Friday, May 28, 2010

Chevron’s Corrupt and Cozy Relationships with Oil Industry Regulators

President Obama recently promised Americans to end the "cozy relationship" between government and the oil industry. No oil company has been better at developing these "cozy relationships" with regulators than Chevron, which is being sued in Ecuador for the worst oil-related contamination on earth. The sordid tales below give you a glimpse of just how far Chevron will go to evade laws designed to protect people and the environment.

Chevron Courts US Regulators With Money, Drugs & Sex: The news media has reported widely about the "cozy relationship" between the U.S. Minerals Management Service and the oil industry, and President Obama has promised to end it by separating conflicting regulatory functions. Recently news broke about an upcoming Inspector General's report which will detail how MMS officials allowed oil companies to write their own oversight reports.

We should not, though, forget
about Chevron's corruption of the MMS detailed in a 2008 report.

In September 2008, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior accused MMS employees of accepting thousands of dollars in gifts, including ski trips, from Chevron and three other oil companies. The report also alleged drug use and sexual affairs between MMS and Chevron officials and charged that

Chevron was the only oil company that did not cooperate with the IG's investigation.

Chevron's Phony Lab Results:
The New York Times reported recently on the "cozy relationship" between oil companies and laboratories that test for contamination. The article focused on
the potential conflict of interest between BP and the laboratories being used by the federal government to test for contamination of the water and soil on the Gulf Coast. State and local leaders are concerned that the labs could distort information about given that they also work for all the major oil companies. They should be concerned. In the lawsuit against Chevron for oil contamination in Ecuador, Chevron is testing soil and water samples at a lab where its own contractor worked even though it tried to pass off the lab as "independent".

Several weeks ago, the indigenous and farmer communities suing Chevron revealed new information that Chevron "cooked" evidence in the Ecuador trial to avoid a judgment – and that the oil company was providing financial support to employee Diego Borja to prevent him from going public with the company's fraud. Among Chevron's corrupt and fraudulent acts, according to Borja: the oil giant directed Borja to create dummy companies in Ecuador to make it appear that a laboratory Chevron used to process soil and water samples during the environmental trial was independent, when in fact it was controlled by Chevron.

The plaintiffs have long contended that Chevron has intentionally and fraudulently used bogus lab testing procedures to artificially lower the amount of contamination reported to the Court.

Chevron Corrupts Weak Governments: Details about the waivers and permits that U.S. federal agencies granted BP on the Gulf Coast prior to the oil spill are not comforting – they suggest that the regulators the American people were depending on to protect us from disasters have been thoroughly compromised by their cozy relationship to the oil industry. But this shouldn't be surprising to anyone who pays attention to this sector. Chevron in particular has a long history of colluding with government officials to exploit natural resources at the expense of that country's citizenry.

The most destructive and disturbing incidents occurred over four decades in Ecuador's rainforest, where Texaco (now Chevron) intentionally contaminated the waterways and soils and destroyed a way of life for indigenous groups that has led to suffering, illness and ultimately death for untold numbers of people. The "cozy relationship" that Texaco developed with the governments of Ecuador during this time (from 1964 to 1992) resulted in the largest environmental disaster on the planet.

It also produced a fraudulent remediation agreement between Texaco and the government – an agreement that Texaco and now Chevron argue releases it from any liability. Chevron says Texaco cleaned up a small number of oil sites in exchange for the release and cites the agreement as its main defense in the 17-year-old lawsuit. However, recent testing conducted during the Lago Agrio trial at the oil sites Texaco said it cleaned found them to be just as contaminated as the oil sites not cleaned. For their part in the scam, two Chevron lawyers, involved in the negotiation of the remediation agreement, along with seven former government officials,
have been indicted for fraud in Ecuador.

As the oil pours into the marshes and onto the beaches of the Gulf Coast, people need to pay more attention to Chevron's disastrous story in Ecuador.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Amazon Watch: Chevron Condemned for Human Rights Abuses, Activists Arrested

This press release was put out today by Amazon Watch. Read on:

Chevron Condemned for Human Rights Abuses, Ecuador Disaster at Annual Shareholder Meeting Today

Activists Arrested Inside and Outside Chevron's Meeting
Community Leaders Barred, Ejected from Annual Meeting for Exposing the Truth about Chevron

Amazon Watch
Contact: Brianna Cayo-Cotter, Rainforest Action Network, 415-305-1943 or brianna [at]
Paul Paz y Miño at 510-773-4635 or paz [at]

Houston, TX – At Chevron's shareholder meeting today the company faced outrage for its continued lies, deception, silencing of critics, and human rights abuses. Concerned community leaders from several nations including Ecuador and Nigeria traveled from around the world yet were refused entry to Chevron's annual meeting.

