Amazon Defense Front Archives - Shopfloor

Judge Lends Weight to Chevron’s RICO Suit over Shakedown

By | Briefly Legal, Energy, General, Trade | No Comments

In filing civil a RICO suit on Feb. 1 against the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, U.S. trial lawyer Steven Donziger, his numerous Ecuadorian associates — lawyers and activists — the Amazon Defense Front and a Colorado consulting firm, Stratus, Chevron is seeking several major forms of relief. (Chevron complaint, news release.)

First, it seeks damages, including treble damages allowed under civil RICO, caused by the organized scheme to damage the company’ reputation, defraud the justice system, and extort billions of dollars from Chevron for supposed environmental damage from oil operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Second, the company seeks to prevent the defendants and their allies (co-conspirators according to Chevron) from aiding Ecuador in any way from enforcing a court order claiming any of Chevron’s assets. A judge in Ecuador could hand down a multi-billion judgment against Chevron based on fraud and conspiracy, and then the U.S. trial lawyers and their partners in the shakedown suit would try to get their piece of the prize by going after Chevron’s asset around the world. (For specific language from the suit, see the extended entry of this post*.)

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York is taking the issues raised by Chevron very seriously. In an order issued Thursday, the judge scheduled a “show cause” hearing next Tuesday in Manhattan over the granting of a preliminary injunction as requested by Chevron. The defendants are to:

show cause before this Court… why an order should not be issued, pursuant to Rule 65(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, temporarily enjoining and restraining, until after thee Court has had an opportunty to rule on Chevron’s application for a preliminary injunction “defendants and any persons acting in concert with them from funding, commencing, prosecuting, advancing in any way, or receiving benefit from, directly or indirectly, any action or proceeding for recognition or enforcement of any judgment entered against Chevron in Maria Aguidan y Otros v. Chevron Corporation, No. 002-2003 (“Lago Agrio Litigation”) currently pending in the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios in Ecuador, or for prejudgment seizure or attachment of assets based on any such judgment.

A central strategy of the U.S. trial lawyers behind this shakedown lawsuit has been to corrupt the courts in Ecuador to gain a judgment and then to immediately use the courts around the world to seize or otherwise tie up Chevron’s assets, thereby increasing the pressure on the company to settle out of court.

Throughout the process, Judge Kaplan has been saying, “Not so fast.” Pretty soon, he may just say, “No.”
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Trial Lawyer: Raise an ‘Army’ to Pressure Ecuadorian Court

By | Briefly Legal, Energy, General | 3 Comments

Outtakes from the documentary-style movie “Crude” should leave no doubt that the campaign against Chevron instigated by U.S. trial lawyers has nothing to do with the law or justice, and everything to do with politics, PR and manipulating Ecuador’s judicial system.

Chevron has recently filed additional transcripts in federal court to support the company’s legal motions. Among the transcripts’ astonishing revelations:

  • The U.S. trial lawyer leading the litigation, Steven Donziger, and the plaintiffs’ team discuss the need for “an army” of supporters to surround the courthouse in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, to pressure the judge hearing the lawsuit.
  • The head of the supposedly independent group, Amazon Watch, worries that the cameraman recording the conversation is documenting an illegal conspiracy.

In July, Chevron successfully argued in federal court — the Southern District of New York and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals — that it had a legal right to review outtakes from the anti-Chevron film, “Crude.”  Both the plaintiffs suing the company for $27.4 billion — the Amazon Defense Coalition, ostensibly representing Ecuadorians harmed by oil drilling — and the movie’s director, Joe Berlinger, vigorously fought the motion.

No wonder: The outtakes show the litigation not to be the great moral cause that plaintiffs claim, but rather a cynical shake-down effort directed at the company because it’s American and it’s profitable. But that’s the nature of many of the lawsuits filed against U.S. companies that operate in poor countries.

As evidence, consider Chevron Document 22-4 (available   here Scribd version,), which documents portions of a June 6, 2007 conversation among Donziger, Luis Yanza (Ecuadorian coordinator for the plaintiffs) and Atossa Soltani, founder and director of Amazon Watch.

Most of the conversation is in Spanish, translated into English. (The transcripts include both languages.) The word “ejército” is translated as “army,” but it sounds more like a goon squad to us. Luis Yanza says at one point: “They would have to receive minimal training… things– details, so they do a good job for us. That’s it. And then, if it goes well, and we need, uh, if we need weapons, we can provide weapons.”

This is the same Luis Yanza awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2008, including an award of $150,000, for organizing Amazonian Indians.
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Chevron Files in Ecuador for Dismissal of Suit by U.S. Trial Lawyers

By | Briefly Legal, Energy | 2 Comments

The documentary evidence has been mounting for many months now that the U.S. trial lawyers’ litigation against Chevron for environmental damages in Ecuador was built on collusion, fraud and lies, all marketed as an environmental and humanitarian campaign.

