Chevron wins US legal battle against Ecuadorian court’s $9bn ruling

THE AMAZON PINK DOLPHIN’S VOICE

SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras:05/03/2014 

Chevron wins US legal battle against Ecuadorian court’s $9bn ruling

District judge denounces ‘Robin Hood defense’ and ‘corrupt means’ of lawyers for rainforest’s indigenous people

  • John Watson, CEO of Chevron Corp, said his company won a 'resounding victory' after a judge ruled in favour of the company and against an Ecuadorean court.
John Watson, CEO of Chevron Corp, said his company won a ‘resounding victory’ after a judge ruled in favour of the company and against an Ecuadorean court. Photograph:Rick Wilking/Reuters

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked US courts from being used to collect a $9bn Ecuadorean judgment against Chevron for rainforest damage, saying lawyers poisoned an honorable quest with their illegal and wrongful conduct.

“Justice is not served by inflicting injustice. The ends do not justify the means,” US district judge Lewis A Kaplan wrote. The judge said it was a sad outcome to have to rule that the Ecuadorean court judgment “was obtained by corrupt means”, because it will likely never be known whether there was a case to be made against the San Ramon, California-based oil company.

“It is distressing that the course of justice was perverted,” Kaplan wrote in a nearly 500-page ruling that followed a trial last year.

He said a New York City lawyer, Steven Donziger, and Ecuadorean lawyers corrupted the case in Ecuador by submitting fraudulent evidence, coercing a judge and arranging to write the multibillion-dollar judgment themselves by promising $500,000 to the Ecuadorean judge to rule in their favor.

Donziger, criticized heavily in the ruling, said he will seek an expedited appeal of “an appalling decision resulting from a deeply flawed proceeding”.

He said Kaplan was “wrong on the law and wrong on the facts”. He accused Kaplan of letting “his implacable hostility toward me, my Ecuadorean clients and their country infect his view of the case”.

In a statement, Chevron Corp called the decision “a resounding victory for Chevron and our stockholders” and said any court that respects the rule of law will find the Ecuadorean judgment “illegitimate and unenforceable”.

The case resulted from a long-running court battle between Amazon rainforest residents and oil companies.

In February 2011, a judge in Ecuador issued an $18bn judgment against Chevron in a lawsuit brought on behalf of 30,000 residents. The judgment was for environmental damage caused by Texaco during its operation of an oil consortium in the rainforest from 1972 to 1990. Chevron later bought Texaco.

Ecuador’s highest court last year upheld the verdict but reduced the judgment to about $9.5bn.

Chevron has long argued that a 1998 agreement Texaco signed with Ecuador after a $40m cleanup absolves it of liability. It claims Ecuador’s state-run oil company is responsible for much of the pollution in the oil patch that Texaco quit more than two decades ago.

The Ecuadorean plaintiffs said the cleanup was a sham and didn’t exempt third-party claims.

The decision came in a lawsuit Chevron brought in Manhattan against Donziger and two of his Ecuadorian clients to prevent any of them from profiting from what the oil company characterized as a fraud.

Kaplan on Tuesday barred Donziger and the other defendants from trying to collect the judgment through US courts and said they may not take any actions to profit from the judgment. He said any property Donziger or the other defendants receive as a result of the judgment anywhere in the world must be transferred toChevron. He also ordered them to pay Chevron’s legal costs.

A lawyer for Donziger, Richard Friedman, said the ruling was disappointing but not unexpected. He predicted it will be reversed on appeal.

Donziger’s appeals lawyer, Deepak Gupta, said Kaplan’s ruling amounted to “what is in effect a global anti-collection injunction that would preclude enforcement of a judgment from another country in every jurisdiction”. He said it was indistinguishable from a ruling by Kaplan in early 2011 banning collection of the judgment anywhere in the world. That decision was struck down on appeal.

During the juryless trial, Donziger acknowledged that he stood to make about $600m if the $9bn judgment was approved.

Donziger said in his statement Tuesday that his clients will try to collect the judgment in other countries. “The villagers deserve justice, and I am confident they will get it despite Chevron’s effort to flout the rule of law,” he said.

