Monday, February 23, 2015

Donziger to Wall Street Journal: The Real Fraud Is Chevron's Jurisdictional Shell Game

Reposted from The Chevron Pit

The Wall Street Journal today prominently featured a letter from attorney Steven Donziger criticizing Chevron for engaging in a jurisdictional shell game to evade paying the environmental judgment in its chosen forum of Ecuador. The judgment was confirmed unanimously by Ecuador's Supreme Court in 2013 after eight years of trial and three years of appellate proceedings.

According to Donziger's letter,

The real fraud in the Ecuador case is Chevron's litigation shell game. After agreeing to jurisdiction in Ecuador, Chevron sold its remaining assets there. Chevron then returned to the same U.S. court where it had blocked the original lawsuit to try to prevent enforcement in this country. That forced the villagers to try to collect their judgment in Canada and Brazil. But Chevron claims its assets there are immunized because they are held by wholly owned subsidiaries.

Given that Chevron operates outside the U.S. only through its wholly owned subsidiaries, under the company's theory the villagers – after 22 years of litigation – will never collect the first dollar of their judgment anywhere. That is a mockery of the rule of law.

Donziger also charged that Chevron for years had kept "a litigation bazooka" pointed at the head of James Russell DeLeon, a financier who had been one of the lead supporters of the villagers in their fight to hold Chevron accountable. DeLeon settled with Chevron last week as a result of a separate retaliatory litigation the oil giant filed against him in Gibraltar, where he maintains a residence.

The full text of a statement released by the villagers in response to the DeLeon-Chevron settlement can be read at the bottom of this press release. In short, while we are sad to see such a strong supporter bow out, the reality is that Chevron's pressure of DeLeon resulted in a huge gift to the villagers that will come in the form of more funds for their court-ordered environmental clean-up.

For Mr. DeLeon, let us be clear: we appreciate what you did. We know you were motivated primarily by the need to deliver justice to vulnerable people. Your support has been critical.

In his WSJ letter, Donziger also emphasized the underlying evidence against Chevron:

Technical evidentiary reports submitted during the eight-year trial in Chevron's chosen forum of Ecuador confirm that for decades the company deliberately discharged billions of gallons of oil-laden waste into rivers and streams relied on by indigenous groups for their drinking water and fishing. Eight appellate judges in total affirmed the findings, including five justice on the country's Supreme Court who in 2013 issued a unanimous 222-page decision that meticulously documented extensive pollution at hundreds of former well sites.

The overwhelming scientific evidence against Chevron – most of it produced by Chevron in dozens of evidentiary reports – should never be forgotten as the villagers proceed to try to collect their judgment.

The full text of Donziger's letter to the WSJ can be read here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Top Ten List of Chevron's Most Outrageous Comments on Its Ecuador Disaster

Reposted from The Chevron Pit

Once evidence emerged that their client was guilty of dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste in Ecuador's rainforest, Chevron's gargantuan "team" of lawyers and consultants just couldn't seem to stop stepping on themselves.

We therefore decided to compile just some of the company's most moronic comments relating to its efforts to try to sleaze out of taking responsibility for its man-made disaster in the rainforest. Remember that three layers of courts and nine judges in Chevron's chosen forum of Ecuador have confirmed the company's $9.5 billion liability, but CEO John Watson still refuses to pay up.

Since there are so many startlingly obtuse comments from Watson and other Chevron employees and lawyers related to the company's toxic dumping in Ecuador, we promise that more such lists will be presented on this site in the coming months. Based on what we have seen so far, the second list of nutty Chevron comments will be almost as wacked out as the one below.

We also wanted to take this opportunity to offer a special shout-out to Sylvia Garrigo, the only Chevron employee to have placed two comments on our first Chevron Top Ten list. Once Sylvia became the public face of Chevron during an unflattering interview in 2009 on 60 Minutes, she seems to have disappeared into the bowels of company headquarters in California.

For now, here is the Top Ten List of Chevron's Most Outrageous Comments On Its Ecuador Disaster:

10. "The short answer is, it will end when the plaintiffs' lawyers give up."

