Monday, December 30, 2013

Chevron Became Terrified of Its Own Witnesses During Retaliatory RICO Trial

Looking back on Chevron’s retaliatory RICO trial, it is clear that the oil company’s lawyers were so terrified of some of their own witnesses that they literally ordered them to stay away from court.

Remember Douglas Beltman and Ann Maest, the scientific consultants for the rainforest indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador that were devastated by Chevron’s toxic dumping?  Beltman and Maest helped the communities win their historic judgment against Chevron in Ecuador’s courts.  The judgment recently was affirmed by Ecuador's Supreme Court.  

Several months ago, desperate to evade a court order that it clean up its toxic mess, Chevron launched a public relations offensive in the U.S. that claimed Beltman and Maest had “disavowed” their work for the communities harmed by Chevron's pollution.  In opening arguments in the RICO case in October, Chevron lawyer Randy Mastro touted Beltman and Maest as key witnesses against New York human rights lawyer Steven Donziger, the company’s principal target.

So why did Mastro and his team of 114 lawyers at Gibson Dunn decide to bail on Beltman and Maest?  And what does the sudden disappearance of these witnesses tell us about the validity of Chevron’s RICO case? 

Mastro knew that under cross-examination Beltman and Maest almost certainly would have delivered damning testimony against Chevron.   
As far as the case is concerned, Chevron’s failure to call these witnesses underscores yet again how weak the company’s evidence is -- which is why Chevron dropped damages claims on the eve of trial to avoid a jury of impartial fact finders. 

The most important of Chevron’s witness desaparecidos is Beltman, a nationally-acclaimed scientist who in 2009 appeared in a 60 Minutes segment condemning the company’s decades-long record of toxic dumping in Ecuador.

Last Spring, Chevron secured an affidavit from Beltman which the oil giant claimed shows he had “disavowed” his work for the communities and recanted his comments to 60 Minutes. In April 2012, with much fanfare, Chevron issued a corporate press release trumpeting Beltman’s supposed retreat.   As usual, the company failed to disclose key facts.

One of those facts is that Chevron had aimed a veritable bazooka at Beltman’s head to get him to sign the affidavit.  The company had named Beltman as a RICO defendant and threatened to bankrupt Stratus if Beltman didn’t capitulate.  Chevron sent a series of shakedown letters to clients of Stratus, falsely claiming that Beltman had been found to have committed fraud. 

The reality is that Beltman never changed his opinion that Chevron is responsible for massive and life-threatening toxic contamination in Ecuador.  Read this blog for more on the back story of Chevron's campaign of economic extortion to silence witnesses.  Citing this evidence, 60 Minutes flat out refused Chevron's bogus demand that it issue a "correction" to the original story.

In exchange for Beltman’s affidavit -- clearly written by Chevron lawyers -- Chevron dropped Beltman and Stratus as defendants in the RICO action. At the same time, Stratus agreed to drop a lawsuit against Chevron where the consultancy had accused the oil giant of engaging in a “an extrajudicial campaign of malicious defamation.”  Read the Stratus lawsuit to get a sense of how vicious Chevron’s strategy had become.

The reason Mastro chickened out with his key witnesses is pretty simple.  Beltman (and Maest) only “disavowed” their work on a single technical report that the Ecuador court excluded as evidence.  Neither were involved in the more than 100 other technical reports that the Ecuador court relied on to find Chevron liable.  In other words, the affidavits were a big non-event in terms of the trial.

They were a  nice illustration of Chevron's venal tactics.  Chevron did not want the court nor journalists to hear Beltman’s truthful testimony, so Mastro squelched it.  Beltman’s real view of Chevron’s bad acts can be seen in this power point presentation he prepared in 2010. Or read his sworn deposition testimony from 2011. 

Nearly the exact same thing happened with another of Chevron’s favorite witnesses, the American technical expert Dr. Charles Calmbacher. On the first day of the RICO trial, Mastro said Calmbacher was going to testify.  But he also was a big no-show.

