Monday, December 21, 2009

Clean Up Ecuador: Letter to New Chevron CEO, John Watson

(Cross-posted from Amazon Watch's "Clean Up Ecuador" campaign website, www.chevrontoxico.com)

ChevronToxico | Letter from Atossa Soltani to New Chevron CEO, John Watson

On January 1st, John Watson will become the new Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corporation. Within the first few months of his tenure, a judgment is expected on a monumental environmental lawsuit for cleanup of oil contamination affecting tens of thousands of people living in an Amazon rainforest region of Ecuador called the Oriente.

Following is an open letter to Mr. Watson from Atossa Soltani, the founder and Executive Director of Amazon Watch, an organization that works to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. The letter references a confidential corporate memo that provides shocking insight into the reckless practices employed by Texaco (now Chevron) in Ecuador.

Click here to add your name to a petition to Mr. Watson supporting clean-up in Ecuador.

December 17, 2009

Mr. John S. Watson
Incoming Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Chevron Corporation

Dear Mr. Watson:

I write to you on behalf of Amazon Watch to express our hope that as Chief Executive of Chevron Corporation you will have the fortitude and vision to genuinely address the most painful and immediate challenge facing your company - the Ecuador disaster.

Our hope is that you will not miss this critical opportunity to resolve the human and environmental tragedy in Ecuador and transform Chevron into the responsible 21st century energy company professed in 'The Chevron Way' and in your 'Human Energy' advertising campaigns.

Your company is currently facing a $27.3 billion financial liability in Ecuador. We ask that you reflect on Chevron's handling of the Ecuador situation over the course of the last decade. You should remember Chevron's Annual General Shareholder Meeting in April 2001 - on the eve of the Texaco acquisition - when I delivered to your company a binder, titled "El Dorado," with more than 500 pages of comprehensive evidence documenting Texaco's massive environmental contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon. At that meeting, I warned Chevron that by acquiring Texaco the company would not only take on the moral responsibility of rectifying the tragedy in the Amazon, but also assume a very costly financial liability.

Despite increasing shareholder and analyst concern, the growing public demand that Chevron take responsibility for its actions in Ecuador, and the resulting multi-billion liability they have spawned, Amazon Watch has witnessed your company pursue an expensive, ethically questionable, and counterproductive policy with regard to the Ecuador case.

Mr. Watson, as you surely know, the situation on the ground is dire. Thousands of acres of once pristine rainforest have been devastated by oil pollution. More than 30,000 indigenous peoples and campesinos have been left without clean water to drink. Children play beside toxic waste pits. Young women have been ravaged by stomach and uterine cancer due to poisoned water. As you are well aware, Texaco has admitted to having deliberately released 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the waterways of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and to having left hundreds of abandoned unlined pits filled with crude oil and poison sludge over the course of more than two decades of oil operations. And now, as a direct result, a devastating public health crisis has consumed the region.

We are keenly attuned to Chevron's public relations strategy with respect to this matter. The basic approach is to consistently blame the contamination of the Amazon on Petroecuador, Ecuador's National Oil Company. Petroecuador's poor record of environmental stewardship - largely because it has used an oil production system built by Texaco and designed to pollute - does not diminish Texaco's responsibility for catastrophic contamination from 1964 to 1990. Texaco's deliberate dumping dwarfs any subsequent pollution. Rather than continuing to shift the blame to Petruecuador, it is time for Chevron to assume the responsibility for Texaco's legacy in Ecuador.

To remind you of Texaco's unethical practices in the 1970's, we have attached here a confidential memorandum from the Chairman of the Texaco Board of Directors to the Acting Manager of Texaco in Ecuador in 1972. The memo instructs the staff only to report "major events as per Oil Spill Response Plan" if they attract "the attention of press and/or regulatory authorities" and goes on to instruct: "no reports are to be kept on a routine basis and all previous reports to be removed...and destroyed." We trust that as the incoming CEO of Chevron, you do not condone this kind of denial, neglect and obfuscation made plain in the 1972 Texaco memo. We are interested in hearing your position on the matter.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it is our understanding that you have never been to Ecuador, Mr. Watson. It is of great concern to us, and should be to you, that the information and advice provided to Chevron senior management since the Texaco acquisition has lacked integrity and independence. We do not believe that a well-informed and responsible senior management team could reasonably pursue the current "blind fight" legal and public relations strategy if it indeed possessed accurate information. Consequently, and with the best intentions, we would like to invite you to visit the affected region of Ecuador in the sincere hope that seeing the abandoned toxic waste pits and poisoned waters and hearing the innumerable stories of human suffering will move you to do the right thing.

Until Chevron takes meaningful steps to resolve this case, it will continue to play out in the courts of Ecuador, as well as in the global court of public opinion. You have a choice between allowing the ongoing suffering and environmental devastation in Ecuador to tarnish your company's reputation, or providing a bold example of 'The Chevron Way,' which states "We respect the law, support universal human rights, protect the environment, and benefit the communities where we work."

Rather than continue to battle the communities that have already paid a heavy price to enrich Chevron, we believe you have an opportunity to help bring an end to their decades of needless suffering.

We don't make these suggestions lightly or symbolically; we appeal to you to resolve this human and environmental tragedy, and lead Chevron into a new era of meaningful corporate social responsibility.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Atossa Soltani

Executive Director
Amazon Watch

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chevron's Blogger Propagandists: Accuse First, Ask (No) Questions Later

(Originally posted by Amazon Watch over at www.chevroninecuador.com)

Chevron's Blogger Propagandists: Accuse First, Ask (No) Questions Later

We've written before about the motley crew of bloggers who fervently defend Chevron in its ongoing effort to run from a multibillion dollar liability for environmental disaster in Ecuador. Chevron is certainly not an easy company to stick up for, given its long and sordid history in Ecuador. Chevron's predecessor, Texaco, showed up in the pristine Amazon rainforest in 1964 and left a huge swath of it devastated and polluted by 1990. Chevron acquired Texaco, and its liability in Ecuador, in 2001 and is now the third largest U.S. corporation, with a 2008 profit of $24 billion. And yet this behemoth of an oil company loves to, ludicrously, play the victim card, and when it does, these are the bloggers who fall in line with PR-brushes in tow.

Chevron's blogger allies went into overdrive mode in September, trumpeting Chevron's claims when the oil major announced it had uncovered a $3 million bribery scandal that would implicate the Ecuadorian judge in corruption and, they claimed, prove government interference in the lawsuit. When the news hit, the pro-Chevron bloggers ran wild, crying foul, and trumpeting the Chevron line that a fair trial in Ecuador was impossible.

The only problem was, the smoking gun backfired. Instead of revealing a scandal, the videos themselves–and Chevron's role in presenting them to the media–became the scandal. As my colleague Han Shan documents in his thorough deconstruction of the company's allegations on Huffington Post, the whole "scandal" was nothing but a bizarre set up. By the end of October, it was clear that there was no actual bribe and no actual government officials were involved. Instead the videos merely document what appears to have been a plan to entrap judge Juan Nuñez and get him removed from the case. The man who presents himself as a businessman isn't, though he is a convicted drug-trafficker. The man he purports to bribe in the video is a phony government official (actually a car salesman). And the contracts they discuss were never signed and were proposed for a business that doesn't exist. Nice try, Chevron, but...

Since the bribery scandal imploded, there's been a curious silence from Chevron's merry band of bloggers. This isn't surprising. They're following a well-known propaganda strategy: make dramatic accusations with little supporting evidence, spread those accusations far and wide, then offer no retraction or apology when your claims are later proven to have been wildly off base...