Chevron CEO John Watson to journalist Christopher Helman of Forbes magazine when asked about his plan to end the Ecuador litigation. (Published on March 4, 2013.)

9. "There is danger is paying too much attention to fairness."

Chevron Lawyer Clarke Hunter to the Supreme Court of Canada, December 11, 2014. Chevron had ordered Hunter to try to block an attempt by Ecuadorian villagers to seize Chevron's assets in Canada to force the company to comply with the Ecuador judgment.

8. "The plaintiffs are really irrelevant. They always were irrelevant."

Chevron lawyer Doak Bishop of the American law firm King & Spalding to three private investor arbitrators in a closed-door proceeding where the transcript was later made public. Chevron was trying to make the preoposterous claim that it is entitled to a taxpayer-funded bailout of its pollution liability in Ecuador -- paid for, at least in part, by the very people it poisoned in the rainforest.

7. "We can't let little countries screw around with big companies like this."

Chevron lobbyist in Washington, D.C. quoted anonymously by Michael Isikoff in Newsweek magazine, August 4, 2008.

6. "Ecuador: the next major threat to America?"

Chevron public relations consultant Sam Singer -- the company's own Baghdad Bob -- in a 2008 memo outlining "message themes"designed to distract the media from reporting on the environmental disaster.

5. "You are exploiting poor people who are suffering. That's outrageous."

Chevron lawyer Reed Brodsky to Karen Hinton, longtime U.S. spokesperson for the rainforest communities, in a panel discussion at a legal conference in New York on February 5, 2015. Brodsky lashed out at Hinton when she showed the audience photos of some of the villagers who have contracted cancer in the area where Chevron operated.

4. "Our L-T strategy is to demonize Donziger."

Chevron public relations consultant Chris Gidez in a 2009 email to company officials. "Donziger" refers to Steven Donziger, the longtime U.S. legal advisor to the affected communities. Chevron has spent an estimated $1 billion and used dozens of law firms and public relations companies to execute this strategy.

3. "We will fight until hell freezes over -- and then skate it out on the ice."

Chevron General Counsel Charles James in a speech in 2008 to law students at the University of California, Berkeley.

2. "I have make-up on, and there's naturally occurring oil on my face. Doesn't mean that I'm going to get sick from it."

Chevron lawyer Sylvia Garrigo responding to a question from Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes about the contamination from the company's abandoned waste pits in Ecuador in a segment that aired on May 3, 2009. Garrigo, now Chevron's Manager of Shareholder Engagement, is no longer used by the company to speak publicly about the Ecuador litigation. Garrigo's response to Pelley is widely considered one of the more moronic comments by a corporate spokesperson in history.

1. "We don't want to be in any court, must less a court with respect to this kind of claim."

Chevron lawyer Sylvia Garrigo to Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes, May 3, 2009. Pelley had asked Garrigo why the company wanted the trial be held in Ecuador, and then decided during the trial -- with the evidence against it mounting -- that it suddenly did not want the trial to be in Ecuador.

Monday, February 9, 2015

American Lawyer's Michael Goldhaber Under Fire Again for Biased Coverage of Ecuador Case

Reposted from The Chevron Pit

The ethics of American Lawyer reporter Michael Goldhaber are under fire – yet again – for his one-sided coverage in favor of Chevron in the Ecuador pollution dispute.

Goldhaber last week used his platform as a columnist for American Lawyer to become a full-on advocate for Chevron in its demonization campaign against Steven Donziger, the American human rights attorney who helped to hold the company accountable in its chosen forum of Ecuador.

Donziger worked tenaciously for years to help rainforest communities in Ecuador win a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in 2011. Part of the evidence was an admission by Texaco executive Rodrigo Perez Pallares that his company deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into rainforest waterways relied on by indigenous groups for their drinking water, bathing, and fishing. Chevron has used at least 60 law firms and 2,000 lawyers in what thus far has been a futile effort to grind down and defeat the affected communities.

Goldhaber – who has never traveled to Ecuador and who skipped the entire eight-year trial proceedings there – urged that Donziger be "disciplined"by the bar association for his supposed violations in winning the historic judgment in the South American nation where Chevron fought to hold the trial. (The affected communities had filed the original case in New York but Chevron refused to litigate there.)