The reason: Calmbacher lied in a pre-trial deposition about disavowing his own court-ordered technical reports prepared for the communities.  In fact, the evidence shows that Calmbacher found extensive toxic contamination at the former Chevron sites he inspected and he turned on the communities out of spite over a fee dispute.  See pp. 53-55 of Donziger’s sworn witness statement for the documentation.

Another of Chevron's disappearing witnesses, the Ecuadorian technical expert Fernando Reyes, signed a sworn affidavit earlier this year that was trumpeted by the company's PR flaks.  But in his pre-trial deposition, Reyes undermined a key plank of Chevron’s fake narrative by saying that it was normal in Ecuador for court-appointed experts to work closely with the parties.  So Mastro, who ran the case like a public relations campaign, silenced him too.

Other Chevron witnesses who were never called to court also include two of Donziger’s former associates, Laura Garr and Andrew Woods.  What happened?

Chevron stood nothing to gain once it got the public relations hit in opening arguments of falsely claiming the pair had turned on Donziger.  You can bet that if called to the witness stand, both would have lauded Donziger for his commitment to his clients even if they griped on occasion about his demanding management style.  So they were told to stay away.

Chevron always has used the RICO case to pre-package witness affidavits drafted by its own lawyers and then peddle them to Judge Kaplan and the media. In fact, these ghostwritten affidavits were central only to Chevron’s public relations strategy to distract attention from its environmental crimes in Ecuador by “demonizing” Donziger and his clients.

Once the trial was on and the rubber had to meet the road, Mastro shuddered at the thought that any of the pre-packaged testimony might veer off-script.   It's also why he abruptly aborted his cross-examination of Donziger, who was making the self-annointed former "mob prosecutor" look a bumbling fool who was lost in the weeds and could not frame a question properly.

Several months ago, a reporter at American Lawyer (Michael Goldhaber) declared the entire Ecuador case over after former Ecuador Judge Alberto Guerra signed a sworn affidavit claiming that the plaintiffs had bribed a sitting judge.  Almost overnight, based on a Chevron-drafted affidavit, Guerra became Godhaber’s new media sensation. 

Unlike Beltman and Maest, Chevron had no choice but to call Guerra to the stand.  His claims were just too important.

Under cross-examination, Guerra wilted.  He admitted he was a criminal who had fixed dozens of cases and that Chevron was paying him (in violation of federal law) vast sums of money for favorable testimony.  Guerra’s show trial performance was a hilarious illustration of just how weak Chevron’s case really is.  Read pp. 31-41 of this post-trial brief to understand how Guerra’s testimony is riddled with lies, inconsistencies, and constantly changing stories. 

Guerra played Chevron for a fool, and Chevron played Goldhaber for a fool.  And Mastro, a leader of a practice group that has been consistently nailed by courts for engaging in unethical litigation practices, keeps Chevron’s false hope alive while billing CEO John Watson an estimated $400 million annually for services that have caused nothing but more and more risk for the company’s shareholders.

Chevron is now left with precious little of long-term value for its huge investment in the RICO case.  It still has trial judge Lewis A. Kaplan as the sole “Decider” of the case (at least before the appellate courts weigh in).  But Kaplan is seriously lacking in credibility due to his xenophobic comments toward the Ecuadorians, his biased promotion of Chevron’s cause, and his grandiose desire to serve as a de facto appellate panel for the Ecuadorian judiciary.   Kaplan's expected decision in favor of Chevron will be laughed at by enforcement courts around the world and has little chance of surviving appeal in the United States.

Kaplan’s hyperactive efforts to jump through tighter and tighter hoops to favor Chevron has been nothing short of astonishing to the world legal community.  See this brief from international legal scholars, this brief from New York University law professor Bert Neuborne, and this post-trial brief in the RICO case to get a sense of the man’s intellectual dishonesty and sheer arrogance.

John Keker, known as one of the most formidable trial lawyers in the nation who counts Google among his many clients, said in his recent motion to withdraw that Kaplan had allowed the RICO case to degenerate into a “Dickensian farce” due to his mismanagement of the docket and his “implacable hostility” toward Donziger, who has battled on behalf of the rainforest communities for two decades.