More after the jump

Twenty-Six Members of Congress Ask USTR to Reject Chevron Interference in Landmark Ecuador Legal Case

House Members Express "Concern" About Oil Giant's Effort to Use Trade Policy to Deny Due Process in Environmental Lawsuit

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Chevron has been dealt a major setback in the Congress as more than two dozen representatives, led by Rep. Linda Sanchez and including powerful senior members, have signed a letter urging that the United States Trade Representative reject efforts by the oil giant to cancel Ecuador's trade preferences. Chevron has pressured the USTR and Congress for years to revoke or curtail Ecuador's preferences in retaliation for a lawsuit brought by 30,000 Ecuadorian citizens alleging that Chevron dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest over a period of more than 20 years.

Separately, a one-year extension of the trade preferences for Ecuador were approved in the House on Dec. 14 on a voice vote – the fourth consecutive year Chevron's lobbying effort against Ecuador appears to have failed. The Senate is expected to formally approve the measure by the end of the year.

The letter to the USTR, sent December 15, expresses concern about Chevron's efforts to influence a private litigation which originally was filed in 1993 in U.S. federal court by several Ecuadorian indigenous tribes and farmer communities, but was sent to Ecuador at Chevron's request in 2002.

"We urge you to reject Chevron's request and reaffirm that U.S. trade agreements will not be used as leverage to interfere in private claims progressing through Ecuador's legal process," the representatives wrote in the letter.

Among the 26 Members taking this strong stand with Rep. Sanchez were: the Chief Democratic Deputy Whip and Vice-Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee's Trade Subcommittee, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); the Chairman of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA); eight Members of the Ways & Means Committee, including the chairman of its Oversight Subcommittee, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA); and eight members of the Appropriations Committee, three of whom also oversee State Department matters and Foreign Operations. Judiciary and Rules Committee Members also were among those lending their support.

Other members signing the letter were Reps.: Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), James McGovern (D-MA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Danny Davis (D-IL), Sam Farr (D-CA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Phil Hare (D-IL), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Michael Michaud (D-ME), Jim McDermott (D-WA), James Moran (D-VA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mike Quigley (D-IL), John Olver (D-MA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Betty Sutton (D-OH), and Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-CA).

Chevron is charged in the lawsuit with dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and abandoning more than 900 unlined waste pits when it operated a large oil concession in Ecuador's Amazon from 1964 to 1990. A team of independent, court-appointed experts has estimated that at least 1,401 individuals have died from cancer related to exposure to the contamination and determined that damages could reach as high as $27.3 billion, according to a 4,000-page report turned over to the court last year.

The members of Congress write: "We do not prejudge the outcome of the case, nor do we take a position on the litigation. We do believe, however, that tens of thousands of indigenous residents of Ecuador who have brought this case deserve their day in court. We further believe that the USTR should not interfere in an ongoing judicial matter, particularly when this case involves environmental, health, and human rights issues that have a regional, and even global, importance."

Even though Chevron filed 14 expert affidavits in U.S. federal court praising Ecuador's court system to get the case transferred, once the evidence in the Ecuador trial pointed to the company's culpability it began a lobbying campaign in Washington to have Ecuador's preferences canceled. Chevron's lobbyists have made misleading assertions to the Congress that the company was granted a release from claims after a limited environmental clean-up in the mid-1990s, even though the release does not apply to the private claims in the lawsuit and the clean-up itself was fraudulent, according to the plaintiffs.

The ultimate goal of Chevron's Washington lobbying campaign was to pressure Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa, to interfere in his country's judiciary and quash the case as a way to maintain more than 300,000 jobs in Ecuador that are dependent on the preferences, according to Steven Donziger, an American legal advisor to the plaintiffs in the legal case.

"Chevron was trying to pressure Ecuador's President to violate his own Constitution and interfere in a private litigation to benefit the company in its battle with indigenous groups decimated by Chevron's pollution," said Donziger.

Chevron's lobbying campaign has sparked strong reactions across Capitol Hill and in the media.

On November 17, in testimony before the trade subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sanchez called Chevron's lobbying "extortion" and said, "Apparently, if it can't get the outcome it wants from the Ecuadorian court system, Chevron will use the US government to deny trade benefits until Ecuador cries uncle."

A recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times editorial blasted Chevron, noting that "If ... Chevron has its way, Congress will instead punish Ecuador because its government refuses to halt a private lawsuit against the oil giant.... to force a favorable outcome in a private claim would justly generate international outrage."

In 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama and Sen. Patrick Leahy wrote a similar letter to the USTR asking it to reject Chevron's petition, which it did.

Experts believe the Ecuador contamination – which covers an area the size of Rhode Island -- is the worst oil-related disaster on earth and would take at least two decades to properly clean. A final judgment in the case is expected next year.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wood’s Private Life Questioned, But His Public Choices Raise Real Questions

For the first time in Tiger Woods' career his private life is being closely scrutinized and his unwillingness to discuss what happened in his home criticized. Much ink has been used to debate what impact this scandal is having on his corporate partners, specifically Chevron, who entered into a five-year contract with the Tiger Woods' Foundation last year and had expected him to attend its golf tournament this week.

But, greater attention should be paid to Tiger's willingness enter into a relationship with Chevron itself, and the impact its had with the oil giant has had on the countries and people suffering from Chevron's abuse of the environment and human life across the globe.

This moment of media chaos may be the perfect time for Woods to reassess his relationship with this particular multinational for about 18 billion good reasons. That's the number of gallons of toxic waste that Texaco, now Chevron, intentionally dumped into the Ecuadorian rainforest from 1964 to 1990, contaminating the food and water supplies of the indigenous groups and farmer communities living there. Texaco built over 900 gigantic, unlined oil pits to store toxic waste permanently. The pits continue to seep into the groundwater and leech into the rivers and streams used by the 200,000 people living in the region.

This humanitarian crisis created by Woods' partner decimated the pristine rainforest in the Ecuadorian Amazon, one of the most bio diverse regions on earth and continues to contaminate to this day.

Kerry Kennedy, human rights activist and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, recently visited the area and called it "Chevron's Chernobyl." [See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kerry-kennedy/chevron-and-cultural-geno_b_346257.html]

Experts estimate over 1,000 people have died from cancer, and thousands more suffer from respiratory illnesses, skin disease and other medical problems. Women living near the oil sites are 2.5 times as likely to have spontaneous abortions than women in other parts of Ecuador and incidents of childhood leukemia are three times higher than the national average. Children are born with deformities and, upon bathing in the contaminated water, develop painful skin rashes over their entire bodies.

Yet Chevron refuses to take responsibility for the deliberate contamination of the region designed to maximize profit at the time of its operation.

Chevron has a long history of human rights abuse across the globe and has shown no remorse for the Toxic legacy it inherited in Ecuador. EarthRights International has called on Woods to no longer partner with Chevron as a result of the company's criminal environmental practices and human rights abuses abroad. [See http://www.metro.us/us/article/2009/12/02/05/3635-82/index.xml]

Looks like Tiger's relationship with Chevron may actually be the most harmful one for the mega-athlete's reputation. At a time when Tiger might need to do a bit of rehab on his public image, he should be cutting ties with an oil-giant that is embroiled in a rising tide of human rights problems around the globe. If Chevron insists on continuing to do business in a way that violates the environmental integrity of the communities in which it operates around the world, than Tiger should insist that his foundation disassociate itself with the oil company in every way.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chevron’s Lobbying Effort Blasted in Politico Monday

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1109/29560.html


Chevron's lobby campaign backfires
By:
Kenneth P. Vogel
November 16, 2009 04:58 AM EST

Facing the possibility of a $27 billion pollution judgment against it in an Ecuadorean court, Chevron launched an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign to try to prevent the judgment as well as reverse a deeply damaging story line.

Chevron's tactics — ranging from quietly trying to wield U.S. trade policy to compel Ecuador's government to squelch the case, to producing a pseudo-news report casting the company as the victim of a corrupt Ecuadorean political system — were designed to win powerful allies in Congress and the Obama administration as well as to shape public opinion and calm shareholders.

