The number of ISDS attacks on public interest policies has been soaring. While treaties with ISDS provisions have existed since the 1950s, just 50 known ISDS cases were launched in the regime’s first three decades combined. In contrast, corporations have launched more than 50 ISDS claims in each of the last six years. The types of policies being attacked are also expanding. Most of these cases are not about a government seizing (expropriating) a mine or factory or land. Rather, most recent ISDS attacks have targeted tobacco, climate, financial stability, mining, medicine, energy, pollution, water, labor, toxins and development policies.


If the three corporate lawyers rule against a challenged policy, there is no limit to the amount of taxpayer money that they can order a government to pay to a corporation. The amount is based on any actual damages (what the investor actually spends to establish an investment, if anything) plus the “expected future profits” that the three corporate lawyers surmise that the corporation would have earned in the absence of the public policy it is attacking. Under U.S. pacts alone, tribunals have ordered billions of dollars in taxpayer compensation to multinational firms. Tens of billions remain in pending ISDS claims just under U.S. pacts, all of which relate to environmental, energy, financial regulation, public health, land use and/or transportation policies.

By the Numbers