Despite an adverse court ruling out of Ecuador, Chevron continues to remain on the offensive against trial lawyers who are suing the company over environmental allegations that have been hotly disputed. An Ecuadorian appeals court in Lago Agrio upheld a ruling earlier this month ordering the company to pay $18 billion in damages to plaintiffs who claim the oil company is responsible for polluting the Amazon and damaging the health of local residents.
Chevron became a target for litigation after it took over Texaco in 2001. Farmers and tribe members claim Texaco damaged parts of the jungle with faulty drilling practices in the 1970’s and 1980’s. In response, Chevron officials have said that Texaco properly re-mediated the areas where it had operations. Moreover, the company has produced reams of evidence that demonstrate plaintiff attorneys have been operating in collusion with Ecuador’s judiciary to produce fraudulent rulings. Chevron has also sought international legal recourse with considerable success.
Under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Agreement Treaty, a Hague Tribunal has ordered Ecuador to suspend enforcement of the ruling pending further investigation. Several federal judges in the U.S. have also ruled in the company’s favor. Chevron has also submitted a letter to Galo Chiriboga, Ecuador’s prosecutor general that documents the fraud and corruption allegations. The plaintiffs’ representatives including Steven Donziger, Pablo Fajardo, Juan Pablo Saenz, Julio Priento and Luis Yanza worked in covert partnership with Judge Zambrano to craft a ruling that would be favorable to their case, according to the letter.
Chevron’s evidence against the Ecuadorian court includes the following:
- “The judgment copies exact language from a June 2009 email that Fajardo sent to Donziger, Sáenz and Prieto. The body of the email includes a short memo from a not-yet identified third party and a “transcri[ption]” of a published Ecuadorian court opinion. That transcription contains numerous mistakes not found in the published court opinion itself. The judgment repeats all of these mistakes, exactly, as well as a citation error Fajardo made in his email.”
- “The judgment also refers to several test samples by names that are not found in the record, but rather in private spreadsheets created by the plaintiffs, which contain information from the plaintiffs’ own database. The judgment replicates errors contained in the plaintiffs’ database and replicates errors in the database attributing data to the wrong experts and confuses measurement units.”
- “The judgment contains language from a private memorandum authored by plaintiffs’ attorney Juan Pablo Sáenz and other members of plaintiffs’ legal team around November 2007 regarding a Chevron subsidiary’s merger with Texaco. No fewer than 15 instances, significant portions of the Sáenz memorandum, including entire sentences, appear verbatim or nearly verbatim in the judgment.”
Chevron has released a statement in response to the latest ruling out of Ecuador: “The Lago Agrio judgment was procured through a corrupt and fraudulent scheme, much of which was captured on film and memorialized in the plaintiffs’ representatives’ own emails and correspondence. Their misconduct includes fabricating expert reports, manufacturing evidence, bribing and colluding with court officials, waging a campaign of intimidation against judges, and even ghostwriting parts of the verdict itself. Evidence of these crimes has been provided to Ecuador’s courts and prosecutors, but authorities there have taken no corrective actions.”
Chevron’s successful legal efforts to obtain outtakes from the documentary “Crude” also show that U.S. trial attorneys partnered with a court appointed engineer named Richard Cabrera who was charged with making an “objective” assessment of the pollution allegations. Cabrera recommended a damage figure in excess of $27 billion.
The conflicts do not end here.
Kerry Kennedy, the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, has been crusading against Chevron and on behalf of the environment; or so she says. Court documents reveal that Kennedy was hired as a “public-relations consultant” by the plaintiffs’ legal team. She was paid $50,000 by Donziger, bank statements show and according to news reports, could receive $40 million if the $18 billion judgment ultimately prevails.
The case in Ecuador calls out for large scale tort reform aimed at exposing questionable allegations that ultimately work to the disadvantage of private industry, consumers and taxpayers. With state legislatures going back into session early this year, now would be an opportune time for lawmakers to advance policy changes that reform the civil justice system.
There is a larger story here about the opportunity cost attached to politically correct environmental posturing and genuine ecological concerns. The British Petroleum -“Beyond Petroleum” campaign comes to mind. While it may be comforting to some to view the judicial mischief in Ecuador as an extreme case, the hard reality is that it shows trial lawyers in their natural state.
The concern for the environment is feigned and not real.
As Net Right Daily has previously reported, Chevron has filed a RICO complaint against the attorneys and consultants attached to the case in Ecuador.