In reaching his conclusion, Goldhaber relies worshipfully on the highly disputed "findings" of a U.S. trial judge (Lewis A. Kaplan) who invited Chevron to file a retaliatory civil racketeering case against Donziger and then had it assigned to himself. Judge Kaplan then ran roughshod over international law by taking the unprecedented stop of trying to overturn the decisions of three layers of courts in Ecuador (including the country's Supreme Court) that agreed with Donziger's version of events and affirmed the judgment against Chevron.

Goldhaber again ignores key facts that undermine his analysis and shed light on his own ethical shortcomings.

One key fact ignored by Goldhaber is that eight Ecuadorian appellate judges agree with Donziger and have rejected Chevron's fraud allegations. Goldhaber also ignored that Ecuador's Supreme Court in 2013 affirmed the judgment in a 5-0 decision. An English translation of that 222-page ruling is available here but it cannot be found on any of Am Law's numerous websites.

The trial and appellate judges in Ecuador's civil law system (which requires a de novo appellate review) relied on 105 technical evidentiary reports, 64,000 chemical sampling results, and Chevron's own damning internal audits to affirm the liability against the company. In short, the courts reinforced what we have been saying for years: Chevron created an "Amazon Chernobyl" in the jungle that has killed or threatens to kill thousands of people from cancer and other oil-related diseases.

Contrast those reasoned rulings with the utterly rebellious decision of a U.S. judge on whom Goldhaber relies. Judge Kaplan excluded all evidence of Chevron's contamination. Much of the damning evidence documenting Chevron's wrongdoing and corruption can be read in Donziger's counterclaims – which, not surprisingly, Judge Kaplan refused to hear and which Goldhaber ignores.

Goldhaber also applies a double standard in his analysis.

Goldhaber is silent about Chevron's flagrant ethical violations in dumping toxic waste on the ancestral lands of 30,000 vulnerable Ecuadorian citizens. Instead, he focuses obsessively on the supposed ethical violations of one American lawyer as seen through the lens of that lawyer's adversaries at Chevron who have spent untold millions to try to demonize him.

If Goldhaber had even a slightly balanced view, he would urge the Department of Justice to investigate Chevron for lying to courts and its own shareholders about the deliberate toxic dumping. He might also ask the DOJ to examine Chevron's illegal $2 million payment to its star fact witness, its manipulation of soil samples during the trial, its threats to put judges in jail if they didn't rule in its favor, and its attempts to bribe Ecuador's government to quash the claims of the indigenous communities.

And he might might question why Chevron refuses to release a critical expert report that proves it star witness in Kaplan's trial lied in open court.

Much of the detail of Chevron's toxic dumping, fraudulent remediation, and other misconduct in Ecuador is documented in the briefs appealing Judge Kaplan's decision, available here and here. Donziger also recently published a powerful defense of the case in another Am Law newspaper whose editors obviously take their ethical duties more seriously than does Goldhaber.

Paul Paz y Miño from the environmental group Amazon Watch reacted to Goldhaber's latest attack on Donziger in a comment on the Am Law website. Unlike Goldhaber, Paz y Mino has been to the disaster zone in Ecuador on numerous occasions.

Here's what he had to say (with minor edits) about Goldhaber's latest broadside against Donziger:

The reason Donziger has not been subject to bar discipline is because the "facts" as determined by the courts of Ecuador completely support his version of events...

Consider what Goldhaber ignores in his analysis:

"First, eight appellate judges in Chevron's chosen forum of Ecuador affirmed the finding of liability against the company based largely on Chevron's own technical reports and internal audit reports, which prove the company was responsible for what could be the worst oil-related contamination on the planet.

"Second, contrary to Goldhaber's assertions, the video outtakes of Donziger mouthing off at Ecuador's courts prove nothing other than Chevron sliced and diced them in the editing room to make Donziger look at bad as possible. Donziger's comment that "it's dirty" in Ecuador reflected his frustration at evidence that Chevron's lawyers were corrupting the court process, bribing witnesses, and trying to sabotage the proceedings"

What is clear is that Chevron had so little confidence in its own evidence that on the eve of its RICO trial it dropped all damages claims against Donziger to avoid a jury of impartial fact finders.

