Results matching “chevron ecuador”

Chevron v. the trial lawyers and environmental 'heroes' - PointOfLaw Forum

Roger Parloff, legal analyst at Fortune, has done an estimable job of summarizing recent developments in the U.S. contingency-fee litigation against Chevron claiming environmental damage in Ecuador. From his Legal Pad report, "Evidence of fraud mounts in Ecuadorian suit against Chevron":

FORTUNE -- A lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador, which has become a cause célèbre for environmentalists worldwide, has suffered severe, crippling setbacks in recent months, as key plaintiffs lawyers have come under credible and weighty allegations of fraud....

Over the past ten months, Chevron's outside lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher have filed 11 civil actions in federal courts across the United States, each designed to pull back the curtain on what they say is an elaborate, two-year-long charade in which plaintiffs lawyers covertly planned and ghostwrote a crucial report on damages that was ostensibly being authored by an independent expert appointed as an "auxiliary" to the Ecuadorian court. The expert's final report, issued in November 2008, recommended that Chevron pay the plaintiffs $27.3 billion.

The civil actions are "1782 motions" (28 U.S.C. 1782) to obtain evidence and depositions from parties involved with the litigation in Ecuador. The San Francisco Chronicle -- Chevron is based in Richmond, Calif. -- also hits on the issues in a recent piece, "Chevron keeps up pressure in Ecuador suit."

Elsewhere, The Harvard International Law Journal -- does one add the qualifier "prestigious?" -- recently turned over its pages to Pablo Fajardo, the Ecuadorian lawyer who often serves as the public face of the anti-Chevron litigation, a symposium piece, "Corporate Accountability, Human Rights and Pursuing Justice in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Attorney Pablo Fajardo's Perspective on Aguinda v. Chevron."

Fajardo has been lionized as a human rights and environmental hero, a brave man fighting the U.S. exploiter. In 2008, he received the Goldman Environmental Prize; in 2007 he won the "CNN Hero Award" in the "Fighting for Justice" category.

Good PR, to be sure. Here's context about Fajardo not included in the law journal, from a motion filed Aug. 3 by Chevron in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, asking for a preservation of evidence.

If Chevron's legal defense against the contingency lawsuit claiming environmental damage in Ecuador tells us anything, it's this: U.S. trial lawyers will be much more cautious about recruiting documentary filmmakers to do public relations for their lawsuits.

The media/PR aspect is just one angle to this complex international litigation, but it's a fascinating aspect, especially given the explosion of "documentaries" that agitate against business. (Think "Bananas," the dishonest attack against Dole.)

Outtakes from the movie, "Crude," have revealed a wide range of misconduct by the legal and PR team led by New York attorney Steven Donziger waging the $27 billion litigation against Chevron. On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan in the Southern District of New York ordered the director, Joe Berlinger, to submit himself to depositions. Kaplan -- upheld by the Second Circuit -- had already required Berlinger to make relevant video outtakes available so Chevron could defend itself on several fronts, including supporting two of their attorneys facing criminal charges in Ecuador.

Berlinger, who in interviews stressed his independence and fair-mindedness, had claimed a journalist's privilege in trying to keep the outtakes from scrutiny. (Media companies and First Amendment activists lept reactively to his defense.) Lawyers for the plaintiffs were equally energetic in their attempts to prevent access to the footage.

Of course they were. The meetings and discussions they document are catastrophic for the trial lawyers and show Berlinger not to be a journalist striving for balance, as he claimed, but rather a partisan. Lawyers and environmental activists scheming to shake down a U.S.-based energy giant would make a good story for a documentarian, but the director chose to conceal that angle.

In his order Tuesday (available here), Judge Kaplan cited a ruling by another federal judge, Lorenzo F. Garcia, U.S. magistrate for the District of New Mexico, to describe the import of Berlinger's footage.