One of the few community members allowed inside the shareholder meeting was Mariana Jimenez, a 71-year-old grandmother from Ecuador. She spoke directly to Chevron's CEO and Board and demanded an end to Chevron's lies about the massive oil contamination in Ecuador that is destroying her community in the Amazon rainforest.

"In 1976, I lost two young children. In 1979, one of my daughters became very sick with an unknown illness on her throat and lost her voice for three months. People are still getting sick every day. There are children born with birth defects. I want him [Watson] to take responsibility for the crime that his company committed in my country."

Rather than showing Ms. Jimenez and the 30,000 other Ecuadorean people the respect they deserve, Chevron CEO John Watson chose to mock the community's suffering and disingenuously claimed that, "My predecessor (former CEO David O'Reilly) showed great empathy and I will do the same."

"We don't need empathy from Chevron, we need them to accept full responsibility for the pain and suffering they have caused our people and clean up Ecuador now," said Guillermo Grafa, an Indigenous leader from Ecuador who was denied access to Chevron's shareholder meeting after traveling from his home in the rainforest.

Chevron's Board also felt the heat inside the shareholder meeting. During the Board re-election process, shareholders challenged Chevron's Board of Directors to intervene in the company's failed strategy of covering up its massive liability.

"While Chevron's management systematically deceives regulators, shareholders, and the public about its liability in Ecuador, the Board of Directors has been asleep at the wheel," said Maria Ramos, Change Chevron Campaign Director at Rainforest Action Network.

"Since taking the helm at Chevron, we have seen Mr. Watson continue to endorse this company's long running, expensive and dead-end strategy with respect to the dire situation in the Amazon -- a strategy which has cost both the company and the people of the Amazon dearly."

Meanwhile outside, Chevron arrested four shareholders and representatives who refused to leave Chevron property after they were denied access to the meeting. Those arrested were trying to voice their concerns about environmental destruction and human rights abuses in Ecuador, Richmond, CA, Houston, TX, and around the world. The people arrested were Han Shan and Mitchell Anderson of Amazon Watch; Juan Parras of TEJAS in Houston; Rev Ken Davis from Richmond. Antonia Juhasz of the True Cost of Chevron coalition was arrested while trying to make a statement inside the shareholder meeting after being admitted with a valid proxy. None of the arrested had been released as of 3:30 pm CT.

Amazon Watch staff Han Shan and Mitch Anderson participated in the "sit in" before their arrests. "More than 20,000 [Chevron] proxy shareholders have been barred from the meeting for no valid, legal or legitimate reason, but simply because they come from communities in Ecuador, in Burma, in Nigeria, in Richmond, CA like Rev. Davis here. And they want to deny those people speaking out about their concerns. It's appalling," said Han Shan. Mitch Anderson added, "We are not leaving the premises. They have disenfranchised our voices and they are going to have to drag us out of here."

Shelley Alpern, Vice-President at Trillium Asset Management Corporation was also outraged at Chevron's actions, stating, "I attend several shareholder meetings every year and I have never seen a company deny entry to legal proxy holders. This is outrageous and reflects very poorly on our company's respect for the laws that govern our proxy process. The shareholders in attendance today should stand forewarned not to say anything critical or it could be you next year."

More information at

RAN’s Maria Ramos to Chevron CEO: You are Hiding the Truth about Egregious Human Rights and Environmental Abuses

Maria Ramos, the campaign organizer for the Rainforest Action Network's (RAN) "Change Chevron" campaign confronted Chevron CEO John Watson at the company's annual shareholder meeting in Houston today. While Chevron barred the majority of the individuals that were brought with various environmental groups, despite their having legal proxies, the company could not bar Ramos from being speaking during the meeting. Her comments are below.

Ramos' comments to the Board during the board re-election process:

I would like to echo outrage for disenfranchising legal shareholders from entering this meeting. These people have travelled from around the world from Angola, Nigeria, the Philippines, Ecuador, to speak about egregious human rights and environmental abuses. You are not letting shareholders hear the truth. That is not the Chevron way. I would like to speak directly to your nomination to the board Mr. Watson.

