4 June 2020

PhD defence: Promotion of responsible business conduct in international investment law

Maxim Usynin defencended his PhD thesis on the promotion of responsible business conduct in international investment law

The public defencence of the thesis “The beauty of the beast: how international investment law can contribute to the promotion of responsible business conduct,” took place on May 29, 2020, in online format. Professor MSO Astrid Kjeldgaard-Pedersen (University of Copenhagen) guided the defencense proceedings on behalf of the PhD School. The Assessment Committee included Prof. MSO Joanna Lam (University of Copenhagen, Chair of the Committee), Prof. Andrea K. Bjorklund (McGill University, Canada), Prof. Mads Andenæs (University of Oslo, Norway), together with Prof. Vibe Garf Ulfbeck (Director of CEPRI - Centre for Private Governance), who was the academic supervisor of Maxim’s PhD project.

The thesis investigated the mechanisms of international investment law aimed at the deterrence of investor misconduct and at the promotion of corporate social responsibility commitments among foreign investors. In search of the ways of their enhancement, the thesis examined the use of private law sources and analogies for filling the existing regulatory gaps.

In conclusion of the defencense, the Committee commended the quality of the research. Prof. Andrea K. Bjorklund read from the Committee’s preliminary assessment of the thesis:

‘The theory of shared governance – public and private – is innovative and potentially revolutionary. One of the shortcomings of many current approaches to penalizing the misconduct of investors is that they effectively insulate the state from scrutiny. For example, if a corporation commits human rights violations at a mine in Peru (assuming that a corporation can violate international human rights obligations), does not the State of Peru also have the obligation to protect those human rights? A theory of public and private governance that complement each other has the potential to maximize public utility and to ensure that investors and investment law and arbitration can serve as sources for good. The thesis is valuable for this reason alone.

Yet Mr. Usynin also takes on the question of creating a legal regime that would encourage investors to undertake voluntary CSR commitments, rather than dissuade them from doing so. Analogies to the private law of salvage and to the principle of leniency offer intriguing bases on which to ground assessments of investor behaviour. They also show Mr. Usynin to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the many manifestations of investment law in addition to an impressive command of private law and public international law. He shows himself to be a creative scholar adept at seeing linkages that would escape individuals with narrower training and limited focus.’