But many of the company's moves have backfired, drawing fire from environmentalists, media ethicists, state pension funds, New York's attorney general, members of Congress and even Barack Obama when he was a senator.

"Their lobbying and PR efforts are really clumsy and very heavy handed, and I think that that's why they're experiencing a degree of backlash," said Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), who is circulating the first of what she promises will be three letters to colleagues blasting what she calls the company's "misguided approach" to dealing with the case.

The case stems from a class action suit brought by well-connected U.S. trial lawyers on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadoreans alleging that from 1964 to 1990, Texaco — which was purchased by Chevron in 2001 — dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into Ecuador's Amazon rain forest, leaving behind an unprecedented environmental and public health disaster including a wave of cancers, birth defects and miscarriages.

Chevron has been pushing the U.S. government to revise Ecuador's trade preferences since soon after the lawsuit was filed in Ecuador in 2003 (it originally had been in U.S. federal court in 1993). But with a years-long trial in a tiny courtroom in the Ecuadorean rain forest expected to culminate in a ruling early next year, Chevron has turned up the heat, arguing that it can't get a fair trial in Ecuador, an assertion that Sanchez and other Chevron critics point out seems to conflict with the company's previous efforts to move the trial from U.S. courts to Ecuador.

In part, Chevron wants the office of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, as well as Congress, to revoke the preferential treatment Ecuador gets for its oil exports under the 1991 Andean Trade Preferences Act, unless the country enforces an agreement it entered into with Texaco in the mid-1990s, under which the company paid for a three-year, $40 million cleanup and was relieved of liability. The plaintiffs contend that Chevron botched the cleanup, but if the court were to recognize the agreement, it could essentially end the suit.

"When a government is in violation of its contractual obligations to a company, there are only a few avenues a company has to seek resolution," Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson said in explaining his firm's lobbying over the trade preferences. "If we were able to call a timeout and make the lawsuit disappear, then this entire issue disappears," he added.

Chevron says its lobbying campaign — which has included more than $1.6 million in fees this year to a bipartisan roster of Washington heavyweights including Democrats Mickey Kantor, a former U.S. trade representative; Mack McLarty, a former White House chief of staff; and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.); as well as big-time GOP bundler Wayne Berman — is not at all unusual.

Advocates for the plaintiffs, whose suit is financed by a Philadelphia law firm, have rallied their own impressive response in Washington. Led by Steven Donziger, a New York-based lawyer who was a Harvard Law School classmate of Obama, it includes Democratic fundraiser and lobbyist Ben Barnes; Tom Downey, a former Democratic congressman who is married to Obama climate czar Carol Browner and who recently registered to lobby Congress for Donziger; and public relations consultant Karen Hinton. The team has helped persuade a number of influential members of Congress to sign on to letters urging Kirk to reject Chevron's efforts.

In 2006, after multiple visits from Donziger, then-Sen. Obama joined with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in signing a letter to then-U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, asking him "not to interfere in the Chevron case" and asserting that the Ecuadoreans "deserve their day in court."

Robertson rejected the suggestion that the company's lobbying had backfired, pointing to a report Obama transmitted to Congress this summer that allowed the preferences to continue but referenced Chevron's concerns about the trial, including the company's allegations of interference by Ecuadorean officials up to and including President Rafael Correa.

In an interview, Sanchez, who will testify Tuesday at a hearing her House Ways and Means subcommittee is scheduled to hold on free trade agreements, said Chevron is "trying to leverage our trade policy in order to get a lawsuit dismissed that is currently pending before the Ecuadorean court. It is a way of trying to undermine the rule of law, and I just find that completely abhorrent. It's shocking."

This summer, Chevron thought it had made major progress toward proving its point that it could not receive a fair trial in Ecuador, when it revealed that it had obtained videos — purportedly taped secretly by a pair of whistleblowers using recorders implanted in watches and pens — that the company said exposed a bribery scheme in the case involving Ecuadorean officials and possibly the judge in the case. The company turned the recordings over to authorities in the U.S. and Ecuador and circulated excerpts of the recordings on Capitol Hill. The judge recused himself.

But late last month, Hinton — who is paid by the Philadelphia law firm financing the suit to advocate on behalf of a nonprofit called the Amazon Defense Coalition — released a report revealing that the American who helped make the recordings was a convicted drug trafficker, while his Ecuadorean partner was a Chevron contractor.

Robertson called the report "character assignation" and said it "doesn't change what was caught on film. We have a judge who is corrupt. … We're not measuring the release of the videos as success or failure."

He did count as a success, though, the fact that Chevron shareholders in May, after a letter-writing campaign by the company, voted down a resolution citing the lawsuit and calling on the company to examine whether it complies with host country laws and environmental regulations.

Nonetheless, state pension funds that hold a combined $1 billion in Chevron shares have expressed concern about how the company plans to handle a potentially huge adverse judgment in the case. And in a May letter demanding more information from Chevron, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he had recently "received complaints regarding Chevron's disclosures of the potential litigation risks and Chevron's characterization of available legal defenses."

Chevron also got dinged for a curious PR effort back in April, when — after catching wind that CBS's "60 Minutes" was preparing a damaging report about its handling of the Ecuador case — it released a video it paid for featuring former CNN reporter Gene Randall delivering what looked like a news report giving Chevron's side of the story.

Posted on YouTube and the company's website and bearing the logo "Gene Randall reporting," the report was produced with help from the conservative Beltway consulting firm CRC Public Relations. It cast Ecuador's politicians as out to get Chevron and blamed the pollution on Ecuador's state-owned oil company, which took over Texaco's operations.

Columbia Journalism Review assailed the report as "deceptive" and posited that it "might be unprecedented for how it blurred the line between public relations and journalism."

Chevron's Robertson said Hinton and the lawyers in the case are "trying to take Chevron's reputation hostage and to ransom it back to us" for a settlement. "So getting our side of the story out there is important."

Robertson also said Hinton and her allies are in a bit of a "glass houses situation" when it comes to alleging sneaky techniques. He pointed out that Hinton's group paid a private investigator to expose the background of the video maker, that a group linked to Hinton's issued press releases insinuating that the murder of a brother of one of the plaintiff's lawyers may be linked to the case (though the lawyer initially told the police otherwise) and that Hinton's own husband, Howard Glaser, a financial services industry analyst, late last month posted an item bashing Chevron on The Huffington Post — to which he is a contributor — without noting their marriage.

Hinton asserted her side's tactics have been above board, adding that, though "no one knows who murdered [the lawyer's] brother," the killing came at a time when the lawyer "and other members of the plaintiffs' legal team had received a number of anonymous death threats connected to the work on the case."

Meanwhile, even the addendum Hinton's husband posted at the request of Chevron noting his wife's relationship to the case somehow seemed to ricochet against Chevron.

"My spouse works with the indigenous people of Ecuador who are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Chevron for the massive pollution the company left behind in the rain forest," he wrote. "While Chevron conducts a multimillion-dollar media spin campaign to paint themselves as the environmental 'good guys,' said spouse working out of her house with her two cats and cell phone appears to have gotten under Chevron's corporate skin."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chevron’s Ready-Made Scandal Continues to Fall Apart

New post from Paul over at ChevroninEcuador.com:

Chevron's Ready-Made Scandal Continues to Fall Apart


A new Associated Press investigation revealed that the purported environmental remediation specialist, Wayne Douglas Hansen, who secretly filmed meetings meant to catch Ecuadorian officials in acts of corruption has never owned a remediation company—as claimed—nor does he have any relationship with Honeywell Inc. as claimed in one of the videos.