The release of many hours of the outtakes has sent shockwaves through the nation's legal communities, primarily because the footage shows, with unflattering frankness, inappropriate, unethical and perhaps illegal conduct. In the film itself, Attorney Donziger brags of his ex parte contacts with the Ecuadorian judge, confessing that he would never be allowed to do such things in the United States, but, in Ecuador, everyone plays dirty. The outtakes support, in large part, Applicants' contentions of corruption in the judicial process. They show how nongovernmental organizations, labor organizations, community groups and others were organized by the Lago Agrio attorneys to place pressure on the new Ecuadorian government to push for a specific outcome in the litigation, and how the Ecuadorian government intervened in ongoing litigation.

 

Around the web, August 25 - PointOfLaw Forum

Around the web, August 5 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • The U.S. Senate convenes today at 9:30 a.m., with the first issue of the day being  H.R.1586, the legislative vehicle to ship federal taxpayer dollars to the states for Medicaid and local teacher funding. Democratic leadership hopes to reach an agreement on the final confirmation vote for Elena Kagan to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her confirmation is a done deal, but we'll be watching to see if U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's overturning of California's Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriages, emerges as a point of debate. SFGate.com has Walker's 138-page ruling here as a .pdf.

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is ecstatic about another woman serving on the court, New York Daily News reports.  Since we're now determining the merit of nominations based on demographics, consider this fact: Kagan's confirmation would make it four justices from New York City on the court.

  • San Francisco Chronicle, "Chevron: Outtakes prove collusion with expert," reports on the company's filing in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, based on outtakes from "Crude," that showed trial lawyers orchestrating an "independent" special master's report on environmental damage in Ecuador. (See earlier POL post.) The lawyers' reliably bumptious flack, Karen Hinton, says in effect, "Who you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?" Just read Chevron's memorandum. (More at Shopfloor, "Chevron 'Cherrypicks' Film Footage? That's Hilarious.")

  • Legal NewsLine (U.S. Chamber), "Trial lawyer tax break attracts attention of two dozen senators." Twenty-four Republicans Senators led by Sen. John Thune of South Dakota send a letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner warning against granting the $1.6 billion deduction for expenses from contingency-fee lawsuits. Yes, not only is it bad policy, as John Park of the Heritage Foundation explained recently, it's bad politics for the Democrats. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) went after his Democratic opponent, Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin, on the issue, an attack made more stinging because she's the former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

  • Politico reports on the ubiquitous campaign "trackers," digitally recording candidate events in the hopes someone says or does something OUTRAGEOUS. GOP trackers were at the American Association for Justice's convention in Vancouver, B.C., Politico claims: "In that instance, the National Republican Senatorial Committee had actually deployed several teams of trackers to Vancouver, British Columbia, after discovering that numerous Democratic Senate nominees from across the country would be attending fundraisers held at a trial lawyers convention."

  • Every so often it's an informative exercise to do an online news search for the phrase, "class-action lawsuit." Also gulp-inducing: "Toyota and lawsuit."

  • And to circle back to the top, let's thank Congress for spending federal dollars to pay for local teacher salaries and benefits. Otherwise, teacher unions would sue. Like this: "The Chicago Teachers Union has filed a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Public Schools in an attempt to halt the dismissals of hundreds of teachers and support staff." It's a due process claim.

Cross-posted from Shopfloor.org.

Now, THIS is a blockbuster. Footage from the documentary-style film, "Crude," reveals that U.S. trial lawyers strategized with a supposedly independent court-appointed expert in Ecuador who went on to recommmend penalizing Chevron $27.4 billion for environmental damage in the Amazon.

In a court filing today in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, attorneys for Chevron detailed the collusion among Steven Donziger, the U.S. trial lawyer who has masterminded the suit, the Ecuadorian lawyers who serve as the public face of the anti-Chevron campaign, and Richard Cabrera, an engineer later appointed as the court's "special master" charged with assessing the pollution and damages. It is Cabrera who recommended the $27.4 billion damage figure, earning him praise from anti-Chevron activists who hailed his findings as proof of the company's greed and criminality.