Highlighted as a qualification in the 2010 proxy statement for Mr. Watson's election to the Chairmanship of the Board of Directors of Chevron is Mr. Watson's role in leading Chevron's integration effort after its acquisition of Texaco Inc. Whether or not Mr. Watson's leadership in the merger with Texaco represents a qualification, or rather a poor lack of judgment is another question. Since taking the helm of Chevron, we have seen Mr. Watson continue to endorse this company's long running, expensive and dead-end strategy with respect to the dire situation in the Amazon -- a strategy which has cost both the company and the people of the Amazon dearly.

A particularly important question for shareholders is whether or not Mr. Watson, as architect of the Chevron-Texaco merger, adequately vetted Texaco before purchasing the company in 2001 for $31 billion -- a sum which is just $4 billion more than its current financial exposure in the Ecuador lawsuit. It strikes us that Chevron's management overpaid for Texaco by billions of dollars and thereby diminished shareholder value through its own negligence.

And an even more important and urgent question is -- given the position that Chevron is in, with the cloud of Ecuador threatening its stock price, and causing grave political and reputational risk -- are you Mr. Watson ready to take charge of this company, put an end to the days where lawyers and public relations officials are running the show, and come to an honest, fair, and equitable resolution with the people of Ecuador?

Mr. Watson, the question to you is if you have the courage to change Chevron?

Ramos' comments seconding the shareholder resolution requiring that at least one board member have "significant" environmental experience:

Maria Ramos again with Rainforest Action Network. I would like to second Stockholder proposal regarding the appointment of an independent director with environmental expertise - Item #4 on the proxy card.

It is disconcerting that your board has recommended a No vote on this proposal - by just looking around this room and having seen the protest outside and the many people from around the world who were not allowed in with legal proxies - it is clear that Chevron's track record is riddled with environmental abuses. It is neither some mass global conspiracy nor coincidence that has brought people from as far as Nigeria, Australia, Angola, Ecuador, Alaska Canada and Richmond California - all with accounts of environmental pollution, all supported by a broad body of evidence. The California Air Resources Board has found Chevron's Richmond refinery to be the biggest single source polluter in the state. Chevron blatantly continues the illegal practice of gas flaring in the Niger Delta. And in Ecuador, Chevron is on trial for widespread oil contamination, facing a possible $27 billion liability. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his office would be launching inquiry to determine if the company is misleading shareholders over its Ecuador liability - this at the request of New York shareholders.

Shareholders should know that this proposal has received high level of support from investors, representing billions in Chevron stock - including the support of RiskMetrics - because there is a broad concern that Chevron's board has failed to comply with their governance obligations and has failed to address serious environmental risks.

On the Ecuador case: there is no evidence that Chevron board members ever visited Ecuador to understand the potential environmental liability. There is no evidence that Chevron board members have vetted the company's Ecuador liability independent of senior management.

Why the board would not want to better position Chevron to deal with the profound environmental challenges that the company is facing is troubling. The board's negative response to the proposal -- citing that board members should not be selected on the basis of a single criterion - is myopic, when faced with an onslaught of legal and public relations debacle. The board's negative response citing that the board already includes directors with experience on environmental matters -- well, If Chevron believes it already has this level and caliber of expertise, then shareholders should be told now - who that is, and what makes them experienced.

Some of the members of Chevron's board of directors have been on the board for 2, 3 decades -- Mr. Armacost, Chair of the Governance Committee has been on the board for 29 years. And I want to direct my comments to you -- it's a different world from when many of you started your positions on the board. The public's environmental values are deepening, their support for companies to take responsible action is growing.

Chevron is an oil company. It is inconceivable -- even as the oil spill off the Gulf is fresh on the mind -- that the board would not deem it important for an oil company to have adequate environmental oversight. It's only sensible to vote in favor of this proposal.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chevron’s Deepwater Horizon Connection: The Clock Could Be Ticking

Much attention is focused on BP, and that company's tragic environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But what about Chevron, the oil company that is responsible for what experts consider to be the world's worst oil-related disaster, in Ecuador's Amazon? Unlike BP's Gulf disaster, which was an accident, what Chevron did in Ecuador was a designed plan to cut costs that ended up decimating indigenous groups, contaminating fresh water sources, and causing an outbreak of cancer affecting thousands of people.