Paz y Miño also explained that Judge Kaplan ran a "one-sided trial" where he denied Donziger and his clients a jury and excluded the overwhelming evidence of Chevron's contamination. He continues:

"Goldhaber has been predicting the imminent demise of the case for years, but it just keeps on going. Like all lawyers and all human beings, Donziger is flawed. But he deserves credit for executing a brilliant strategy " against one of the worst perpetrators of corporate human rights abuses our country has ever seen. He did it by creating a new model of human rights litigation focusing on forcing private companies to be held accountable. That's why 43 NGOs signed a letter supporting the effort, and 35 law scholars from nine countries have signed an amicus brief urging reversal of Judge Kaplan's decision."

As for the case, Paz y Miño says it is "just a matter of time" before Chevron's "lifetime of litigation" strategy goes belly up. He writes,

In the meantime, Goldhaber should chill out and let courts that actually look at all of the evidence continue to resolve the relevant issues that are outstanding"
Which brings us to Goldhaber's apparent conflict of interest. Goldhaber has long been enamored with some of the hyper-aggressive litigators at Chevron's lead outside law firm, Gibson Dunn. This is the firm that used 114 lawyers to fight Donziger when he represented himself pro se for several months during the racketeering case.

Gibson Dunn also ran into ethical problems when judges not named Kaplan were exposed to some of the firm's tactics. See here for how a federal judge in Oregon fined Chevron because of Gibson Dunn's harrassment of a small non-profit organization that tried to help the villagers.

Goldhaber was a member of the committee at American Lawyer Media that in recent years crowned Gibson Dunn its "litigation firm of the year" partly for executing the demonization strategy against Donziger. And Goldhaber still has not corrected the numerous inaccuracies in Gibson Dunn's manipulated video outtakes from the award-winning documentary film Crude that have been posted on the Am Law website for several years.

As for Donziger, let's give him at least a little credit even if Goldhaber won't. He has survived what is probably the most well-financed corporate retaliation targeting a single lawyer in history. Dozens of civil society organizations are backing the case and criticizing Chevron's abusive litigation tactics.

Largely through the use of a new model of human rights litigation, Donziger and his partners have crawled deep under Chevron's skin. Chevron remains furious that Donziger connected the skills of sophisticated lawyers worldwide – prominent firms such as Lenczner Slaght, Patton Boggs and Keker Van Nest – to serve the interests of impoverished indigenous groups in the rainforest.

Such alliances never were anticipated by Chevron's business planners – including current Chevron CEO John Watson – when they took a calculated risk to buy a company (Texaco) that they knew had systematically dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into the forest.

The fact Chevron now uses 60 law firms to fight the villagers is a good thing. Paying all of those expensive lawyers raises the cost to company management of its misconduct and has produced a veritable rebellion against CEO Watson among many of the company's shareholders."

Chevron also has dispatched at least 150 private investigators from Kroll and other agencies to track and spy on Donziger, his family, and his colleagues as they travel around the world. That's not a good thing, because it is an obvious violation of the professional rules. Again, silence from American Lawyer's self-annointed in-house arbiter of legal ethics.

The degree to which Michael Goldhaber deprives American Lawyer's readers of critical facts to manipulate them toward his point of view is stunning – even taking into account that he is an opinion columnist. Part of the problem for American Lawyer is that Goldhaber's "opinions" are often the only coverage its readers can get from the company about the Ecuador case.

For Mr. Goldhaber and Chevron, the lesson about ethics is simple: those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Friday, January 23, 2015

In Davos, Chevron Crowned Worst Corporation of the Year for Ecuador Disaster

Reposted from The Chevron Pit

Chevron's battered image over its Ecuador disaster has taken another big hit – this time in Davos in front of the world's political and policy elite attending the World Economic Forum. That's where Chevron CEO John Watson was crowned today with the humiliating Public Eye award given annually to the world's worst corporation.