AP reporters interviewed Hansen on the phone earlier this month. When they asked him the name of his company, he refused to answer. He instead described water treatment projects he is working on in Mexico and Ecuador. When the reporters questioned him about details of these projects, he hung up.

The AP investigation also uncovered Hansen's repeated run-ins with the law, ranging from letting his pit bull go wild on a neighbor's dog, to conspiring to smuggle 275,000 pounds of marijuana from Colombia into the United States! (He was convicted and served time in federal prison.)

The investigation shatters Chevron's attempt to portray Hansen as a sincere, concerned citizen who hand delivered the supposed bribery videos out of a sense of civic duty.

A parallel plaintiffs' report on Hansen was also published today, going into exhaustive detail on the information recently uncovered.

What remains to be uncovered is: one, the extent to which Hansen's involvement in the video scandal constitutes a federal crime for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and two, whether Chevron knowingly participated with Hansen in illegal activity to get their hands on a "smoking gun."

– Paul

Chevron’s “Good Samaritan” is a Drug Trafficker and a liar…

An article in the New York Times today outlines the latest findings about the American, Wayne Hansen, who supposedly owned a remediation company, and who Chevron claimed made secret videotapes to expose "corruption" out of the goodness of his heart. Well, turns out that almost everything the guy said about who he was and who Chevron claimed he was is a lie – he does not own a remediation company, he has never done any remediation, and he is a convicted felon (For trying to smuggle 275,000
pounds of drugs).

And this brings up a serious question: if the guy isn't who Chevron says he is, and if he wasn't actually looking for remediation contracts (since he didn't have a remediation business), what was he doing in meetings, asking leading questions, while he secretly videotapes it? Why was he in that room? More and more signs are point towards Chevron, the only party that benefited from Hansen's attempt to undermine the trial in Ecuador.

Read on, from the Times:

October 30, 2009

Revelation Undermines Chevron Case in Ecuador

By CLIFFORD KRAUSS

HOUSTON — An American whose secret recordings have placed him at the center of a $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador is a convicted drug trafficker, records show, throwing another complication into a case already tainted by accusations of bribery and espionage.

The lawsuit pits Ecuadorean peasants against Chevron over oil pollution in the Amazon and has been a major headache for the company for nearly a decade, producing a saga that underscores many of the hazards and ethical challenges of oil companies working in the developing world.

The company appeared to gain the upper hand in August when it revealed video recordings — captured on watches and pens implanted with bugging devices — that suggested a bribery scheme involving Ecuadorean officials, and possibly even the judge hearing the case.

But the company was put on the defensive again on Thursday, after lawyers for the peasants revealed that one of two men who made the tapes was a convicted felon. Court and other records provided by the plaintiffs show that Wayne Hansen, the American who helped make the recordings, was convicted of conspiring to traffic 275,000 pounds of marijuana from Colombia to the United States in 1986. He also was sued successfully in 2005 by a woman who accused him of unleashing his two pit bulls to attack her and her dog.

The disclosure adds more questions about what motivated Mr. Hansen and an Ecuadorean partner to record meetings for Chevron's use, which the company has characterized as an act of whistle-blowing by men offended by unethical behavior and evidence that the handling of the case had been flawed.

"It's another blockbuster development in a case that never runs short of them," said Ralph G. Steinhardt, a professor at George Washington University Law School. "It doesn't necessarily mean there was no bribery plan, but anything that undermines the credibility of the witness undermines the case of the party that would call that witness."

Trevor Melby, Mr. Hansen's lawyer, did not deny his client had a criminal history, saying, "The thing about felony convictions is they follow you to the grave, but even if he had 15 felony convictions it wouldn't change the tapes." Mr. Melby said he was not being paid by Chevron.

The origins of the case go back to the 1970s, when Texaco operated in partnership with the Ecuadorean state oil company to produce oil in the Amazon. Peasants filed suit in 1993, saying that the company, which had ceased to operate in Ecuador by then, had left an environmental mess that had caused illnesses among villagers. Chevron bought Texaco before the case could be resolved.

Chevron has long said that it could not receive a fair hearing in Ecuador before a hostile judge and government. That argument seemed to be reinforced by the recordings obtained by Mr. Hansen and an Ecuadorean man who had worked as a contractor for the company. They showed an Ecuadorean political go-between working to obtain $3 million in bribes for environmental cleanup contracts to be awarded after the case ended.

But it remained unclear why Mr. Hansen was involved in the discussions. The plaintiffs said that an inquiry into his background by a private investigator found that Mr. Hansen did not hold an engineering license, never finished college and showed no record of being qualified to remediate pollution as he portrayed to Ecuadorean officials in the tapes.

Chevron has said it had no involvement in the videotaping, and company spokesmen have said Mr. Hansen was never their point of contact. "We've had no association with this guy," said Donald Campbell, a Chevron spokesman. "This issue is the content on the video and the transcripts that we turned over to the prosecutor general of Ecuador and the U.S. Department of Justice, which shows inappropriate meetings by the judge in our case, extensive government interference in the trial and a bribe plot involving $3 million."

The other man involved in making the recordings, Diego Borja, has since been moved to the United States with his family at Chevron's expense, and he has been receiving an undisclosed amount of living expenses.

No bribes were shown in the tapes, but the plot supposedly included Judge Juan Núñez, who was presiding in the case. Mr. Núñez recused himself, though he says he did nothing wrong.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Chevron Sullying Reputation of American Corporations Abroad; Garrigo Sullying Chevron’s Reputation at Home

video

Chevron's spokeswoman and resident "Misrepresenter in Chief" Silvia Garrigo was at it again during an interview with CNN's Rick Sanchez on Oct. 22. Garrigo, who professes to love the environment, last made headlines with her abysmal performance on CBS News' 60 minutes, where she dismissed health concerns in Ecuador's Amazon by comparing cancer-causing toxins in oil to the makeup on her face. This was Garrigo's classic line:

"I have makeup on, and there's naturally occurring oil on my face. Doesn't mean that I'm going to get sick from it."

The experts who run Chevron's embattled public affairs office either have very few options, or they apparently thought Garrigo's comparison of contamination to makeup was solid enough to put her on CNN. Garrigo was responding to Kerry Kennedy's account of her heartbreaking visit to the Ecuadorian rainforest where Texaco (now Chevron) intentionally dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste and abandoned over 900 unlined waste pits while operating a large oil concession from 1964 to 1990.

Kennedy, a mother of three and a longtime human rights advocate, described in detail the devastation she witnessed as a result of improper operating practices by Texaco (now Chevron). She told of the gasoline-like smell coming from the runoff from pipes intentionally designed by Texaco to discharge oil sludge and waste water from the pits directly into the rivers and streams used by the indigenous communities in the area for drinking, bathing, and cooking. She also recounted stories from the indigenous communities of rape and abuse at the hands of Texaco employees. This would not have occurred, she argued, if the residents were living in this country.

In response, Garrigo chided Kennedy for spending only a few days in the region -- as if it takes more than a few minutes to understand that huge open pits of oil, left untouched since Texaco abandoned them many years ago, are a mess that needs to be cleaned up. (Kennedy's trip is a few days more than any member of Chevron's management or Board of Directors has spent in Ecuador. No person with any real authority at the company – including outgoing CEO David O'Reilly, incoming CEO John Watson, outgoing General Counsel Charles James, and new General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate -- has been to the affected region of Ecuador.)

Garrigo then presented three arguments that she desperately wanted to share with the American public: 1) That Texaco had remediated its portion of the contamination and that what Kennedy saw was now the responsibility of Ecuador's government; 2) The cancer claims are false (Garrigo's apparent personal favorite); and 3) The Ecuadorian judiciary is corrupt.

