Publish in Special Reports - Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Ecuador's government has spent $6 million on US PR for Steven Donziger, who was found guilty of fraud against Chevron. (Photo: CrudeTheMovie).
Amnesty International USA’s Andean Coordination Group has posted several links to Donziger’s version of the Chevron case.
Amnesty sides with group that was found guilty of fraud against Chevron.
BY LATINVEX STAFF
UK-based Amnesty 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.
The organizations’ 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 $9.5 billion.
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 company.”
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.”
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