Is the Commerce Group Case Really Over?

Versión en Español

As the Salvadoran anti-mining movement and its allies across the globe anxiously await a ruling from the International Centre for Investment Settlement Disputes (ICSID) in the Pacific Rim suit, the Milwaukee-based Commerce Group case apparently lies dormant.  For all intents and purposes it seems that the case is over, but the company has two months to make a last ditch effort to save its arbitration. 

In March of 2011 the ICSID denied (on a technicality) Commerce Group the right to sue the Salvadoran Government for $100 million.  The company appealed the decision in July, and the ICSID formed an ad hoc committee to oversee the appeals proposal.

However, and fortunately for the Salvadoran people, Commerce Group is bordering on broke. In November, they submitted a letter to the ICSID claiming they did not have the funds to pay the required $150,000 in ICSID arbitration fees.  The company also had the audacity to ask that the ICSID force the Salvadoran Government to pay $69,776.02 of that fee, claiming they had overpaid taxes in El Salvador and were owed the return of a security deposit on property previously leased from the Government.

The Commerce Group’s pleas seem to have not swayed the ICSID which decided on December 19th, 2011 to stay the arbitration proceedings.  According to Salvadoran journalist and former Ambassador, Neto Rivas, the company has six months from the suspension date to come up with the funds to reinstate the case.

Commerce Groups six months are up on June 19th.  While the anti-mining movement holds its breath regarding the Pacific Rim case, it should also continue to cross its fingers in the Commerce Group case for at least another two months.