Chevron's Ecuador problem: Oil giant vows to fight $9 billion environmental ruling
Chevron and the plaintiffs have both vowed to appeal the Ecuadorean court ruling, with the US oil company calling it 'illegitimate and unenforceable' and the plaintiffs saying the damages award is far too little.
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On Feb. 8, a US federal judge gave Chevron temporary protection against the lawsuit. The following day, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ordered Ecuador to suspend enforcement of any judgment against Chevron pending adjudication.Skip to next paragraph
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These rulings came after a prominent US law firm that represents the plaintiffs on Feb. 7 filed a lawsuit in Washington accusing Chevron of mounting a “smear campaign.” That suit was in reaction to Chevron filing a lawsuit on Feb. 1 against the plaintiffs' lawyers in a court in New York, accusing them of engaging in an international racketeering and extortion conspiracy.
Chevron filed the lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which has been used in the past to target mafia members. Most of the evidence provided by Chevron is gathered from outtakes of the documentary "Crude."
In the 2009 documentary, plaintiffs' lawyer Steven Donziger appears as a unscrupulous negotiator – to such a degree that Chevron's legal team thought that by getting access to 600 hours of filming that never made it in the final version of the documentary, they could prove misconduct on the plaintiffs' side.
In one clip, Mr. Donziger is in a car on his way to see the Ecuadorean judge in charge of the case. “The only language I believe this judge is going to understand is one of pressure, intimidation, humiliation. And that's what we're doing today. We're going to let him know what time it is,” Donziger says in the film.
“This is something you would never do in the United States,” he says in another clip. “But Ecuador, you know, there's almost no rules here. And this is how the game is played, it's dirty.”
These outtakes alone should be proof of the plaintiffs' attempt to corrupt the court, says James Craig, a spokesperson for Chevron. “We have more than a smoking gun, we have a mountain of evidence,” he says in a telephone interview from Chevron's headquarters in San Ramon, Calif.
"Chevron intends to see that the perpetrators of this fraud are held accountable for their misconduct," reads a statement posted on Chevron's website yesterday.
Mr. Fajardo says Donziger's quotes are taken out of context. “These are jokes, they're not serious statements,” he says. “Chevron is trying to give them an evil meaning.”
'The real face of this case: people'
Chevron believes there is enough evidence to make any judgment illegitimate. It complains of government interference on the judiciary and of collusion between the plaintiffs and the court-appointed expert that fixed the sum for reparations at $27 billion.
The plaintiffs deny these accusations, and say that Chevron is just trying to muddy the waters to take attention away from the people who initiated this lawsuit.
Says Fajardo: “The real face of this case are people, indigenous people, women, children who are suffering – but Chevron doesn't want us to talk about that.”
Watch video: Ecuador's toxic trial