Corporations On Trial

Corporations On Trial is a five-part series following just some of the many lawsuits being brought against multinational corporations for war crimes, conspiracy, corruption, assassinations, environmental devastation and payments to terrorists. Such serious charges have forced some of the world’s largest companies to hire high-profile defence lawyers to protect public relations in cases often brought by plaintiffs who are barely literate. These five films reveal a growing anxiety about the power and influence of big business, as many multinational corporations have annual revenues greater than some countries’ national budgets and indeed increasingly hold governments to ransom by their economic power. Around the world, ordinary people are fighting back and asking how many more times their interests should be sacrificed for corporate greed and shareholder profit…


Brought by the human rights lawyer Martyn Day on behalf of 30,000 Ivorians, this first part documents the largest class action in British history against the world’s third largest independent oil trader—the Trafigura corporation. The lawsuit was filed after the company “neglected its duty of care” by blatantly disposing tonnes of toxic materials on the streets of Abidjan in Ivory Coast, West Africa.

Mud volcano Lusi erupts in Indonesia, swallowing up 12 villages and displacing at least 40,000 people. International scientists and Indonesian activists state that the eruption was a man-made disaster however, caused by a gas-drilling operation by Lapindo Brantas, a company owned by the country’s minister for ‘Social Welfare’. Lawyers face an uphill battle to gain compensation for the victims, and as the courts continue to rule against their case, rumours of corruption abound.

A Case of Global Proportions follows a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil and 23 other energy companies for funding false science and orchestrating a massive public relations and propaganda campaign, designed to mislead the public about the dangers of global warming. A former defence lawyer for tobacco giant Phillip Morris defects the corporate fight and says he has now become one of the “good guys” by joining the Native American villagers of Kivalina in Alaska to prove that the disappearance of their village into the sea is man-made, and that the energy giants are to blame.

Residents of the small West Bank village of Bil’in have been campaigning for years to regain land lost to the Israeli separation wall and an encroaching Jewish settlement through a policy of “legal resistance”. But as an earlier victory in the Israeli Supreme Court continues to be ignored, the villagers, helped by an Israeli legal maverick have now a filed a case against the international construction companies who are assisting the occupation. They claim they have violated international human rights law by building on occupied land.

Following a ruling by a US federal court that fined the banana giant Chiquita $25million for funding a terrorist organisation, the company is now facing a number of new lawsuits. After being found guilty of payments to Colombian paramilitary groups, an array of plaintiffs are now seeking justice as the victims of the company’s funded-killings and are demanding that Chiquita’s directors are extradited from the US to stand trial in Colombia. As former paramilitaries begin to speak out, the truth emerges about a dark chapter of American corporate history, where big business took sides in a civil war and profits mattered more than lives.