Chevron has played a cynical game of carrot & stick, manipulating witnesses with exorbitant payments (Guerra) or ferocious personal and economic pressure (Beltman and Maest).  Team Mastro and the Lords running Chevron would never get away with it if the case were before a judge who wasn’t clearly biased against the Ecuadorians and Donziger.

All of Chevron’s testigos desaparecidos were people that the oil giant could not manipulate enough, compensate enough, or intimidate enough to be sufficiently complicit with its vicious intimidation campaign against the rainforest communities.  And while the oil giant can apparently make witnesses lie, flip, or simply vanish, nothing can make the company’s responsibility for suffering in Ecuador disappear.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Prominent Organizations Release Open Letter Condemning Chevron's Tactics in Ecuador Case

Today, Amazon Watch—longtime advocates for the Ecuadorian indigenous and farmer communities affected by Chevron's toxic legacy—released a letter from a dozen prominent human rights and environmental organizations condemning Chevron's abusive tactics related to the Lago Agrio litigation.

In addition to decrying the abusive nature of Chevron's scorched earth legal, political, and media strategy in the case, it warns of the significant negative implications of Chevron's efforts to evade accountability for its devastation in the Amazon:

In a press release announcement Amazon Watch excerpts the sign-on letter:
"Chevron's actions set a dangerous precedent and represent a growing and serious threat to the ability of civil society to hold corporations accountable for their misdeeds around the world."
Besides Amazon Watch, signatories to the letter include such high-profile organizations as frontline human rights and environmental legal advocates EarthRights International, global climate change activist powerhouse,  and eminent environmental movement stalwart Sierra Club.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune had this to say today:
"The people of Ecuador have a right to defend their families from oil industry pollution. Journalists have a right to expose the reckless practices that are destroying Amazon communities and ecosystems. Chevron's bullying tactics undermine those rights, and the Sierra Club supports the individuals and organizations that are standing up to Chevron's irresponsible corporate behavior."
Under headers highlighting some of the tactics Chevron has employed in an effort to evade accountability for its crimes in Ecuador, the letter outlines the way Chevron 'Attacks Free Speech,' 'Vilifies Critics,' and 'Undermines the System of Justice and Judicial Sovereignty.'

Under this last header, the letter explains:
In a threat to the nature of national sovereignty and an independent judiciary, Chevron took the unprecedented step of attempting to use an obscure arbitration procedure under the mantle of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty to nullify the ruling of a sovereign domestic court even though Ecuador was Chevron’s chosen forum. This despite the fact that Ecuador was not even party to the 19-year court case as the plaintiffs were the 30,000 affected indigenous and campesino people, and the case itself began before the Investment Treaty was even signed. The affected peoples have no right to participate in the arbitration, which will be decided by three private lawyers, who purport to have the authority to overrule the Ecuadorian courts – raising threats to the sovereignty of justice systems around the world, which could be rendered powerless in the face of truly unlimited corporate power.

The dozen current signatories to the letter are currently circulating the letter, soliciting additional signatories, and conducting outreach to educate allies and colleagues working on human rights, environmental sustainability, and corporate accountability, among other key issues for which Chevron's tactics have profound implications.

Click on the letter below to read and/or download:

Institutions, Organizations and Individuals Advocating for Corporate Accountability Condemn Chevron’s Retaliatory Attacks on Human Rights and Corporate Accountability Advocates and See it as a Serious Threat to Open Society and Due Process of Law

And click here to read Amazon Watch's press release announcing the letter.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

After the Smoke Clears: What Chevron’s RICO Trial Means, With Hindsight

Now that the evidentiary phase of Chevron’s retaliatory RICO bench trial against New York human rights lawyer Steven Donziger and his Ecuadorian clients is over, we can take a deep breath and analyze what really happened before the controversial Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.  The answer is not much, other than one of the greatest abuses of the American civil justice system ever. 

