Shakedown in Ecuador

By September 1, 2009Briefly Legal, Energy

Investor’s Business Daily editorializes today on the release of videotapes by Chevron documenting a bribery scheme involving the judge and government officials in Ecuador, “Chevron’s Shakedown.” Judge Juan Nunez clearly indicates he intends to rule against Chevron, even though he’s supposedly still taking evidence.

In sum, the tapes provide more, powerful evidence that the $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron is really just a grand scheme of wealth transfer, taking from the stockholders to give to U.S. trial lawyers, environmental activists, corrupt officials in Ecuador and, if they’re lucky, a few Amazonian Indians.

The tapes confirm three serious things: the Ecuadorean judge has already decided to rule against Chevron later this year, even before he’s heard the evidence; that he can no longer preside over this case; that the government, though not a party to the lawsuit, will benefit from the $26 billion jackpot; and that the judge can no longer credibly preside over the case; and that any appeal of the court’s decision would be, in the judge’s words on the video, “a formality.”

Whatever this is, it’s not justice.

The merits of Chevron’s case are irrelevant to Ecuador, whose judge is internationally recognized as the arbiter of the case. And the U.S. government’s passivity in this case is foolish. Chevron’s fate should be a lesson: Ecuador’s crooks will shake down American corporations for everything they have — and then some.

Dow-Jones reached Judge Juan Nunez in Ecuador, who denied any wrongdoing: “Nobody has offered me any money. I have not met with government officials, nor from the government’s party to deal with the Chevron case.”

And Steven Donziger, the New York trial lawyer who masterminded a PR and media campaign against Chevron in the hopes of bullying the company into settling, continues the attacks, telling The Washington Post: “I think this raises as many questions about Chevron as it does about the judge. I think this was a dirty-tricks operation by Chevron.”

Well, it’s certainly not the first time Donziger has made a wild accusation with no facts to back him up.

Chevron has posted the tapes and other materials at its website, www.chevron.com/ecuador.

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