Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Roger Parloff's reporting for Fortune about Chevron's growing pollution liability in Ecuador – where he ignores devastating new evidence that the oil giant's defenses are unraveling – is on display yet again with a blog claiming that Brad Pitt has interest in making a movie about the litigation.
This is a great example of how a legal reporter misses the point. A good part of Chevron's Ecuador house is burning down, and Parloff focuses on the tricycle in the front yard.
Parloff's obvious sympathy for Chevron and his refusal to publish our letters calling him out for his errors has been well-documented on these pages and elsewhere, including in this post by activist-journalist Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch. By consistently engaging in reportorial hijinks when covering the historic case, Parloff deprives Fortune's readers of critical information and undermines his credibility and that of his employer.
Parloff's latest post was about Pitt's supposed interest in a movie focused on Steven Donziger, the U.S. lawyer who helped hold Chevron accountable for dumping billions of gallons of oil waste into the rainforest. According to Parloff, Pitt beat out George Clooney for the rights to the story. Yet neither Pitt nor Clooney nor Donziger confirm any involvement.
While trying to write cute stories about movies, Parloff continues to ignore critical substantive developments in the case that contradict Chevron's narrative that the company has been victimized by the very rainforest communities it poisoned. In 2013, after 11 years of legal proceedings in Chevron's chosen forum, Ecuador's Supreme Court in a 220-page decision affirmed a trial court judgment finding that the company had deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into rainforest waterways when it operated in Ecuador (under the Texaco brand) from 1964 to 1992.
Since Parloff last reported on the Ecuador pollution matter in depth, three critical facts have emerged that have seriously undermined – if not completely blown up – the contrary civil findings of U.S. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in Chevron's retaliatory racketeering case. Neither Fortune nor Parloff have reported these developments even though they suggest nefarious efforts by Chevron's lawyers to frame Donziger as revenge for winning a historic $9.5 billion judgment against the company.
(Judge Kaplan's determination that a fraud occurred, which is under appeal, contradicts the findings of eight separate appellate judges in Ecuador that actually had access to the record evidence. Kaplan refused to admit any evidence of Chevron's pollution in Ecuador nor look at the Ecuador trial record. For background on how Chevron made a mockery of justice in Kaplan's courtroom, see here.)
The first critical fact ignored by Parloff is a new forensic examination of the computer of the Ecuador trial judge that emerged recently in a related investor arbitration between Chevron and Ecuador's government. That report – by one of the world's leading authorities on the subject, J. Christopher Racich – found that the trial court judgment against Chevron was written painstakingly by the judge over a period of months on his office computer.
Chevron had claimed Donziger had orchestrated the writing of the judgment and that it had been given to the judge on a flash drive just before it was issued. Donziger has categorically and repeatedly denied the allegation under oath and there is zero forensic evidence to support it. Let's just say the Racich report confirms Donziger is telling the truth, Chevron is lying, and Kaplan (who has undisclosed investments in Chevron) got it wrong.
Also ignored by Parloff is the related issue of how Chevron paid its star witness who testified falsely about the ghostwriting story, a crooked former Ecuadorian judge named Alberto Guerra, tens of thousands of dollars in cash out of suitcase and upwards of $2 million in benefits. You get the picture: Chevron purchased false witness testimony in violation of the ethical rules (read this affidavit by Dean Erwin Chemerinsky) and used it to frame adversary counsel. That might explain why Chevron lawyers coached Guerra for 53 consecutive days before putting him on the stand.
The Racich report and payments to Guerra not only eradicate the last remnants of Chevron's credibility in the company's New York case, they utterly destroy the key factual predicate of Judge Kaplan's deeply flawed decision against Donziger and his clients. Kaplan, who for years disparaged Donziger and the Ecuadorians from the bench, did not have access to the Racich report.
(For a summary of the Racich report, see this filing by Donziger attorney Deepak Gupta. While Fortune ignored the filing, Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News did report extensively on the Racich conclusions.)
The second key development ignored by Parloff was the release in early April of explosive internal Chevron videotapes that expose an elaborate ruse by company scientists to defraud Ecuador's courts by only "finding" clean soil samples at clearly polluted sites during the eight-year trial. The videos, turned over to Amazon Watch by a Chevron whistleblower, were first published by Vice News and have been rampaging across the internet for the last several weeks. They also show Chevron scientists laughing at the pollution at well sites the company had previously certified as remediated.
Again, nothing from Parloff and institutional silence from Fortune.
Finally, in a devastating setback for Chevron, a panel of investor arbitrators sympathetic to the company recently nullified the oil giant's primary defense to the pollution allegations. Chevron had tried to claim that it was absolved of all liability for the pollution based on what turned out to be a sham remediation conducted in the 1990s; both the arbitrators and three layers of courts in Ecuador have now rejected the defense. For background on how Chevron General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate has misled shareholders on the issue, don't read Fortune because it's not there.
See our own blog posting of the panel's decision here or read the Courthouse News version here.
Instead of focusing on the emergence of new evidence, Parloff wrote a largely unsourced post about a possible movie in a clear attempt to pump up his friend Paul Barrett's pro-Chevron book on the litigation. Barrett's one-sided take has earned him a possible defamation lawsuit for distorting facts and fabricating scenes. It also has received poor reviews from the likes of prominent writer Peter Maas. (Donziger's "notice of defamation" letter to Barrett and his publisher can be read here.)
Barrett and Parloff have a mutual interest in stroking each other. In his own reporting for Businessweek, Barrett also has ignored the Racich report, the arbitration decision, and Chevron's videos. So did Michael Goldhaber of American Lawyer. Along with Parloff, Barrett and Goldhaber have a history of being wedded to Chevron's narrative and they often quote each other's articles. (Goldhaber had the audacity to write a short book about the case without even visiting Ecuador or interviewing any of Chevron's victims.)
Also ignored by Fortune is any serious examination of how Chevron's management team is in trouble after having invested an estimated $2 billion of company funds to hire 60 law firms and 2,000 legal personnel to try to beat back the communities and Donziger (described as a "warhorse lawyer" according to Rolling Stone). Many of Chevron's largest shareholders are seeking the scalp of Chevron CEO John Watson after he was reprimanded over his mishandling of the Ecuador matter during a recent annual meeting.
In his Hollywood blog, Parloff also writes that Donziger's attorneys "for the most part" have not disputed Judge Kaplan's findings that a bribe occurred in Ecuador. That's not true and proves how intellectually dishonest Parloff can be.