All three arguments, not surprisingly, are either misleading or outright lies. The facts are as follows:

Garrigo: Any contamination Kennedy witnessed was caused by Petroecuador, Ecuador's state-owned oil company that inherited Texaco's well sites in 1992 when Texaco left the country.

Fact: Contrary to Garrigo's claim, Kennedy visited well sites built and run exclusively by Texaco. Aguarico 2 was solely operated by Texaco from 1974 to 1990 and then closed. This site was never operated by any other oil company. Kennedy dug mere inches into the ground before discovering oil in the soil, which is leaching into groundwater and ending up in the nearby stream where local residents drink the water. Kennedy saw the same contamination at Shushufindi 38, a pit opened by Texaco in 1975 and closed by Texaco in 1976. She also saw well site Aguarico 4, which was operated by Texaco from 1974 to 1984. In other words, Kennedy saw unlined waste pits built and closed by Texaco in the 1970s and 1980s that are still causing pollution today.

Texaco's so-called "remediation" cited by Garrigo involved fewer than 16% of the 916 pits that Texaco built. The remediation has been proven at trial to be either ineffective, or a complete fraud. Independent inspections of Texaco's "remediated" sites have found extensive levels of contamination, often thousands of times higher than the Ecuadorian norms that establish when human health is at risk. In fact, two Chevron lawyers and seven former Ecuadorian government officials are now under indictment for fraud connected to their involvment in the certification of the "remediated" pits. One of the Chevron lawyers under criminal indictment, Ricardo Reis Veiga, is thought of so highly by the company that he is still running Chevron's downstream operations in Latin America. (Reis Veiga also supervised Garrigo for several years on the Ecuador trial out of Chevron's office in Coral Gables.)

Garrigo: Any claims about health impacts in Ecuador from exposure to oil contamination are false.

Fact: It is well-established that exposure to any number of the chemicals and compounds that makeup oil is linked to higher instances of cancer – and numerous, peer-reviewed studies show elevated instances of cancer in the region of Ecuador which Texaco contaminated.

Is there anyone outside of Chevron who seriously believes there is no connection between consuming water and foods contaminated with oil and cancer? The independent, peer-reviewed studies measuring the impact of contamination on the health of people living in the Chevron concession area have found that cancer rates were anywhere from 1.7 to 4 times greater than for people living outside the area. One study found that the risk for spontaneous abortion was 2.34 times higher among woman living near the contamination. Based on survey data, the court Special Master calculated 1,401 excess cancer deaths resulting from the contamination. (Texaco, in the 26 years that it operated in Ecuador, never conducted a single health evaluation in the region nor took even one soil or water sample to determine if its operations were causing contamination.)

Garrigo: The courts in Ecuador are "corrupt to their core":

Fact: As Kennedy noted in her interview, the plaintiffs originally filed the lawsuit in New York Federal Court in 1993. Texaco and then Chevron fought to have the case removed to Ecuador arguing in 14 affidavits that the Ecuadorian judiciary was not only the more appropriate forum, but that the judicial system was competent and fair. Chevron won that battle, and the same case was re-filed in Ecuador in 2003. Once the trial started and evidence pointed to Chevron's culpability, Chevron changed its tune and started to attack the very courts it previously had praised. The animating principle: praise courts when you think you can win, condemn them when you think you are going to lose. But as Garrigo said on 60 Minutes when she got cornered by correspondent Scott Pelley, the reality is there is no court in the world that Chevron would agree to because Chevron is above the law and the claims relating to the pits Kennedy saw are "frivolous".

In reality, Chevron has tried to corrupt the Ecuadorian court process to derail the trial and evade a judgment – which explains why Chevron is under three separate official investigations for possible criminal violations relating to its misconduct in Ecuador. It also why Ecuador's Attorney General has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the company for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Garrigo asks about corruption? She should just walk down the hall. Garrigo's colleagues at Chevron have fabricated a false military report to cancel the Guanta judicial field inspection, have filed redundant motions to delay the trial, have threatened various judges when they refuse to rule in the company's favor, and have harassed and stalked the court-appointed Special Master to the point where he needed police protection. Just weeks ago Chevron discovered a "bribery scandal" that has all the telltale signs of a hoax perpetrated by the company to sabotage the trial. That doesn't count the numerous and anonymous death threats leveled at plaintiff's counsel during the trial – threats that don't seem of great concern to Chevron, which has remained silent on this most critical of issues.

At the end of the interview, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez asked Garrigo if contamination of the sort left by American corporations is "sullying our reputation in the world." She said she couldn't agree more but Chevron has always acted appropriately.

Chevron has always acted appropriately? From Ecuador (largest oil-related contamination on the planet), to Burma (where Chevron is partners with the repressive military junta), to the Philippines (where Chevron has caused spills, leaks, and fires in a residential area because of its oil depot), to Nigeria (where the company is accused of being complicit in an army-orchestrated killing of protesting villagers), at least some people on the receiving end of Chevron's misconduct would probably disagree with Chevron's Manager of Global Issues and Policy.

By its handling of the Ecuador case, it appears that Chevron not only doesn't mind sullying America's reputation. It also doesn't seem too concerned about its own reputation, either.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chevron hit hard today by movie review in Washington Post

Interesting review of the movie "Crude" in today's Washington Post – the article really breaks down the way Chevron has handled the lawsuit to date. Take a look below or at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/22/AR2009102201443_pf.html

Not simply an underdog's tale

By John Anderson
Friday, October 23, 2009

Had Michael Moore wanted to make a serious movie about capitalism, he would have made "Crude." Joe Berlinger's scorched-earth documentary and David-and-Goliath drama offers more than a few eco-outraged observations on the not-so-free enterprise system: As the film very eloquently implies, when the greater good is defined as profits, and a lack of culpability is proportionate to your number of shareholders, well . . . a lot of petroleum-soaked chickens will be coming home to roost.

For three years, Berlinger followed the now-17-year-old lawsuit against Chevron filed by 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorans, and the results are an eco-war strategy as might have been devised by Sun Tzu. Witnesses are prepped, strategies are rehearsed, judges are buttonholed and celebrities are stroked -- and this is the strategy of the "good guys," as they probably would be defined by Berlinger. While both sides in the case certainly are given their voice, it's unlikely that the director -- who enjoys a lucrative commercial career in New York -- would have been inspired to leave hearth and home by his deep sense of injustice over the sufferings of Chevron.

And yet, "Crude" is that rare thing in fiction or nonfiction cinema, a movie that relies on its audience to draw the right conclusions. Chevron makes a decent case for itself: It wasn't even in the Amazon from 1972 to 1990, when an alleged 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater were dumped there, sickening the inhabitants (notably the plaintiff Cofán tribe). But Texaco was, and Chevron took it over in 2001. And while much blame is assigned by all parties to the government-owned PetroEcuador, which has run the country's oil production since the early '90s, all the experts brought in to make assessments conclude that the damage is deep and old.

Chevron's motives are clear -- although the pending judgment against it is "only" $27 billion, it hardly pays to set a precedent and settle. When Pablo Fajardo, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, and his associate Luis Yanza receive the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2008, a Chevron spokesman is heard calling them liars. Lawyers for the Ecuadorans admit that a Chevron defeat could mean big fees. When we see Chevron's agents -- such as counsel Ricardo Reis Veiga, who has since been indicted for fraud -- they admit nothing.

Berlinger ("Brother's Keeper," "Paradise Lost") lets it play out artfully. The fact that Chevron's representatives come across as soulless shills is hardly his fault; he lets them present their case without comment. It's hardly his responsibility to make someone such as corporation scientist Sara McMillan appear less reptilian when she contends that there's been no damage to the jungle, no oil-related illness, no correlation between pollution and death. From what the viewer can tell, Chevron is a little like the guy who performed a little surgery and stole your kidneys: What kidneys? Prove you ever had kidneys! If the movie is any indication, Chevron would have the public believe there was no Amazon at all -- something people might be willing to believe, were Berlinger not sticking "Crude" in their faces.

