The Amazon Post

Having been found by a U.S. Federal Court to have violated federal racketeering laws, Steven Donziger and his supporters are resorting to their old playbook.  In an attempt to take the spotlight off of the overwhelming evidence of fraud, Donziger and his supporters – including activist groups like Amazon Watch – are working overtime to downplay the significance of the RICO judgment by raising the same old, tired arguments and allegations that were disproven years ago.  In press releases, blog posts and tweets they continue desperately trying to cover up their crimes. Here are the Top 5 Distractions Donziger’s team is using to divert attention from the fact that they were found to have committed extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, witness tampering and obstruction of justice:

Distraction #1: Raise Issues Not Relevant to the RICO Trial
Despite the fact that a U.S. Federal Court was very clear that the RICO trial was only about issues related to Donziger’s fraud and misconduct, he and his team continue to claim that the recent judgment is meaningless because the trial did not include the merits of the case.

FACT: The RICO trial was solely about the fraud and racketeering activity that allowed Donziger and his team to secure the $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in Ecuador.  The court was consistently clear about the scope of the trial.  In fact, the judgment even addresses Donziger’s repeated attempts to make the trial about environmental issues by stating, “…the defendants’ effort to change the subject to the Oriente, understandable as it is as a tactic, misses the point of this case.”

Distraction #2: Claim Chevron Wanted the Case Heard in Ecuador
Donziger and his team like to claim Chevron wanted to be sued in Ecuador.  In fact, they recently issued a press release stating, “Chevron wanted the trial to be held in Ecuador and promised to abide by any adverse decision.”

FACT: Chevron did not agree to any stipulation concerning jurisdiction in Ecuador. In fact, Chevron was not a party to the prior New York action.  The case that was brought against Texaco in New York is completely different than what has been brought against Chevron in Ecuador, including different plaintiffs and different claims.  The Amazon Post exposed this myth here in 2010.

Distraction #3: Allege Death Threats
Donziger’s Ecuadorian team has accused Chevron of, or implied that Chevron was connected with, death threats or other harms against them.  Despite having no evidence whatsoever to support their claims, Juan Pablo Saenz, an Ecuadorian lawyer on Donziger’s team was recently quoted claiming he has received two anonymous death threats, implying Chevron was to blame.

FACT: This is not the first time that the plaintiffs’ representatives have thrown around these types of unfounded accusations. The Amazon Post thoroughly debunked the issue previously, highlighting that Donziger’s spokesperson, Karen Hinton, and his Ecuadorian lawyer, Pablo Fajardo, have repeatedly implied that Chevron is responsible for the murder of Fajardo’s brother.

Distraction #4: Take the Fight Back to Ecuador
As many in the U.S. media and independent press have come to realize that  Donziger has sought to use them as part of his scheme, he and his team are now working with the Republic of Ecuador to invite international journalists and celebrities to take part in a ‘Toxic Tour’ of the region.  They claim the tour highlights environmental damage caused by Chevron.

FACT: The Republic of Ecuador has launched a campaign against Chevron in an attempt to evade its own responsibility for addressing the environmental, social and economic needs of the people of the Oriente. In fact, the Republic is even paying for journalists to participate in the junket. What these journalists and celebrities are not being told is that TexPet, a subsidiary of Texaco, cleaned-up its share of impacted sites before leaving Ecuador. After TexPet ceased operations in Ecuador, pursuant to an agreement with the Republic, it fully remediated its share of production sites.  The sites that TexPet was to remediate were negotiated and agreed to by the Republic of Ecuador.  After the remediation was complete, it was certified by the government and state oil company Petroecuador, and TexPet exited the country with a full release by the Republic of Ecuador from further environmental liability.  Petroecuador, however, has continued to operate many of the sites in the former concession area over the last 20 years – including the site visited on the government’s tour, Aguarico 4 (AG-04). A video detailing TexPet’s successful remediation can be found here.

Distraction #5: Attack the Judge
According to Donziger’s playbook, when all else fails, attack the judge.

FACT: This tactic was a favorite of Donziger’s team in Ecuador, as is evidenced by an outtake from the movie Crude, in which Donziger is caught saying, “the only language that I believe this judge is going to understand is one of pressure, intimidation and humiliation.”  His team has tried similar tactics against the U.S. federal judge presiding over the RICO case, accusing him of bias and even racism. Judge Kaplan is far from alone in finding the judgment against Chevron in Ecuador to be the product of fraud. Eight federal courts in the U.S. have found that the Lago Agrio trial was marred by the plaintiffs’ representatives’ fraud. Chevron is also seeking relief against Ecuador in international arbitration, where an international arbitration tribunal has already issued a partial award in favor of Chevron. In addition, the Supreme Court of Gibraltar recently issued a lengthy ruling allowing Chevron to proceed with its conspiracy and other claims against James Russell DeLeon, the main funder of the movie Crude and a key financial backer of Donziger’s lawsuit against Chevron.

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear an oil company’s appeal of a lower court decision that allowed a group of Ecuadorian villagers to seek billions in damages for environmental pollution.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in December that the group, which wants Chevron Canada to be held responsible for a multi-billion-dollar judgment awarded in Ecuador, can have their case heard in Ontario.