Donziger and his attorneys have disputed the bribe and just about every one of Kaplan's "findings" as is made clear by the first 70 pages of the lawyer's appellate brief. Parloff also ignores Donziger's comprehensive 5,000-word takedown of Chevron's environmental crimes and fraud in Ecuador in an article published recently by the legal media outlet Law360.com. Donziger has made it clear at every turn that there was no bribe and that it was Chevron that repeatedly tried to corrupt and sabotage the Ecuador trial, as this sworn affidavit (also ignored by Fortune and Parloff) explains in detail.
While Parloff ignores these new developments, they clearly have planted seeds of doubt about Kaplan's decision in a federal appellate panel that seems highly skeptical of Chevron's forum shopping and bad faith. For more on that, see this article by – you guessed it – a Fortune competitor.
There are many who pay the price for Fortune's apparent inability to report the Ecuador litigation in a balanced way – starting with the magazine's own readers. It shouldn't be hard for a magazine to present two points of view in a contested litigation. Fortune and Parloff need to step it up.
(Editor's Note: For a copy of our letter to Fortune submitted in 2013 criticizing Parloff for errors in a prior story about the Ecuador litigation, see here. Fortune still has refused to print the letter.)
Reposted from Eye on the Amazon
First we're told that money = speech, now we're told speaking out is against the law. If you're not worried about what Donny Rico is talking about, you "damn well should be!"
Do you care about reining in corporate power and calling out injustice? Your very rights as a citizen? Watch and share the latest in the Adventures of Donny Rico series by Pulitzer winner Mark Fiore, unraveling the tale of Chevron's grotesque abuse of the legal system to fabricate a fraud case against Ecuadorian victims and their lawyers. While this case is under appeal and likely to be overturned, it's been destructive to our work to protect the environment and to challenge corporate misdeeds.
Corporate power in America is at an all-time high. The Citizens United decision equating money with speech is a threat to the very foundation of our democracy. And now, thanks to Chevron's actions and a dangerous decision by a federal judge, corporations can also criminalize YOUR speech.
Global challenges like the climate change crisis are already being felt around this planet that we share, and our most powerful tool as a caring community is our collective voice. Yet speaking out about making real and lasting change means, among other things, confronting bad actors in the energy industry. U.S. citizens rely on the constitutional right to call out corporate crimes and to pressure them with legal and grassroots actions. But how will shareholders know about activities harming the community and environment if actions to tell them are criminalized and activists intimidated?
When Chevron launched its vicious retaliation against Ecuadorian communities, their lawyers and allies, they also included the environmental community. Having 60 law firms and millions to spend, they came up with a nefarious method to strike at us. And rather than suing us head on – which would have opened THEIR files to discovery – they tagged us as "co-conspirators" in their RICO action and tried to get the court to force us to turn over ALL of our internal information about their environmental disaster in Ecuador and the campaign to force them to clean it up. Had we not received the excellent pro-bono services of Earthrights International, we would not have been able to fight for over a year to prevent this from happening and to ultimately prevail.
Yet Chevron still got a lot of what it wanted. They tied us up, affected our image and may well have scared away much needed support for our work. You and your organization could easily be next. Pro-corporate advocates like the Americans for Tort Reform have called this the "new playbook to go after corporate gadflies."
The Donny Rico series from Pulitzer winner Mark Fiore tells the tale in five short animations of how Chevron abused the legal system to fabricate a fraud case against the Ecuadorians and their lawyers. This case is under appeal and likely to be overturned. Regardless, this has done enormous damage to our work to protect the environment and to challenge corporate misdeeds. As the brief filed for the appeal by Amazon Watch, Amnesty International, and 15 other human rights and environmental NGOs states:
"In essence, this case is an effort by Chevron to retaliate against Ecuadorian villagers, their lawyers, and their supporters for suing, bringing public pressure, and petitioning government agencies to hold Chevron accountable for violations of human rights. The district court's decision below, if allowed to stand, poses a severe threat to the rights to expression, association, political participation, and access to courts guaranteed by the First Amendment. If the vaguely defined scope and heavy penalties of RICO – enacted to support law enforcement efforts against organized crime syndicates – may be wielded by private parties against public interest groups and activists who engage in First Amendment-protected activities to seek to hold those private parties accountable, democracy itself is threatened."
When Amazon Watch issues a press release, holds a demonstration, or even puts out a "Donny Rico" animation to educate the public about Chevron's environmental crimes in Ecuador, Chevron charges that we're acting illegally. All this despite our independent knowledge of their acts in Ecuador and over a decade of experience on the ground with the affected communities. Not to mention the recent and damning secret videos we released thanks to a Chevron whistleblower (did you see and share that?!).
Donny Rico is a voice for us, something everyone who cares about reining in corporate power and calling out injustice must watch and share. Public awareness of this must grow if we are to defend our right to free speech and implement reforms. Hundreds of thousands of messages have already been sent to members of the U.S. Senate asking for their help in stopping this. Please watch and share the Adventures of Donny Rico series and take action today!
Monday, April 20, 2015
Reposted from AmericaBlog
Yesterday, in what they'd like to have come off as a higher-road detour, Chevron made a big deal about dropping the fraud claims against one of the major funders of the plaintiffs in the Chevron/ Ecuador pollution case, the London-based Woodsford group. This will certainly be nice PR, but it might also be useful in that Chevron no longer has to squirm in court as overwhelmingly condemning evidence against them continues to flow, unchecked.
As Chevron continues to flail and cry like a child who refuses to pick up his toys, the fraud allegations against the fundraising group that has been supporting not even the Ecuadorian villagers, but their foreign lawyers, amounted to nothing more than yet another tantrum designed to stall the legal process. But Chevron didn't even believe its own bluster, and so we see their last-minute swerve, dropping the ridiculous claims in this game of chicken.
The oil giant is continuing to claim, as they will in today's appeal, that the legal team representing the poisoned and polluted Ecuadorian villagers acted like a crime syndicate in falsifying their evidence in court and paying off key players. If you can't remember why that sounds familiar, it's from the time that Chevron actually did act like a crime syndicate in falsifying their evidence in court and paying off key players. We've also had a lot of time between last year's trial and today's appeal to consider how Chevron's star witness had trouble remembering which version of their story to tell, and how Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in favor of Chevron without the aid of a jury or the plaintiff's main body of evidence.
In case today's trial doesn't go well, though, Chevron can point media to the dubious consolation prize of these dropped charges. If that, too, sounds familiar, it might be from last year, when Chevron decided to “pardon” the Ecuadorian legal team at the last minute for, as Chevron claimed, filing "bogus" charges against them. The gall it takes to mount an “I know you are, but what am I?” defense amid such obvious evidence of wrongdoing is, really, quite astonishing.
That dropped charge, by the way, was the very one that would have necessitated a jury to be present for last year's trial. Throw out the charges and the jury, and you get the judge who was able to rule unilaterally in favor of Chevron, in order to protect them from suffering even more "high legal fees" and "harm to its reputation." Because while justice may be blind, it has a nose for brand loyalty.