Anderson is a freelance reviewer.

*** ½ Unrated. At Landmark's E Street Cinema. Contains disturbing content. 105 minutes.

Whew. 3.5 stars (out of 4) for a film that Chevron and its shills keep trying to attack as just an anti-Chevron film. Maybe they try and go after the film because the company's arguments ring hollow - so rather than deal with the reality on the ground, the company encourages sympathetic bloggers like Carter Wood to attack the film. And therein lies Chevron's entire strategy (and the root of the company's problems): treat the situation in Ecuador as an image problem to be managed, rather than a humanitarian and economic crisis to be solved.

Hopefully the film will start to wake the company up to the reality: they made a mess in Ecudor, and they now need to clean it up.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chevron has problems all around the world…

This press release from FACES, a group which tracks environmental justice issues in the Philippines and the United States:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 22, 2009
3:30 PM

CONTACT: Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES
)
Aileen Suzara, FACES
510-409-8627, info@facessolidarity.org

US State Department Gets It Wrong on Chevron's Operations in the Philippine
s
SAN FRANCISCO - October 22 - Chevron Corporation's recent nomination to the State Department's annual Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) for its Philippine-based operations was met with opposition from US and Philippine environmentalists. In response to the nomination, FACES sent a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the State Department to rescind the nomination.

"Communities are suffering from Chevron's toxic emissions, catastrophic spills, leakages, and the risk of fires and explosions," said Mari Rose Taruc, FACES Chevron Campaign Coordinator. "Nomination to the ACE award ignores Chevron's negative impacts on the health of communities in the Philippines and around the world where they operate."

FACES open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted Chevron's toxic operations in the Philippines. "Chevron Philippines is no corporation to be proud of, not by the US or the Philippines. A little corporate donation to a local project does not replace the many lives lost or harmed due to their toxic operations in the fenceline communities of the Manila oil depots, as well as around the world where they operate," said the letter.

Philippine civil society and environmental groups have campaigned for years for the relocation of the massive Chevron oil depot out of Pandacan, a residential district in Metro Manila. An estimated 83,000 residents are directly impacted by the depot. Accidental spills, leakages and fires have overwhelmed the community over the years. A study conducted by Global Community Monitor in 2002 detected high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen and component of gasoline, in the air around Pandacan.

Yet despite opposition from the community and Church leaders, public health concerns, numerous ordinances, and a 2007 Supreme Court decision that ordered Chevron to relocate their depot for the "protection of the residents of Manila from catastrophic devastation," Chevron has continued to stall out this order.

"We are asking for relocation of the depot to an area with a proper buffer zone, away from the nearest communities. This is a holocaust waiting to happen," said leaders of Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice (AESJ). AESJ is among the Manila-based groups currently leading a campaign to relocate the depot.

For more information on Chevron's impacts in the Philippines and worldwide, download the True Cost of Chevron Alternate Report: www.truecostofchevron.com and visit www.facessolidarity.o
rg.

###
FACES is an intergenerational organization that works for environmental justice within communities in the United States and in the Philippines, and builds partnerships through advocacy, education, service, and organizing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Today’s Bribery Tale Very Different from the One Chevron Told Seven Weeks Ago…

The tale that Chevron told about how two men secretly recorded a bribery scheme in Ecuador is a very different tale today from the one Chevron unveiled seven weeks ago on YouTube and through the news media. Chevron's attempt to use the bribery scheme to derail a potential $27 billion lawsuit for oil contamination in the Ecuadorian rainforest could turn out to be as big of a corporate scandal as the pretexting debacle at Hewlett Packard.

Below is a quick comparison of Chevron's original version of the story and what we know today. For more information, take a look at this complete list of Chevron's unanswered questions about the purported bribery scandal, and this compilation of media reports about the purported bribery scandal.

What Chevron Said Seven Weeks Ago:

  • Patricio Garcia is a government party official who met at the party's headquarters office in Quito with Borja and Hansen


  • Diego Borja is [only] a former Chevron logistics contractor


  • Wayne Hansen, is an American business man who was looking for remediation work in Ecuador.


  • Borja and Hansen have not received any payment for secretly taping Garcia in meetings.

What We Know Today:

  • Garcia is not even a registered party member, much less a party official. Government party officials know of no formal role Garcia has played with the party, except to hand out flyers or cater events.

  • Garcia, Borja and Hansen did not meet at the party's headquarters office; they met at a house owned by Garcia and at Borja's office.

  • Garcia said Borja's office is in the same building as Chevron's legal team in Quito and that Borja's family owns the office building.

  • Borja is not just a "former logistics contractor" for Chevron. He worked on the lawsuit for Chevron, helping to obtain soil samples for contamination testing as recently as March, only a few weeks before the first meeting with Garcia was secretly recorded.

  • If Hansen is a businessman with an expertise in oil clean-up work and who owns his own remediation company, he does not advertise his services. (Chevron has confirmed that the only "Wayne Hansen" listed on any internet search engine is not the same Wayne Hansen who filmed the meetings.)

  • Nowhere on the video recordings do any government officials, the plaintiffs or the judge discuss or accept a bribe.

  • Despite what Chevron said about not paying for their services, Chevron paid Borja relocation expenses for him and his family to move to the US and for "interim support." Chevron has offered to pay both men's legal fees for the two top criminal defense lawyers Borja and Hansen have hired. The lawyers work in San Francisco, only a few miles from Chevron's headquarters in San Ramon.

Note that Borja's attorney, Cristina Arguedas, represented Hewlett Packard's former general counsel Ann Baskin in the pretexting scandal.

Chevron should pay attention - they may end up needing Arguedas' help as well…

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chevron: Don’t believe your eyes…believe our lies!

Chevron's bloggers, who continue to deny the truth about the company's involvement in oil contamination in Ecuador, are upset with a New York Times photo of a waste pit in Ecuador that ran last Saturday.

Chevron apologists such as Carter Wood – who blogs for the National Associat

ion of Manufacturers, which counts Chevron as a major donor – have said the photo is of a waste pit by Ecuador's state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, because the oil is fresh and Chevron left the country in 1992. But in his hurry to carry Chevron's water, Carter again misses the boat with his analysis.

Evidence at the trial demonstrates that Chevron's predecessor company, Texaco, constructed 916 unlined waste pits in Ecuador's Amazon in the 1970s and 1980s. All were gouged out of the jungle floor without lining, in violation of U.S. and industry standards dating to the 1920s. Almost all of the pits had pipes that ran the toxic contents into nearby streams relied on by the local population for drinking water; in most cases, the toxic contents have migrated through the bottom of the pits to contaminate groundwater used for wells by local residents. If you want to see for yourself, check out the 60 Minutes report on the case.

This is clear evidence of the reckless indifference to human life that characterized Texaco's operations and Chevron's defense. Texaco had so little regard for the locals that Chevron had to admit that Texaco never even kept a list of the existence or locations of the pits, each of one of which is a hazardous waste site. The use of these reckless operational practices might explain why several independent health evaluations show skyrocketing rates of cancer in the region, and why the court Special Master found 1,401 excess cancer deaths. If this had happened in the U.S. it would probably be considered negligent homicide – and those that designed and built this system would probably be in jail.