Does a company as irresponsible as Chevron when it comes to discharging toxic waste pass muster when it comes to being able to operate a deep water rig in the Gulf of Mexico or anywhere else?

It's a question more and more people are asking after The New York Times revealed that BP and other oil companies received permission from the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits. The Huffington Post has reported that the MMS has failed to inspect the offshore drilling rigs as required.

The Times reported that Chevron was among the oil companies that received MMS permission to drill in the region. Chevron has a history of corrupting the MMS. It recently was singled out by the Department of the Interior's Inspector General in a scandal involving Chevron employees trading sex, cocaine, and other favors in return for preferential treatment from the agency when it came to the payment of royalties to the federal government.

The proper regulation of Chevron's operations is a crucially important question – Chevron consistently fails to take proper safeguards to protect the environment around the world. A few examples of Chevron's wretched environmental record:

  • Ecuador: Chevron has admitted to dumping at least 16 billion gallons of toxic "produced water" (estimates based on oil well records indicate the number is likely as much as 18.5 billion gallons directly into the waterways of the Amazon Rainforest, and is accused of abandoning more than 916 waste pits full of toxic "drilling muds" and other industrial waste products (each of which would be considered a mini "Superfund" site in the United States). A court-appointed expert has indicated that the contamination may cost as much as $27.3 billion to cleanup. Unlike the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, which was an accident, Chevron's operations in Ecuador were designed to pollute in order to minimize productions costs. Unlike BP's executives, Chevron's leadership has never said a word about taking responsibility for this decades-long disaster.

  • Nigeria: Dumping and salt water encroachment linked to Chevron's operations have caused significant damage to the Niger River Delta region. Effects include land degradation, air pollution, biodiversity depletion, flooding and coastal erosion, noise and light pollution, health problems, and poor agricultural productivity. Although gas flaring has been illegal in Nigeria for decades, Chevron has also engaged in widespread, round-the-clock flaring, a process known to have serous negative health effects on humans. Some 1.5 million tons of oil spillage has occurred over the last 50 years in the Niger Delta from oil operations—equating to about one Exxon Valdez disaster per year.

  • Kazakhstan: Chevron's massive operation in Kazakhstan is the largest polluter in the region, incurring at least $22.3 million in fines for environmental pollution in 2009-2010. Community monitoring in the region has registered more than 25 toxic substances in the air, including hydrogen sulfide, methylene chloride, carbon disulfide, toluene and acrylonitrile3. Under Chevron's watch, at least 56,000 tons of toxic waste in the atmosphere in a single year in 2004. As in Ecuador, improper storage of toxic solid waste on the field has led to the dumping of toxic effluent into the water table.

  • United States: In Richmond, California, 35,000 families live in the shadow of a Chevron refinery that spewed out three million pounds of contaminants during the last three years. Existing pollution from Chevron already causes premature death, cancer, and other health ailments. Richmond asthma rates are 5x the state level. Chevron is now seeking to expand the refinery, allowing it to process both more and dirtier crude oil, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents. In Alaska, Chevron has been fighting with federal regulators to allow it to continue to use a corroded pipe that has lost more than 60 percent of its wall thickness to carry oil from its offshore operations to shore. Just last month, the company was responsible for spilling 8,000 gallons of crude oil in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Louisiana.

Chevron is one of the largest leaseholders and producers in the Gulf of Mexico – an area with little independent oversight. The destruction that could be caused by another tragedy akin to the Deepwater Horizon is clear. In fact, the BP owned rig, which sank on April 20 causing a disaster that is still spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, was run by Transocean-- the same company that Chevron contracts with for its massive Gulf offshore operations.

All of these warning signs beg the serious question: Are Chevron's Gulf of Mexico operations properly vetted, permitted, and regulated by an effective outside agency? And if not, is the clock ticking until we're witnessing Chevron's very own "Deepwater Horizon"?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chevron Lawyer Admits “Release” Doesn’t Cover Ecuador Lawsuit

Chevron Lawyer Rodrigo Perez Pallares

If there was ever ironclad proof that Chevron is being deceptive in court and before the public about the "release" it claims it received in Ecuador, it can be found in the sworn deposition testimony of Chevron's own lawyer in Ecuador who signed the release for the company. It turns out that this lawyer, Rodrigo Perez Pallares, admitted under oath that the "release" does not apply to the claims in the pending Lago Agrio lawsuit in Ecuador. This contradicts what Chevron's American lawyers and public relations operatives are telling judges, journalists, the SEC, and shareholders all over the world.