Putting aside the ludicrous nature of Chevron appealing to every court it can, including the Hague, to protest the lack of fairness the corporate multinational has suffered at the hands of leukemia- and cancer-plagued indigenous farmers, the question remains as to why New York is where the trial is taking place at all. Why is a court based in New York able to stand in judgement of a foreign legal process? How disgraceful is it that the Ecuadorian villagers have had to go through foreign legal teams and financial backers to get justice for ongoing crime in their own land? If Chevron is so guilty that the fact that Ecuador is polluted because of them isn't even in question anymore, what could possibly be left to argue?
If today's decision lets Chevron off the hook again, corporate giants will look to Chevron's playbook of denial for inspiration. Next up: How BP has the balls, literally, to deny ongoing Deepwater Horizon damage.
It's all just too familiar.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Reposted from Eye on the Amazon
Last week, Amazon Watch released The Chevron Tapes, internal Chevron videos leaked to us by a company whistleblower which show the company finding and mocking contamination in areas of the Amazon rainforest it claims to have cleaned up years ago.
The videos also included revealing interviews with area residents in which they denounce Chevron's pollution and recount how it never cleaned up waste pits and instead covered them with dirt. We don't know how the Chevron interviewers presented themselves to the residents, but it seems unlikely that they were honest about who they were or what they were doing.
Well over a million people have already viewed last week's video, and many told us that they were deeply affected by a resident named José describing how he lost three daughters due to the toxic contamination of his home. In the interview that Chevron filmed of him in 2006, he painfully related that when his daughters were dying, company representatives told him that they would send help, that they would "come quickly" and "take responsibility" for their condition. He said that he had been waiting for over twenty years and they still hadn't arrived. That video was shot almost ten years ago, so José has now been waiting for about thirty years.
This week we're highlighting José's story and providing more of his leaked interview.
Chevron's response to these damning videos is to claim that they "may have been taken out of context." The full videos are available online, but we decided to provide still more "context" for Chevron's benefit.
In the leaked video, José says that he's lived in the same place since before there was any oil exploration in the area. He lives near Dureno Uno, the very first first oil well that Chevron drilled in the area. Dureno Uno was the original sin that brought ruin to José's rainforest paradise, and Chevron alone was responsible for operating it until it left the country in 1990. José's daughters died in the mid-1980's, so the company has no one else it can blame for their deaths.
You don't need to take our word for it. To corroborate José's testimony, we've re-released a 2010 interview that Amazon Watch filmed of Jhinsop Martinez Erraez, a former oil worker at the Dureno Uno well. In the video, Jhinsop recalls the helplessness he felt at being ordered by Chevron to dump toxic waste directly into the rainforest, day after day:
The wastewater was dumped into a ravine, a stream, without any treatment at all.
...and at that time these were mountainous lands, pure rainforest existed, rich in flora and fauna; and this destroyed everything. And since we were just simple workers we couldn't say anything.
Of course, Dureno Uno wasn't the only site where Chevron operated with criminal disregard for people and the environment. Over the course of its time as the sole operator of the oil concession in the northeastern rainforest region in Ecuador, on top of spilling millions gallons of crude and abandoning hundreds of waste pits filled with poisonous sludge, Chevron dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater directly into rivers and streams depended upon by thousands of men, women, and children for drinking and bathing.
It's estimated that 10,000 people in the region will get cancer. Over 1,400 have already died.
Besides the testimony of men like José and Jhinsop, how do we know? How do we know that other wells and facilities throughout the sprawling Ecuadorian oilfields were operated in the same deliberately reckless fashion? In fact, we know this from the company's own audits, commissioned as it was preparing to depart Ecuador. Test results from judicial inspections proved that Chevron left toxins at levels many times higher than the legal limits, and recent expert reports demonstrate that many sites remain alarmingly toxic to this day.
Despite being exposed by these whistleblower videos, Chevron continues to claim that this systematic daily poisoning of the region's soil and waters over decades posed (and poses) no threat to the people living there.
Fulfilling its pledge of a "lifetime of litigation" for the Ecuadorians, Chevron has since sued them alleging their case was a fraud and claims to be the true victim. We'd like to see them explain this to José and his remaining family. After thirty years of waiting they deserve some measure of justice.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Reposted from AmericaBlog
In my last post, I wrote on the side of large corporations, encouraging forgiveness for well-intentioned but tone-deaf actions on the part of social good. That's because Starbucks is a bastion of justice and equality when compared to deeply polluting, institutionalized evil as embodied in Chevron's dealings in Ecuador.
This is not new news, but rather a recently resurfaced hydra head of the ages-long lawsuit of Chevron versus the Ecuadorian plaintiffs as represented by the Amazon Defense Coalition. This story, beginning in 1993, features Texaco-turned-Chevron drilling in Ecuador, systematically ignoring pollution and waste hazards, subsequently contaminating the land and water so badly that Ecuadorian residents are still suffering from it. Ecuador’s 1993 class-action lawsuit against Chevron has since bounced around in a really complicated fashion from court to court, as both sides have appealed any decision that did not come out in their favor.
But last week, proving that nothing embarrassing on the Internet ever goes away, some leaked footage began circulating online — evidence from supposedly “cleaned up” Texaco drilling sites that proved just how much the oil company knew about the reach of its pollution:
In the videos, consultants hired by Chevron to do inspections of the area “keep finding petroleum where it’s not supposed to be,” as one of them joked. He and another inspector lightheartedly bicker back and forth about the inconvenience of finding contaminated soil cores even in the areas that they had specifically selected for off-site, supposedly clean sampling. After pulling up a few more samples so polluted that a simple sniff can detect petroleum, they call off the hunt and discuss plan B, which is “not beating it to death” with a rigorous lab test. The audio and transcript hint at unsurprised impatience for the discovery of oil in places that Chevron would later testify were clean — concern for the complications that might ensue for the legal process, but no concern for the effects on humans or land beyond Chevron’s own.
“The Chevron Tapes,” as people are calling them, were last aired in 2011, during a trial in Ecuador in which Chevron was ordered to pay 9.5 billion dollars in damages to the affected communities and the Amazon Defense Coalition, the group formed to represent them, as well as to help clean up their mess. The judge also ruled that this amount would double if Chevron did not issue a public apology to the affected groups in Ecuador. Not only did Chevron flip Ecuador the bird and refuse to pay, it also filed a civil suit against the group, claiming that their evidence was bunk. Chevron won that round last year and, the next appeal is set to be heard next Monday in New York.