The damning revelations are the result of Chevron's successful legal efforts to gain access to outtakes from the movie, "Crude," which the director, Joe Berlinger, claimed to be a fair and balanced effort to show both sides in the litigation over Texaco's operations in Ecuador between 1964 and 1990. Chevron purchased Texaco in 2001. Berlinger claimed journalistic privilege and fought to keep control of the footage, but was ordered by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on July 15 to turn over relevant material. The review by Chevron's lawyers of the first batch of outtakes shows that not only that the legal case against Chevron is built on lies, but that Berlinger's reputation as a serious, fair-minded documentarian is hollow.

The opening of Chevron's memorandum filed today reads like a good movie, with the added virtue of being true. From the document, "Chevron Corporation's Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for a Preservation Order, and to supplement and enforce the subpoenas," filed by Chevron's attorney, Randy Mastro, with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher:

"Hold on a second, you know, this is Ecuador. . . . You can say whatever you want and at the end of the day, there's a thousand people around the courthouse, you're going to get what you want. Sorry, but it's true." "Because at the end of the day, this is all for the Court just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bullshit. It really is. We have enough, to get money, to win." Ex. F at 195-05.1 So says Lago Agrio Plaintiffs' counsel and New York licensed lawyer Steven Donziger in an outtake from Crude produced just days ago pursuant to the orders of this Court and the Second Circuit. Donziger makes these statements during a meeting with Plaintiffs' U.S. environmental consultants Charles Champ, Ann Maest, and Dick Kamp, after Maest tells him, point blank, that they need evidence of groundwater contamination, because Plaintiffs did not submit any and "right now all the reports are saying it's just at the pits and the stations and nothing has spread anywhere at all." Id. When Champ continues to press on the lack of evidence, Donziger looks at the camera and says, "There's another point I got to make . . . with these guys, but I can't get this on camera," and then the camera goes off. Id.

Chevron has thus far been able to review only a small fraction of the outtakes produced, but already it is clear that they contain conclusive evidence that Plaintiffs' counsel, consultants, and associates have knowingly participated in a fraudulent enterprise to corrupt the legal proceedings pending in Ecuador against Chevron. The express goal of their scheme is to procure a fraudulent, multi-billion dollar damages recommendation from a supposedly independent "Special Master," and then to use that fraudulent recommendation either to extort a settlement from Chevron or to obtain a fraudulent judgment from the Ecuadorian court.

We've uploaded the court filing here. (Scribd here.) The 39-page document provides a wealth of details about the sordid orchestration of the claims against Chevron, with Steven Donziger being the cynical conductor.

The Columbia Journalism Review -- not a publication that will be suspected of conservative or pro-business biases -- is strongly criticizing a May 2009 "60 Minutes" segment that attacked Chevron over the Ecuador oil litigation. The CBS program's response? To stonewall and say its methods of developing its products are its own affair and nobody else's. Imagine what "60 Minutes" would say if one of its targets tried to use such a line....

Chevron trips up expert report in Ecuador case - PointOfLaw Forum

WSJ Law Blog: "the misspelling of an expert's name in a multibillion-dollar environmental lawsuit filed against Chevron is what tipped off Chevron's lawyers to the fact that the reports may have been fudged, a fact that has now been conceded by the expert himself."

Around the web, April 2 - PointOfLaw Forum

Around the web, February 10 - PointOfLaw Forum

Around the web, November 23 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Tide turning against drug-pricing suits? Glaxo SmithKline beats back Kentucky case [Longstreth, AmLaw Daily]
  • Court in Australia deems litigation funding pact improper as "unregistered managed investment scheme" [New Lawyer]
  • Should docs be careful what they ask for? Michelle Mello of Harvard, a prominent advocate of health courts, hopes they'll significantly expand compensation [Gerencher, MarketWatch]
  • Doubts about the latest phthalates scare, and a Daubert angle [Trevor Butterworth, Forbes]
  • Claim: pay-to-play isn't such a big problem with public pension plaintiffs after all [Securities Litigation Watch, more]
  • Chevron, trial lawyer adversaries locked in lobbying combat over Ecuador suit [Politico via Law & More]

