Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chevron’s New Shills

In a sign of frustration over their inability to convince any journalists with a semblance of independence or journalistic integrity to publish their talking points, Chevron has turned to paying faux journalists and bloggers to parrot the company's talking points and to do the company's dirty work in lobbing baseless accusations against the people bringing a landmark environmental lawsuit against the company.

In yet another instance of the company treating it's $27 billion legal liability in Ecuador as an image problem to be managed, rather than as an environmental and human rights crisis to be dealt with, Chevron has taken extreme measures over the recent past: hiring disgraced former-CNN anchor Gene Randall to put together a high-priced faux-news story that tries to fool viewers into thinking it's an independent news video, and paying for an all-expense paid trip for bloggers (including Carter Wood of, Bob McCarty of, Gail Tverberg of, and Roger Alford of to Ecuador to participate in the company's propaganda tour.

[Update/Editor's Note: In the interest of clarity and fairness, while Roger Alford attended a trip paid for by Chevron, he has not written anything about this lawsuit, or otherwise opined on the issue.]

The result of Chevron's efforts? A number of posts that purport to be "news" that simply parrot Chevron's P.R. messages at the expense of any journalistic integrity that the "reporters" may have had.

Already Gene Randall, who traded on his familiarity as a former CNN anchor to create a fraudulent report for Chevron, has been publicly reprimanded in the New York Times, the Columbia Journalism Review, and On The Media, among other prestigious journalism publications. From interviews published in On The Media it appears that Randall has already resigned himself to counting his silver pieces to justify his loss of any public credibility that he may have had: "I didn't choose to leave CNN," Randall said, "and now that I have, I have to make a living somehow. So I offer my ability to use 'journalistic techniques' to clients who need to present their messages."

But perhaps more egregious than Randall's willingness to trade on his former association with CNN as part of Chevron's effort to manipulate public opinion, is the wholesale sale of their credibility that has occurred in the blogs over the past few weeks. The company has admitted to taking several bloggers on an all-expense paid trip to Ecuador to indoctrinate them in the company's messaging on the Ecuadorian lawsuit. The bloggers returned from the propaganda trip armed with a wealth of baseless accusations that they have lobbed at the indigenous people of Ecuador and the lawyers working with them. In true blogger fashion, almost none of these internet "journalists" bothered to consult with anyone other than Chevron before they started making their allegations. Instead, they simply sold whatever credibility and integrity they may have had to Chevron in return for a nice trip to Ecuador (or in McCarty's case – since he didn't actually go when he had to cancel, just the promise of a trip).

It will be interesting to see if the loss of integrity and credibility is worth the free flight that Chevron provided (hey – it might have even been first class…after all, the company did make $23.8 billion in profit last year).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chevron Praised Ecuador’s Courts for years and years…

until the company stood to profit by trashing them.

It turns out that long before Chevron picked up their new theme that "Ecuador's courts are biased" (no doubt a message that was refined in countless focus groups before Chevron's P.R. firms started pushing it out to you, loyal reader) the company spent years praising the courts, in an attempt to get the case transferred down to Ecuador. Turns out that Chevron loved the Ecuadorian courts - loved them just until evidence started being filed that showed that Chevron was responsible for the environmental and humanitarian disaster in the region. As soon as that happened, Chevron started their current messaging that Ecuadorian courts are corrupt and biased. Hmm – seems convenient for Chevron that Ecuadorian courts turned biased just as the evidence started revealing the depths of the environmental and humanitarian crime committed in the region.

But read for yourself – we're posting here the 14 sworn affidavits that Texaco (which Chevron merged with in 2001) filed in U.S. Federal Court praising the Ecuadorian courts as fair and unbiased. You can see for yourself exactly what Texaco (and now Chevron) thought about the Ecuadorian judiciary - right up until the company had a $27 billion interest in trashing them.

This is Chevron's M.O. - do anything, and say anything, you have to in order to avoid having to take responsibility for your actions.

Friday, June 12, 2009

NY Times highlights “Crude” at Human Rights Watch; Film Premiering Tomorrow

"Crude" – the documentary which exposes Chevron's toxic legacy in Ecuador – is premiering tomorrow at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, at the Lincoln Center theatre. And in advance of the screening, the New York Times published a glowing review of the film today: You can read below:


From Ecuador to Rwanda: Portraits of Global Threats and Struggles


Lessons in how the world works and portraits of the never-ending struggles in places around the globe where power is challenged by populist resistance: such matters are a concern of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Rarely have such conflicts been examined with the depth and power of Joe Berlinger's documentary "Crude." Three years in the making, the film looks at all sides of the so-called Amazon Chernobyl case, a multibillion-dollar lawsuit that pits 30,000 Ecuadorean rainforest dwellers against Chevron.

