Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chevron Desperate Over Ecuador Disaster

As Evidence Piles Up, Company Ignores Own Scandals

Chevron has been dishing dirt to tarnish the Ecuadorian and American lawyers representing the indigenous groups suing the oil giant for what is considered the largest, oil-related environmental disaster on the planet. Yet Chevron is silent on the latest scandals surrounding the company’s potential $27 billion liability for the unprecedented oil contamination in Ecuador’s once pristine jungle.

After filing over 250 legal briefs in numerous U.S. federal district courts in a full-throttle attempt to undermine the Ecuadorian proceedings, Chevron is now mute on a plot, recently revealed, to spy on Ecuadorians who are sick or have lost family members as a result of the contamination. The oil company also has refused to comment on two internal audits that detail the vast extent of the contamination caused by the oil giant during its 26 years of operations. (view full audits here and here). The audits have been submitted as evidence in a U.S. federal court to prove that Chevron has been lying about its responsibility for the billions of gallons of oil and toxic formation water that the company intentionally dumped into the Ecuadorian rainforest.

Chevron’s refusal to speak to the spy plot and the findings of its own audits, which track exactly what the plaintiffs have long alleged and what expert reports at trial have concluded, speaks volumes about the company’s legal strategy. The company attacks the individual plaintiffs and their lawyers, ignores solid evidence and pays to manufacture junk science. Sounds like the old playbook of the tobacco industry.

Long accused of engaging in an illegal dirty tricks campaign in Ecuador, Chevron recently tried to recruit an American journalist to spy on the plaintiffs. Mary Cuddehe, an Iowa-born graduate of Columbia University, said Chevron wanted her to pretend to interview individuals, identify any discrepancies in their stories and turn over all the information she gathered to the private investigative firm Kroll that Chevron hired. Sam Anson, a Kroll investigator, offered Cuddehe $20,000 for six weeks of undercover work. Kroll is the largest private investigative firm in the world and shares an office building with Chevron in San Francisco.