Proof of this admission can be read here. Remember, Perez Pallares negotiated and signed the "release" for Chevron so we can assume he knows what he's talking about.

Chevron's CEO, John Watson, and General Counsel, Hewitt Pate, continually refer to the release as "proof" Chevron's contractual rights are being violated in Ecuador by the mere existence of the lawsuit brought by the indigenous groups for environmental clean-up. The company has submitted this false information as "fact" to the Bush and Obama Administrations in an attempt to convince them to cancel trade preferences for Ecuador as a "punishment" for letting its own citizens sue Chevron in their own courts. (Chevron, remember, fought for nine years to move the case to Ecuador out of U.S. federal court where it was filed in 1993.)

But that's not all. Chevron is also basing an entire international arbitration against Ecuador's government – which commenced recently in London -- on what is essentially a misrepresentation of the facts. This is not the first time Chevron has tried this maneuver – they also tried it against Ecuador's government in a litigation in New York federal court that lasted from 2004 to 2009 (which is where Perez Pallares testified). In that case, Chevron hastily withdrew the "release" claim when it appeared a U.S. federal judge could actually review it and issue a ruling.

In his deposition, Perez Pallares was clear that Chevron's arguments about the "release" are bogus. Under questioning from a lawyer from Ecuador's government, he said the "release" does not apply to the claims of the plaintiffs in the Lago Agrio case.

An excerpt from his sworn testimony:

Q: But what [Article 8 of the MOU] does do instead is it carves out entirely any action brought by parties who were not parties to the settlement agreement. Would you agree with that?

The Witness (Pallares): I agree…

Q: If I'm understanding you correctly, and I don't mean to mischaracterize your testimony – you'll tell me if I'm incorrect – I think what you're saying is that a plaintiff can sue in Ecuador but can only obtain relief to the extent that Ecuador permits that relief.

Pallares: That's exactly it.

Q: But the MOU and the settlement doesn't affect that one way or the other. It doesn't give them rights they would not otherwise have. Is that a fair statement.

Pallares: That's correct.

Read the entire page of the testimony here.

Note also that section VIII of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Chevron and Ecuador's government in 1994 explicitly states (in reference to the release):

The provisions of this agreement shall apply without prejudice to the rights possibly held by third parties for the impact caused as a consequence of the operations of the former PETROECUADOR-TEXACO Consortium.

Because of these facts, Watson and Pate have Chevron in a legal pickle over the Ecuador problem. Chevron is faced with overwhelming scientific evidence of the extreme destruction that Texaco's substandard operational procedures caused in the Ecuadorian rainforest when it operated there from 1964 to 1992. As a result, Chevron faces an enormous potential liability.

Chevron has spent years trying to evade accountability in Ecuador. The company has tried lobbying, public relations campaigns, wild accusations, and even a "Nixon"-style dirty tricks operation to undermine the trial. Now, Chevron is using all of its influence in Washington and around the world to try to pressure the government of Ecuador based on a myth about the "release" -- just so it can extract an advantage in a private litigation that it is losing.

Chevron needs to understand that the Obama (and Bush) Administrations try to make policy on what is best for the country, not what is best for Chevron. That is why for five straight years our government has renewed Ecuador's trade preferences over Chevron's objections.

About the only thing separating Chevron from that enormous liability in Ecuador is a misrepresentation about its supposed "release". That must not be terribly comforting for Chevron's shareholders, even if it gives false comfort to those managing the company.

LA Times Editorial: Chevron Should Be Prevented From Violating Journalist's Privilege

Chevron sues over 'Crude'

A documentary's unused footage, akin to reporters' notes, should be protected.

Journalism that serves society does not always spring from objectivity, nor is it always written from a distance. When Upton Sinclair exposed the conditions of Chicago's meat industry, he did so on assignment from a socialist newspaper. He went to work in grim stockyards and returned with "The Jungle." The result was a revolution in food safety and the founding of the Food and Drug Administration.

Sinclair's closeness to his story gave his journalism urgency and moral power. It was precisely the sort of work that deserves the greatest protection from corporate intrusion. That lesson, however, has been turned upside down by a New York federal judge who this week ordered a documentary filmmaker to turn over outtakes of his work to Chevron.

