Never Letting the Facts Get in the Way

By February 12, 2010Briefly Legal, Energy

On Tuesday, Chevron issued a news release that detailed yet another fundamental corruption at the heart of the trial lawyer/activist/government’s legal campaign against the company in Ecuador: The court-appointed “expert” — a mining engineer — who recommended $27 billion in damages against the company for environmental clean-up is also the majority owner of an oilfield remediation company that stands to gain financially from a judgment against Chevron. Richard Cabrera never reported this disqualifying conflict of interest from the Ecuadorian court.

The response from the Amazon Defense Coalition, the front group for U.S.-based activists and contingency fee attorneys driving the litigation, reads like a news release from a political campaign: Our opponents are “desperate.” The argument, such as it is, follows: Cabrera has no conflict of interest! He already revealed the conflict of interest! His conflict of interest precludes him from being involved in future remediation! Chevron’s lying!

In any legitimate legal proceeding , a court-appointed “expert” who concealed his financial self-interest from the judge would be disqualified and sanctioned. But the litigation against Chevron in Ecuador is not a legitimate proceeding, it’s a public relations campaign designed to create enough reputational risk that the company settles out of court. That strategy has been disrupted by Chevron deciding to argue its case not just judicially but also in the court of public opinion, that is, to fight back. You can almost hear the cries of outrage from the Amazon Defense Coalition and New York attorney Steven Donziger: “How dare they defend themselves!”

Chevron’s blog, The Amazon Post, refutes point-by-point the claims by the activist group.

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