Monday, March 16, 2009

Chickens. Home. Roost.

It appears that William Haynes is probably getting familiar with those words – since it was announced today that the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Chapter (NLGSF) filed a complaint with the California State Bar against former Department of Defense General Counsel William Haynes. The complaint against Haynes, who now works for the Chevron Corporation in San Ramon, states that he "breached his duty as a lawyer and advocated for harsh tactics amounting to torture in violation of U.S. and international law … advocacy that directly lead to detainee abuses at the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib facilities." The complaint seeks to have Haynes held accountable for advising his clients (the Department of Defense) to take unlawful actions by engaging in torture by having his status as a "Registered In House Counsel" revoked – costing him his job as Chevron's deputy in-house counsel. And this is just the first wave – there is a real chance that Haynes will be called before Senator Patrick Leahy's burgeoning "Truth Commission," which could be America's very own Nuremberg trial to deal with the aftermath of the Bush wars.

This is hugely embarrassing for everyone at Chevron – but particularly for Charles James, Haynes' Bush-administration buddy who is Chevron's general counsel. James was the guy who hired Haynes when Haynes was radioactive after leaving the DoD under a cloud because of his torture connections. James made (another!) horrible judgment call in hiring Haynes, a potential war criminal, just as Chevron was facing a rising tide of human rights problems (Nigeria, Ecuador, Burma, now Cambodia) around the world. And like so many of James' other recent calls, this one is leaving him with egg on his face. It's pretty easy to imagine that the P.R. department over at Chevron is pretty pissed at James right about now for dragging their company into the same sentence as "torture" and "war criminal."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lay Down With Dogs and You Get Fleas

As the saying goes, good help is hard to find – so Chevron has found some bad help, and that help may be causing the company some problems in the days to come. We've already written about the controversial and ill-conceived hiring of William Haynes by Chevron (who was just described in a NY Times article as radioactive- the paper described him as searching for a job for more than a year before Chevron agreed to take him in). The Amazon Defense Coalition named a high-level public relations gun-for-hire, James Craig, who has been hired by Chevron to manipulate, delay, and obstruct the trial in Ecuador, calling Craig a "hit man" working for the corporation. According to the organization's press release:

James Craig, an American public relations official with Chevron affiliated with the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, for undermining a long-running environmental trial in Ecuador where the oil giant faces a $27 billion liability for dumping toxic waste into the rainforest.

"Chevron is using James Craig as a hit man to sabotage a trial in Ecuador because it expects to lose and be on the hook for billions of dollars," said Luis Yanza, a representative for the dozens of communities and indigenous groups that brought the lawsuit.

"James Craig's behavior is unethical and shows a profound disregard for the law," added Yanza, a recent winner of the Goldman Environmental Award, considered the "Nobel" prize of the environmental movement.

The interesting thing is that Mr. Craig is apparently no stranger to working for reckless and controversial companies – a quick Google search found that Craig's last position as a p.r. mercenary was with the infamous Refco, a financial trading company that collapsed in October 2005 costing investors hundreds of millions of dollars, long before imploding financial institutions was chic. James Craig helmed the public relations ship throughout Refco's collapse, working to hide the truth from investors and leading to the massive losses.

When you add in the Darth Vader-esque hiring of William Haynes, you've got an interesting human resources strategy - apparently Chevron tries to hire the most controversial guys around, hoping that their wealth of knowledge of the seedy underside of the world will help Chevron intervene in the trial.

But is hiring these mercenaries worth it? The Amazon Defense Coalition has indicated that complaints are being filed against Craig for interfering in Ecuador's judicial process. Haynes' "War On Terror" excesses inside of the Department of Defense may have him drawn up before Senator Leahy's burgeoning "Truth Commission" committee, and have him branded as a war criminal at home and abroad (better cancel that European vacation, Mr. Haynes…). And all of this gets imputed onto Chevron, damaging their public image, forcing the company to defend these employees, and making it harder for the company to work moving forward – these rogue operators may be causing more problems than they're solving.

I guess Chevron is probably used to having to deal with the fallout of hiring the radioactive and controversial – after all, as the saying goes, if you lay with dogs, you get fleas.