A New York court has thrown out legal cases against more than 30 companies, accused of having illegally aided the apartheid-era South African Government.
Apartheid-era abuses were not the firms' fault, the judge said
The class-action lawsuits targeted firms including computer giant IBM and banking giant Citigroup.
According to the plaintiffs, groups and individuals who suffered under apartheid, the companies supplied oil, money and technology to South Africa.
These resources, the case argued, were used for "oppression and persecution".
But the judge found that there was no violation of the law in commercial links with South Africa.
"Although it is clear that the actions of the apartheid regime were repugnant, and that the decision of the defendants
to do business with that regime may have been morally suspect... it is this court's job to apply the law and not some
normative or moral ideal," District Judge John
Sprizzo wrote in his judgement.
The promoters of the lawsuit had hoped to follow the success of legal action on behalf of victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
Mr Fagan was asking for a $20bn compensation fund
Although those cases have been complicated, legal pressure has persuaded companies and governments involved in the Holocaust to arrange for compensation.
In the case of apartheid, matters have been impeded by the lack of direct corporate involvement in South African human-rights abuses.
Ed Fagan, a US lawyer who has brought a string of class-action lawsuits over human-rights cases, had demanded that the South African Government and companies should pay into a $20bn "humanitarian fund".