Update 21 June 2016 see also application with respect to the extraterritorial impact of the US ‘Rico’ (anti-racketeering) Act in RJR Nabisco, Inc. V European Community.
In Ranza v Nike, the Court of Appeal for the ninth circuit confirmed the high hurdle to establish personal jurisdiction over foreign corporations in the US, following the Supreme Court’s decisions in Kiobel and Bauman /Daimler. Trey Childress has good summary here and I am happy largely to refer.
Loredana Ranza is a US citisen, resident in the EU (first The Netherlands; Germany at the time of the court’s decision). She seeks to sue against her Dutch employer, Nike BV, and its parent corporation, Nike inc. for alleged violation of federal laws prohibiting sex and age discrimination. The Dutch equality Commission had earlier found the allegations unfounded under Dutch law.
Of particular interest are the Court’s views on the attributability test /piercing the corporate veil following Daimler and Kiobel. The Court held (p.15 ff) that prior to Daimler, personal jurisdiction over the mother company could be established using either the agency or the alter ego test, with the former now no longer available following Daimler. Under the Agency test, effectively a type of abus de droit /fraus /fraud, plaintiff needed to show that the subsidiary performed services which were sufficiently important to the foreign corporation that if it did not have a representative to perform them, the corporation’s own officials would undertake to perform substantially similar services. Daimler, the Court suggested in Ranza, held that the agency test leads to too broad a jurisdictional sweep. That leaves the alter ego test: effectively, whether the actions prima facie carried out by the subsidiary, are in fact carried out by the mother company for it exercises a degree of control over the daughter which renders that daughter the mother’s alter ego. Not so here, on the facts of the case: Nike Inc, established in Oregon, is heavily involved in Nike BV’s macromanagement, but not so ‘enmeshed’ in its routine management of day-to-day operation, that the two companies should be treated as a single enterprise for the purposes of jurisdiction.
For good measure, the Court also confirmed application of dismissal of jurisdiction on the basis of forum non conveniens.
Update For a September 2017 application see the Illinois Supreme Court in Aspen Insurance v Interstate Warehousing.
The United States Supreme Court on 14 January rejected US jurisdiction in Daimler v Bauman. See previous posting on this case here and ultra-short reference here. Chief Justice Roberts’ and concurring opinions in Kiobel leave room for further distinguishing. Daimler does less so. The Court in the end did not focus too much on the issue of agency and attributability of a subsidiary’s actions to the mother company (Daimler is a German corporation that was sued in California by Argentinian plaintiffs for human rights violations in Argentina. The Californian link was a subsidiary which distributes cars there but which is not incorporated there: its corporate home is Delaware).
As William Baud points out, the USSC (as indeed do highest courts of the land elsewhere) does not necessarily decide on the points which counsel would like it to decide. Instead, the USSC generally upholds a restrictive view of general jurisdiction. Per International Shoe [see also Dwight Healy and Owen Pell], general jurisdiction other than in the State of incorporation applies only (in the case of foreign companies) when a foreign company’s “continuous corporate operations within a state [are] so substantial and of such a nature as to justify suit against it on causes of action arising from dealings entirely distinct from those activities.”
If you want to sue a company on the basis of its having its ‘home’ in the forum, then that home better be exactly that. Not, as here, merely a condo in the US when its true home lies in Germany.
Generally, the USSC held that a state court may exercise general jurisdiction over out-of-state corporations when their “affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic’ as to render them essentially at home in the forum State.”
(Writing for the majority) Judge Ginsburg (p.23) noted the difference between the Court of Appeal’s approach and the EU approach when it comes to overall personal jurisdiction over corporations (she referred to the recast Brussels I Regulation, 1215/2012, which is yet to apply but which in substance on this issue does not differ from the previous version). However in reality there is quite a different direction (compared to Daimler) which the EU takes vis-a-vis foreign corporations, in the particular context of B2B consumer contracts as well as employment contracts (an entirely different subject-matter, I appreciate).