff to try to stop the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses. But public health officials are worried about insufficient capacity and supplies to test thousands of people who aren’t showing any symptoms of the disease. Although testing capacity has improved since the early days of the pandemic, there is still not enough to handle the increased demand following the surge in infections across the South and West. As Politico asked: How can the White House push schools across the country to open, vowing it’s safe to gather, while at the same time cancelling the Republican convention in Jacksonville, saying it’s not safe to gather? Pushing schools to reopen while shielding them from accountability for harm caused to students, faculty and staff will give a free pass to those that fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent making the pandemic worse.