The man at the center of this important 1st Amendment battle is Joe Berlinger, a respected documentary filmmaker who launched a project in 2005 to chronicle a landmark lawsuit filed by Ecuadoran indigenous people seeking compensation for environmental damage. Berlinger's acclaimed documentary, "Crude," followed the case, focusing on the lawyers for the plaintiffs. Chevron, however, says several scenes reinforce the company's charge that those lawyers cooked up the case: In one, a lawyer for the plaintiffs meets with an expert witness hired by the government to estimate damages from oil in the Ecuadoran jungle; in another, a lawyer is shown meeting with the judge and remarking that such a meeting would be inconceivable in the United States but not in Ecuador, because there "this is how the game is played. It's dirty." Because just a fraction of Berlinger's footage made it into the final film, Chevron believes there was potentially more damaging material left on the cutting-room floor, so it sought to force Berlinger to hand over his outtakes.

Were the material in question notes gathered by a journalist in pursuit of a story, the journalist's privilege, which recognizes the societal benefit of allowing journalists to shield their unpublished notes, would almost certainly have protected it. So the issues were: Was Berlinger a journalist, and do the protections for notes extend to film outtakes? U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan sided with Berlinger on both points, concluding that the filmmaker covered a newsworthy event and disseminated his findings to the public — a fairly sound description of journalism in any form.

Nevertheless, noting that the journalist's privilege is a limited one, Kaplan ordered Berlinger to turn over the footage precisely because, paradoxically, Berlinger's close ties to the plaintiffs meant that he has material that Chevron is unable to get anyplace else. (Kaplan seems to have overlooked the presence of other witnesses in the filmed scenes.) Kaplan may be right that Berlinger has exclusive material, but forcing him to relinquish it turns the point of journalistic access on its head: If journalists must reveal what they learn but do not publish from those sources they cultivate most carefully, then sources will keep them at arms' length. This nation is better off because Sinclair was able to insinuate himself into Chicago's meatpacking plants; it will be better again if Berlinger prevails on appeal. And it will be better still when Congress passes a federal shield law that protects journalists and their sources.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chevron Tries to Silence Critics of Its Ecuador Environmental Disaster

Chevron is exhibiting some awfully thin skin lately over its Ecuador environmental disaster.

A clear pattern is emerging where the company, its lawyers, and its public relations firms try to intimidate critics of its Ecuador problem into silence. Award-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger, who recent made a movie documenting the company's abuses in Ecuador, is the latest victim. That has gotten Chevron on the bad side of prominent journalists and filmmakers such as Bill Moyers, Trudie Styler and Michael Moore.

Chevron has admitted to dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into Ecuador's Amazon to cut costs, decimating indigenous groups and creating an outbreak of cancer that affects thousands of people. For years, the company has engaged in abusive litigation to evade accountability for a clean-up.

Unlike the BP disaster in the Gulf, Chevron (via its predecessor company Texaco) discharged this waste on purpose. And unlike BP, Chevron's executives have buried their heads in the sand and refused to accept responsibility for the clean-up.

The increased pressure on Chevron – 60 Minutes did a highly unflattering segment on the company recently – seems be taking a toll.

Take look at Chevron's attacks on Free Speech just in the past year:

