by Fausta Rodríguez Wertz
Yesterday U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan
found that New York lawyer Steven Donziger and his litigation team engaged in coercion, bribery, money laundering and other misconduct aimed at securing a 2011 verdict against the company in Ecuador.
The judge concluded that Mr. Donziger and his team fabricated evidence, promised $500,000 to an Ecuadorean judge to rule in their favor, ghostwrote much of the final verdict in the case and took other actions that “perverted” the course of justice.
In the 2011 lawsuit, Chevron accused Donziger and Ecuadorian plaintiffs of fraud and racketeering in the 2003 Lago Agrio trial that resulted in a US$19billion verdict against Chevron, which had never operated in Ecuador but had inherited an environmental clean-up case when Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001. (The Wall Street Journal has a timeline, and you can read the 500-page Kaplan ruling here.)
Last November Ecuador reduced the $19 billion to $9 billion.
The Aguarico-4 site became a favorite cause among celebrities like Sting, Danny Glover, Cher, Daryl Hannah and Mia Farrow (who on January 27 tweeted that she was “in Equador to check out the toxic #mess left by Texaco-#Chevron” but appears to have deleted that tweet and turned her attention to other matters). These same celebrities have nothing to say about tribal warfare in the Amazon killing hundreds of people, the government’s war against freedom expression, and China’s control of Ecuador’s oil.
The government of Ecuador gives tours to the site, which is actually owned by its own oil company, Petroecuador.
Chevron is right to continue to fight the (now) $9 billion judgement.
I expect that Donziger will appeal: Jack Fowler reported in late January that
Donziger has cobbled a fourth legal defense team, led by Deepak Gupta, who will be assisted by University of Denver Law School professors Justin Marceau and John Campbell.
Judge Kaplan probably expects him to, also, considering his 500-page decision plus 89-page appendix.
Judge Kaplan points out that Donziger is a master at public relations, and Donziger’s strategy of a media campaign “shifting the focus from the fraud on Chevron and the Lago Agrio court to the environmental harm that Donziger [and the plaintiffs] claim was done” will most likely continue.
Chevron has filed a counterclaim against Patton Boggs in the case, and two sources familiar with the matter told The Am Law Daily that the firm’s potential liabilities on that front contributed to Locke Lord’s decision to call off merger talks.
Last month Locke Lord managing partner Jerry Clements told The Am Law Daily that the potential liabilities and “reputational aspects” of the Chevron matter were a key part of her firm’s due diligence efforts in evaluating a merger with Patton Boggs.
“Reputational aspects” indeed.
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