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After Fraud and Conspiring, the Logical Next Step: RICO

By | Briefly Legal | 3 Comments

What do you call an operation in which the lead lawyer in a multi-billion dollar lawsuit talks about threatening judges, an environmental activist worries about a cameraman recording plans to subvert justice, a supposed independent court expert submits a report written for him by plaintiffs, documents are forged, ex parte meetings engaged in with government officials, and the skullduggery emerges only because a documentary filmaker let the lawyers dictate his “art?” Well, it’s a racket, sure. Corrupt? Claro.

Since Chevron was the subject of this corrupt scheme under the guise of a lawsuit claiming environmental damage in Ecuador, it’s comes as no surprise that the company has now filed a RICO lawsuit against the lawyers, activists and various hangers-on involved in the shakedown. (UPDATE: Here’s Chevron’s filing in the Southern District of New York.)

Courthouse News Service reports the news, “Chevron Levels RICO Charges Over $113B Trial in Ecuador,” with the suit naming Steven Donziger, the New York trial lawyer who masterminded the scheme, as the lead defendant in the 214-page suit.

Other defendants include the Amazon Defense Front and Stratus Consulting. Alleged co-conspirators who are not named as defendants include Joseph Kohn and his firm Kohn, Swift & Graf; the law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady; the firm Motley Rice; the firm Patton Boggs; and spokeswoman Karen Hinton.

Courthouse News Service quotes from Chevron’s complaint:

Over the course of several years, defendants Steven Donziger and his co-defendants and co-conspirators have sought to extort, defraud, and otherwise tortiously injure plaintiff Chevron by means of a plan they conceived and substantially executed in the United States. The enterprise’s ultimate aim is to create enough pressure on Chevron in the United States to extort it into paying to stop the campaign against it. Read More

Chevron ‘Cherrypicks’ Film Footage? That’s Hilarious

By | Briefly Legal, Energy, Media Relations | 2 Comments

The New York Times ArtsBeat blog this afternoon became the first mainstream media outlet to report on Chevron’s court filing based on footage from the documentary-style film, “Crude,” about a lawsuit claiming the company is responsible for environmental damage in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle.

As we reported yesterday, the outtakes clearly show U.S. trial lawyers and activists instructing the supposedly independent, court-appointed expert — Richard Cabrera — on how to rig his report to maximize damage claims against the company. At one point, New York lawyer Steven Donziger declares, “We could jack this thing up to $30 billion …in one day.” Close! Cabrera recommended $27.4 billion in damages.

In his ArtsBeat piece, “Chevron Cites Documentary Footage in Its Fight Against Ecuadorean Plaintiffs,” reporter David Itzkoff elicits just an amazing quote from Ilann M. Maazel, a lawyer whose firm represents the Ecuadorean plaintiffs.

“They cherrypick a couple of minutes and share it with the court, but they’re not willing to release all the tapes,” Mr. Maazel said in a telephone interview. “I think it’s very revealing of their strategy of diversion and misleading people.”

That is an hilarious comment, reflecting either audacious spin or short-term memory damage. Chevron went to federal district court seeking all the outtakes from “Crude,” arguing — correctly, as it turned out — that the footage would show the plaintiffs conspiring with government experts. The director, Joe Berlinger, fought the attempt but eventually accepted as a “limited victory” the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that required he make available only relevant footage depicting certain events or people.

After the Second Circuit’s ruling, Maazel went to court, filing an emergency motion seeking even further restrictions on the release of outtakes. (Shopfloor post, “After ‘Crude’ Ruling, Trial Lawyers Suing Chevron Get Nervous.“) In other words, the last thing Maazel wanted was for Berlinger to release all the tapes. Please, please, please cherrypick, he pleaded with the court.

Elsewhere … Read More