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.