  • Filing frivolous lawsuits to "punish" critics: Chevron, via its new law firm Gibson Dunn, initiated a "malicious prosecution" lawsuit in a California federal court to punish a 75-year-old lawyer, Cristobal Bonifaz. Bonifaz had brought a separate lawsuit against Chevron on behalf of a handful of individuals for health claims related to the company's Ecuador disaster in San Francisco federal court. A federal judge turned the tables on Chevron, finding the Chevron action violated a California law that bars nuisance lawsuits designed to suppress Free Speech. The judge dismissed virtually all of Chevron's claims against Bonifaz. The California law (called Anti-SLAPP) used by the court against Chevron was created to prevent legal attacks brought to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of defending a frivolous lawsuit. The decision was a tremendous setback for Gibson Dunn, which has a reputation for being paid millions to protect companies like Chevron from being held accountable for their human rights abuses.
  • Attempting to intimidate journalists and gain access to their files: Chevron recently launched an unprecedented legal attack on award-winning documentarian Joe Berlinger to force him to allow the company to rummage through 600 hours of video footage Berlinger shot for the documentary, CRUDE. The movie – which has won 22 awards from film festivals -- chronicles the struggle of the 30,000 residents of the Ecuadorian rainforest to hold Chevron accountable for systematically polluting their lands. Chevron's lawsuit prompted a group of filmmakers that includes 20 Academy Award winners and many more nominees to write an open letter in support of Berlinger stating that Chevron's effort "will have a crippling effect on the work of investigative journalists everywhere." Filmmaker Michael Moore has stated, "The chilling effect of this is, someone like me, if something like this is upheld, the next whistleblower at the next corporation is going to think twice about showing me some documents if that information has to be turned over to the corporation that they're working for."
  • Barring critics from public events: At the Chevron-sponsored Houston Marathon, a team of runners was barred from participating in the event, and threatened with arrest, for attempting to distribute materials critical of Chevron's human rights record in Ecuador. The race manager told the runners that "higher ups at Chevron were freaking out." At the time, runner Maria Ramos stated: "It is sad that the Chevron Houston Marathon – which raises awareness and money for many important causes – would deny the rights of participants to appease a corporate sponsor that is clearly ashamed of its human rights record."
  • Attempting to pressure news outlets to silence critics: Chevron has used pressure tactics to force major media outlets to prevent advertisements critical of the company from being published. Chevron responded to an ad campaign from the Rainforest Action Network by directing its lawyers and public relations firms to leverage the company's influence and demand that the New York Times and Washington Post pull the ads. Despite Chevron's complaints, the New York Times ran the advertisements. However, the Washington Post initially succumbed to Chevron's pressure and pulled the ads temporarily. Of course, the fact Chevron was contemporaneously paying for the publication of advertisements attacking its critics was of no small irony.
  • Taking out advertisements attacking critics: Chevron has taken out multiple paid advertisements in Ecuador, in the United States, and across the internet accusing the Amazon community leaders suing Chevron of being liars, frauds, and con men. Chevron has also taken out ads attacking the independent court-appointed expert in Ecuador, the judge, and other participants in the lawsuit. The use of paid public advertisements to attack and intimidate court officials is unethical and would result in sanctions against the company's lawyers if it were done in the United States.

Chevron's "scorched earth" approach to its critics is pathetic, to say the least. But that's what happens when some of Big Oil's corporate leaders don't want to be reminded that they are responsible for the discharge of more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon Rainforest.

But the facts are the facts. While we can understand Chevron's desire to forget about the mess it made in Ecuador, and to wish that its critics would go away, it's time for the company to stop trying to silence the opposition.

For more information, visit


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

John Perkins: Fake Accounting, Greed and Oil

This article, by New York Times bestselling "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" author John Perkins, appeared on The Huffington Post.

Fake Accounting, Greed and Oil

While countries around the world continue to watch their economies collapse, and Goldman-Sachs leaders testify to Congress about how they manipulated both their shareholders and the American public, we are also faced with a tragic oil spill on our most fragile coastlines.

The sad truth is that oil, greed and fake accounting work hand in hand to empower those who have -- and significantly disempower those who do not.

In my book, HOODWINKED I talk about the 30,000 Ecuadorians who filed a lawsuit against Texaco (since purchased by Chevron). See this link. The company destroyed vast sections of rain forest and the toxic wastes from its operations allegedly killed many people and made many more chronically sick.

It is often the indigenous people who are the ultimate losers in the greed wars. How can they with so little to start with take a stand against a huge oil company? Despite the challenges they faced, the Ecuadorians did do this and continue to battle.

Trudie Styler who visited the devastated Ecuadorian site and joined me at a public talk in Quito several years ago hosted a concert at Carnegie Hall on May 13, 2010. It featured her husband Sting, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, and Debbie Harry and was a fundraiser for the Rainforest Fund, founded by Trudie and Sting in 1989. Afterwards Trudie expressed to me feelings similar to those she often says publicly:

"You know,(Trudie said) I love beaches and coastal environments. I love the ocean. I'm appalled by the terrible scenes of devastation that etched themselves forever into our consciousness after the Exxon Valdez disaster and now are haunting us once again along the Gulf Coast. I am dismayed by the continuing destruction of our delicate ecosystems -- of birds, fish, animals, and plants. This is absolutely unacceptable. We MUST protect or coastlines from such tragedies.