First, let’s take a step back and look at what is undisputed.  As Paul Paz y Mino of Amazon Watch wrote in his recent post at Eye on the Amazon blog, Chevron admits to dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into Ecuador’s Amazon when it operated in the country from 1964 to 1992 under the Texaco brand.  A trial court decision finding Chevron liable for this dumping has been affirmed unanimously by Ecuador’s Supreme Court.  Since Chevron refuses to pay, judgment enforcement actions filed by the villagers continue to target billions of dollars of Chevron assets in Canada, Argentina, and Brazil.  Chevron is also hamstrung by its longstanding promise to U.S. courts to pay the $9.5 billion Ecuador judgment as a condition of the dispute being moved to the South American nation in 2002.

For these and other reasons, we always have maintained that the RICO trial was more an expensive therapy session for Chevron’s management team than a bona fide legal case.  None of the key Ecuadorians named by Chevron as “defendants” even showed up.  Given the bias of Judge Kaplan and the utter arrogance in the idea that a U.S. judge could rule on issues in the case already decided by Ecuador’s Supreme Court, Chevron is likely to face a ferocious backlash from foreign judges if it tries to peddle Kaplan’s ruling abroad.  

Chevron’s fundamental allegation was that it was treated unfairly during the trial.   That’s typical public relations blah-blah carted out after an oil company loses a trial fair and square.  Chevron fought for ten years to move the underlying environmental case from the U.S. (where it was filed in 1993) to Ecuador.  The company submitted 14 sworn affidavits to a U.S. federal court praising the fairness of Ecuador’s courts.  (It started attacking those courts only when the evidence at the trial pointed to its guilt.) Chevron recently won two significant legal cases in Ecuador against the state-owned oil company, PetroEcuador. The Ecuador Supreme Court just last month lowered the company’s liability by approximately $10 billion, a draconian result for the long-suffering rainforest communities who have been waiting almost 50 years for a clean-up.  That hardly sounds like the fix was in.

The RICO case is the most recent installment of Chevron’s global forum shopping to evade accountability for its toxic dumping. The company has filed thousands of motions in more than 30 U.S. courts to try to undermine the Ecuador judgment.  It also filed two claims against Ecuador’s government in a futile attempt to shift its own clean-up responsibility to Ecuadorian taxpayers.  It has attacked more than 100 supporters of the Ecuadorians, including bloggers and activists, with subpoenas seeking their private communications.  It has dispatched powerful lobbyists, including former Clinton Administration officials Mack McLarty and Mickey Kantor, to pressure the U.S. government to cancel trade benefits for Ecuador.  It also has hired six public relations firms to promote the fake narrative that the nation’s third largest oil company is being victimized by indigenous groups who lived mired in its oil contamination.  An internal Chevron memo from 2009 acknowledged the company’s long-term strategy for Ecuador was to “demonize Donziger” and turn the tables on the villagers rather than litigate the case on the merits.   That’s the context for the RICO case.

Chevron wanted the underlying claims to be heard in Ecuador as long it felt it could engineer its desired outcome.  In October 2003, company lawyer Ricardo Reis Veiga desperately tried to torpedo the litigation on the first day of trial by persuading the country’s Attorney General to do something entirely unethical and illegal – call the trial judge to urge him to throw out the case that Chevron said it would litigate in Ecuador.  Once judges in Ecuador began to resist Chevron’s pressure campaign, the company high-tailed it back to the friendly confines of Judge Kaplan’s courtroom where the activist judge was more than happy to grant a do-over.  

Almost everybody expects Judge Kaplan, who does not even speak Spanish, to rule in favor of Chevron based on his interpretation of Ecuadorian laws already decided by that country’s highest court. 

The RICO case remains a sideshow that Chevron is using to try to distract its shareholders and employees from evidence of its crimes, fraud, and human rights abuses in Ecuador – as documented in this stunning affidavit by Ecuadorian lawyer Juan Pablo Saenz or in this video or in this interview with Donziger on his website.
 But it is a stretch to think that any Kaplan ruling in favor of the oil giant will matter to the foreign enforcement courts who will decide under their own laws whether Chevron pays up.   (By the way, Chevron can raise as a defense all of its so-called “fraud” evidence that it is using during the RICO trial in the enforcement courts.)