The tapes will not be used as evidence in the proceedings, but Amazon Watch wants you to watch them now. They would like to remind the public that despite the legal quibbling — 22 years of it — over cost, accountability and enforcement, one of these sides in the trial is audibly, visibly, morally wrong:
What’s really frustrating, apart from the ongoing contamination in Ecuador that is lowering the living standards of residents in the affected areas, is how long the struggle has been allowed to play out. Following the bouncing court case from local to regional — from Ecuador to the United States to Canada — the tangled web of non-resolution shows that no one knows who can or should be the law enforcer for large international corporations, who wield their limited liability with a sneer and a joke.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Reposted from The Huffington Post
On April 8th, Amazon Watch released secret videos turned over by a Chevron whistleblower that clearly show company technicians finding extensive oil pollution at well sites in the Amazon that Chevron had previously certified as "remediated". The videos are amazingly damning to Chevron.
The note along with DVDs said:
"I hope this is useful for you in the trial against Texaco/Chevron!" Signed, "A friend from Chevron."
I have watched these DVDs many times, and as I write this they sit on my desk as a reminder that as Shakespeare wrote, "the truth will out." Even if it needs to out over and over again in Chevron's case. We all knew the toxic waste in Chevron's former well sites in Ecuador was still there – that's why Chevron was found liable by a trial judge and two separate appellate courts. The evidence against Chevron – still there – is overwhelming.
In fact, this article on Huffington Post shows recent samples taken from the area that provide yet another layer of evidence to prove Chevron's guilt. The difference is that this time it is CHEVRON'S OWN VIDEOS saying what everyone else has said for decades – the company is guilty. Thanks, anonymous whistleblower.
I shouldn't really need to say anything more – the videos speak for themselves. Watch them.
However, since Chevron's spokespeople, in their feeble attempts to respond, have lobbed some meatballs over the plate, I may as well smack them out of the park:
CHEVRON LIE: All well sites Chevron/Texaco was "responsible for" were fully remediated.
TRUTH: Chevron/Texaco only pretended to remediate a small portion of the waste pit sites, pushing dirt over top of them, planting some trees and leaving them there while they continued to poison local communities.
PROOF: Chevron's own video (full clip here) shows company consultants lifting toxic waste samples from Shushufindi 21 almost a decade after it was allegedly cleaned. Other sites remain alarmingly toxic to this day and recent reports of that can be found here. These test results from other judicial inspections demonstrate Chevron left toxins at levels many times higher than the legal limits. [Note: Ecuadorian standard at the time for legal levels of contamination was 1000 TPH yet the Texas equivalent standard was only 100.]
Amazonian resident Merla was an eyewitness to Texaco simply pushing dirt over the pits and also says this explicitly in this leaked video. Another Ecuadorian, Rene shows his contaminated water in 2005 where he lived - on top of "remediated" pits from Shushufindi 10.
CHEVRON LIE: Amazon Watch's presentation of the leaked Chevron videos are taken out of context and there's no way to know where they are from.
TRUTH: The raw are available and linked in the main video. They show Chevron employees testing soils before the trial in Ecuador at sites where they believed they had to defend their remediation agreement. Chevron only tested sites that it believed were their responsibility. Chevron's straw man argument is absurd since there's no explanation for finding extensive contamination at any of the sites the company claimed to have remediated.
PROOF: Again, the videos are crystal clear. This one opens with a shot of the map at Shushufindi 21 in case there was any doubt as to its location. This was a well site operated only by Texaco where Chevron claimed a full remediation had taken place. And here frustrated workers find contamination "where it shouldn't be" over and over again.
Oh, and if you're wondering why I didn't include a "Chevron lie" about deliberately dumping the toxic waste in the first place, well that's because they don't even deny doing it!
That ball is "outta here". Walk-off.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
The Chevron Tapes: How U.S. Federal Judge Kaplan Tried to Help Oil Giant Hide Its Corruption in Ecuador
The stunning internal Chevron internal videos released last week by VICE and the environmental group Amazon Watch demonstrate the oil company knew of its massive contamination in Ecuador's rainforest and had an elaborate ruse to lie about it in court.
That the Chevron trickery failed and it lost the trial anyway changes little about the company's venal attempt to get away with its fraud in the first place. What is becoming increasingly clear is that while most large oil companies are bad, Chevron under CEO John Watson's leadership has become real bad. In fact, as the tapes show, the company is flirting dangerously with the outer boundaries of the law.
Less well known is why the Chevron tapes took so long to see the light of day. An apparent whistleblower from the company mailed them to Amazon Watch in 2011 with a note signed, "A friend from Chevron." (For background on the tapes and to view them, see here for Amazon Watch's version and here for the Vice News report.)
The delay in the release of the tapes is to a great degree the result of what we would consider to be highly devious and inappropriate attempts by both Chevron and U.S. federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan to suppress them as evidence. Chevron and Kaplan did this by trying to claim the tapes were "confidential" throughout Chevron's retaliatory RICO proceeding against the Ecuadorian villagers, which took place with Kaplan presiding from February 2011 to March of 2014.
Amazon Watch had quietly turned over the Chevron tapes to lawyers who had prosecuted Chevron in Ecuador and were later forced to defend themselves before Judge Kaplan. Kaplan was no neutral arbiter. He had disparaged the Ecuadorian villagers from the bench, invited Chevron to bring the case, and then assigned it to his court. (For the general background on how Chevron made a mockery of justice before Kaplan, see this analysis.)
As the "racketeering" trial date neared in the Fall of 2013, the U.S. attorneys Steven Donziger (the longtime legal advisor to the affected villagers) and Julio Gomez (representing two Ecuadorian defendants) tried to use the tapes in a deposition of Chevron's chief scientist, Sara McMillan. It was McMillan and Chevron consultant John Connor who helped design the company's clearly deceptive soil sampling strategy for the Ecuador trial. This strategy can be seen in the videos and a soil sampling "playbook" that directed the company's field hands to only find "clean" samples at well sites otherwise saturated with oil waste.
(Chevron's "playbook" fraud helps one understand exactly what its technicians are doing in the secret videos. See this article by Karen Hinton in the Huffington Post for more background on this aspect of Chevron's fraud.)
Chevron, however, immediately claimed confidentiality over the videos during the McMillan deposition and with Kaplan's backing was able to shut down any questioning about them. Earlier, Chevron lawyer Ethan Dettmer sent a letter to lawyers for the Ecuadorians demanding that the videos be returned to the company – even though the lawyers had no power (nor obligation) to do so, given that the originals were in the hands of Amazon Watch. In writing the letter, Dettmer acknowledged that the videos were Chevron's property.