Background: environmental claims arising from Ecuador oil operations that were dismissed by U.S. District Judge William Alsup after he found that three plaintiffs' "case was 'manufactured by plaintiffs' counsel' after two of the claimants admitted never actually contracting the illnesses they were suing Chevron over." [Baxter/American Lawyer]

Apropos Philadelphia trial lawyers - PointOfLaw Forum

In the anti-Chevron movie, "Crude," New York trial lawyer Steven Donziger brings an Ecuadorian attorney and an activist to Philadelphia to meet with Joe Kohn of Kohn, Swift and Graf, the firm financing the litigation. They're there to make the pitch for more money to continue their suit claiming that Chevron is responsible for environmental damage caused by Texaco (which it bought in 2001). Kohn comments on camera:

It is still a long road. It's been 13 years. It was not taken as a pro bono case. You know, a lot of my motivation is that I think at the end of the day it will be a lucrative case for the firm, and I think put us in a position to do more of these kind of cases, but you know, it's going to be a long haul and there's a lot of risk to get there. See, I think we're on the right side of the cause.

Director Joe Berlinger laughably asserts he's produced an objective film, but "Crude" fully accepts the theory of the litigation and campaign against Chevron. Nevertheless, the film does do a good job of representing how Donziger conducts the litigation -- bullying his opponents, coaching Ecuadorians to maximize their emotional impact, and worrying more about PR than the law.

And you do get to see Kohn say, "A lot of my motivation is I think at the end of the day it will be a lucrative case for the firm..."

Around the web, September 11 - PointOfLaw Forum

Chevron: Ecuadorians sought bribes in giant tort case - PointOfLaw Forum

Sensational developments in the high-profile environmental lawsuit (AmLaw Daily):

The decades-long legal battle between Chevron and Ecuador took yet another dramatic turn on Monday when the company announced that it has video tapes revealing a $3 million bribery scheme implicating the judge overseeing a multibillion-dollar civil suit filed against the company by indigenous residents of the country's Amazon Basin.

Bloomberg:

Ecuador's Prosecutor General, Washington Pesantez, today received the complaint filed by Chevron's lawyer and will open an investigation, spokeswoman Gloria Mejia said in a phone interview.

Washington Post: "I think this raises as many questions about Chevron as it does about the judge," [U.S. plaintiff's lawyer Steven Donziger] said. "I think this was a dirty tricks operation by Chevron." More: Dow Jones, Reuters, Daniel Fisher, Forbes, Washington Times (editorial), and extensive coverage from Carter at ShopFloor here, here ("60 Minutes" spun), here, and here. Our earlier coverage is here.

More links: NY Times ("Secret recordings of closed-door meetings have become a common feature of Ecuadoran politics."), American Lawyer, WSJ Law Blog; Chevron's website on the case, with video (also YouTube) and PDF letter from Thomas Cullen, Jr. of Jones Day; its press release and blog.

"Lawsuits target oil company operations overseas" - PointOfLaw Forum

AP rounds up the bunch of Alien Tort actions in the headlines, including Shell/Nigeria, Chevron/Ecuador, Chevron/Nigeria (resolved recently with a defense verdict), and an ExxonMobil/Indonesia case pending in Washington state court (after a federal-court claim was dismissed). Although the Shell/Nigeria headlines raise charges of political repression, the settlement objectives are apparently a bit more, well, tangible in nature: "Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International and a former adviser for Wiwa, said the plaintiffs are hoping to force Shell to repay residents of Nigeria for decades of pollution related to oil drilling." No cases have won verdicts, but settlements are a possibility, and organizers keep bringing new actions: "Another, against an Alabama-based coal company that operates in Colombia, was filed Thursday." More: ShopFloor.

More background on the Alien Tort statute, and some of the above cases, at our International Human Rights Law category.

