Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2,000 Lawyers Failed To Block Chevron CEO John Watson From Court Deposition On Ecuador Case

After spending hundreds of millions of dollars for 2,000 lawyers and legal assistants to fight a group of impoverished Ecuadorian indigenous people in a historic oil contamination lawsuit, Chevron's CEO and Chairman of the Board John Watson will finally have to answer questions under oath about the environmental crimes committed by an oil company he recommended Chevron purchase. 

This, of course, assumes that U.S. Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan, who has sought to stop the Ecuadorians from enforcing their judgment, does not overrule a magistrate judge's decision issued yesterday, allowing the deposition to go forward. 

As the architect of the plan to purchase Texaco in 2001, Watson knew about Texaco's admission that it had dumped 16 billion gallons of toxic production water into the Ecuador rainforest's waterways. He knew about the 900 unlined pits that Texaco built to store pure crude. He knew about the internal audits Texaco conducted that showed massive contamination.  Yet, he pushed the merger and, as a result, inherited the largest environmental lawsuit in the world's history and urged a trial in Ecuador, only later to cry foul when he, his lawyers and his private investigative firm, Kroll, failed to undermine the Ecuadorian judicial system. 

It is about time that Chevron's highest ranking officer speak to the injustices that Texaco committed and Chevron tried to hide in Ecuador's rainforest.

Below is a statement issued by the Ecuadorians who won a $19 billion judgment against Chevron and are seeking to enforce that judgment in Argentina, Canada, Brazil and Ecuador.


Kroll official also must answer questions about Chevron bribery

Chevron CEO John S. Watson, who perhaps more than anyone knew about the grim history of deliberate and negligent dumping of oil and toxic chemicals by his company into the soil and streams of Ecuador’s Amazon region, will not escape his day in court. 

A magistrate appointed in the long running lawsuit brought by Chevron in New York in the aftermath of a $19 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador ruled today that Watson must be deposed by the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case.   He likely will be deposed later this month.

“There is little doubt that Mr. Watson has relevant knowledge,” said Magistrate James Francis, noting that Watson led the company’s successful merger of with Texaco in 2002, well after the suit was filed by indigenous Ecuadorians.  Their lands and livelihoods were disrupted and health endangered by Texaco’s dumping billions of gallons of waste in the Amazon valley of northern Ecuador over more than 30 years.  The ruling is here.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV denied motions by Chevron to block depositions of Watson and also from an official from the corporate spy firm Kroll, which was implicated in a bribery scheme in which an attorney from Chevron and an unnamed Kroll official provided a cache of cash to a corrupt provincial judge in Ecuador, Alberto Guerra, paying him for a failed effort to influence the judge who ultimately decided the case and assessed the huge judgment against the oil company.  A recorded transcript of that meeting can be found here and a news release recounting it here.

The lawyer, Andres Rivero, and the corporate investigator brought $20,000 – the Kroll official called it “money that's in the suitcase” --to pay Guerra for testimony against the plaintiffs, as revealed in recordings made by a Kroll operative in Ecuador and attached to a recent motion filed in the court in New York.    That meeting occurred on July 13, 2012, in Quito.

Judge Francis also found that an unnamed official for the oil and gas division of Kroll also must appear for depositions.  It was an uncommon victory for the plaintiffs in the New York case where presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan has kept his thumb heavily on the scale on behalf of the oil company, said Pablo Fajardo, lead counsel for the Ecuadorians who brought the case.  “Now CEO Watson and Kroll’s investigator can confirm what we already know:  that Chevron’s bullying and bribery  is part of a strategy hatched in Ecuador even before the ruling to avoid paying for remediation and the health and other needs of the affected people,” Fajardo said.


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