Chevron’s trial of mass distraction before Kaplan also poses a different kind of threat to our body politic in the U.S.  As Paz eloquently wrote in his blog:

Unfortunately, there's even more going on here than a Chevron-friendly judge misusing his power to the detriment of 30,000 long-suffering people in Ecuador. This is the furthering of a strategy that corporations will continue to develop to crush the free speech of critics and limit our chances to fight back on anything resembling a level playing field. This RICO suit and everything Kaplan has allowed Chevron to get away with in its wake is a serious threat to open society and due process of law.
In our recent analysis, Chevron’s RICO Trial to Nowhere, we noted eight specific reasons why Chevron’s case has little or no chance of holding up on appeal in the U.S.

Besides the fundamental problem that Chevron failed to prove its case, there is also simply no remedy that any U.S. court can conceivably fashion to block a foreign court judgment.  When there’s no conceivable remedy, there’s no “case or controversy” as required by the U.S. Constitution.  And when there’s no case or controversy, there should be no trial. 

You won’t be hearing about the flaws in Chevron’s case from R. Hewitt Pate, the company’s general counsel.  With an air of smugness, Pate sat in Kaplan’s courtroom for six weeks while collecting some of his $7.5 million annual salary. After strong-arming Chevron to invest astonishing sums in the RICO case, he no doubt wanted to be the man to spin the daily results to Chevron’s Board of Directors and CEO John Watson.  (Watson, who oversaw Chevron’s purchase of Texaco without adequately vetting Texaco’s pending Ecuador liability, has long been the target of shareholder ire over his mishandling of the litigation.)

Pate’s effort to control the narrative before Chevron’s Board and shareholders has to be pure jiu-jitsu.  Here is a thumbnail sketch of Chevron’s legal problems with the RICO case:

Kaplan has no remedy to help Chevron
:  Having denied a jury trial and excluded key relevant evidence that contradicts Chevron’s narrative, Kaplan will no doubt “find” in favor of the company.  But once that happens, there is no place to go.  Under RICO, a private party like Chevron has no right to injunctive relief – a position the U.S. Department of Justice under the Bush Administration repeatedly asserted. Few judges would have the temerity to even think they could allow a law passed by Congress to bring down the Mafia to be twisted by a corporation to attack indigenous groups and human rights lawyers who held it accountable for its crimes.  That’s a rather scary assault on the very nature of political advocacy.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York already ruled in 2012 that the Ecuador rainforest communities “may seek to enforce their judgment in any country in the world where Chevron has assets.”  Nothing that Judge Kaplan does can change that.

Kaplan cannot act as the appellate court for Ecuador’s judiciary:
  It is an axiom of international law that judges in one country are not allowed to overrule court decisions of another country.  In Ecuador, three layers of courts – most recently the nation’s highest court – have upheld the trial court decision holding Chevron liable for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon.   Judge Kaplan knows almost nothing about Ecuador; he cannot even read the trial court decision or the record on which it was based.  Yet Judge Kaplan has suggested that he plans to rule on the validity of Ecuador’s entire judicial system as part of his grand plan.  Doing so will look plain silly to the appeals court and even sillier to foreign judges being asked to enforce the Ecuador judgment. 
Kaplan manipulated evidentiary decisions:  Even after denying him a jury, Judge Kaplan would not let Donziger mount a real defense.  He refused to admit evidence of the extensive contamination relied on by the Ecuador court to find Chevron liable.  He excluded more than 100 technical reports from Chevron and other sources that documented high levels of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons and other harmful toxins (such as lead, barium, zinc, and Chromium 6) at the company’s 376 former well sites.  This evidence was critical to show the Ecuador judgment was valid and not procured by fraud, as Chevron claims.  Judge Kaplan also refused to hear evidence of Chevron’s “unclean hands” – its crimes, fraud, and threats to judges and court personnel to sabotage the trial.  It is a basic legal principle dating back centuries that the party that arrives in court with “unclean hands” is not entitled to relief.  To deal with this problem, Judge Kaplan whitewashed the official record by excluding the extensive evidence of Chevron’s “unclean hands”.

