Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chevron Breaks Promise to U.S. Courts, Misrepresentation Campaign Continues

As predictable as ever, Chevron has violated another promise made to a U.S. federal court – this time just days after it was made by Gibson Dunn lawyer Randy Mastro.

Last week Mastro (the former Deputy Mayor to Rudy Giuliani who is now Chevron's lead lawyer in the Ecuador litigation) promised the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that the oil giant wouldn't use any footage turned over by filmmaker Joe Berlinger in its publicity campaign to distract attention from its role in creating the worst oil-related disaster on Earth.

Chevron had been trying to access the film footage - Berlinger shot it for his award-winning documentary "Crude" – in a highly criticized, unprecedented assault on the First Amendment. After a long court fight, Berlinger surrendered the film to Chevron after the company promised not to use it for any purpose other than litigation.

Only days after getting the footage, Chevron has gone back on its promise and pushed the contents of the film out to its pet bloggers – exactly what it had promised not to do. Predictably, Chevron has spliced and diced the footage to claim it shows evidence of "fraud". The basis for this extraordinary accusation? One scene which showed a lawyer telling the scientific consultants for the plaintiffs that he thought no more proof was necessary to make the case that Chevron was responsible for massive environmental contamination, and then asking the filmmaker to turn off the camera.

Wow Randy – you really hit paydirt!!!!

Talk about spending millions of dollars in legal fees to hit a dry well. Chevron's lawyers at Gibson Dunn, sniffing a billing bonanza and promising on its website to mount a "rescue operation" from the potential $27 billion liability in Ecuador, sold Chevron's in-house counsel on the idea that Berlinger's outtakes contained "smoking gun" evidence of "collusion" between lawyers for the Amazonian communities and Ecuador's government. On this theory Mastro has justified a legal odyssey that has trampled the First Amendment and lined up pretty much every actor and filmmaker on the planet, from Leonardo Di Caprio to Bill Moyers to Michael Moore, against Chevron. Gibson Dunn actually had the audacity to bill for this abomination.

Mr. Mastro, we're still waiting for that smoking gun evidence. In the meantime, why don't you investigate Chevron's fraud in the so-called "remediation," the use by Chevron of a bogus laboratory test to fraudulently induce a release from Ecuador's government, the bribe that your buddy Reis Veiga orchestrated to stop the Guanta inspection, the Borja sting operation orchestrated by Chevron's in-house counsel, the corporate espionage campaign where you hired Kroll to pay journalists to go undercover in Ecuador to spy on the plaintiffs, and the role of you and your colleagues in whisking Borja and others out of Ecuador so they could not be questioned by prosecutors.

In Chevron's desperate attempt to direct attention away from the massive evidence of the contamination caused by its oil operations in Ecuador's rainforest (all told, more than 64,000 scientific sampling results and more than 200,000 pages of trial record point to Chevron's culpability), the company is using every card in the old tobacco industry playbook. Chevron management surely knows what its lawyers try to hide from the public: that the evidence before the court conclusively proves its responsibility for an environmental disaster at least twice the size of the BP disaster in the Gulf.

This isn't the first time Chevron has gotten itself into hot water for manufacturing videos to "prove" its points. Last year the company fell flat on its face when it misrepresented the contents of a secret video created by Borja and became a laughingstock when it paid former CNN reporter Gene Randall to produce a propaganda video masquerading as a "news" report.

So Chevron's misrepresentation campaign marches on, with human lives destroyed and the integrity of the company in tatters, and with lawyers like Mastro laughing all the way to the bank.

Federal courts should sanction Chevron and Mastro for this latest travesty. The oil giant clearly thinks it is above the law. Let's hope that the Court reminds Chevron's lawyer Mastro that promises to the federal judiciary are not made in vain.