Actually, Chevron won the Public Eye award way back in 2006 for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways in Ecuador, decimating five indigenous groups and causing a severe outbreak of cancer and other oil-related diseases. It is a powerful illustration of Chevron's warped culture that almost ten years later the same company wins the same award for the same atrocious conduct.

This year, Public Eye upped the ante by giving Chevron a "lifetime achievement" honor for its continued refusal to clean up its toxic pollution in the South American nation despire various court orders that it do so. (Chevron operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992 under the Texaco brand.)

According to a press release published today by the American environmental group Amazon Watch:

Prominent Swiss environmental organizations have crowned Chevron with an embarrassing "lifetime achievement" award for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into streams and rivers in Ecuador's rainforest relied on by local indigenous communities for their water.

Several independent health evaluations submitted to courts have confirmed high rates of childhood leukemia and other cancers in the area where Chevron operated. More than 2,000 people are estimated to have died from cancer with another 10,000 currently at risk of contracting cancer because of continued exposure to carcinogenic chemicals in surface waters, groundwater, food, and in the air.

"Chevron is a recidivist toxic polluter that deserves condemnation from the world community for its horrific acts against the vulnerable indigenous peoples of Ecuador," said Paul Paz y Mino, of the U.S.-based environmental and human rights group Amazon Watch.

The full copy of the Amazon Watch press release can be read here.

Chevron beat out several competitors for what is surely seen inside corporate headquarters as an unwanted accolade. Those challenging it included Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, and Gazprom. Open voting took place on the internet.

In a sign of the growing support around the world for the indigenous communities in Ecuador, Chevron received more than twice as many votes as the second-place finisher. Just a few months ago, citizens from 20 countries on five continents organized a day of protest against the oil giant's failure to adhere to basic environmental standards in the communities where it operates.

We of course are all too familiar with Chevron's questionable conduct in destroying a large swath of Ecuador's Amazon. The company not only deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into the forest, it has fought for years to evade paying a court-ordered $9.5 billion judgment that it clean up its mess. Locals call the disaster the Amazon Chernobyl.

As Amazon Watch pointed out in its press release, Chevron has engaged in what is likely the most well-funded corporate retaliation campaign in history. It has admitted using at least 60 law firms and 2,000 lawyers to attack and try to silence those who have held it accountable.

Those targeted by Chevron with harrassing lawsuits include community leaders, their lawyers and financial supporters, environmental activists, bloggers who expose Chevron's bad acts, and even ]Chevron's own shareholders who have questioned company management over its strategy.

In a further sign of Watson's eroding credibility, Chevron's management team doesn't seem to have gotten much in return for spending large wads of shareholder cash to go after its perceived enemies.

Nine separate judges in Chevron's chosen forum of Ecuador reviewed the evidence and affirmed the company's liability. That was after top Chevron executive Rodrigo Perez Pallares admitted during trial that the company dumped billions of gallons of benzene-laden toxic waste into streams and rivers.

There's also the little problem for Chevron of the 105 technical expert reports submitted to the court that demonstrate extensive toxic contamination at 100% of the company's former well sites. Not to mention the additional problem of the videotapes of Chevron's technical workers secretly pre-inspecting waste sites to try to figure out ways to hide the contamination from the court.

As Amazon Watch underscored, Chevron fought for years to move the lawsuit from U.S. federal court to Ecuador where it though it could engineer a quick dismissal. The company even worked with U.S. embassy officials in Quito to craft a package of "debt relief" for Ecuador's President with the hope that he would quash the legal claims of the country's citizens.

When that plot failed, the company simply stripped its assets from the country and high-tailed it back to the United States.

Again, from Amazon Watch:

When the evidence against it mounted in the ensuing trial in Ecuador, Chevron stripped its assets from Ecuador and then went back on its word and began to attack the very courts it had previously praised. Chevron also returned to the same U.S. court where it blocked the original lawsuit and filed a civil racketeering case against indigenous leaders and their lawyers.