"However, I have also flown over thousands of miles of rain forests that have been destroyed by oil. I have been with mothers sitting at the bedsides of their children, as they lie in terrible agony, innocent victims of the most horrible deaths imaginable -- because oil drilling poisoned their water and their food sources. I have stood beside once-pristine lakes now turned into black tar.

"So, I feel compelled to ask everyone to take into account the entire planet as we mourn for the Gulf Coast and seek ways to protect our beaches. Let us avoid the temptation to say "not in my back yard; take the pollution someplace else." Let us rather commit to freeing ourselves from the oil addiction that ultimately will destroy all of us."

Steve Donziger, a New York lawyer who has devoted more than a decade to the case, repeats every chance he gets, "And most of the consumers in the United States have no idea. They are oblivious to the true price of the oil they consume. And Big Oil wants to keep it that way."

These statements express a sad truth about so much of what is going on in the world today and the inadequacy of our accounting procedures to assign the true costs to products. Oil is a classic example of how those who sit on resources are inadequately compensated while those who consume them are charged prices that do not begin to cover the actual costs. In light of last week's oil spill, it seems we are seeing the same thing happen again with BP and the countless millions the oil spill will affect horribly for a decade.

Many costs are never taken into account when determining the price of the goods and services we consume. They are all too often considered "externalities." Those externalities include the social and environmental costs of the destruction of resources, the pollution, and the burdens on society of workers who become injured or ill and receive little or no health care; the indirect funding of companies that are permitted to market hazardous products, dump wastes into rivers or oceans, and pay employees less than a living wage, just to name a few.

All of these and more contribute to the current global economic crisis. Because so many resources are underpriced, they are wasted casually and depleted unnecessarily. Instead of recycling or using them more efficiently, we continue to drill, mine, extract, and manufacture with reckless abandon.

Is the "Age of Reckless Abandon" really what we want to be most remembered for in generations to come?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bill Moyers Blasts Chevron For Attacking First Amendment Rights

Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers, the celebrated and venerable journalist, blasted Chevron's recent attempt to force an independent filmmaker to turn over the 600 hours of private video outtakes from the documentary "Crude," in an article which appeared on the Huffington Post recently. "Crude" chronicles the legal struggle of more than 30,000 indigenous people and their lawyers in Ecuador where Chevron is accused of dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste directly into the Amazon Rainforest.

Moyers, along with Michael Winship (the Director of the Writers Guild of America, East) wrote the article in response to Chevron's unprecedented attempt to force Joe Berlinger, the director of Crude, to allow Chevron to rummage through his files to find film footage that the oil company can take use to attack the litigation pending against the company in Ecuador. They were uncompromising in their condemnation of Chevron's maneuver, writing: "Chevron is trying to avoid responsibility and hopes to find in the unused footage -- material the filmmaker did not utilize in the final version of his documentary -- evidence helpful to the company in fending off potential damages of $27.3 billion…If we -- reporters, journalists, filmmakers -- are required to turn research, transcripts and outtakes over to a government or a corporation -- or to one party in a lawsuit -- the whole integrity of the process of journalism is in jeopardy; no one will talk to us."

Read the entire article here.

Trudie Styler: Chevron caused "Hell" in Ecuador

Trudie Styler, the co-founder of the Rainforest Foundation with her husband Sting, blasted Chevron for its irresponsible behavior in Ecuador in an online interview last week with Katie Couric of CBS News. The interview was during the run-up to the Rainforest Foundation's annual fundraiser at Carnegie Hall, which featured inspired performances by Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Lada Gaga, and Elton John.

Styler on numerous occasions has visited Ecuador's Amazon region, where Chevron is accused in a lawsuit of dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste. She has partnered with UNICEF and the Amazon Defense Coalition to start a project to deliver clean water to the region. Her work was featured in Crude, a Joe Berlinger documentary about the lawsuit.

Styler told Couric: "I work in down in Ecuador, where we've seen the plight of the indigenous people there. They've had their lands decimated by Chevron, the oil company, and they have no clean water. They have no good land to grow anything on. This to me is sort of like, just an example of how we are completely ignorant to what their plight is. It doesn't apply to us, because it's not in our backyard…[in Ecuador] You
see a microcosm of what hell is really like for the people who lived with good air, with good water; they could fish from their streams. They could raise their children who were joyful in the sort of beautiful, simple lives they were living. Along comes oil companies…and they're left with nothing but illness."

Take a look:

Watch CBS News Videos Online