Even though the internal Chevron videos clearly were relevant to several key issues regarding the Ecuador judgment – including Chevron's attempt to corrupt the evidence-gathering process – Kaplan would not let them be used either in deposition or in trial. In fact, Kaplan jumped through hoops to prevent Chevron's repeated attempts to sabotage the judicial process in Ecuador from ever seeing the light of day in his courtroom. (For a sense of the extent of Chevron's profoundy disturbing misconduct in Ecuador suppressed by Kaplan, see this affidavit by Ecuadorian lawyer Juan Pablo Saenz.)
Kaplan also helped Chevron suppress the most critical evidence of all. That's the 105 technical reports submitted to the Ecuador court by various experts that demonstrate Chevron left behind extensive and life-threatening levels of contamination at hundreds of its former well sites when it abandoned the country in 1992. These reports – most of them authored by Chevron's own experts – were only the basis for the finding of liability against the company by three layers of courts in Ecuador.
These are just a few of the reasons why we call the Chevron/Kaplan racketeering proceeding a show trial. As the appellate briefs show (see here and here), the trial was reverse-engineered by a judge who refused to seat a jury and who clearly disliked the notion of sophisticated American lawyers working with Amazonian villagers to hold a large American company accountable. Kaplan's disdain for the entire notion of Ecuadorian courts hearing a case against an American company is palpable throughout the transcripts of the proceeding.
Given that the appeal of Judge Kaplan's decision in favor of Chevron will be heard next week in Manhattan by a three-judge panel, let's review the highlights of his pro-Chevron bias:
- He repeatedly disparaged the villagers in open court – calling them the "so-called" plaintiffs "said to reside" in the Amazon rainforest.
- Prior to trial and without as much as an evidentiary hearing, he tried to impose an unprecedented and blatantly illegal global injunction purporting to block the villagers from enforcing their judgment anywhere in the world. The injunction was reversed unanimously the first business day after oral argument.
- He called Steven Donziger, the U.S. lawyer for the villagers, a "p.r. flak" who was trying to use the case to "fix the balance of payments deficit" of the United States.
- He allowed Chevron to pay $2 million to an admittedly corrupt former Ecuadorian judge to testify about a supposed "bribe" that never occurred.
- He refused to admit into evidence any of the three decisions from Ecuador's trial and appellate courts finding Chevron liable and imposing damages.
We note that since the end of the "racketeering" trial even more evidence has emerged (see this new blog) from the authoritative Louis Berger Group showing that Chevron lied about having remediated its waste pits in Ecuador. This new sampling data further underscores the absurdity of Kaplan's rulings related to the company's contamination.
We believe a decision by a U.S. trial judge based so obviously on a distorted view of the evidence will have little credibility in enforcement courts in Canada and Brazil where the courageous Ecuadorian villagers are trying to seize Chevron's assets. Chevron obviously agrees given its gargantuan effort to block the Canadian enforcement action from even proceeding to the merits.
In the meantime, Amazon Watch has done the world a great service by reviewing, dubbing, and releasing Chevron's secret tapes. Doing so was an extraordinary act of courage by both the Chevron whistleblower and one of the nation's leading environmental groups.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Chevron Whistleblower Videos Show Deliberate Falsification of Evidence in Ecuador Oil Pollution Trial
Reposted from DeSmogBlog
Chevron has already lost the lawsuit filed against the company by a group of Indigenous villagers and rural Ecuadorians who say Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, left behind hundreds of open, unlined pits full of toxic oil waste it had dug into the floor of the Amazon rainforest.
That hasn't stopped the oil titan from attempting to retry the case, though, in both the court of public opinion and a New York court, where it counter-sued the Ecuadorian plaintiffs under the RICO Act, claiming their original lawsuit was nothing more than extortion.
But new videos released by an anonymous Chevron whistleblower undermine the company's entire defense in the original suit as well as its RICO counterattack.
Chevron's defense in the Ecuador pollution case hinges on the company's assertion that, before leaving the country when its partnership with state-owned Petroecuador ended in the early 1990s, Texaco remediated a portion of the 350 drill sites and more than 900 associated waste pits, as per its agreement with the Ecuadorean government.
The Ecuadorian plaintiffs argue that, as the sole operator of those drilling operations, Chevron/Texaco is liable for the carcinogenic oil contamination of watercourses, soil and groundwater that leached out of the waste pits and overflowed into local streams and rivers. After inheriting Texaco's liability, Chevron countered that it had fulfilled its obligations per the terms of its partnership and that the plaintiffs' real target should be Petroecuador, which Chevron blames for the pollution.
In 2011, Chevron lost the court battle in Ecuador — the venue Chevron itself chose — and was ordered to pay $9.5 billion to clean up its oil pollution in the Amazon. But Chevron had already infamously vowed "We will fight until hell freezes over and then fight it out on the ice," and the company has been true to its word. Only now has evidence emerged to show just how dirty Chevron was fighting.
"These videos prove Chevron knew full well their ‘remediated' sites were still contaminated before the trial in Ecuador had even finished," Amazon Watch's Paul Paz y Miño said in a statement to DeSmogBlog. "Rather than admit that and help people who would be affected, they hid what they knew and denied it to the courts and to the world. Worse than that, they went on to blame the very same people affected by their waste as making it all up to extort money from Chevron."
One video from March 2005, when the trial in Ecuador was ongoing, shows Chevron contractors examining a core sample and finding petroleum at a well site that Texaco claimed to have remediated. When a worker named Dave tells a Chevron employee named Rene about the discovery, Rene jokingly chastises the worker, saying, "Nice job, Dave. Give you one simple task: Don't find petroleum." (Skip to the 1:40 mark in the video below.)
In a press release, Amazon Watch, which first received the videos along with a note signed "A friend from Chevron," says that the video shows Rene, the Chevron employee, and several Chevron consultants visiting the well site to perform a "pre-inspection," an attempt to find uncontaminated spots where they could take soil and water samples during site inspections set to happen later with the presiding trial judge in attendance.
The Ecuadorian plaintiffs maintained all along that Texaco had not cleaned the well sites at all, but in many cases simply pushed dirt on top of the waste pits and left. Another one of Chevron's pre-inspection videos included an interview with a local woman named Merla who lives near one of the well sites Texaco claimed to have remediated. Merla tells the Chevron interviewer just how drastic an impact Texaco's oil pollution has had on her and her family:
Merla: We've had our cows die.... They drank the water where the oil had spilled. Back then, that whole area was full of crude oil. The water there was filthy. They came and stopped the leak and they just left all of the crude oil there. It's pure crude there. In the middle, it's a thick ooze and you'd sink right down into it.
Chevron Interviewer: When was this oil spill?
Merla: More than 20 years ago... But I still remember it, how there was oil over everything. The cows still die there. They came, threw some dirt on top of the crude oil, and there it stayed.
Chevron Interviewer: How long ago did they cover up the pit?
