Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chevron Exposed For 18 Years of Unethical Conduct In Ecuador

Big news came out of New York this week. Plaintiffs from Ecuador – backed by hundreds of pages of exhibits – submitted a new 42-page sworn affidavit, which outlined in stunning detail Chevron’s 18-year effort to undermine justice.

Ecuadorian attorney Juan Pablo Saenz in his declaration to U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District Court of New York (SDNY) wrote:

“After decades of exploiting the country and wielding its influence like a club as it extracted riches from the Napo Concession, Chevron believed it could use that same power to buy or bully its way to a swift dismissal of this case, or, at the very least, to delay the day of reckoning indefinitely.”

You can view the affidavit by going here.

The declaration was filed in opposition to extortion charges filed by Chevron in New York against the Ecuadorian citizens bringing the lawsuit, and their lawyers and advisors. The charges are part of a flurry of legal activity (which some have derided as "corporate bullying") launched by the oil giant to try to block enforcement of a judgment based on the overwhelming scientific evidence of contamination caused by the company’s actions, according to legal papers filed by the plaintiffs.

Chevron’s allegations are particularly ironic given that the company is seeking relief from the same U.S. court that it asked to send the case to Ecuador in 2002, claiming at the time the South American nation was a more appropriate venue for the trial.

  • In his declaration, Saenz summarized some of Chevron’s gamesmanship and misconduct over a span of almost 18 years since the filing of the action in 1993 -- including attempts to delay and derail the case, tamper with evidence and inappropriately influence Ecuador's government and the United States government to intervene on its side. For example:

  • An internal company fax indicated Chevron officials in the 1990s ghostwrote a letter from the Ecuadorian ambassador to the U.S. Department of State, prevailing upon the agency to intervene and try to have the case dismissed when it was pending in federal court in New York City.

  • Chevron lawyer Ricardo Reis Veiga, one of two Chevron officials criminally indicted in Ecuador for falsifying the results of a purported remediation, admitted in a 2006 deposition that he had met with Ecuador’s attorney general in 2003 in an extrajudicial effort to have the executive branch of the Ecuadorian government order the lawsuit dismissed.

  • A 1972 Chevron memo revealed that a company executive ordered the destruction of all documents relating to oil spills and demanded that company employees no longer keep records of such spills.

  • Between 2003 and 2010, Chevron delayed the trial via subterfuge -- including canceling a critical site inspection by fabricating a security threat, inundating the court with frivolous motions, refusing to pay court experts, and blocking the gathering of scientific evidence.

  • In 2009, Chevron used an Ecuadorian employee and a convicted American drug trafficker to mount an unlawful sting operation against the presiding judge as part of a scheme to entrap him in a bribery scandal. Although the scheme was quickly discredited, the scandal delayed the trial by two years and served as a tool for Chevron to try to intimidate the court.

  • Diego Borja, a member of Chevron's trial team in Ecuador, has been quoted saying he “cooked” evidence for Chevron and that he replaced contaminated samples with clean ones before submitting them to laboratories for testing. Borja also said "crime pays" and that he had evidence that showed Chevron’s guilt that he would disclose unless the company compensated him.

  • In February 2010, Chevron offered $20,000 to a U.S. journalist to spy on the plaintiffs under the false pretenses that she was writing a story.

  • Throughout the trial Chevron has taken out paid advertisements in Ecuadorian media and in various online media outlets accusing judges and court-appointed experts of bias in an effort to intimidate the court.

The affidavit was submitted by the plaintiffs because under U.S. law a party with "unclean hands" does not have the right to seek the type of injunctive relief requested by Chevron to prevent enforcement of the Ecuador judgment. Chevron has removed all assets from Ecuador and has claimed it will not pay the judgment, even though years ago it had promised U.S. courts it would be abide by the Ecuador court's decision as a condition of the case being transferred to Ecuador.

In any event, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs have said the U.S. court has no jurisdiction over them and that after appeals they will retain the option of enforcing the judgment in any of dozens of countries around the world where Chevron has assets.

For more on this read the press release from Amazon Defense Coalition by going here.