News out of San Francisco today: Chevron, which posted a record profit of $23.8 billion in 2008 is suing a group of Nigerian villagers for almost $500,000 in legal costs resulting from a embarrassing legal case (Bowoto v. Chevron) that Chevron narrowly survived this past November. This was the legal case in which a group of unarmed Nigerian villagers were shot and killed during the oil-derrick version of a sit-in protest. The villagers sought to hold Chevron responsible since it paid for, housed, fed, and directed the Nigerian military forces who shot the protestors. While Chevron prevailed during the trial, the entire episode was seen as a public relations disaster as a high-profile human rights trial took place just miles from Chevron's San Ramon, CA headquarters, further tarnishing Chevron's already shoddy image. Take a look at Dan Firger's blog on the Huffington Post - Landmark Human Rights Trial Bowoto v. Chevron Set To Begin October 27 for a short recap.
Well, now Chevron has added insult to injury, seeking $500,000 from the villagers who sued the company. So, people on Chevron's payroll literally shot the villagers, and now Chevron wants the villagers to pay the corporation for daring to take the company to trial over the shootings. Now, I don't have a ton of experience in this area, but I was always of the mindset that if you shoot someone its bad form to ask them to pay for the bullet. I mean damn, is Dick Cheney running Chevron now? Who shoots someone and then tries to make them pay for the fact that you shot them? And even Cheney only made his friend apologize for getting shot...I mean, this just reeks of heartless evil. According to the L.A. Times:
Laura Livoti, founder of Bay Area-based Justice in Nigeria Now, said the $485,000 sought by Chevron, California's largest company, would constitute a fortune for the Nigerians. That sum would be enough to sustain at least four villages in the Niger Delta for a year, she said.
"Chevron's attempt to squeeze nearly half a million dollars out of poor villagers who don't even have access to clean drinking water and who had wanted jobs with the company is a dramatic illustration of Chevron's heartlessness," she said.
In its claim, Chevron is seeking reimbursement from 19 plaintiffs and 30 former plaintiffs who dropped out of the case before it went to trial. At least a dozen of those named are children, Livoti said.
So this is perfect: Chevron is now suing children for enough money to support their entire village (and their neighbors!) for an entire year. Suing children? What, were all the puppies and kittens already claimed by Halliburton? I mean, this is getting almost comic book supervillain-y - with the lawsuits against children after Chevron shot their parents - did Lex Luthor take over this company?
And it's not like Chevron needs the money. Chevron made $23.8 billion profit last year. That means Chevron was making $65.2 million per day, $2.7 million per hour, and $45,251.56 per minute. At that rate it would take Chevron all of 10.72 minutes to make the $485,000 they're suing the villagers for. And these numbers are based on Chevron's profits, not their revenues, even though the $485,000 Chevron is seeking would all be tax-deductible business expenses anyway, meaning it would probably take the company about 5 minutes to generate that revenue. But Chevron isn't one to pass up an opportunity to sue children and the downtrodden, so here we are.
Even if you buy Chevron's argument that they're just trying to dissuade future lawsuits like the Bowoto case, the whole idea of suing Nigerian villagers and children is just horrible. Don't they have a single public relations professional in San Ramon? I have to imagine that a company posting $23.8b profits can afford to hire someone who is savvy enough to say "um guys, maybe we shouldn't shoot unarmed and impoverished villagers. And if we do, let's just sort of pretend it didn't happen, say we're sorry and we didn't mean to and hope the bad p.r. goes away – let's not go sue the people we shot for more money than any of them will ever make in their lifetimes. Ok guys? Because it looks really bad when a company making billions and billions of dollars is suing poor people because they stood up to us. Ok? And, by the way, can someone open a window? It's beginning to smell like sulfur in here again…"
But I guess no one in Chevron cares. Or maybe they just can't see the folly of their actions through all the smoke from the fire and brimstone filling up their big offices.