This week’s revelations from outtakes from the documentary-style film “Crude” sealed the case. The collusion, fraud and lies are now on film, visible for the courts and the whole world to see.

So this next step makes eminent sense.

Chevron Files Petition in Ecuador Seeking Dismissal of Lawsuit

SAN RAMON, Calif., Aug. 6, 2010 – Chevron Corporation has today filed a petition before the Provincial Court of Sucumbíos in Lago Agrio, Ecuador seeking dismissal of the lawsuit pending against it there. In support of its petition, Chevron has submitted to the court video outtakes from the movie Crude that show the plaintiffs’ counsel, consultants, and associates meeting with the court’s supposedly neutral “Global Expert,” Richard Stalin Cabrera Vega, to plan and create the $27.3 billion damages report that Cabrera later would present to the court as his own.

Chevron believes that the video evidence proves that plaintiffs’ counsel and consultants colluded with Cabrera to present a fraudulent report and then to present a fraudulent “peer review” of their own work. Chevron also believes that the video proves that plaintiffs’ and Cabrera’s denials of their collusion in filings and testimony before the Ecuadorian court, before various United States courts and other institutions, and before the worldwide press have been false.

Chevron’s petition argues that the case must be dismissed as a sanction for the abusive misconduct by plaintiffs and their attorneys, and because the fraudulent “Global Expert” report submitted under Cabrera’s name is the only “evidence” supporting plaintiffs’ case.

Roger Alford of Pepperdine University School of Law has been reporting on Chevron’s court filing this week based on the “Crude” footage, including responses from Karen Hinton, the trial lawyers’ PR person, and an attorney for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs. His excellent posts are at the Opinio Juris blog here. But you cannot spin or explain away the clear meaning of the words of Steven Donziger, the head U.S. trial lawyer. As Alford writes:

In responding to concerns from their own experts that there was not evidence of groundwater contamination, Donziger replies, “This is all for the Court just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bullshit.” (p. 12). That’s right, Donziger is caught on tape saying that the evidence he is gathering for inclusion in the court-appointed expert report about groundwater contamination is just smoke and mirrors and bullshit.

I would rarely advise our readers to read a court filing they don’t have to, especially during the summer recess. But this one is explosive.

Shopfloor posts:

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‘Crude’ Footage Reveals Lies Behind Trial Lawyers’ Suit Against Chevron

By | Briefly Legal, Energy, First Amendment and Lobbying | 11 Comments

Now, THIS is a blockbuster. Footage from the documentary-style film, “Crude,” reveals that U.S. trial lawyers strategized with a supposedly independent court-appointed expert in Ecuador who went on to recommmend penalizing Chevron $27.4 billion for environmental damage in the Amazon.

In a court filing today in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, attorneys for Chevron detailed the collusion among Steven Donziger, the U.S. trial lawyer who has masterminded the suit, the Ecuadorian lawyers who serve as the public face of the anti-Chevron campaign, and Richard Cabrera, an engineer later appointed as the court’s “special master” charged with assessing the pollution and damages. It is Cabrera who recommended the $27.4 billion damage figure, earning him praise from anti-Chevron activists who hailed his findings as proof of the company’s greed and criminality.

The damning revelations are the result of Chevron’s successful legal efforts to gain access to outtakes from the movie, “Crude,” which the director, Joe Berlinger, claimed to be a fair and balanced effort to show both sides in the litigation over Texaco’s operations in Ecuador between 1964 and 1990. Chevron purchased Texaco in 2001.  Berlinger claimed journalistic privilege and fought to keep control of the footage, but was ordered by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on July 15 to turn over relevant material.  The review by Chevron’s lawyers of the first batch of outtakes shows that not only that the legal case against Chevron is built on lies, but that Berlinger’s reputation as a serious, fair-minded documentarian is hollow.

The opening of Chevron’s memorandum filed today reads like a good movie, with the added virtue of being true. From the document, “Chevron Corporation’s Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for a Preservation Order, and to supplement and enforce the subpoenas,” filed by Chevron’s attorney, Randy Mastro, with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher:

“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.” “Because at the end of the day, this is all for the Court just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bullshit. It really is. We have enough, to get money, to win.” Ex. F at 195-05.1 So says Lago Agrio Plaintiffs’ counsel and New York licensed lawyer Steven Donziger in an outtake from Crude produced just days ago pursuant to the orders of this Court and the Second Circuit. Donziger makes these statements during a meeting with Plaintiffs’ U.S. environmental consultants Charles Champ, Ann Maest, and Dick Kamp, after Maest tells him, point blank, that they need evidence of groundwater contamination, because Plaintiffs did not submit any and “right now all the reports are saying it’s just at the pits and the stations and nothing has spread anywhere at all.” Id. When Champ continues to press on the lack of evidence, Donziger looks at the camera and says, “There’s another point I got to make . . . with these guys, but I can’t get this on camera,” and then the camera goes off. Id.

