The risk of ‘regulatory chill’ has been one of the significant points of discussion over the past few years concerning public health and investment treaty claims. The Philip Morris International claim against Uruguay has been cited as a case in point, with a large multinational corporation bringing an investment treaty claim against a small country with limited resources to defend such claims. In its Request for Arbitration, Philip Morris did not specify the amount of compensation it was seeking from Uruguay. Nonetheless, we saw numerous vague references in the media to the claim being for “billions of dollars”. Now that the merits phase of the claim is proceeding, Philip Morris has clarified here that it is seeking USD $25 million.
I do not intend to downplay a claim for $25 million, which is a significant sum of money, but there is a great disparity between that and a claim for “billions”. Even if Philip Morris was not the source of the suggestion that the claim was for billions, the company could have corrected the record. The failure to do so tends to support the argument that the company is using the claim to discourage tobacco regulation more broadly.