Chicago Journal of International Law


The financial crisis of 2007–2008 resulted in numerous examples of state governments nationalizing banks or bailing out large private entities. Aside from the theoretical debate about nationalization and bailouts, there were practical questions about how to treat those who had invested in the nationalized banks. This Comment looks at the example of Northern Rock Plc, a U.K. bank that was nationalized in early 2008 and whose shareholders were left uncompensated for their shares. When the shareholders filed suit against the UK Government for violating their right to possessions under the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights was left to determine the responsibilities of the state to property owners in times of economic crisis. However, instead of analyzing the case under the existing right to possessions doctrine, the Court deferred completely to the state. Furthermore, despite a right to possessions doctrine that reflects the importance of individuals’ subsistence, the Court declined to distinguish the situation of the individual plaintiffs from the corporate plaintiffs. The European Court of Human Rights should recognize that individual plaintiffs are differently situated than corporate plaintiffs in terms of economic survival and should engage with the legal implications of those differences.