Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Secret Arbitration "Club" Meets This Weekend In DC On Ecuador Case

After having lost on the merits in Ecuador and U.S. courts, Chevron has turned to a secret panel of private lawyers, nicknamed "The Club," to help the company avoid paying a dime of the $18 billion judgment against it for the deliberate poisoning of the rainforest.

Chevron is trying to use a controversial private enforcement process under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty that, in Chevron's mind, empowers the panel to direct a sovereign nation to interfere in its judiciary system.

In fact, the BIT, as it is known, seeks to protect the respective national court systems from interference.

The arbitration panel hearing Chevron's claim against Ecuador has no authority to suspend enforcement of or alter a judgment rendered by a sovereign country’s court system, as Chevron demands.

Yet, this closed-door panel will conduct hearings this Saturday and Sunday (February 11-12) in a rented room in Washington, DC, as if it did.

In many cases, critics say, these investor-state arbitrations are highly conflicted and are nothing more than opportunities for the secret "Club" members to make millions in fees.

Just this past January at the National Press Club, DC-based arbitration lawyer Gary Horlick has this to say before a Global Business Dialogue audience -- the club's trade association: "It’s (investor-state arbitrations) great for lawyers, believe me. The average legal fee ... is $3 million, so it is big business."

Big business indeed.

It gets even worse: club members rotate as lawyers representing clients and as panelists who issue rulings about claims. In one claim, a lawyer appears with his client. In another claim, he appears as a panelist before a lawyer who may have ruled his way on a previous panel.

You cannot attend nor can the Ecuadorians, who are locked out of hearings about their long and hard-fought battle against one of the most powerful and influential oil companies in the world. They are completely dependent upon the Ecuador government's lawyers to defend them.

They will have their voice heard, though, outside the hearings, where the Ecuadorians and their environmental supporters here in the U.S. will speak out against the proceedings on Friday, the day before the hearings, and on Saturday.

They will argue that no laws or treaties empowers a private tribunal to provide relief that would demand a sovereign nation interfere in its judiciary system, violating its Constitution as well as international and human rights laws.

Imagine what would happen if the White House directed the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse one of its decisions because an international tribunal declared it illegitimate. There’s no word to describe such an event because it would never happen in this country.

Public Citizen, Amazon Watch and the Rainforest Action Network are standing up to Chevron's kangaroo court by organizing the rally and conducting a Teach-In at American University about Chevron's abuse of the arbitration process.

We encourage all Chevron Pit readers in Washington, DC to attend:

Teach-In, February 9th, Thursday, 7-9 pm, American University: School of International Service Atrium, AW Main Campus, 4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington D.C., (202) 885-3264

Humberto Piaguage, Spokesperson for the Secoya Indigenous Organization of Ecuador and a representative of the Ecuadorians suing Chevron

Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Division

Aaron Page, Forum Nobis, PLLC, lawyer for Ecuadorians in U.S.

Rob Collier, Corporate Campaigns Director, Amazon Watch

Rally, February 10th, Friday, Noon, Organization of American States, Constitution Avenue & 17th St., NW, Washington D.C., (202) 458-3000

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