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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
Firms fearful of slavery pay-outs
Scales of Justice
Trillions of dollars are at stake
US lawyers have confirmed that businesses which benefited from slavery are to be targeted in a new law suit which seeks reparations from slavery.

Insurance and commodity companies are among those likely to be targeted as the compensation culture begins to take hold.


Many companies have substantially benefited from slavery, and the proceeds from slavery

Charles Ogletree
Law Professor
And the amount of money at stake runs into the trillions when the profits of the firms involved are taken into account.

The reparations for slavery debate has become an extremely thorny political issue in the US with some prominent figures denouncing the idea that cash can compensate for the suffering of slavery.

And the US secretary of State, Colin Powell, has chosen not to attend this week's world conference on racism in south Africa, with the discussion over compensation for slavery cited as one reason for his absence.

Trillions of dollars at stake

A law suit is being launched next Spring by top-name lawyers, including O.J. Simpson 's defender Johnny Cochran.

The case will demand compensation for black Americans for the suffering inherited from their enslaved ancestors.


We are talking about trillions not billions, if you look at the magnitude of the profits

Charles Ogletree
The law suit is being co-ordinated by Charles Ogletree, a law professor at Harvard University.

"There is no suggestion the government is the worst or the only offender in this process" he told the BBC's World Business Report.

"Many corporations or companies have substantially benefited from slavery, and the proceeds from slavery," he said, citing Yale University and Harvard law school as examples.

Mr Ogletree said the intention was not to eliminate or shame the worst offender.

The lawyers will be looking to find an "agreeable solution," with the companies and the compensation money will be awarded to charities helping the least successful members of society.

"We are talking about trillions not billions, if you look at the magnitude of the profits. Corporations have been unjustly enriched by this," he said.

Mr Ogletree declined to name specific companies, but agreed that insurance companies and commodity companies are among those likely to be targeted.

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 ON THIS STORY
Harvard University's Charles Ogletree
"There is no suggestion that the government is the worst or the only offender"
See also:

11 Aug 01 | Americas
Slavery row dogs racism conference
29 Sep 00 | Africa
Cocoa farm slavery 'exaggerated'
22 Aug 01 | Business
CBI attacks compensation culture
08 Feb 01 | Business
Boom in compensation demands
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