Kaplan’s temperament is not befitting a federal judge
:  We have reported extensively on Kaplan’s displays of bias against Donziger and the Ecuadorians, including his comments from the bench disparaging Ecuador’s judicial system and his preposterous claim that Donziger’s goal is “to fix the balance of payments deficit” of the United States.  See here, here, and here.  During the trial, Judge Kaplan treated several witnesses from Ecuador with a conspicuous rudeness – threatening one with contempt if he did not turn over his computer to Chevron, using trick questions on another, and dismissing complaints about cultural insensitivity.  Letting Chevron get away with its final act of trickery – dropping $60 billion in money damages claims on the eve of trial
was the ultimate betrayal of his oath to administer justice fairly. That allowed Chevron to avoid a jury of impartial fact finders, which very likely would have meant another devastating courtroom setback for the company.  Kaplan then heaped insult upon injury by letting Chevron’s staff use the jury deliberation room as a private office during the trial.  Dropping a jury also means Chevron is going to be hampered by a decision from a judge with little credibility domestically and no legitimacy internationally.

Aside from the many legal problems, on the factual front Chevron’s case is a paper tiger.

Once you strip away the flotsam, the company’s supposed  evidence of “racketeering” boils down to two main allegations: (1) that the Ecuador judge was bribed so that the plaintiffs could “ghostwrite” his decision; and (2) that a particular expert damages report submitted by Richard Cabrera was fraudulent. On both points, Chevron’s allegations fall apart upon even superficial examination.

Testimony from Chevron’s lying judge, Alberto Guerra
: Guerra is an admitted liar who testified that he accepted as little as $200 to fix cases.  Chevron paid at least $326,000 in cash and other benefits for his testimony, in violation of U.S. law that prohibits payments to witnesses.   Chevron also hired Ira Kurzban, one of America’s most well-connected immigration attorneys, to help secure political asylum for Guerra and his family even though Guerra faces no threat in Ecuador other than prosecution for his admitted crimes. In exchange for Chevron’s money, Guerra offered a triple hearsay statement that the Ecuadorian lawyers bribed the judge – a charge denied by the judge himself.  (Donziger never even met the judge nor saw him before he testified in Kaplan’s court.)  For more detail, see Donziger’s motion to strike Guerra’s testimony and this blog by Paul Paz.   Bottom line: Guerra is another in a long line of Chevron witnesses bribed by the company to lie.

:  Chevron’s allegation that the 188-page trial court judgment was not written by Zambrano is a joke.  Chevron’s two main experts on “ghostwriting” – Hofstra professor Robert Leonard and 28-year-old tech whiz kid Spencer Lynch – both failed to undertake the much-vaunted “authorship analysis” that could have compared Zambrano’s judgment with his other publicly available decisions or writings to determine if they matched up.   The fact that Chevron did not produce such a report is telling. Chevron likely did commission the study, but buried it when it did not turn out how the company had hoped.

The Cabrera damages report
: One of 106 expert technical reports submitted into evidence, the Cabrera report was prepared in conformity with Ecuadorian law using the same methods Chevron’s lawyers used for the preparation of their expert reports.  (See pp. 46-53 of Donziger’s sworn witness statement for a deconstruction of Chevron’s fraudulent narrative regarding Cabrera.)   In any event, the Ecuador court did not rely on the Cabrera report when finding Chevron liable.  Instead, the court relied largely on scientific evidence of contamination proffered by Chevron’s own experts (such as Ernesto Baca and Gino Bianchi), as Donziger explains in paragraphs 46 and 47 of his witness statement.  The fact that Chevron’s own evidence proved the case against it was reinforced by an independent study conducted by the Louis Berger Group in the United States. 

Other Chevron “evidence” of racketeering is even more absurd.  The fact that Donziger was an aggressive promoter of press releases exposed Chevron’s human rights abuses and corruption in Ecuador is basic political advocacy protected by the First Amendment.  These tools of advocacy have been used by lawyers from Thurgood Marshall to Ralph Nader to Hew Pate himself, who loves to put out press releases
that dupe his own shareholders.   Similarly, Donziger’s suggestion that two Chevron lawyers in Ecuador be criminally prosecuted for engaging in a sham remediation was entirely proper.  Click here to read about how Chevron dropped a key plank of its RICO case to avoid the airing of evidence that would have proven the fraudulent nature of its so-called “remediation” in Ecuador.

