German attorneys took a recent French court ruling against Dow and its subsidiaries to the next level this week by gaining court approval to seize nearly $ 4 billion (21.210 shares) in capital of Dow Olefinverbund GmbH in order to compensate more than 1245 former Central American plantation workers and their families for damages caused by knowing corporate use of a ‘sperm killer’ pesticide at its fruit plantations.
“Companies acting on an international basis should quickly learn that there are no safe places left to hide from liability for environmental and human rights incompliance,” said Berlin attorney Christoph Partsch. “The French court decision and the German exequatur decision form a formidable precedence to that end.”
Nicaraguan courts previously ordered compensation to these workers, which Dow claimed was unenforceable but the French courts last month agreed to hear cases of previously uncompensated workers in a Paris trial early in January, 2020. The case is about the corporate giants’ continued use of the banned pesticide in Central America well into the 1980s after it had been banned in the U.S. during the previous decade.
According to Mr. Partsch, the French court of Bobigny first issued an injunction to seize the property of Dow to protect the enforcement of the Nicaraguan decision. With this French decision in hand, Dr. Partsch and his legal partner Jana-Maria Wernitzki petitioned the Merseburg court in Germany to grant exequatur pleading under the European Brussel Convention obliging European member states to recognize the legal decisions from another member states.
The seizure allowed by the German court was served by German bailiff to Dow Olefinverbund GmbH which holds the so-called Buna complex, a giant chemical plant built in 1930s and sold by Germany to Dow for about 3 billion € in 1995. The legal move conserves and protects the options of the plaintiffs, according to the attorneys.
The multinational legal team for the plaintiffs include Berlin-based German attorneys Mr. Partsch and Ms. Wernitzki, French Supreme Court Attorney Francois-Henri Briard, former Chair of the Paris Bar Attorney Pierre-Olivier SUR, Nicaraguan Attorneys Tony Lopez and Gustavo Lopez Jr., and internationally-known environmental American Lawyers Stuart H. Smith and Robert McKee.
“Finally, these plantation workers will collect damages from Dow and its subsidiaries,” said Mr. Smith. “These companies knowingly poisoned people and then left without any penalty, knowing these workers would be denied a normal family life.” Mr. Smith also called attention to the fact that Dow has hidden a multibillion-dollar liability from its stockholders and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, since the Nicaraguan Courts ordered a $805 million payout, which the companies continue to ignore.
Mr. Briard said, “Our German colleagues did a fantastic job; it is clear that brave European Judges, French and German, are now on the way to provide justice to these men and women of Nicaragua poisoned by American companies. One should not be surprised that in a world where companies act globally victims do cross borders. I am confident that we will get French Trial Court exequatur with provisional execution very soon; with seizures done, especially the German one, we will be able to sale shares in good conditions for our clients.”