Amnesty sides with group that was found guilty
of fraud against Chevron.
BY LATINVEX STAFF
International, the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization, has
entered the murky waters of an infamous fraud case against Chevron in Ecuador.
The U.S. chapter of the
group recently joined 16 civil society organizations – including
Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth – that filed a
brief with the Court of
Appeals to reverse a decision in March by US Judge Lewis Kaplan that found US
attorney Steven Donziger violated the US RICO statute by committing fraud
against Chevron in a lawsuit over alleged environmental damage in Ecuador.
attorney is Jonathan Moore of Gross
Belsky Alonso. “In essence, this case
is an effort by Chevron to retaliate against Ecuadorian villagers, their
lawyers, and their supporters for suing, bringing public pressure, and
petitioning government agencies to hold Chevron accountable for violations of
human rights,” the brief says.
Chevron’s Texaco unit
operated a joint venture with PetroEcuador from 1964 to 1990, when the
Ecuadorian company took over management of the oil field. Texaco continued with
a minority stake in the consortium until 1992.
When Texaco left Ecuador completely in 1992 it undertook a $40 million
remediation and in 1998, the government of Ecuador declared that the
remediation was completed according to the terms and parameters agreed upon and
released Texaco from any future liability.
However, in 1993 a group of
plaintiffs sued Chevron in the United States over alleged environmental damages in
Ecuador, but the case was thrown out by a US court in 2002. The plaintiffs then
sued in Ecuador and in 2011 won. The Lago Agrio court in Ecuador found Chevron
guilty of environmental damage in the country and ordered it to pay $19 billion
in damages. In November last year, the Supreme Court of Ecuador cut the bill to
However, Kaplan’s ruling
stopped any liability against Chevron in the United States.“The decision in the
Lago Agrio case was obtained by corrupt means,” Kaplan said in March this year. “The defendants here may not be
allowed to benefit from that in any way.”
Kaplan ruled that
lawyers Steven Donziger, Gerardo Camacho Naranjo and Javier Piaguaje
Payaguaje have to provide Chevron with any proceeds from the Ecuador ruling.
While Chevron has refused to comply with that ruling, plaintiffs led by
Donziger have tried to get Chevron assets in other countries such as Argentina,
Brazil and Canada.
The Chevron legal team was led by Randy
Mastro, Co-Chair of the
Litigation Practice Group at Gibson Dunn. During the trial, Mastro managed to
get former judge Nicolas Zambrano,
who issued the verdict against Chevron, to admit that he never even read his
own judgment or key evidence included.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my 33
years as a lawyer and public prosecutor,” Mastro told Latinvex before the trial
ended. “It’s really the brazenness, the audaciousness
of the conduct, and then to take the false
narrative created in Ecuador and trumpet it in the US, to shake down a US
The Facebook page of Amnesty International
USA’s Andean Coordination Group has posted several links to Donziger’s version
of the Chevron case. One of them says: “U.S. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan stretched
the RICO statute beyond its “breaking point,” committed reversible error by
accepting corrupt witness testimony, disregarded the overwhelming scientific
evidence of Chevron’s contamination in Ecuador, and unlawfully interfered with
a final decision from another nation’s Supreme Court when he imposed an
injunction in favor of the oil company in a two-decade dispute with rainforest
villagers over widespread oil contamination.”
Amnesty’s Human Rights
Action Center in London in 2010 offered a free screening of the movie Crude, which depicted the case against
Chevron from Donziger’s perspective. “The film depicts a
17-year-long legal battle between Ecuadoreans and the oil giant Chevron,” a
blog on Amnesty ‘s web site said. “The 30,000 Ecuadoreans
have accused Chevron of polluting the Amazon region by dumping oil waste and
causing untold damage and disease – not only to the people in the region, but the
land, rivers, wells and livestock.”
Chevron later used
outtakes from Crude to argue its case
for Donziger committing fraud.
In May, US law firm
Patton Boggs (since merged with Squire Sanders), paid Chevron $15 million to
settle a lawsuit for its role in the fraud against the oil company. “Based on
the Court’s findings, Patton Boggs regrets its involvement in this matter,” it
said, referring to Kaplan’s ruling in March.
Last year, litigation
finance firm Burford Capital – which had financed Patton Boggs’ involvement in
the case -- said it never would have invested in the case were it not for
“false and misleading representations” made not only by Donziger, but
also by Patton Boggs partner James Tyrrell, Jr, according to Fortune, which published the full statement from
Bulford CEO Christopher Bogart on the case. (Tyrrell has since left Patton Boggs and joined Edwards Wildman last month).
ECUADOR SPENDS MILLIONS ON PR CAMPAIGN
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reveals that the
government of Ecuador’s President Rafael
Correa paid more than $6.4 million for the services of U.S. PR firms
MCSquared and FitzGibbon Media to work
on the case during a one-year period that ended in April.
The Hill, a Washington publication, calls it “a stunning figure in the niche business of
foreign government lobbying.”
“In papers filed with
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Donziger portrays himself as
an underfunded idealist confronting a company willing to spend any amount to
avoid losing in court,” Bloomberg assistant managing editor Paul Barrett wrote
this week. “Rather than a battle pitting indigent farmers and tribe members
against an omnipotent oil producer—which is how Donziger and his celebrity cheerleaders portray the
confrontation—this conflict involves a sovereign nation seeking to shift the
cost of a complex problem to the balance sheet of a foreign corporation.”