Chevron's sale of its assets in Ecuador forced the communities to try to seize company assets in jurisdictions such as Canada to force it to comply with the Ecuador court order. But Chevron is now arguing its assets in Canada should be immunized from judgment because they are held in wholly-owned subsidiaries, even though 100% of the profits from those subsidiaries flow to Chevron shareholders.

By engaging in a jurisdictional shell game with courts around the world, Chevron is accelerating the death and suffering of untold numbers of people in Ecuador due its shoddy operational practices and refusal to abide by court orders. Judges must ensure that these Chevron games stop once and for all.

Congratulations to the Swiss environmental organizations for their decision. We cannot think of a more deserving recipient than Chevron for Public Eye's award.

(For more background on Chevron's human rights violations in Ecuador, see this summary of the evidence, this article in Rolling Stone magazine, and this video.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Courts Deep-Six Details of Chevron's Relationship to Shady Characters in Cover-Up of Ecuador Environmental Disaster

Reposted from The Huffington Post

After more than two decades of litigation, Chevron continues to protect a series of shady characters who have been instrumental in trying to sabotage a legal case brought by indigenous groups over environmental damage in Ecuador's rainforest.

No wonder. In the case, Chevron admitted that its predecessor Texaco dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into rivers and streams relied on by local indigenous groups for their drinking water, bathing, and fishing. Several peer-reviewed studies have documented dramatically higher rates of cancer in the region ravaged by the oil company.

Chevron wants the case to disappear and has paid big bucks to those willing to try to make it happen.

For example:

Pressing questions about these individuals and the issues associated with them remain unanswered largely because U.S. courts and a corporate arbitration panel haven't pushed Chevron to address them. That's too bad given that the answers obviously could be critical to the various ongoing legal proceedings that are part of Chevron's avowed "lifetime of litigation" strategy.

Among those proceedings:

Enforcement actions where the villagers are trying to collect Chevron assets in Canada and Brazil to force compliance with their winning a $9.5 billion judgment that the oil company - in an illustration of its arrogance - now simply refuses to pay, even though it insisted the trial take place in Ecuador.

An extraordinarily important appeal by the villagers and their counsel before a New York federal appellate court. The villagers are seeking to reverse a non-jury decision by a controversial U.S. trial judge that condemned Ecuador's entire judicial system as unworthy of respect based largely on Chevron's corrupt evidence.

Here are just a few of the questions that, if answered, would tell us a great deal more about the lengths to which Chevron has gone to evade accountability for its toxic dumping in Ecuador:

  • Is Chevron renegotiating its two-year, $2 million contract with the self-admitted corrupt Ecuador judge (Alberto Guerra) whose testimony that a "bribe" occurred has unraveled completely?
  • What is in a 2014 expert forensic report that appears to prove that Guerra lied and that Ecuador Judge Nicholas Zambrano testified truthfully when he said he and he alone wrote the judgment? Why are Chevron and a group of corporate arbitration lawyers so scared to release the report?
  • Is Chevron still paying Diego Borja, an Ecuadorian, who worked for the company during the trial and admitted on tape that he had evidence that would prove Chevron's guilt?
  • Is Chevron still employing or paying Borja's wife, Sara Portilla? At one point, Chevron paid her 5,000 per month even though Borja admitted in a deposition he didn't know what his own wife did for the oil giant. (See pages 119-121.)
  • Where is Wayne Hansen, the American drug felon caught lying to and secretly videotaping an Ecuador judge for Chevron? Hansen fled the country with Chevron's apparent assistance to avoid a subpoena. He was last seen living in a beach town in Peru. See this Courthouse News article.

Let's take a closer look at each of these individuals for an explanation of why they are important to the company's campaign to sabotage the legal claims of the indigenous communities that held it accountable.


Alberto Guerra

Guerra is Chevron's star witness. He is also undeniably corrupt. Even Guerra admits it, as this legal brief explains.

Chevron needs to disclose all the details of the package of cash and benefits it has paid to Guerra and his family in exchange for the corrupt testimony. Chevron moved his family and his son's family to the U.S., paying for all of their daily expenses. Chevron should disclose whether it's renegotiating the two-year, $2 million contract (signed in 2013) with Guerra. Company executives may be forced eventually to reveal how much they have paid Guerra in any asset seizure trial, but that is not likely to occur until late 2015 or 2016.

