Chevron broke the news today that a judge in Ecuador has ruled against the company in the multiyear, multibillion-dollar litigation shakedown by U.S. trial lawyers claiming environmental damage in the Amazon. There has been so much wrongdoing and dishonesty by the plaintiffs in Ecuador and the United States that the ruling comes as no surprise.
From the Chevron news release, “Illegitimate Judgment Against Chevron in Ecuador Lawsuit“:
The Ecuadorian court’s judgment is illegitimate and unenforceable. It is the product of fraud and is contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence. Chevron will appeal this decision in Ecuador and intends to see that justice prevails.
United States and international tribunals already have taken steps to bar enforcement of the Ecuadorian ruling. Chevron does not believe that today’s judgment is enforceable in any court that observes the rule of law.
Chevron intends to see that the perpetrators of this fraud are held accountable for their misconduct.
Reuters quotes Pablo Fajardo, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in Ecuador, that the judge’s award was $8 billion.
The amount of damages sought by the plaintiffs fluctuates according to various manipulated reports and political considerations, rising from $6 billion at one point to $26.7 billion to the most recent $113 billion. Lest one conclude, “Oh, Chevron actually came out OK,” it’s worth remembering that the plaintiffs’ team that organized the shakedown always sought a high damage figure as part of its strategy.
Outtakes from the documentary-style film “Crude” on the litigation revealed as much. Steven Donziger, the New York trial lawyer who has masterminded the suit, is seen discussing possible damages against Texaco (later acquired by Chevron). Donziger says:
- “If we have a legitimate fifty billion dollar damages claim, and they end up—the judge says, well, I can’t give them less than five billion . . . . And, say, Tex had a huge victory. They knocked out ninety percent of the damages claim.” And …
- “But as a concept, I ask, do we ask for much more than we really want as a strategy? Do we ask for eight and expect three, so that [the judge] says, ‘Look, Texaco, I cut down the largest part.’”
In any case, the amount has no relation to reality — or justice. A $1 million, $1,000 or $100 finding of damages would be just as wrong because the lawsuit itself is corrupt. Chevron has filed a RICO suit against the U.S. and Ecuadorian lawyers and activists, detailing the multifacted conspiracy against the company.
Chevron’s point of view and numerous legal claims have also been recognized by legitimate judicial bodies of the United States and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
On February 8, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan cited the record of widespread wrongdoing to block the plaintiffs from going after any of Chevron’s assets anywhere in the world. (New York Law Journal, Shopfloor)
Last week, the international arbitration panel ruled that Ecuador should not pursue any awards from the litigation pending Chevron’s arbitration vis a vis the country over violations of the Bilateral Investment Treaty. (Reuters: “Arbitrators find for Chevron in Ecuador dispute.”)
The lawsuit against Chevron was always extortionate, an operation meant to damage the company’s reputation enough so it would feel compelled to settle. The judge’s ruling in Ecuador was supposed to provide the final bit of pressure necessary to force the settlement.
Fortunately, now that U.S. court proceedings have revealed the cynical conspiracy at the heart of the litigation, the ruling in Ecuador provides nothing more than additional evidence of corruption.
UPDATE (4:15 p.m.): In this Spanish-language report, the judge is identified as Nicolás Zambrano.