Monday, March 12, 2012

Chevron's Troubles

Chevron is facing troubles in a number of oil-rich countries, including Nigeria, Brazil, and, of course, Ecuador.

Here are three articles worth reading that appeared this weekend:

Chevron's Amazon-sized gamble on Latin America

The Chevron spill off the coast of Brazil is not so much about the amount of oil spilled but about Chevron's reckless behavior that results from the company's arrogance -- similar to its misconduct in Ecuador.

Excerpts: "The prosecutor told Reuters the more than $11 billion civil award sought against Chevron is not based on a clear assessment of damages from the spill. The figure is meant to send a message.

"'Energy companies operating here need to know that reckless behavior will cost them,' (the prosecutor) said.

"Chevron's worst-case scenario damages from Brazil and Ecuador could top the company's $26.9 billion in 2011 profits....

"Chevron's deputy comptroller, Rex Mitchell, warned in U.S. District Court last year that the Ecuadorians' collection effort could 'cause irreparable injury to Chevron's business reputation and business relationships.'

"Chevron may be spending $200 million per year in legal fees related to Ecuador alone, the plaintiff lawyers estimated. Chevron declined to comment on legal fees."

Chevron: Fire On Gas Rig Extinguished

Nigerians have been pleading with Chevron to help them following a fire on a gas rig that took over a month to put out, but Chevron has done very little.

Excerpts: "Residents here complained of air, water, and fish that taste of kerosene as the plume of smoke hovered within sight offshore.

"They're asking Chevron to relocate the approximately 10,000 people in the surrounding community--a request that cuts against long-standing religious ties to land in Nigeria's oil-rich marshland.

"Mostly, residents say their livelihood--fishing--has been spoiled by the gas fire.

"'The gas is inside the fish,' the youth chairman for the village, Bravely Salvage said. 'After eating the fish you feel like somebody who drunk diesel, you feel dizzy...some of us collapse.'"

Hits, and Misses, in a War on Bribery

The Ecuadorians believe Chevron is in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by offering what is essentially a $1 billion bribe to the Government of Ecuador for the Yasuni project and a small cleanup effort -- but only if the Government steps in and blocks the enforcement of the $18 billion judgment against Chevron.

Excerpts: "Enacted in 1977, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits American companies and foreign companies whose securities are traded on exchanges here from bribing foreign officials to attract or keep business. For many years, there were few prosecutions under the act. In 2003, for instance, not a single person was charged.

"But in the last four years, a total of 58 companies have paid a combined $3.74 billion to settle such corruption charges. Since 2009, some 67 people have been charged, 20 are still awaiting trial or are at large, and 42 have been convicted, some from charges prior to 2009. A total of 22 have been acquitted or had charges dismissed.

"Lanny A. Breuer, the assistant United States attorney general who has stepped up enforcement actions under the act, said he saw no reason to change course. In fact, he is expanding his staff — and his range of potential targets.

“'We have to be willing to take cases that we would be willing to lose,' Mr. Breuer said in an interview. 'We can’t just pick the easy cases.'

"Even more, he sees himself on the right side of history, especially given the outcry against government corruption in the Arab world and elsewhere.

“'This is not the time for the United States to be condoning corruption,' Mr. Breuer said. 'We are a world leader and we want to do everything to make sure that business is less corrupt, not more.'”

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