In the film, which has its New York premiere on Saturday, the plaintiffs allege that three decades of pollution from petrochemical sludge dumped by Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, have created a dead zone the size of Rhode Island and resulted in skyrocketing rates of birth defects and cancer, especially leukemia. Chevron has fought the lawsuit, claiming the case was cooked up by greedy "environmental con men" and blames the state-owned Petroecuador, which took over the country's oil production in 1990.

As much as "Crude" sympathizes with the plaintiffs (the film's hero, Pablo Fajardo, their lead lawyer, once worked in the oil fields), it isn't a starkly black-and-white David and Goliath story. We hear from scientists, lawyers for both sides, Ecuadorean judges, celebrity activists (Trudie Styler and Sting) and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who has sided with the plaintiffs in a case that may drag on for decades. These real characters and events play out on the screen like a sprawling legal thriller.

This film is timely – in the past few weeks Chevron's problem in Ecuador has become a huge issue for the company. Chevron has been faced with concerns from shareholders, activists, and the general public, as CEO David O'Reilly has been faced with constant questions about Chevron's human rights policies: more than $37 billion worth of Chevron stock defied O'Reilly and voted for a resolution calling for a comprehensive human rights, NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo opened an investigation into potential violations of securities laws, a slate of media stories exposing the company's deep exposure to the potential Ecuador liability, and a rising tide of concerns about a lack of independent oversight from the Chevron Board of Directors.

With this level of interest in Chevron's problems, we expect that Crude will open to a ton of interest from people clamoring to get an inside view of what is really happening with Chevron's Ecuadorian legacy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Carie Ellis: What Chevron has to learn from "Leave it to Beaver"

Very interesting blog from Carrie Ellis over at Chem.Info. Take a look at: Amazon Chernobyl

or below, where we've copied the blog:

Chevron Digging Its Own Waste Pit

by Carrie Ellis, Editor, Chem.Info


Only something catastrophic could come from a corporation with a moniker that can be easily manipulated into such URLs as and as intimated by the Amazon Defense Coalition and Amazon Watch.

I don’t know how many of you have been following what some environmentalists are calling Amazon Chernobyl, but one word keeps reverberating in my head — ridiculous. Maybe even unbelievable. Actually, I could probably go as far as audacious.

Ditching more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into rainforest water reserves. Walking out on more than 900 waste pits. An estimated excess of 1,401 cancer deaths. Escalating childhood leukemia. An abnormal number of miscarriages. Increasing instances of birth defects amongst mothers exposed to contaminated water. Perhaps even killing off entire indigenous groups.

These environmental atrocities are coming to fruition at a time when companies are being lauded for going green, yet this oil giant still insists on playing the Ecuadorian bully — with a past that continues to prove it’s pockmarked with oil waste dumping and other major environmental transgressions.

If you find yourself lacking (or me a bit over-the-top), however, in the wealth of resources recording this landmark case, please visit the following links for more information on the noxious storm gathering over not only the Amazon, but Chevron, too:

What I find more gruesome than Chevron’s lack of self-responsibility is that it has smeared this already ugly, historically expensive environmental case with Eddie Haskell-like PR and marketing schemes, including a junk documentary to thwart bad press from “60 Minutes” and other thinly veiled ploys, designed to foil shareholders and drum up public support.

"I have makeup on, and there's naturally occurring oil on my face. Doesn't mean that I'm going to get sick from it," Chevron in-house lawyer and spokesperson Sylvia Garrigo said defensively during her “60 Minutes” interview.

OK, forget gruesome. It’s too leading and perhaps pejorative. Let’s go with strategically confused … Maybe even sadistically delusional. I feel like this industry giant is injuring a reputation more than anything. (Well, I guess not as much as its dignity.) Didn’t “Leave It To Beaver” always teach us that you may as well own up to your mistakes rather than try to chicken-scratch ‘em like Haskell? To be a standup guy and admit wrongdoing when you’re inevitably caught? Must we return to the teacup episode?

Chevron is elbows-deep in the most expensive — around $27 billion — environmental lawsuit this world has ever known. Yet it seems like the more negative attention that is brought on the company, the dirtier it plays and the more conniving its schemes. The company is even under public investigation for fraud. Then repeat.