Merla: 19 years... Texaco. They came here and just covered up the oil. They kept saying they were going to clean it up and they never did. And then they disappeared.
Chevron Interviewer: Did they remove the crude oil?
Merla: They dumped a lot of dirt on it and that was it.
"Chevron has spent hundreds of millions to counter attack their own victims and try to sow doubt in their claims," Paz y Miño says in his statement. "What these videos prove is that their retaliation is built on a complete lie."
Chevron has refused to pay the $9.5 billion judgement, even after appealing to Ecuador's highest courts and losing every time. Paz y Miño says there is no doubt these videos will come into play in the legal efforts undertaken by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs to seize Chevron assets in Canada and elsewhere. "No matter how [Chevron] tries to spin these videos," he says, "they clearly show their own representatives finding contamination where they insist there is none."
The provenance of the videos is not in doubt, as Chevron's lawyers with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher acknowledge their authenticity in a letter seeking the videos' return that was shared with DeSmogBlog.
Chevron secured a favorable ruling in its RICO suit last year from Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York, meaning the company's US assets cannot be seized to pay off its debt in Ecuador. But if Chevron's own records show that it had not remediated the well sites and waste pits, that completely erodes its claim that the case against it in Ecuador was not valid, Paz y Miño says.
"The RICO complaint doesn't stand regardless of the videos, because it's based on corrupt testimony from paid witnesses, but the videos expose that Chevron simply fabricated the RICO case since they knew for a fact they were liable in Ecuador for that remediation."
Reposted from The Huffington Post
Dirt Soaked In Oil: Chevron Testified Texaco Cleaned This Well Site In Ecuador Rainforest, Yuca 2.
- New York Times columnist, October 2005 "A (Chevron) spokesman told me yesterday that the billions of gallons of waste that was dumped 'wasn't necessarily toxic .... We've done inspections. We've done a deep scientific analysis, and that analysis has shown no harmful impacts from the operations. There just aren't any.'"
- Louis Berger Group Scientific Report, November 2014: A New Jersey-based environmental firm, the Louis Berger Group, has found illegal levels and harmful contamination at well sites in Ecuador where only Texaco explored for oil - no other oil company. It found lethal toxins that have migrated away from huge oil pits in streams people use for cooking, bathing and washing clothes. It found hidden, undisclosed pits. And, it found that pits Texaco & Chevron swore under oath had been cleaned contain large amounts of oil oozing from them near villagers' homes. See LBG report.
Below are Louis Berger Group descriptions and photographs of present-day contamination at Texaco well sites in the Ecuador rainforest, almost 22 years after a group of Ecuadorians filed a lawsuit to hold the oil company accountable for one of the world's largest environmental disasters. An Ecuador court and eight appellate judges have awarded the Ecuadorians $9.5 billion in damages but Chevron refuses to pay. (Chevron bought Texaco and all of its contamination in 2001.)
Not only does Chevon refuse to pay, its top executives at the urging of their lawyer Randy Mastro of Gibson Dunn have vilified and sued practically everyone associated with the Ecuadorian indigenous groups and villagers.
Chevron General Counsel Hewe Pate delights in announcing how our contamination experts and litigation funders (who've been threatened by Chevron with bankruptcy and never-ending litigation) have disavowed the Ecuadorians and their attorneys.
But what about this new group of environmental engineers from Morristown, New Jersey, who have conducted a very recent, scientific analysis of contamination at 60 mostly Texaco-only well sites that Chevron says it's not responsible for and has not harmed anyone ever.
(I say, Texaco-only, because Chevron wants to blame the contamination on Petroecuador, the country's nationalized oil company, which is why LBG concentrated its work at sites opened, drilled and closed by Texaco only.)
The Louis Berger Group is an international architectural and engineering firm that's been around for 60 years and is one of the top 20 such firms in the world.
Will Chevron intimidate, harass and threaten LBG, as it has done others? Will Chevron accuse the environmental firm of being part of a conspiracy to extort money from it? Will Chevron file a lawsuit against LBG, too? Will Chevron contact other LBG clients and try to convince them to fire LBG, as it has done with other companies associated with the Ecuadorians?
Ecuador hired LBG to backup existing evidence of contamination for a private arbitration claim, filed by Chevron with the hope that a panel of corporate lawyers will force the Ecuadorian government, i.e., its taxpayers, to pay the judgment. (Hopelessly conflicted, these panels have been severely criticized. Read more here.)
This information has been made available by the Government of Ecuador on this web site.
Field staff reported that one simply had to press one's foot into the soil in certain wetland areas and oil seeped from the ground....
We observed residents ... in daily contact with contaminated environmental media....
The more one investigates (Chevron/Texaco sites), the more crude oil contamination one finds....
Chevron Testified That Texaco Cleaned This Site.
Chevron Testified That Texaco Cleaned This Site.
It is our opinion that information developed (during the Ecuador trial), while substantial, just scratches the surface of identifying the environmental condition of the (former Chevron Texaco sites)....
LBG Found Hidden Pits. Without A Master List, No One Knows How Many Others Exist
Chevron Says It Has No Master List Of Texaco Pits
These findings reinforce our opinion that the (Ecuador) Judgment's assessment of damages was reasonable.
(Contamination) is not limited to the immediate vicinity of (Texaco-only) facilities .... (it) has migrated to locations where residents, their domestic animals, agricultural activities, or groundwater or surface water resources are present ... support(ing) our opinion that contamination is widespread....
As (sole operator), Texpet's operations caused past and persistent environmental injury from exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals and consequent risk to human health and ecological receptors; (Texpet was an subsidiary of Texaco.)
TexPet's limited ... Remedial Action Plan (RAP) failed to identify or address much of the contamination from (its) past operations and associated risks to human health and the environment .... Some of the sites TexPet supposedly remediated in the 1990s continue today to ... pose a risk to human health and the environment....
Chevron Testified That Texaco Cleaned This Site.
Chevron Testified That Texaco Cleaned This Site.
During the (the Ecuador trial) Chevron's (contamination testing was) not representative and thus did not adequately characterize the extent of contamination; notwithstanding this limitation ... Chevron's (and the Ecuadorians') sampling and testing evidenced significant contamination by toxic compounds.
...field data show(s) that, where groundwater was found to exist as a resource, it is contaminated; (Chevron's) blanket assumption that impermeable clay occurs everywhere, rendering pit lining unnecessary, is false.
Chevron Testified That Texaco Cleaned This Site.
...sediment contamination in streams that flow adjacent to (Texaco-only sites) occurs at significant distances ... and at locations where people and animals access the streams....
