Tag: Pablo Fajardo

Videos Reveal Anti-Chevron Strategy: Politics, Pressure and Lies

Ever since Shopfloor began blogging about the Ecuador-based litigation against Chevron in May 2007, we’ve argued that the lawsuit was a blatant shakedown by U.S. trial lawyers. In claiming Chevron owed $27 billlion — and then $113 billion — for environmental damage from Texaco’s oil drilling in the Amazon, the U.S. attorneys and Lago Agrio plaintiffs in Ecuador were really trying to pressure Chevron (which had bought Texaco in 2001) into a huge settlement. The bigger the settlement, the bigger the check for the U.S. lawyers being paid on a contingency basis.

Their preposterous claims relied not on facts or the law, but rather a multifaceted and ugly public relations and political campaign. At work was a combine of U.S. trial lawyers, environmental activists and anti-corporate bloggers, magnifying their accusations through a sympathetic mainstream media. The shakedown campaign recorded several PR victories, including a  “60 Minutes” hit piece against Chevron and most notably a full-length, overwhelmingly pro-plaintiffs’ film, “Crude,” by well-known documentarian Joe Berlinger.

In Ecuador the plaintiffs’ team manipulated the court system and made common cause with the leftist, anti-American regime of President Rafael Correa. (More on that in a later post.)

The response to our arguments? Chevron lies, America exploits the Third World, Ecuadorians are dying and you’re an inhumane corporate shill.

Now, thanks to outtakes from “Crude” that Chevron successfully obtained through the U.S. courts,  the trial lawyer/activist/media combine can no longer pretend any sort of moral high ground. Footage reveals Steven Donziger, the lead U.S. attorney who has directed the anti-Chevron campaign in Ecuador and the United States,  to be a cynical, arrogant and foul-mouthed commentator. And, unfortunately for the plaintiffs’ case, Donziger is remarkably frank.

Take for example, this video below. At a June 6, 2007, meeting Donziger outlined the plaintiffs’ strategy to intimidate the Ecuadorian courts through the show of brute force. [Warning: Language]

Excerpts:

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Trial Lawyer: Raise an ‘Army’ to Pressure Ecuadorian Court

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

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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