Chevron of course will try to promote Kaplan’s decision far and wide. The fact Chevron repeatedly tried to corrupt the Ecuador proceedings and manipulate the RICO evidence will not be mentioned by the oil giant.  Meanwhile, it’s business as usual in San Ramon and Lago Agrio.  The indigenous uprising of the "so-called plaintiffs" in Ecuador is gaining ground around the world while the beleaguered Watson-Pate team digs in its heels.
Chevron needs to keep its corporate jets gassed and have its pilots at the ready.  Pate and his entourage should keep their travel bags packed and ice skates sharpened.  This battle is spreading.

Monday, December 9, 2013

You Get What You Pay for (Perjury, in This Case)

Yesterday, the Huffington Post picked up a post originally published on Amazon Watch's Eye on the Amazon blog, written by Paul Paz y Miño, who spent a few weeks in Judge Kaplan's courtroom following Chevron's retaliatory RICO lawsuit against Steven Donziger and the Ecuadorian villagers who won a historic judgment again the oil giant for its contamination in Ecuador's rainforest.

Paz y Miño's post is a powerful indictment of the so-called testimony of disgraced former judge Alberto Guerra, who was Chevron's star witness during the trial. Read the post below or check it out on The Huffington Post.

You Get What You Pay for (Perjury, in This Case)
Having virtually all the money in the world often means you can buy silence, you can buy time, and you can buy lies. Chevron has demonstrated this time and again in its decades-long battle to evade accountability for deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the Ecuadorian Amazon.

The problem is that this time what Chevron has bought is a bag of lies in the form of false testimony from a thoroughly disreputable source, and they aren't able to hide the price tag. In the ongoing saga of Chevron's scorched earth legal strategy, last week disgraced former judge Alberto Guerra testified in support of the company's most explosive allegations – that the judgment against Chevron was ghostwritten by the plaintiffs and that his efforts to seek bribes were partly on behalf of Judge Nicolas Zambrano, who issued the historic $19 billion final judgment in the Ecuadorian environmental litigation.

Somehow, Chevron expects the court (and the public) to believe that a man who has admitted to fixing cases and accepting bribes throughout his career as a lawyer and a judge is being honest this time, despite receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from Chevron for his testimony. And everything depends upon his word, as the supporting "evidence" that he's presented is laughably incomplete (he claims that his computer died, and that's why he has essentially nothing to back up his story). For months Guerra worked with Chevron to prepare his testimony – and yet it was STILL full of gaping holes and contradictions. Amazon Watch was there in court and couldn't help wondering how anyone could take Guerra seriously. Of course, there's no jury in this trial – something Chevron worked very hard to guarantee – just a wall of stone-faced lawyers whose fat paychecks depend upon Judge Kaplan accepting Guerra's testimony as credible (or at least convenient).

It doesn't take a law degree to see that a man who's known for being a "liar for hire" and who has admitted that Chevron is paying him more than 20 times his prior salary is NOT a credible witness. But Chevron is operating in a legal realm of its own creation. It's one where you can sue the victims of your own environmental abuses, where you can prevent consideration of any actual evidence in the case, and now where you can pay witnesses whatever you like to give their "testimony" on your behalf.

These unethical maneuvers have not gone unnoticed by the legal community. Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted legal scholar and dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law stated:
"That Chevron and its counsel have crossed the line here cannot seriously be debated. If a party or its counsel were permitted to pay a testifying witness for physical evidence, beyond the reasonable value of that evidence, and to pay the witness a salary in exchange for an agreement to testify, there would be little left of the rule against compensating fact witnesses. That is precisely what has occurred here."
The Ecuadorians have now moved that all of Guerra's fraudulent testimony be stricken. Remember, this was the best Chevron could do on this case. They know that they can't discuss the abundant evidence of their misdeeds – it still sits in toxic pools by the hundreds in Ecuador – so they've pinned their feeble accusations of a sinister conspiracy on claims of a corrupt legal process. I think they have managed to uncover some corruption, however. So when will Chevron and their legal team be brought before a court to answer for paying a confessed charlatan to commit perjury?