Texaco Installed Pipes In Pits To Siphon Toxic Water Into Streams
...contamination caused by TexPet's operations is still present and mobile in the environment.... Along the streams adjacent to the sites, ... crude oil bubbl(es) upward when sediment was disturbed. We also observed areas where people use these same impacted water resources.
Chevron Testified That Texaco Cleaned This Site.
.... data also indicate that the vast bulk of the oil contamination lies in the soils beyond the pits, not in the pits themselves.
Our analyses estimate the mass of residual oil contamination remaining in the soils of the Oriente is large by any calculation basis.
Additional photos of the devastation that continues to threaten the lives and health of the Ecuadorian people appear here.
On April 20th, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the Ecuadorians' appeal of Chevron's fraud charges. In 2011, Second Circuit Judges Pooler, Lynch, and Wesley ruled against Chevron when the company tried to block enforcement of the Ecuador judgment anywhere in the world.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
What big oil company takes video of its own technicians committing fraud in a pollution trial? Thanks to the tenacious activists at Amazon Watch, we know the answer: Chevron.
With the disclosure of these shocking videos, we are now beginning to think that acts of stupidity have become a regular feature of Chevron's legal team led by former Bush Administration official and General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate. Pate is the mastermind of a $2 billion Chevron defense strategy that has only put the company in a deeper hole in the Ecuador case in the last five years with a series of stunning legal setbacks – including losing the underlying environmental case in its chosen forum and being hit with a historic $9.5 billion liability.
Things in Ecuador are again going from bad to worse for Chevron.
In a shocking press release and blog post, Amazon Watch explains how a Chevron whistleblower sent 42 internal company videos to the group documenting an obviously desperate attempt by the oil giant to hide evidence of contamination from the Ecuador court.
A compilation of these disturbing videos can be seen here. In some of them, Chevron folks are seen laughing at the pollution the company left behind in Ecuador.
In our opinion, the videos show Chevron technicians engaged in obvious acts of fraud at the company's former well sites. These individuals were secretly trying to pinpoint spots at polluted well sites where they could lift "clean" samples at later judicial inspections of the same sites supervised by a judge.
The whole idea was to dupe the court into thinking there was little or no pollution when in fact the area was saturated with oil waste. Chevron also had falsely certified the same sites as "remediated" to Ecuador's government years earlier.
It turns out that Chevron's elaborate attempt at trickery failed. There was so much pollution at the sites even company technicans found it at the later judicial inspections – as did the technicians for the affected communities and several independent experts. Which helps explain why Chevron lost the trial in its chosen forum and why eight separate appellate judges affirmed the judgment.
It is unbelievable that Chevron has used at least 60 law firms and 2,000 legal personnel to carry out this losing strategy. In the meantime, Chevron's lead outside law firm (Gibson Dunn & Crutcher) has been found to have falsified evidence by the High Court of England – just as it tried to do in the Ecuador case with the lying testimony of a witness to whom it paid $2 million in cash and benefits.
Chevron is also the same company whose CEO John Watson recently was lambasted by more than 40 environmental and human rights groups for claiming a "citizenship" award in San Francisco after Ecuador's courts found his company had deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into the country's rainforest, decimating indigenous groups and causing an outbreak of cancer affecting thousands of people.
Kudos to the Chevron whistleblower who turned over the tapes. Sir or Madam, you have done the cause of justice a great service.
If any other other Chevron whistleblowers want to give up the goods on the folly orchestrated by Watson and Pate, please do so. Just contact the good people at Amazon Watch for further instructions.
Secret videos reveal company hid pollution in Ecuador
Reposted from Eye on the Amazon.
We work for truth, justice and environmental sanity every day. We keep on with the hope that there will be a moment when the evil and corrupt acts that politicians and big business carry out that harm the planet, violate human rights and affect the health of our communities will see the light of day. Today is one of those historic moments.
In 2011, a mysterious package arrived at our D.C. office. Beat up, rumpled and with no return address, a staffer avoided opening it fearing it may have been a bomb. We could never have guessed that the contents would instead turn out to be a smoking gun in one of the largest and longest-running environmental cases in the world.
In the tradition of whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg, whose Pentagon Papers exposed the US secret war in Southeast Asia; Jeffrey Wigand, whose information on big tobacco's use of addictive ingredients exposed and transformed the industry; and Sherron Watkins, whose revelations on Enron's pyramid-scheme accounting led to the collapse of the company and jail time for executives, we are proud to share The Chevron Tapes.
In that battered package were dozens of DVDs labeled "pre-inspections", with dates and locations we had come to know all too well – Shushufindi, Sacha, Lago Agrio – former Chevron well sites in the rainforest. Inside was a handwritten note:
"I hope this is useful for you in the trial against Texaco/Chevron!"
Signed, "A friend from Chevron."
A trap? A whistleblower? We didn't know, and began to review the videos. What we found will shock you. Because Chevron has finally been proven in its own videos not only to have lied about contamination, but to have hidden evidence it knew would cost lives.
It rolls like this: Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001, had just been found guilty of one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest. Ordered to pay $9.5 billion to clean up their contamination, Chevron instead fled the country and actually went on to sue the victims – communities – in the US for extortion.
During the trial against Chevron in Ecuador between 2003 - 2011, the judge carried out dozens of inspections of former Chevron well sites, where affected communities, the company, and the court all took soil and water samples to test for contamination. The videos – shot by Chevron – document the company and its consultants conducting pre-inspections of the sites so they would know where to take "clean" samples on the day of the inspection by the judge.
As you'll see in the footage, that task proved much harder than Chevron had thought it would be. Employees and consultants are caught on tape frustrated by their inability to find soil samples without oil, and then mocking the contamination.
"Nice job Dave. Give you one simple task: Don't find petroleum."
"Who picked the spot Rene? Who told them where to drill, Rene?"
"Oh, so it's my fault? I'm the customer, I'm always right."
Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like: big oil caught on video – their own video! – trying to hide contamination.
In the excerpts released today, Chevron is seen finding its own extensive contamination – in areas the company claimed to have cleaned up in 1998 – then pre-gaming the judicial inspections to defraud the court.
I was at many of the judicial inspections with our team from Amazon Watch, and we witnessed numerous other Chevron efforts to fool the court and throw the case. We watched Chevron take soil samples from illogical places – upstream from waste pits, never down gradient from potential contamination sources. We saw employees, consultants and security intimidate indigenous and campesino witnesses who were coming face to face for the first time with the people who poisoned them. We were there when Chevron, staying at a local military base, colluded with its hospitable hosts and produced a phony military report citing a "security risk" that successfully canceled the first judicial inspection of a major well site in the territory of the Cofán, an indigenous group that bore the brunt of Texaco's arrival in the 1960s.