The appeal judges overturned a lower court, which found that the company’s Canadian arm should not be on the hook for the judgment because their assets are not directly owned by the California-based multinational.

The villagers had argued Chevron Canada has billions of dollars in assets it could use to pay the judgment, but the lower court ruled the long-standing legal battle did not belong in Ontario.

“In my view, the parties should take their fight elsewhere to some jurisdiction where any ultimate recognition of the Ecuadorian judgment will have a practical effect,” Justice David Brown wrote in the decision overturned by the appeal court.

The appeal court ruled the villagers deserve to have their day in court, even if their chances of winning may be small.

“A party may bring an action for all kinds of strategic reasons, recognizing that their chances of collection on the judgment are minimal,” the judges wrote.

In 2011, an Ecuadorian judge ordered Chevron Corp. to pay US$19 billion for contamination of an Amazon rainforest by Texaco, which Chevron bought in 2001.

In November, Ecuador’s highest court upheld the judgment but lowered the amount to US$9.51 billion.

Chevron maintains it won’t pay because it contends that Texaco had signed an agreement with Ecuador in 1998 and paid $40 million to clean the pollution, and was absolved of any future liability. But the villagers argue that the agreement does not exempt the company from third-party claims.

Read more >>

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York today granted Chevron’s request to bring counterclaims against Patton Boggs. Today’s order is here and Chevron’s counterclaims are here.

This month, the same federal court found that the Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron was the product of fraud and racketeering activity, finding it unenforceable. Patton Boggs came into the case at a critical moment when the scheme was collapsing and proceeded to resurrect it and then try to cover it up. Chevron is pursuing claims against Patton Boggs to hold it accountable for its role in perpetuating this fraud against the company.

  • Read the court’s March 4 ruling here.
  • Read Chevron’s statements about the ruling here and here.
  • Read key excerpts from the court’s ruling here.
  • Read what others are saying about the ruling in news coverage here (updated 3/14/14).

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York today ruled that the $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corporation in Ecuador was the product of fraud and racketeering activity, finding it unenforceable.

The nearly 500-page ruling finds that Steven Donziger, the lead American lawyer behind the Ecuadorian lawsuit against the company, violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), committing extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, witness tampering and obstruction of justice in obtaining the Ecuadorian judgment and in trying to cover up his and his associates’ crimes.

The court found that Donziger and his team “wrote the [Ecuadorian] court’s Judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment.” As Judge Lewis Kaplan stated in the court’s ruling: “The wrongful actions of Donziger and his Ecuadorian legal team would be offensive to the laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including Ecuador – and they knew it. Indeed, one Ecuadorian legal team member, in a moment of panicky candor, admitted that if documents exposing just part of what they had done were to come to light, ‘apart from destroying the proceeding, all of us, your attorneys, might go to jail.’ It is time to face the facts.”

“Today’s decision is unequivocal: The Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron is a fraud and is the result of criminal acts by a handful of corrupt lawyers looking to enrich themselves,” said Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel. “Chevron’s reputation was taken hostage and held for a multibillion-dollar ransom. Rather than give in and pay these criminals off, Chevron exposed the truth. Chevron is pleased with today’s judgment. We are confident that any court that respects the rule of law will likewise find the Ecuadorian judgment to be illegitimate and unenforceable.”

During the seven-week RICO and fraud trial, Chevron presented unrebutted evidence detailing the extent of the fraudulent acts undertaken and directed by Donziger, his Ecuadorian legal team and other associates, including fabricating environmental evidence, pressuring scientific experts to falsify reports, plotting to intimidate judges into handing down favorable rulings, bribing court-appointed experts, ghostwriting court reports and even drafting the final judgment. Today’s judgment made clear that Donziger and his associates resorted to fraud due to the lack of evidence to support their claims against Chevron.

Today’s ruling prohibits Donziger and his associates from seeking to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in the United States and further prohibits them from profiting from their illegal acts.

Chevron has never operated in Ecuador. Texaco Petroleum (TexPet), which became a subsidiary of Chevron in 2001, was a minority partner in an oil-production consortium in Ecuador along with the state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, from 1964 to 1992. After TexPet turned its remaining share of the oil operations over to Petroecuador in 1992, pursuant to an agreement with Ecuador, TexPet agreed to conduct a remediation of selected production sites while Petroecuador committed to perform any remaining cleanup. The government of Ecuador oversaw and certified the successful completion of TexPet’s remediation and fully released TexPet from further environmental liability. Petroecuador, however, failed to conduct the cleanup it promised and has continued to operate and expand oil operations in the former concession over the past 20 years.

An international arbitration tribunal in The Hague has already ruled that the Republic of Ecuador released Texaco – and therefore Chevron – from liability for all public interest or collective environmental claims through agreements signed in the 1990s. The Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ lawyers have repeatedly admitted, and the relief in the Lago Agrio judgment makes clear, that their claims are exclusively collective and not individual.

“Chevron believes that the people of the Oriente deserve a better quality of life. They lack basic infrastructure, including water and sewage treatment. We hope that this ruling will prompt the government of Ecuador and Petroecuador to finally take responsibility and address the issues facing the region and its people,” Pate added.