Chevron has thus far been able to review only a small fraction of the outtakes produced, but already it is clear that they contain conclusive evidence that Plaintiffs’ counsel, consultants, and associates have knowingly participated in a fraudulent enterprise to corrupt the legal proceedings pending in Ecuador against Chevron. The express goal of their scheme is to procure a fraudulent, multi-billion dollar damages recommendation from a supposedly independent “Special Master,” and then to use that fraudulent recommendation either to extort a settlement from Chevron or to obtain a fraudulent judgment from the Ecuadorian court.

We’ve uploaded the court filing here. (Scribd here.) The 39-page document provides a wealth of details about the sordid  orchestration of the claims against Chevron, with Steven Donziger being the cynical conductor. The key factual point appears on page five:

The Crude Outtakes Show That Plaintiffs’ Counsel and Consultants Planned and Created the Supposedly Independent $27.4 Billion “Global Expert Assessment”

The outtakes that Chevron has reviewed so far leave no doubt that Plaintiffs arranged for Cabrera’s appointment and decided what Cabrera’s report would say, and that Plaintiffs’ lawyers and their U.S. consultants—not independent experts working for Cabrera—drafted Cabrera’s initial work plan and ultimately his damages assessment in the Lago Agrio Litigation.

We have followed this case because the litigation captures so well the modern shakedown campaigns that trial lawyers and activists carry out against U.S. businesses, often cheered on by a biased media. The evidence was always there, conclusions ready to be drawn. Now there’s no denying it — the corruption behind this litigation is on film.

Earlier posts about Chevron, “Crude,” and Donziger.

Disclosure: As I have disclosed repeatedly, Chevron paid for several bloggers, myself included, to take a trip to Florida and Ecuador in June 2009, during which Chevron presented its side of  the case. No one at Chevron has ever told me what to write on the issue.

Never Letting the Facts Get in the Way

By | Briefly Legal, Energy | One Comment

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.

Chevron in Ecuador: This Starts to Explain the $27 Billion Figure

By | Briefly Legal, Energy | One Comment

A news release from Chevron today provides more compelling evidence that the activist/trial lawyer/Ecuadorian government’s legal shakedown of the company is based on falsehoods and naked self-interest and can only succeed where the rule of law is absent. From “Court Appointee in Chevron Ecuador Lawsuit Tied to Ecuador State-Owned Oil Company“:

SAN RAMON, Calif., Feb. 9, 2010 – In a court filing today in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX) provided newly discovered information showing that the author of a report recommending that Chevron be ordered to pay $27 billion in damages is the majority owner of an oilfield remediation company that stands to gain financially from a judgment against Chevron. Due to the remediation company’s relationship with Ecuador’s state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, Chevron called upon the court to immediately reject the work of Richard Cabrera on the grounds that he knowingly hid his relationship and that he stands to gain from what was supposed to be unbiased work for the court.

“For three years, Mr. Cabrera has concealed clear financial conflicts of interest that disqualify him from acting as an independent and objective evaluator of the evidence in the case,” Chevron Vice President and General Counsel Hewitt Pate said. “While Mr. Cabrera’s financial interests alone are sufficient grounds for his report to be rejected, his intentional concealment of those interests further demonstrates that the entirety of his work lacks honesty, integrity, or credibility.”

Recently uncovered records, from 2003 through 2008, show Cabrera is co-founder, general manager, majority stockholder, and legal representative of an oilfield remediation company, Compañía Ambiental Minera-Petrolera S.A. (“CAMPET”), which is registered to perform oilfield remediation and other services for Petroecuador. Cabrera failed to disclose these business interests as required by law.

That’s just the start of a very detailed dissection of Cabrera’s self-interest, explaining how he could reach the fantastical figure of $27 billion in damages against Chevron for previous operations of Texaco in Ecuador. The bigger the pot, the bigger the payout for Sr. Cabrera.

And for the Amazon Defense Front, which also happens to be guiding and rewarding Cabrera. Chevron had previously documented that:

  • The Amazon Defense Front, the named financial beneficiary of the lawsuit, directly and improperly paid Cabrera more than $200,000 for his work;
  • Sections of Cabrera’s $27 billion claim are copied word-for-word from documents written by Amazon Defense Front lawyers;
  • Photographs and video show representatives of the Amazon Defense Front conducting Cabrera’s field work as well as preparing soil and water samples for Cabrera, who had promised to carry out his work independently;

The Amazon Defense Front and its PR flacks — doing the work of the U.S. trial lawyers — like to accuse the critics of their shakedown of conducting “dirty tricks.” But the facts keep showing that the dirty tricks of the trade are really the tools of the anti-Chevron campaigners.