Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Speak Truth & Join Our Conspirators’ Club Today!

The spokesperson for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs warned public interest advocates this week in an oped in the Capitol Hill publication, The Hill, against criticizing powerful interests for their misconduct, as the lawyers, environmentalists and other supporters have done in the 18-year-old litigation against Chevron for oil contamination in the Ecuador rainforest.

Simply speaking the truth might make you a co-conspirator to extortion and racketeering!

The oped, entitled Standing Up To Chevron, reveals how utterly ridiculous Chevron’s extortion and racketeering charges are. Chevron is portraying the plaintiffs and their consultants and supporters as “Mafia thugs” because they have tried to tell the story of Chevron’s criminal behavior in Ecuador to news reporters and elected officials with the hope they will obtain a damage award or a settlement to cleanup the contamination.

Karen Hinton, the spokesperson, wrote:
“I admit we have not been kind to Chevron. We have told our story largely through the news media, including a devastating “60 Minutes” segment. We have written hundreds of critical press releases and blogs. We met with Members of Congress to mitigate Chevron’s lobbying to end U.S. trade preferences with Ecuador, which the company sought in retaliation for our lawsuit. We complained to Attorneys Generals about Chevron’s withholding information to shareholders about potential liabilities. And we alerted Ecuadorian officials to Chevron’s fraudulent cleanup and urged an investigation.

“Fairly basic tactics for public advocacy campaigns. Hardly ripped from the pages of the Godfather series.”

As ludicrous as the charges are, Hinton warned against the ramification of the charges and a U.S. Court’s decision to allow them to be filed.
“The chilling message of (the judge’s) ruling should make many professionals think twice about taking on powerful interests. Public relations executives representing corporations on either side of litigation could be accused of conspiring to drive down stock prices. Lobbyists could be named as racketeers seeking to put a competitor out of business. Issue a critical press release or meet with a public official, and accusations will fly about extorting and shaking down profitable companies.”

Read between the lines and it becomes clear that the extortion charges are a ruse. Chevron’s real agenda is to obtain a ruling from U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan that the recent $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron is unenforceable. Such a ruling could be used as a litigation tool in what will likely be future court disputes about the judgment’s enforcement. Judge Kaplan has not hidden his bias in Chevron’s favor and his utter distaste for the Ecuadorians and their country. See recent Chevron Pit blogs here and here. The Southern District Court judge made that very clear when he enjoined the Ecuadorian plaintiffs from enforcing the judgment anywhere in the world, a decision that they steadfastly reject.

Hinton wrote:
“A Chevron lobbyist once remarked about the lawsuit: ‘We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this – companies that have made big investments around the world.’
“Hopefully, Chevron's attempt to criminalize public interest advocacy will be thwarted on appeal and "little countries" and their people will have the chance to hold corporations accountable for improper conduct. Meanwhile, if you are in the advocacy field, think twice before you hit the send button on that next blog or press release -- or be prepared to join me in the co-conspirator's club.”