A federal judge in New York has thrown out lawsuits seeking more than 400 billion dollars in damages from U.S. corporations that did business in South Africa during its apartheid (search) era.

The lawsuits had been filed on behalf of black South Africans who were victims of the system of legalized racial oppression.

Judge John Sprizzo (search) says the actions of the firms may have been "morally suspect or embarrassing."

But Sprizzo says that there was no meaningful assertion that the corporations directly caused murders, torture, crimes against humanity during apartheid, which lasted from 1948 until a decade ago.

Sprizzo says the lawsuits — which were not supported by the current multi-racial South African government — bordered on being frivilous.