Before testifying for Chevron in U.S. court in October 2014, Guerra admitted to having taken bribes in 14 unrelated court cases in Ecuador. He also changed his "bribery" story about the Ecuador judgment at least three times during monetary negotiations with Chevron as new forensic evidence emerged to disprove his prior claims. Each time Guerra changed his story, he negotiated more money from Chevron. His personal diary and emails - which he said corroborated his testimony - mysteriously went missing.

U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan allowed Guerra's testimony to blight New York's federal courthouse. But Judge Kaplan did not require Chevron to answer any questions about the tainted relationship, including details of a recording between Guerra and a Chevron attorney who paid him $20,000 out of a suitcase to begin the negotiations for his testimony. It is a violation of the ethical rules to allow a fact witness to be paid in this manner.

Corporate Arbitration Lawyers

J. Christopher Racich is a forensic expert hired by the Government of Ecuador to review the evidence regarding the oil giant's erroneous allegation that someone other than the Ecuador judge wrote the judgment. It appears from legal filings in a related international arbitration claim that this expert's findings disprove Chevron's allegations. See pages 1 & 32-40.

However, Chevron and the corporate arbitration lawyers hearing the case have blocked the release of the actual report.

In 2009, Chevron filed an arbitration claim against the Government of Ecuador to try to shift its clean-up liability to Ecuadorian taxpayers. The arbitration panel's proceedings are completely private, a fact that is most disturbing to the Ecuadorians, as well as to Public Citizen in the U.S., a good government advocacy group that has been urging for reform of corporate arbitration because arbitration generally favors corporations versus the governments sued.

The villagers whose claims are supposedly being "re-litigated" by the panel (which consists of three private lawyers who have been paid millions in fees by the parties) have no ability to pry information or legal documents from the panel. However, Chevron and/or the corporate arbitration lawyers could easily agree to the report's release. But both have a hard time exhibiting such candor.

The attorneys for Ecuador's government have claimed publicly that Chevron's charge "has now been shown to be false" by the contents of this critical expert report that is still being hidden from the public and from other courts.


Diego Borja

Chevron also should address questions about its exorbitant payments to Diego Borja and his wife Sara Portilla. Both worked for Chevron in Ecuador in various capacities during the eight-year trial there.

A 2010 discovery motion submitted by the villagers seeking the sordid details about Chevron's relationship with Borja and Portilla is pending before a California federal court. Curiously, more than three years after oral argument on the motion,the court has yet to rule. There is no conceivable explanation for such a long delay.

Borja has admitted on tape to having evidence of Chevron's corruption, its creation of dummy laboratories in Ecuador to dupe the court, and other malfeasance that he said would result in Chevron losing the case if released publicly. To deceive the court, he also admitted that on behalf of Chevron he switched out toxic soil samples from the company's former well sites and exchanged them for clean ones during the trial.

Portilla submitted the fake samples to the Ecuador court as an "employee" of what should have been an independent lab but was in fact an entity created and controlled by Chevron.

In mid-2009, Chevron negotiated with Borja a similar payout as the one it later negotiated with the crooked judge Guerra. Earlier that year, Chevron met with Borja and Hansen (the American drug dealer who was working with Borja in Ecuador) about secretly filming the presiding Ecuador judge. The two surreptitiously taped the trial judge with a spy watch and pen during a meeting arranged under false pretenses. Chevron later released the videos to the news media, claiming they showed the judge agreeing to take bribes.

In return for the videotapes, Chevron paid to relocate the Borja family to Houston. The company paid their income taxes, fees for the lawyer who obtained them political asylum under false pretenses, and covering their housing and living costs. By September 2010, Borja and his wife had been paid $2 million. Chevron should disclose how much more they have been paid as it absolutely bears on their credibility and that of the company.

Sara Portilla

Part of the $2 million income to the Borja family was a $5,000 monthly "retainer" for Portilla. In a deposition, Borja could not describe what his wife Portilla was doing for Chevron to justify her $5,000 retainer. See here and here.

