Finance Beat 2.29.2012

by Chet Galloway

Wall Street recap

Stocks settled relatively flat for the trading session Monday, with the Dow Jones industrial average crossing the 13,000 mark only to end at 12,981. The Nasdaq ending up at 2,966 and the Standard & Poor 500 also ended higher at 1,367. Tuesday morning’s market was higher across all three indices. The Dow was up 29 points at 13,010, the Nasdaq was up 18 points at 2,984 and the S&P 500 was higher by four points at 1,371. Data compiled from Monday’s close and Tuesday’s open on Wall Street.

Debates on corporations continue

A front-page article from The Huffington Post reported oral arguments are set to be heard this week by the Supreme Court about whether corporations can be held liable for international human rights violations in American courts.

The case in question is Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, in which several Nigerians state Royal Dutch Shell “aided and abetted their government in its torture and extrajudicial killing of environmental human rights protesters resisting Shell’s operations in Nigeria in the 1990s.” The plaintiff’s suit is based on the Alien Tort Statute, passed by Congress in 1789. The law allows non-U.S. citizens to present civil suits to U.S. courts for international violations. The Supreme Court has commented on the law very rarely in the past. The Supreme Court contended the statute could only give rise to a lawsuit if the offense was specific to the offenses that existed when the law was passed, which apparently included torture and genocide but not arbitrary arrest and detention. The justices did not comment about what types of defendants could be sued.

The recent decision of Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission extended First Amendment rights to corporations that allows them to spend unlimited amounts of money in political elections. The Kiobel case will continue the discussion about corporate personhood and accountability.