Donziger has been sued in New York state supreme court by attorneys Judith Kimerling and Kathryn Lee Crawford, who represent the Huaorani people, one of five groups of indigenous groups of people in an area of Ecuador harmed by oil exploration.

They allege that Donziger and other lawyers are aggressively trying to collect the judgment in places like Canada, Brazil and Argentina without ensuring any collected money makes it to the harmed populations.

Kimerling said the ruling Tuesday represented a “heartbreaking” turn in more than two decades of litigation and she fears Chevron will use the ruling to try to taint the credibility of the victims’ claims and jeopardize their rights to remedy.

She said the result was sad because it will prevent those living in the rainforest from being compensated for harms that continue to be felt. “The voice of the indigenous people has not been heard,” said Crawford, a Los Angeles lawyer.

Kaplan said in his decision that it did not matter if the efforts by the villagers came in a just pursuit.

“There is no ‘Robin Hood’ defense to illegal and wrongful conduct. And the defendants’ ‘this-is-the-way-it-is-done-in-Ecuador’ excuses – actually a remarkable insult to the people of Ecuador – do not help them,” he wrote. “The wrongful actions of Donziger and his Ecuadorian legal team would be offensive to the laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including – and they knew it.”

Source: The Guardian

US judge annuls Ecuador oil ruling against Chevron

Ecuadoreans protest against Chevron in New York, Oct 13The Ecuadoreans have taken their protests to the streets of New York

A judge in the US has ruled that lawyers representing Amazonian villagers used bribes to secure compensation worth billions of dollars from oil company Chevron in Ecuador.

The latest ruling means that the Amazonian villagers cannot use US courts to enforce the ruling against the American oil company.

Chevron had been found guilty in Ecuador of causing environmental damage to the Lago Agrio region.

The legal team says they will appeal.

In 2011, an Ecuadorean judge ordered Chevron to pay $18.2bn (£11.4bn) for “extensively polluting” the Lago Agrio region.

Ecuador’s highest court last year upheld the verdict against Chevron, but reduced the amount of compensation to $9.5bn.

The alleged environmental damage was done by Texaco between 1964 and 1990. Texaco was later acquired by Chevron.

The American oil firm has always maintained that it cleaned up the area before handing over the oil field to the Ecuadorean government.

It argued that it only lost the case because the legal team representing the villagers paid nearly $300,000 in bribes in Ecuador.

US district judge Lewis Kaplan in New York has now ruled that Steven Donziger’s legal team used “corrupt means” to win the 2011 case.

Chevron CEO John WatsonChevron’s CEO John Watson described the latest ruling as a “resounding victory”

Mr Kaplan described the evidence against Mr Donziger’s team as “voluminous”.

“Justice is not served by inflicting injustice,” he wrote in the ruling. “The ends do not justify the means. There is no ‘Robin Hood’ defence to illegal and wrongful conduct.”

Chevron’s chief executive, John Watson, hailed the ruling as “a resounding victory for Chevron and its shareholders”.

The legal team representing the Ecuadorean villagers have also sued Chevron in Brazil, Argentina and Canada.

But Chevron believes the US judge decision will help them fight their case in other courts.

Some 30,000 local residents, including five different Amazonian tribes, began the lawsuit against Texaco in 1993.

The plaintiffs say that the oil company knowingly dumped 18bn gallons (68bn litres) of toxic waste water and spilled 17m gallons of crude oil into the rainforest during its operations in north-east Ecuador.

They say the affected area covers 4,400 sq km (1,700 sq miles) on the border with Colombia.

Local residents believe the pollution has led to health problems such as cancer and birth defects.

Oil production map
 Source: BBC News

 

 

Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

Selvavidasinfronteras.wordpress.com

Editorial Committee

David Dunham

Arno Ambrosius

Gustavo López Ospina

Mariana Almeida

Pieter Jan Brouwer

Assistant: Emilia Romero

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 

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~ by FSVSF Admin on 5 March, 2014.

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