As the videos blatantly demonstrate, Chevron's effort to hide contamination and get "clean samples" proved challenging. While Chevron never submitted the test results from these "pre-inspections", its samples from the actual inspections show stratospheric levels of contamination, which ultimately led to the guilty verdict against the company anyway.
Also on the tapes are interviews with local communities. Chevron obviously searched to find people who either didn't have knowledge of its toxic legacy, or who would put the blame on Ecuador's state oil company Petroecuador – who took over Texaco's operations, crumbling infrastructure, rusty pipelines and problems in 1993. As the videos show, anyone living there recalls in vivid detail the way they were treated by the company.
And while they did manage to find a few people who said they didn't experience any problems, or that Petroecuador was worse, those people were admittedly recent inhabitants at the time having only lived there for six months. Some may have even been enticed by company claims that its 1998 clean up made the areas safe for inhabiting.
The videos are a true treasure trove of Chevron misdeeds and corporate malfeasance. And, ironically, Chevron itself proved their authenticity. Amazon Watch turned over the tapes to the legal team representing the affected indigenous and farmer communities. When the plaintiffs' lawyers tried to use the videos in court to cross-examine a Chevron "scientist", the company objected.
A letter sent by Chevron's legal firm Gibson Dunn to counsel for the communities states, "These videos are Chevron's property, and are confidential documents and/or protected litigation work product. Chevron demands that you provide detailed information about how your firm acquired these videos and your actions with respect to them... In addition to providing this information, Chevron demands that you promptly return the improperly obtained videos and all copies of them by sending them to my attention at the above address."
Chevron is now free to view them on YouTube.
But it turns out that falsifying evidence is nothing new for Chevron and Gibson Dunn. The firm is currently under scrutiny in London, where one of its partners faces charges for submitting fraudulent evidence implicating a man in a terrorist attack.
But the evidence shown in the videos is just one part of Chevron's fraudulent effort to dub the Ecuador judge and sabotage the trial. In fact, when you take this together with the rest of Chevron's tactics, it becomes strikingly clear that the company set out to play dirty.
Given its difficulty in finding "clean samples", the company threw in the towel and in some places just swapped dirty well site samples with dirt from the roadside. Then it brought in "experts" to verify the samples, but used a company "playbook" to hide the original source of the samples.
And remember Chevron's two "concerned citizens" who allegedly uncovered a plot to bribe the presiding judge? It turned out that one of the men involved was a convicted felon, now on the lam in Peru. The other worked for Chevron!
Perhaps the most astounding chapter of this whole story is that Chevron filed a RICO case in NY against communities and their legal team, accusing them of fraud and extortion. But even that is rapidly falling apart for Chevron. New forensic evidence from the presiding judge's computer, which Chevron asked a court to order, backfired. It actually shows the company's claims that the plaintiff's lawyers bribed a judge to "ghostwrite" the Ecuador verdict – are implausible and false.
Armed with this new evidence, the plaintiff's appeal of Chevron's RICO case will be heard April 20th before the Second Circuit in New York. And Canada's Supreme Court should be rendering its decision on the communities' effort to seize Chevron's assets in a matter of weeks. Shareholders should be asking some serious questions about the story they've been told from Chevron senior management over the company's legal and ethical conduct in the Ecuador trial, and the impending liability that just won't go away.
While these videos can now not only be seen by the court of public opinion, they could become evidence in other jurisdictions where the communities have been forced to turn in efforts to seize Chevron's assets as a way of forcing it to comply with the Ecuador judgment.
This is a good day for truth and a good day for justice.
Please share The Chevron Tapes far and wide, and continue to take action to keep Chevron from getting away with the environmental crime of the century.
As for the whistleblower who wondered whether the videos would be helpful? We'd certainly say yes, indeed. Thank you, "friend from Chevron."
Friday, April 3, 2015
Reposted from Eye on the Amazon.
Following close to 5000 emails and a letter from over 40 environmental and human rights NGOs, a spirited group of activists disrupted the San Francisco Commonwealth Club's annual gala yesterday. The Commonwealth Club had chosen to honor infamous polluter and Chevron CEO John Watson as a "distinguished global citizen." This decision sparked shock and outrage from the environmental and human rights community and especially from Richmond residents living in the shadow of Chevron's notorious refinery.
Watson has proven himself to be a threat to both people and planet. His reckless behavior as head of Chevron has branded the company as one of the worst in the world – frequently polluting, undermining democracy and free speech, and not accepting responsibility for its toxic messes.
John Watson's actions are no surprise to the protesters, nor to the 30,000 Ecuadorian Amazonians who have pursued him for decades to enforce a $9.5 billion dollar verdict against Chevron for polluting their homes with over 18 billion gallons of toxic waste. It was surprising, however, that the Commonwealth Club would choose to associate itself with Watson so explicitly and appear to endorse the behavior that earned Chevron the Public Eye Lifetime Achievment Award for corporate abuse just a few short weeks ago.
Well, Watson got a firsthand look at that award as Amazon Watch campaigner Adam Zuckerman approached him inside the hotel. Adam told Watson he was "very happy to present him with an award he truly deserves: the Public Eye award for poisoning 30,000 Ecuadorians and refusing to clean up Chevron's toxic mess." Watson's stared in silence, confronted with the fact that he can't escape the truth – even in the posh halls of the Ritz Carlton.
The Commonwealth Club's refusal to acknowledge the issue is frankly unacceptable. There's no explanation anywhere on their website of the criteria for their award, nor why they felt Watson was deserving. They even refused media inquiries into the issue. Remember, their stated mission is to be a "forum open to all for the impartial discussion of public issues important to the membership, community and nation." President Duffy has not responded with any comment and sources from within the Club say staff have all been instructed to say absolutely nothing. This has reportedly made many staff understandably uncomfortable.
This scandal has also has put one person at the Club in a particularly difficult position: Greg Dalton, vice-president of the Club and head of its Climate One program. Climate One claims to aspire to "advance the discussion about a clean energy future." John Watson and Chevron recently mothballed their solar and wind renewables program and are giddy about refining dirty tar sands oil in Richmond. It would be one thing to debate Watson about that, but honor him?
As Carl Pope, former president of the Sierra Club, said as he stopped to speak to the demonstrators, "they [Commonwealth Club] should talk to people. I can safely say that what Chevron is doing... is not what you expect a corporate good citizen to do." As a respected member of the environmental community and guest of the Commonwealth Club and Climate One, perhaps Carl will get a response.
While Watson and Chevron attempted to buy themselves some respectability inside the Ritz, we held our own cocktail reception outside. We toasted to Watson with contaminated water from Ecuador – water he claims is safe to drink as Chevron alleges the entire case against it is a fraud. In the end Watson was clearly recognized for his contributions to the global community. The next step is to hold him accountable for them.