Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bloomberg Should Fire Legal Reporter Paul Barrett For His Blatant Bias

When is Bloomberg going to finally wake up and fire reporter Paul Barrett for his overall crappy reporting and his repeated bias in favor of Chevron in its scorched-earth campaign to evade paying the $12 billion Ecuador environmental judgment?

The latest example of Barrett's gutter-level pro-business "reporting" comes from a Bloomberg article last week about the latest attempt by a major corporation with environmental problems to use the RICO (or "racketeering") statute to try to intimidate and silence its activist adversaries. The article details how Resolute, a Canadian timber company, has accused Greenpeace of being a "global fraud" after the organization claimed the company was trying to destroy the Boreal forests in Canada.

Let's get this straight: Greenpeace is in the right (see this great video for its version of the case) to accuse Resolute of poor environmental practices. But even it was wrong, does that give a corporation the right to use RICO to claim Greenpeace is like the mob for calling it out?

For that matter, does the RICO statute which was passed by Congress to target the mob give corporations the right to try to sue Greenpeace or any other organization out of existence for exercising its First Amendment speech rights? That's what some corporations and their cheerleader-reporters like Barrett seem to think.

What Barrett should be writing about is how an increasing number of corporate litigation counter-attacks against activists and human rights lawyers are becoming a real threat to our democracy and to free expression. For background on this dangerous global trend, see this compelling blog by Otto Saki of the Ford Foundation and this analysis by Katie Redford of Earth Rights International. These important perspectives are absent from Barrett's reporting.

Now, to Barrett's bias in favor of his favorite oil company Chevron. In the latest article, Barrett tries to artificially give the shaky Resolute lawsuit some heft by comparing it to the RICO judgment Chevron obtained against American lawyer Steven Donziger and his Ecuadorian clients who won a historic $12 billion judgment against the company after it had dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, decimating indigenous tribes and causing an outbreak of cancer.

(See here for a summary of the overwhelming evidence against Chevron in the Ecuador case and here for the peer-reviewed studies showing high cancer rates in the affected area.)

In the RICO case, evidence demonstrates that Chevron fabricated evidence of a judicial bribe by illegally paying its star witness, Alberto Guerra, a $2 million bribe in exchange for his false testimony. The case fell apart after trial after Guerra admitted he lied repeatedly on the stand and a forensic analysis of the Ecuador trial judge's computers proved he wrote the judgment, contrary to Guerra's testimony that it had been ghostwritten by lawyers for the plaintiffs.

Chevron used hundreds of lawyers to target Donziger, a solo practitioner and human rights attorney. The company admitted its long-term strategy was to "demonize" him. But Chevron's lawyers, in an act of utter cowardice, dropped all damages claims against Donziger on the eve of the RICO trial to avoid a jury of impartial fact finders. This resulted in a ridiculous "judgment" from an arrogant, pro-business federal judge that Barrett constantly lauds in his reporting.

If you want to understand the utter depravity of Chevron's RICO case and why it has completely collapsed since trial, see this press release and this 33-page response to the erroneous findings of the trial judge. But you will hear none of these facts in Barrett's reporting. In his article on the Resolute lawsuit, he writes about the Chevron case as follows:
Chevron proved that its activist foes had transformed their suit against the company into an extortion plot featuring bribery, fabrication of evidence, and the ghostwriting of judicial opinions.
Really? As the above reports prove, this type of analysis is just flat-out wrong and deceptive. The totality of the evidence proves there was no bribe or ghostwriting and the only party to fabricate evidence in the RICO case was Chevron. Yet Barrett has completely ignored these critical developments. He does not even give a nod to the idea of a competing narrative. The perspective of Donziger and his clients is just flat-out missing from much of his reporting for Bloomberg.

While Barrett used his Bloomberg platform to repeatedly shill for Chevron during the RICO trial in 2013, he has never reported on the collapse of Chevron's RICO evidence and still acts as if the flawed judgment in that case is End of Story. Yet that RICO judgment is now virtually worthless to Chevron in courts around the world that are threatening to seize company assets. And, Chevron's RICO strategy has not stopped the Ecuadorian villagers from pursuing their claims in what surely has become one of the most successful corporate-accountability campaigns of all time.

Chevron now faces a veritable mountain of liability ($12 billion) in Canada in a judgment enforcement action that already won the unanimous backing of the country's Supreme Court -- another key development never reported on by Barrett. That's on top of the dozens of factual errors, use of outright plagiarism, and the fictionalized scenes in Barrett's supposedly non-fiction book on the Ecuador case that was rushed out in 2014 to celebrate Chevron's supposed "victory" over Donziger that never was.

The credibility of that book -- most of which could have been written by Chevron's public relations team -- was utterly destroyed in a point-by-point takedown by Donziger himself. Donziger, by the way, is still happily working to hold this monster corporation accountable for its environmental misconduct in jurisdictions around the world.

Barrett's errors in his Ecuador reporting curiously always point in one direction -- Chevron's. He has denied the truth about what really happened to the indigenous people of Ecuador, whitewashed the company's environmental crimes and fraud, and celebrated the "genius" of corporations that use the profits they suck out of the earth to manipulate the civil justice system and violate the constitutional rights of their adversaries.

The fact Barrett is part of a troika of business reporters who for years have shamelessly carried Chevron's water for its disastrous behavior in Ecuador is a real stain on Bloomberg's reputation.

To maintain her own credibility, Bloomberg editor Megan Murphy should get rid of this dinosaur once and for all. Bloomberg should assign a reporter to the Chevron legal beat who can write about these critically important matters with a more balanced perspective.