Not that Wood cares. According to him – in a line he lifted directly from Chevron's talking points - if the oil in the pit is liquid then it must have been put there recently, which means the NYT photo could not be of contamination in a pit that Chevron left Ecuador in 1992. That's simply not true, according to evidence at trial. Dozens of Texaco waste pits in Ecuador's Amazon that were never touched by Petroecuador look exactly like the one in the NYT photo – even pits closed down by Texaco in the 1970s and 1980s. Check out this picture (taken in 2005), which is of Texaco site "Lago Agrio 5" which was closed in 1972 – and which hasn't been touched by anyone since it was closed by the company that year. Oil in old pits does not weather in Ecuador because it rains constantly in the Amazon, keeping the sludge in the old waste pits in the exact form one sees in the NYT photo. Even if the pit is now owned by Petroecuador, it does not absolve Chevron of its responsibility for building it, operating it, and abandoning it – and for the continued damage caused by using the same methods by the subsequent operator.

Chevron and bloggers like Carter Wood have consistently lied and misled the public, shareholders, and the media about Chevron's role in Ecuador. Chevron has tried every trick in the book – from creating its own news reports designed to look like CNN reports (including hiring disgraced former CNN correspondent Gene Randall to give the recordings an "authentic" appearance), to its latest Nixon-style dirty tricks operation to undermine the Ecuador trial where Chevron faces a substantial liability. Now, Carter Wood, on behalf of his organization's client Chevron, is asking people to not believe what is evident in a photo.

As Chevron's game of smoke and mirrors unravels, look for more misleading postings by Carter Wood and Chevron's cohort of bloggers. After all, Wood readily admits that he took an all-expense paid trip to Ecuador - paid for by Chevron of course - to get educated (read indoctrinated) on the issue. What he doesn't admit is that he failed to speak to any of the people who are trying to hold Chevron responsible for ruining their land and their lives. As a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, Wood should know better than to write about an issue without talking to both sides or disclosing that he is paid to support one party to a dispute.

So please Carter, stop trying to fool people with misleading arguments about oil liquidity and photos - people are not that stupid in the reality-based world.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kennedy: "Exxon Valdez was an accident…What happened here in Ecuador was done on purpose."

Kerry Kennedy – daughter of Robert F. Kennedy – toured the contamination and pollution Chevron left behind in Ecuador this week. From the AP:

RFK's daughter backs Ecuadoreans in Chevron suit

(AP) – 5 hours ago

QUITO, Ecuador — Robert F. Kennedy's daughter sided with Ecuadorean Indians and farmers in their $27 billion environmental lawsuit against oil giant Chevron, saying Thursday after visiting former Amazon drilling sites that the case compares unfavorably to the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill.

Kerry Kennedy, who toured parts of the Amazon province of Sucumbios by invitation of the plaintiffs to witness ecological damage, promised to lobby hard back in the United States.

"When I return home, we'll mobilize the human rights and environmental communities," said Kennedy, who is president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights. "We'll call on political leaders in the United States to investigate Chevron and its practices."

The plaintiffs, who say they represent 30,000 inhabitants of the region, are seeking damages for cleanup and to compensate for illnesses they attribute to oil-drilling contamination from operations carried out by Texaco.

Chevron Corp., which bought Texaco in 2001, says it was absolved of any liability by a 1998 agreement with Ecuador's government that followed a multimillion-dollar cleanup.

The plaintiffs contend the cleanup was a sham and say the agreement doesn't protect Chevron from claims by third parties.

Chevron must be held responsible and compensate the local populations, Kennedy told reporters in Ecuador's capital, Quito.

"Exxon Valdez was an accident," she said. "What happened here in Ecuador was done on purpose."

In a statement, Chevron invited President John F. Kennedy's niece to meet with its representatives and learn the company's side.

Chevron accused the Ecuadorean state oil company Petroecuador of being responsible for the damage, not Texaco. Petroecuador was a partner in the drilling consortium Texaco operated before pulling out in the 1990s.

Chevron has long claimed it can't get a fair trial in Ecuador. It contends the judicial system is corrupt and recently released tapes it claims implicate the judge in the case in a bribery scheme.

Judge Juan Evangelista Nunez denied any wrongdoing but nevertheless recused himself — likely delaying a ruling that had been expected later this year for a case initially filed in 1993 in a New York court.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

If you can’t earn a good reputation, you can always buy one…

It appears that corporate excellence isn't what you do anymore, but how much you're willing to pay. With a potential $27 billion judgment looming in Ecuador over oil contamination, Chevron has been working hard to hide its toxic legacy and promote itself as a corporation with a reputation worthy of honor.

But, instead of working to actually improve their image on the ground, Chevron has been hard at work currying favor at the State Department and throwing money at everything but the hundreds of pits of oil littering the most diverse region on the planet.

Recently Chevron announced a $5 million contribution for next year's Shanghai World Expo, after an appeal by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
http://blogs.wsj.com/chinajournal/2009/09/22/us-nearly-in-the-money-for-expo/

The company also paid for its own full-page, color Washington Post ad to congratulate itself on receiving the Richard C. Holbrooke Award for Business Leadership. Holbrooke, not surprisingly, now works at State, serving as the President's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
http://www.newsweek.com/id/205546/output/print

The oil giant has most recently gotten itself nominated as a finalist for the Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2009/oct/130172.htm.
A stunning coincidence following, as it does, hard on the heels of these generous financial payouts.

To be clear – we're not arguing that contributing to various projects like these is a bad thing, only that Chevron cannot try to hide their bad acts in countries like Ecuador, Nigeria, and Burma by contributing some money to the World Expo and fighting AIDS in Africa. While those are worthy projects, the company cannot balance the scales of morality by doing some good over there while ruining people's lives and polluting lands over here. It's like going to McDonald's and ordering a Big Mac and large fries but getting a Diet Coke – sure, the Diet Coke is better than a regular Coke but it doesn't make the Big Mac any better for you.

But it seems like Chevron isn't interested in that message. Instead of adapting their policies to finally fulfill their legal and moral obligations and to be a better corporate citizen, Chevron has instead chosen the strategy of using its record-breaking profits to buy itself a good corporate reputation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

LA Times Editorial Blasts Chevron

Last Friday an editorial blasted Chevron's newest tricky legal maneuver: an attempt to freeze out the rights of more than 30,000 indigenous people by moving the trial (that they asked for!) into a secret international arbitration. The editorial clearly lays out what Chevron is attempting – read on:

latimes.com

Editorial

Chevron's shifty shifting of venue

The oil giant, facing a $27-billion damage claim in a pollution case brought by natives in Ecuador, shops the case to The Hague in a bid to escape liability.

October 2, 2009

When Chevron was in a New York courtroom battling a lawsuit by thousands of indigenous Ecuadoreans, it argued that the case rightly belonged in their country. But now that the company is poised to lose in the Andean nation and could be assessed as much as $27 billion in damages, it says Ecuador isn't the right place either. Last week, the oil giant shopped the case to yet another court, filing a claim at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Chevron has long maintained that it would appeal an adverse decision, which is entirely understandable. But this action is different. By going to The Hague before a verdict is issued in Ecuador, the company shuts outthe private citizens who brought the suit and who have no standing there. This reframes the case as between Ecuador and Chevron, and if it succeeds -- shifting liability from the company to the Ecuadorean government -- it could have a chilling effect on people all over the world who are engaged in legal battles with multinational corporations.

Let's be clear: The case wasn't brought by Ecuador. It was filed by people who say they have suffered serious personal harm, illness and environmental damage as a result of oil operations in their homelands. From the very beginning, Chevron has been trying to turn the focus away from these people and to pin the responsibility for the pollution on the government of Ecuador. After the suit was filed, the company got a waiver from Ecuador releasing it from all claims by the government. But the waiver didn't successfully stop third-party claims. So, in 2004, the company asked a federal court in New York to force Ecuador's state-owned oil company to indemnify it for any judgment in the case. The court rejected that claim in 2007, and in 2008, a three-judge panel for the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling.

