Washington in June filed a brief stating its partial support for Shell in a case claiming violations of international law by the company in Nigeria. The White House said, in Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum, that the Alien Tort Statute shouldn't be applied.
Advocacy group EarthRights International announced it filed three Freedom of Information Act requests seeking information about whether the possible business interests of Cabinet-level officials swayed the government's decision in the Kiobel case.
"If disclosed, this information will help reveal whether or not the business interests of Attorney General Eric Holder or Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan influenced the government's position in Kiobel," the group stated.
A brief authored by the Justice Department, the group said, was "legally deficient." The Justice Department brief argued the U.S. judicial system wasn't available to alleged victims of human rights abuses involving a foreign company.
"Prior to joining the government, both Holder and Srinivasan represented companies that were subject to lawsuits similar to Kiobel," explained EarthRights lawyer Jonathan Kaufman in a statement.
Shell is accused of causing massive environmental damage in parts of Nigeria. The U.N. Environment Program last year said it would likely take 30 years to clean up oil spilled in the region. Shell is accused of underestimating the volume of oil spilled, though it blames most of the spills on oil bandits.