Thursday, February 11, 2010

The 'Chevron Pit' Pulls No Punches, Picks Apart Pate's Playbook

The 'Chevron Pit' blog posted a powerful new article today analyzing Chevron's use of increasingly desperate legal and public relations tactics in its legal fight to evade responsibility for poisoning the rainforest home of tens of thousands of people in Ecuador.

The post picks apart why exactly the oil giant would put its General Counsel Hewitt Pate "squarely in the middle of what should have been a low-level food fight between the long-warring parties" and wonders aloud "about the judgment of Chevron's legal department, where it seems to be a job requirement to prove your machismo through frontline interviews."

It makes for juicy reading, delving into the (not so-?) surprising background of Chevron's top lawyers, including Deputy General Counsel Jim Haynes, who the post characterizes as "one of the Bush Administration "torture lawyers" under potential indictment in Spain and now unable to travel abroad for fear of arrest." Ouch.

It is rather amazing that the San Francisco Bay Area-based business manages to project such a green granola image to its employees, customers, and the general public, when its General Counsel's office and executive leadership is filled with right-wing political ideologues. Of course, regardless of Chevron's public pronouncements, the communities in which it operates have unfortunately seen the company's true face all too often.

The post concludes in strident and indignant tones, which ring quite true to me:

Chevron must realize that the old days of using political influence to quash legal cases in far-flung countries is winding down. In Ecuador, those days are clearly over. In the United States, the method doesn't work. The fact Chevron uses its new general counsel's limited credibility to distort basic facts shows how "quaint" Chevron is compared to its industry peers, most of whom (perhaps not coincidentally) reported far better financial results last quarter. "Quaint" is how former Bush Administration lawyers such as Chevron's Haynes and Alberto Gonzales – folks who never served in the armed forces themselves -- used to describe the Geneva Conventions when justifying those "harsh interrogation tactics" that the world considered torture. Most Americans would consider such talk profoundly unpatriotic, but in Chevron's legal department that's probably what passes for typical chatter around the water cooler. That, and the excitement generated by the Sarah Palin sighting at the latest Tea Party convention.

Since lost lives don't seem to have much impact on the thinking at Chevron, how many billions of dollars will have to be garnished before Chevron's Board wakes up to this internal hazard?
Go read the whole thing, and keep a watchful eye out for retaliation from Chevron's ruthless legal and PR machine.

– Han

Born and raised in Baltimore, Han Shan is a human rights and environmental justice campaigner living in New York City. He is an organizer with the Clean Up Ecuador campaign for Amazon Watch.

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