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June 29, 2017

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Chevron wins US$9.5 bil. Ecuador fine case

NEW YORK--A U.S. judge Tuesday upheld Chevron's allegations that an Ecuadorean court decision ordering it to pay US$9.5 billion for oil pollution in the Amazon jungle was fraudulently obtained.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan concluded that plaintiffs in the 2011 case and their lawyers committed a host of corrupt actions, including ghost-writing the original judgment, submitting fraudulent evidence and bribery.

In barring enforcement of the original fine in U.S. courts, the decision handed Chevron a big win in its long fight with Ecuador.

But it was a setback to the indigenous people from Ecuador's oil-rich Lago Agrio in the eastern Ecuador region of Oriente, who have long sought compensation for pollution by U.S. oil company Texaco between the 1970s and early 1990s.

They allege that Texaco, which was bought by Chevron in 2001, dumped oilfield waste that polluted large swathes of the jungle region, causing widespread sickness and a surge in deaths from cancer.

Chevron has insisted it cannot be held responsible, and argued that corruption underpinned the massive fine ordered by the Ecuador court.

Kaplan said Steven Donziger, the New York lawyer who has represented the Ecuadoran plaintiffs since the 1990s, and his allies secretly paid off the authors of an ostensibly independent report on the pollution damages that was requested by the court.

In addition, he said, "Ultimately the (Donziger team) wrote the Lago Agrio court's judgment themselves and promised US$500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment," Kaplan said.

"If ever there was a case warranting equitable relief with respect to a judgment procured by fraud, this is it," Kaplan wrote.

Chevron called the ruling "a resounding victory for Chevron and our shareholders."

"It confirms that the Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron is a fraud and the product of a criminal enterprise."

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