While government fails to clean up
environmental damage at center of campaign.
BY LATINVEX STAFF
Ecuador’s hypocrisy over
environmental pollution was again revealed this week as it emerged that a US PR
agency financed by the Ecuadorian government spent $325,400 on a planned luxury
trip for actress Sharon Stone.
The Basic Instinct star was supposed to tour areas allegedly
contaminated by Texaco, a unit of Chevron, and denounce the US oil company.
Meanwhile, Ecuador's government has failed to clean up much of the contaminated areas, which
Chevron says are largely caused by spills by the country’s state oil company.
The PR firm, MCSquared, paid $77,400 for Stone and three companions to fly first-class to Ecuador and stay at luxury hotel suites as well as hair and makeup for the events and personal guides. It shelled out an additional $275,000 for Stone to appear in Ecuador for three days in April 2014.
In the end, Stone didn’t go as she had an accident in Brazil, according to the New York Daily News.
The PR firm now wants its money
back and has sued Stone in Federal Court in New York, according to Courthouse News Service. Miami lawyer Rodrigo Da Silva represents MCSquared.
MCSquared received a total of $6.4 million from Ecuador’s
government between May 2013 and April 2014 to attack Chevron. The Hill, a Washington
publication, calls it “a stunning figure in the niche business of foreign
[MCSquared has amended its federal lobbying information to disclose that it received an additional $3.6 million to attack Chevron, O'Dwyer's reported]
cancellation, MCSquared was able to secure other stars to take the tour and
denounce Chevron. They include Mia
Farrow and Danny Glover.
MCSquared paid $188,391
to Greater Talent Network, which represents Farrow, and $330,000 to the
American Program Bureau, which represents Glover, according to an amended
Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosure it filed in September last year.
Farrow says she was paid
but that she received a smaller amount than what her talent firm received.
MCSquared's payments to
the two talent agencies represented more than a quarter of its total itemized
disbursements associated with its contract with Ecuador, the Washington Free
subsequently promoted the actors’ visits to Ecuador in a pair of press
releases. In January last year, it issued a press release titled “Actress
and Humanitarian Activist Mia Farrow Joins Campaign to Hold Chevron Accountable
for Contamination in Ecuadorian Rainforest”.
acclaimed actress and prominent humanitarian Mia Farrow will visit the
Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest to witness first hand the massive environmental
damage caused by Texaco, now Chevron, during decades of operation in the
northeastern region of Ecuador,” it said.
The statement attacked
Chevron’s lawsuit against US activist lawyer Steven Donziger and others and
even the judge that ruled in favor of Chevron, Lewis Kaplan.
A few months
earlier – in November 2013 – MCSquared issued a press release titled “Actor
Danny Glover to Visit Contaminated Areas in the Ecuadorian Rainforest Where
American actor and social activist Danny Glover arrived in Ecuador yesterday
where he plans to visit an area of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest were the
multinational oil giant Chevron operated, and was sentenced by a local court to
pay a multibillion-dollar fine for a massive environmental contamination, “ it
It also attacked
the Chevron lawsuit and Judge Kapan.
“Real and borderline
celebrities have visited a number of sites in the area, most commonly over the
past 12 years a pit with leftover oil residue called Aguarico-4 which the
government insists is now Chevron’s fault, despite ample documentary evidence
to the contrary,” Ecuadorian consulting firm Analytica said last year.
Among celebrities that
have visited the site (albeit not through MCSquared) are US actress Darryl Hannah and UK actress Trudie Styler (also known as the wife
of musician Sting), who both visited Ecuador in 2007.
In 2011, an Ecuadorian
court in Lago Agrio ruled that Chevron had to pay $19 billion in environmental
damages for pollution by Texaco when it operated in the country between 1964 and
In March last year, Judge Kaplan ruled that the Ecuador verdict
was tainted by fraud. “The decision in the Lago Agrio case was obtained by
corrupt means,” he said. “The defendants here may not be allowed to benefit
from that in any way.”
Kaplan ruled that lawyers 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.
Chevron was represented by a Gibson Dunn team led by Randy Mastro, Co-Chair of the Litigation Practice Group at the firm and a former federal prosecutor who gained
prominence pursuing mobsters in New York who also served as New York’s deputy
mayor and chief of staff under Rudolph
Giuliani. 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
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
Earlier this month, James Russell DeLeon, the principal
funder of the lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador, quit the case and says he was
misled by Donziger.
in March 2007, I provided funding to support the litigation in Ecuador against
Chevron Corporation, in the good faith belief that I was supporting a worthy
cause,” he said in a statement released by Chevron on February 16. “However, I
have since reviewed the March 4, 2014 opinion by Judge Kaplan of the United
States District Court for the Southern District of New York setting out the
Court's findings and I have also considered the evidence presented during the
trial. As a result, I have concluded that representatives of the Lago Agrio
plaintiffs, including Steven Donziger, misled me about important facts. If I
had known these facts, I would not have funded the litigation.”
year, Patton Boggs also withdrew from the case. “The recent opinion of the United States District Court
for the Southern District of New York in the Chevron
v. Donziger [racketeering] case includes a number of factual
findings about matters which would have materially affected our firm’s decision
to become involved and stay involved as counsel here,” Patton Boggs said in a
statement in the settlement agreement in May 2014. “Based on the court’s
findings, Patton Boggs regrets its involvement in this matter.”
For a law firm of Patton Boggs’s heft, the settlement is
highly unusual, according to Bloomberg Businessweek Assistant Managing Editor Paul M. Barrett. “Law firms
occasionally drop a client in the breach,” he wrote. “It’s almost unheard of,
however, for a major law firm to humiliate itself in the fashion Patton Boggs
did in the face of Chevron’s threat to pursue pending fraud allegations against
Barrett details the fraud by Donziger in his new book Law of the Jungle: The
$19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who'd Stop
at Nothing to Win.
Key highlights of the book include how Donziger pressured
various Ecuadorian judges (through both blackmail and monetary incentives), how
he was behind the selection of the so called “independent expert” and then
masterminded the expert’s official report on Texaco’s pollution (he hired a US
company to write it and then pass it off as the expert’s) and last, but not
least, that Donziger composed large portions of the final verdict against
Chevron. The expert report included outright false and exaggerated claims about
Texaco’s pollution, aimed at boosting the size of the intended fine.
Barrett also shows how Donziger actively pushed for a
strategy of focusing on Chevron as the sole culprit of oil damage despite
Ecuador’s own failings to avoid pollution and then to fix it. Amazingly enough,
he also opposed any remediation of pollution in fear that it would hurt his
lawsuit. “The lawyer who had raised millions of dollars from environmentalists
committed to saving Indians and the rain forest was actively blocking attempts
to clean the contamination,” Barrett writes.