Now Chevron, which once agreed to abide by the Ecuadorean court's ruling, says it has no choice but to seek an international remedy in The Hague because it cannot get a fair trial in the Amazon. To bolster that contention, it recently released videotapes that it says depict the judge, Juan Nunez Sanabria, prematurely declaring Chevron's guilt. The tapes are unclear as to Nunez's intent, and he maintains that no impropriety occurred. He recused himself from the case to avoid becoming a distraction but has since been reinstated.

The real problem for Chevron, however, isn't jurisdictional or procedural. Nor is it about biased justice in New York or Ecuador. The issue is the devastating contamination in the Ecuadorean Amazon, the individuals whose lives have been affected and the importance of accountability. No matter where this case is tried, that's not going to disappear.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Friday, September 25, 2009

AS FUNNY AS CANCER

Chevron has never appeared to take seriously its potential liability for the 18 billion gallons of contamination intentionally dumped in the Amazon rainforest. The oil company continually dismisses the overwhelming evidence that shows ChevronTexaco is responsible for destroying the health and way of life of the indigenous groups and farmer communities that live there. But, despite the company's failure to account for the severity of its actions, you couldn't imagine they found the situation humorous.

However, during a taped interview with Palast in Quito for the BBC, Chevron's Ecuadorian lawyers – Rodrigo Perez Pallares and Jaimie Varela -- laughed out loud when asked about the abnormally high cancer rates in the area. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBmfWg6wdKA

Perez Pallares, in a dismissive, mocking tone said: "And it's the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States? [laughter] If there is somebody with cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the deaths were] caused by crude or by petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude – which is absolutely impossible."

For his part, Jaimie Varela waved away concerns about instances of childhood cancer, asking Palast if he has been given any medical reports. When the reporter showed Varela a peer-reviewed study indicating that instances of childhood leukemia were substantially higher in the contaminated region, Varela mocked it.

The tape demonstrates a sickening display of callousness and arrogance that seems to be at the heart of Chevron's legal strategy. It is clear that Chevron would not be so quick to laugh at those dying off from their failure to act as an ethical corporation if the victims were from another part of the world.

Sadly, the lawsuit has exposed not only a history of environmental racism by the oil giant, but has demonstrated Chevron's ongoing belief that human life is of less value amongst the impoverished communities in Ecuador's rainforest.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chevron attempting to pass the buck to Ecuador?

The Wall Street Journal published an article today (both in their print edition and online) looking at Chevron's latest maneuver to try to pass any liability stemming from the landmark environmental lawsuit against the company over to the government of Ecuador. This article appeared in print (below) but oddly, appeared originally as a different, longer version on its webpage. It turns out that somewhere in the editing process the Journal edited out quotes from a UC David Law Professor, Andrea Bjorklund, and a complete quote from Steven Donziger, attorney for the plaintiffs. Read below the print version of the story for the complete, original online version of the article:

The print version of the article:


SEPTEMBER 24, 2009

Chevron Files Suit Against Ecuador

Looking to Protect Itself in Longtime Battle, Oil Giant Seeks Aid Through Trade Pact

By BEN CASSELMAN and ANGEL GONZALEZ

Chevron Corp. is stepping up its offensive in its long-running legal battle in Ecuador, suing Ecuador's government under international trade law.

Chevron is the defendant in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit that seeks to hold the company responsible for environmental damage allegedly caused by Texaco Inc., which Chevron bought in 2001. Chevron has denied the allegations.


Associated Press

Ecuadorean community leader Luis Yanza protests following a Chevron shareholders' meeting at the company's headquarters in San Ramon, Calif., last year. A lawsuit accuses Chevron of environmental damage in Ecuador.

Seeking to protect itself from what it says is likely to be an adverse ruling in Ecuador, the California-based oil giant said Wednesday it had filed suit under the terms of a 1997 trade pact between the U.S. and Ecuador. The suit amounts to a request for arbitration through a process set up by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law to adjudicate disagreements.

The arbitration process is separate from the original lawsuit, which will continue. But under its pact with the U.S., Ecuador must accept the arbitrators' rulings as binding under international law.

In its filing, Chevron argues Ecuador's government is responsible for any environmental damage and should pay any penalties assessed in the lawsuit, which could total $27 billion, according to a court-appointed expert. Chevron also asks that arbitrators force Ecuador's government to pay the company's legal fees and to award "moral damages" due to the government's alleged interference in the case, intimidation of Chevron representatives and other "outrageous and illegal conduct."

The move seeks to capitalize on the release last month of videos that Chevron says reveal a bribery scheme possibly involving the Ecuadorean judge who has been overseeing the lawsuit. Ecuador says it is investigating Chevron's allegations, as well as any potential involvement by Chevron in the scheme. The judge, who has sought to recuse himself from the case, has denied any wrongdoing, and the videos don't show him accepting or soliciting a bribe. On Tuesday, a local court ruled that the judge's withdrawal petition was "unfounded" and ordered him to stay in the case.

Chevron believes the controversy has given new weight to its claim that it cannot get a fair trial in Ecuador.

"We have believed for some time that it would be impossible for Chevron to get a fair hearing in Ecuador," Chevron General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate said.

Eric Bloom, a U.S. attorney representing Ecuador in the dispute, said Chevron has been trying to discredit Ecuador's judicial system for years, and he questioned the videos' authenticity.

"Chevron either got very, very lucky on the eve of a verdict and actually tripped across a legitimate concern, or they helped to stage-manage a fictitious event," Mr. Bloom said. "Both possibilities have to be investigated."

Chevron has denied doctoring the videos or participating in the scheme and has said it took steps to verify the videos' authenticity.

Steven Donziger, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit, said the filing will have "minimal impact" on his case, but he said it is a sign Chevron is becoming desperate.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Chevron's decision to seek international arbitration is the latest example of the company's increasingly aggressive strategy in the case, which includes a Web site to rebut plaintiffs' claims and an effort to lobby Congress to revoke Ecuador's trade privileges because of the government's alleged interference in the dispute.

Since Chevron has almost no assets in Ecuador, the plaintiffs will have to seek enforcement of any ruling in their favor in the U.S. or another country where Chevron operates.

Separately, the international arbitration process could take years. In its arbitration filing, Chevron claims that by allowing the lawsuit to go forward, the Ecuadorean government is violating a 1998 agreement that released the U.S. company from environmental liability in return for a $40 million cleanup paid for by Texaco.

The plaintiffs, a group of Ecuadorean residents, argue their case has nothing to do with the Ecuadorean government, so the agreement doesn't apply to their lawsuit. Ecuador's government says it has no control over the judicial process, although Chevron has argued the Ecuadorean judiciary is heavily influenced by President Rafael Correa.

If arbitrators reject Chevron's argument, it could make it harder for the company to fight enforcement of an adverse ruling. But if arbitrators agree that Chevron has no liability, legal experts said, it will be very difficult for plaintiffs to collect on any damages outside Ecuador.

Corporations have increasingly turned to international arbitrators in recent years to resolve disputes with governments. Companies often see the arbitration process as fairer than local courts.

Write to Ben Casselman at ben.casselman@wsj.com and Angel Gonzalez at angel.gonzalez@dowjones.com

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page B2


The Online Version of the article included quotes from Bjorklund:

Multinational corporations, including energy companies, have increasingly turned to international arbitrators in recent years to resolve disputes with governments. Companies often see the arbitration process as fairer than local courts. But Andrea Bjorklund, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, said companies actually lose slightly more than half of their arbitration cases.

"By no means is it a given that (a company) is going to prevail," Prof. Bjorklund said.

And Donziger:

Steven Donziger, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit, said the filing will have "minimal impact" on his case, but he said it is a sign Chevron is becoming desperate.

"They have suffered a series of consecutive legal defeats in courts in courts in both the United States and Ecuador, which is forcing them to search for an international forum that they think will be more sympathetic," Mr. Donziger said.

The entire, original online version of the article is included in a PDF here.