Taking Crude Liberties with the Facts

As we blog about frequently here at Shopfloor.org, Chevron is defending itself in the U.S. and Ecuador courts against litigation by U.S. trial lawyers and their activist allies who want the company to pay $27.4 billion for environmental damage in Ecuador allegedly committed by its predecessor company, Texaco.

Now Shopfloor is being mentioned in court filings in the case, but the claims made about blog posts here are just not true.

The most recent turn of legal events has involved outtakes from the documentary-style movie “Crude,” which covers the litigation against the company from a perspective sympathetic to the Ecuadorian victims of Western civilization. Chevron sought outtakes from the movie in federal court, and once acquiring them, identified clear incidents of the trial lawyer team scheming to maximize damages against the company, even to the extent of meeting with the supposedly “independent” court-appointed expert who later recommended the $27.4 billion award. Also damning were the claims from Steven Donziger, the U.S. trial lawyer leading the litigation, who said among other outrageous things:  “Hold on a second, you know, this is Ecuador. . . . You can say whatever you want and at the end of the day, there’s a thousand people around the courthouse, you’re going to get what you want. Sorry, but it’s true.”

The above information is available in Chevron’s Aug. 3 filing in U.S. District Court, Southern District Court of New York, “Chevron Corporation’s Memorandum of Law in support of a motion for a preservation order, and to supplement and enforce the subpoenas.” We wrote about the filing here, an Aug. 3 Shopfloor post, “‘Crude’ Footage Reveals Lies Behind Trial Lawyers’ Suit Against Chevron.”

Chevron obtained the footage after the legal process went from the District Court to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. On July 15, the Second Circuit ordered Joe Berlinger, the director of the film, to make relevant footage available to Chevron. That order, which we wrote about here, includes a court instruction to Chevron: “2) Material produced under this order shall be used by the petitioners solely for litigation, arbitration, or submission to official bodies, either local or international.”

Lawyers for both Berlinger and the plaintiffs are now claiming that Shopfloor.org’s blogging about the court proceedings somehow represents a violation by Chevron of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals order which required Berlinger to turn over footage to the company.

Well, of course, Shopfloor is not Chevron and Chevron is not Shopfloor. Included in these most recent filings are misstatements of fact, which we will now correct.

In an August 12 filing, “Lago Agrio Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in opposition to Chevron corporation’s “Motion for preservation orders and to supplement and enforce subpoenas,” the plaintiffs claim:

On August 3, 2010, Chevron filed but did not serve the instant Motion. Rather than serve the respondents and interested parties, Chevron provided the Motion to its blogger, an individual named Carter Wood (who has admitted previously being paid by Chevron in connection with the case). Ex. 18. Chevron’s blogger posted the blog at 7:47 pm., included a link to the complaint, and quoted liberally from the outtakes (as transcribed by Chevron). Id. At 8:03 p.m., Chevron sent an international press release (by its Media Advisor Justin Higgs) announcing the present Motion, and linking to the blog, which linked to the Motion. At 9:03 p.m., still before serving the papers, Chevron posted on Twitter: “’Crude’ outtakes reveal director Joe Berlinger followed trial laweyrs’ bidding to aid suit against #Chevron” to its Twitter.com page and linked to the blog.

Here are the facts:

  • Chevron did not provide the Motion to “its” blogger. I have a Pacer account for electronic access to federal court filings, I checked the court docket, I downloaded the motion, I read it, I wrote about it.  Just as any journalist or blogger would.
  • I am not Chevron’s blogger. I am employed by the National Association of Manufacturers.
  • I have not “admitted previously being paid by Chevron in connection with the case.” I have previously disclosed on numerous occasions (here and here, for instance) that in June 2009 Chevron paid for several bloggers, including me, to travel to Florida and Ecuador so it could present its side of case to us. (Imagine the fuss if I had not made such a repeated disclosure.) Chevron has never asked me to write anything.

As for Berlinger’s attorneys, they claim in “Respondents’ Memorandum of Law (A) in Opposition to Chevron Corporation’s Motion for a Preservation Order, and to supplement and enforce the subpoenas, and (B) in support of their cross-motion for an order compelling Chevron Corporation to comply with Second Circuit Court’s Order,” this:

On August 3, 2010, at 7:47 p.m., more than two hours before Chevron served its motion papers on counsel for the Filmmakers, a thorough article entitled “’Crude’ Footage Reveals Lies Behind Trial Lawyers’ Suit Against Chevron” was posted on the blog of the National Association of Manufacturers.(8)

Thank you for the compliment. I thought it was quite thorough myself. I took the public document, the court filing, read it and wrote about it. I’m knowledgeable about the case, having blogged about it for well over a year.

The footnote (8) provides a link to the blog post and states, “The author of the article, Carter Wood, admits to being a paid blogger for Chevron.”  

Again, not true. Funny how that phrase is so similar to the plaintiffs’ motion.

Shopfloor is being cited for engaging in what is essentially a journalistic exercise, reporting and writing about a case that holds great interest for U.S. companies, including manufacturers. We take a point of view on the litigation, but we also strive to be factual. Unlike …

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