What we do know is that Portilla, along with her husband Borja, were key to Chevron's efforts to falsify evidence. This press release reveals more about how Chevron manipulated evidence.

This "chain of custody" record submitted to the Ecuador court dated March 15, 2006, clearly shows that Borja turned over contamination samples to Portilla, a representative of Severn Trent Labs, the U.S. laboratory Chevron used to test contamination samples. Portilla's title is listed as Project Manager and her contact information is listed as a Severn Trent Labs company email address.

This handoff to Portilla, who also worked for Chevron in Ecuador at the same time, compromises the "chain of custody" of the soil and water samples, providing one piece of evidence that Chevron's labs were not independent.

Other evidence also points to the lack of independence of Chevron's labs. See here.


Wayne Hansen

No one knows the whereabouts of the mysterious Wayne Hansen, the convicted American felon and drug dealer who pretended to be a "businessman" interested in cleaning up the contamination. He partnered with Borja to secretly videotape the Ecuador judge under false pretenses.

Last we heard he had fled to Peru months after the New York Times blew up the scheme by reporting that Hansen was a convicted felon and con artist. Also, after closer examination of the videotapes, several news outlets wrote that the videos did not show any bribe, despite Chevron's incendiary charges to the contrary. See here.

The little we do know is from a few emails obtained during court discovery. Chevron's investigators tracked down Hansen in a Los Angeles hospital after he had sent them an email complaining that Borja, his partner, had been paid handsomely for his espionage efforts but he, Hansen, had not. See this Courthouse News story.

The emails link Hansen to a private investigative firm hired by Chevron. Hansen sent the first message, bearing the subject line "dooped ?????", weeks before Chevron released the videos in late August 2009.

"I have been waiting for your call, you said you would call me .... It seems that the oil co has cut a deal with Diego [Borja] and I have not heard a word from anyone but Diego. What am I to think? ...

"As I can see the window of life coming to a close I will not hold back. I need to hear from a real player with a plan for Wayne [Hansen]. If I do not hear from the oil co. by July 17, 09 I must think I have been left out and I am to do what and think what ... I have been duped."

In late 2010, about two months after the Government of Ecuador obtained a subpoena for Hansen, he sent a similarly enigmatic email to the Mason Group, a private investigative firm based in the San Francisco area.

"I am in a nice place where you guys from SF might like to visit or just hang it up and live like a king for 1,200 a month. ... The little beach town is Moncora in northern Peru and the waves are the best I have ever seen. ... come on down. [L]ots of fish to cook up. ... Best Regards and GOD Bless you Wayne Hansen." [Ellipses and brackets in original.]

None of the questions about Borja, Portilla and Hansen's relationship to Chevron have been answered in part because California Federal Magistrate Judge Nathanial Cousins has yet to rule on a 2010 discovery motion. We are not sure what Judge Cousins is up to, but he did take the time to attend a party with Chevron's and Borja's attorneys the night before the motion hearing. We know this because he joked with them about the party as the hearing began.

From the court transcript:

Judge Cousins: "I regret to inform that there are no Mai Tais or ice cream left over from Judge Chen's party last night, but we'll do our best to accommodate you."

Chevron-paid attorney: "You made it here, your Honor."

Judge Cousins: "Yes. Yes, despite long odds. We've got two motions pending, as well as some follow-up on the protocol that we discussed last week, by telephone .... I suggest we start with that. So if we could, start there. And everyone speak slowly, because we are still recovering from yesterday."

Partying aside, all of our questions could be answered if U.S. courts and the corporate arbitration panel would force Chevron to turn over documents, as Judge Kaplan forced the Ecuadorians and their lawyers to do four years ago in the company's retaliatory racketeering case. Judge Kaplan even ordered an Ecuadorian to immediately turn over his laptop when he admitted to having one in his possession during the U.S. trial. The laptop produced no evidence, only photographs of the man's children.

It did, however, show the power of a single corporation to get what it wants from the federal judiciary.

Apparently, helping impoverished villagers who have been decimated by an American oil company in faraway lands is not a priority for the federal judiciary in the world's greatest democracy.