Lawyers will be driving tomorrow's media coverage of Chevron annual shareholders meeting in San Ramon, Calif., Wednesday, but we bet they spend very little time in front of the camera. Instead, we expect to see Amazonian Indians, the predictable celebrity or two, and many enraged activists as the campaign against Chevron for past environmental damage in Ecuador reaches an even higher pitch. Driving this PR explosion is the $27 billion lawsuit filed in the United States, Aguinda v. Chevron-Texaco.

It's a well-organized (or orchestrated) alliance, a combine of trial lawyers, activists and the Ecuadorian government. The combine has certainly been successful getting sympathetic, incomplete media coverage from places like "60 Minutes" -- "Amazon Crude" -- and the New York Times.

As Chevron's general counsel and executive vice president, Charles James, commented on a bloggers' conference call today:

I think that everything you are seeing now that is transpiring here is really aimed at pressuring a settlement, and not having to confront the reality of trying to enforce this case. ...I've asked people to ask themselves a very simple question: If these plaintiffs thought for just one second that they were going to get an enforceable judgment out of the courts of Ecuador for some multibillion dollar amount, why this show? Why is all of this going on? Why are they attempting to pressure the investors? Why all this media stuff?

This is, you know, Plaintiff's Lawyers 101, which is to try to settle it. In virtually every case of this type that I have been involved with since I have been at Chevron, at some point when we got discovery, we got an e-mail that said, "Don't worry, they'll never take this case to court. We're going to settle it."


Around the web, May 14 - PointOfLaw Forum

Around the web, April 23 - PointOfLaw Forum

International law/international human rights edition:

Around the web, February 17 - PointOfLaw Forum

International and comparative law edition:

  • Asbestos in the U.K.: in wake of Law Lords ruling, British government considers compensation for asymptomatic pleural plaques [Guardian, Global Tort (defense-oriented "Commentary on Torts, Disputes and Insurance"), earlier]
  • "Will former Bush administration officials be prosecuted in foreign countries?" [E. Posner, Volokh] The Israeli military? [Keitner, ConcurOp]
  • Jury trial in retreat in Russia and Britain, expanding in China, South Korea and Japan [The Economist via Genova]
  • Latest round in Ecuador vs. Chevron: oil company protests court-appointed expert's revamping of damages upward to $27 billion [Reuters, earlier]
  • Attorneys for 16 Indiana National Guardsmen sue contractor KBR over exposure to toxics from Iraq water pumping plant [CNN]
  • Academic applauds Alien Tort Statute for bringing international law into U.S. courtrooms [more Keitner via ConcurOp]

Around the web, September 18 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Some NYC plaintiffs' lawyers aghast after Judge Jack Weinstein slashes ferry-crash contingency fee from $6 million to $3.6 million, noting undoubted liability in case and client's inability to dicker [NYLJ] For a sampling of Lester Brickman's work urging judges to review reasonableness of contingency fees charged to unsophisticated clients, start here, here, here, and, for some empirical background, here and here;
  • Tulane Law School dean apologizes over law review article correlating Louisiana Supreme Court decisions to campaign donations (but was it wrong?) [Times-Picayune]
  • Latest in Adam Liptak's "American Exceptionalism" series looks at increasing disinclination of foreign courts to cite/follow our Supreme Court, and debate over citation of foreign law in ours [NYTimes, Paulsen @ Balkinization] A different view: Joshua Friedman, CJR.
  • Strange bedfellows? Class-action lawyers suing AIG, Lehman were pulling for the firms' survival so the money would be there [AmLaw Daily]
  • As Rhode Islanders wave goodbye, Motley Rice lead-paint caravan packs up and moves on to other localities [Lisa Rickard, Chamber/Providence Business Journal]
  • More offshore drilling? Well, first you'll have to get past the minefield of lawsuits [WSJ editorial]
  • Questions for U.S. lawyers making Capitol Hill rounds with Ecuadorian "indigenous peoples" clients suing Chevron Texaco [Quin Hillyer, Examiner]

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