One of the more recent faux pas was when Chevron enlisted Samuel Armacost — a board of directors member with $3.1 million invested — to disprove the incriminating data amassed by court-appointed scientists in Ecuador. The company financed a so-called independent study of cancer rates in the affected areas to discredit these scientists.

Turns out, the study fudged numbers by taking into account only those cancer victims who had death certificates. With an admittedly limited knowledge of information sharing amongst rainforest inhabitants, I never pictured indigenous groups to be big on paper trails, especially considering most have never had the opportunity to see a doctor. The simple fact that Chevron appointed Armacost further undermines its integrity, while reducing our willingness to believe its other claims.

It’s not that I don’t know most of the articles I referenced also come from parties with a vested interest in the case at hand. It’s not that I want things to be the way they are either. It’s just that these environmental groups back up their argument, while big business continues to flounder. If I were accused of false reporting or grammatical murder, I’d take a moment to reflect. Then, upon not being able to validate my ineptitude, I’d print a retraction or devise how to otherwise make amends.

Mind you, I realize much more is at stake for Chevron than its name (namely, a lot of money), but where does the oil giant envision itself if it even were to sidestep this well-documented historical case? The company would inevitably remain tainted with a loss of both social and environmental credibility. Or maybe just respect.

My words of advice: Play nice and take responsibility for your actions before you alienate everyone. While your biggest proponents may initially grimace, your biggest opponents must admit that at least you’re doing your part to fix any oversights. With this upfront approach, you may be able to not only avoid incurring lawsuits in the first place, but also a bad name and a fraudulent reputation.

Chevron CEO a sociopath?

Mike Papantonio, an extremely accomplished attorney who is not, to our knowledge, involved in any of the lawsuits against Chevron, published an interesting view of Chevron's response to the "True Cost of Chevron" on the Huffington Post. Take a look below or at:

Chevron Shareholders Ignore Company's Abuses

A textbook sociopath is difficult to pick out of a crowd unless you have special training as a shrink. So just imagine how difficult it becomes when that sociopath is a corporation that spends billions of dollars on ad campaigns that hide their most malignant qualities. Money spent in the right way can easily mask that corporation's reduced ability to feel empathy for other people. It can hide irresponsible behavior and lack of remorse. It can disguise the patterns of deceitfulness that help define a sociopath's personality disorder.

Chevron had profits in 2008 of $24 billion. They have enough money to create slick commercials where they overwhelm us with images of blue skies over pristine looking waterways. Children are usually playing at the edge of that waterway with a family that stepped right out of Disney casting. The gentle voice in the background tells us that Chevron cares immensely about our health and our planet. That voice tells us that Chevron is frantically looking for solar, wind, and hydrogen alternatives to fossil fuel. But here is the reality check. Two weeks ago a coalition of the most prestigious human rights activists in the world handed Chevron a chilling report entitled, "The True Cost of Chevron." Reuters reported that the CEO at Chevron said the report was insulting and should be thrown in the trash. I agree that it was insulting for any corporation that does not want to be characterized as a brutal global thug. But David O'Reilly, Chevron's C.E.O., should not be too quick to throw this document in the trash.

It is a report that tells stories about human rights abuses in places like Nigeria and Burma, where Chevron has been accused of promoting military violence that involves beatings and kidnappings of community activists. Those activists object to oil extraction systems that destroy waterways, ecosystems, and breathable air. As you read this column, court hearings in Ecuador are taking place where Chevron stands potentially responsible for $25 billion in damages to Ecuador's waterways and aquifers.

Before Mr. O'Reilly throws this report into a trashcan, he should tell shareholders why Chevron was accused of providing influence gifts to U.S. Department of Interior employees last year. That is the scandal where government staff accepted thousands of dollars in influence gifts, and engaged in sex and used cocaine with oil industry representatives. That was the very agency that was supposed to police Chevron's conduct on U.S. soil. But there's more. While Chevron is selling their green alternative image in multi-million dollar ads, the truth is that they are spending less than 3% of their almost limitless capital on developing green alternative energy. But why worry about alternative energy when they run an oligopoly that has swallowed up independent refineries and retail stations to the point that Chevron controls how much oil gets refined and how much fuel gets to pumps? Price manipulation is always just one fuel crisis away.

Prognosis for sociopaths is never good because they are too quick to deny that they have a serious problem. But I'm sure any well-trained shrink would at least advise Chevron to take a first step. That begins with reading the report.