A lawsuit against Chevron based on fraud, not fact 

A lawsuit in Ecuador claiming $113 billion in damages against the Bay Area oil company Chevron has been built on the drafting of fraudulent scientific reports and manipulation of the Latin American country’s corruptible judicial system.

Astonishingly, the U.S. trial lawyer and his team suing Chevron are now on record acknowledging these schemes. Chevron’s aggressive legal defense has introduced hundreds of thousands of pages of damning documents into court proceedings around the United States, as well of outtakes from a documentary on the suit, "Crude," in which the principles speak openly about their strategies.

"You know, this is Ecuador," Steven Donziger, the New York City attorney who has led the legal campaign against Chevron, explains in one "Crude" outtake. "You can say whatever you want and at the end of the day, there’s a thousand people around the courthouse, you’re going to get what you want. Sorry, but it’s true."

"At the end of the day, this is all for the court, just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bulls---," Donziger tells visiting technical consultants. "It really is. We have enough, to get money, to win."

Even as environmental activists continue to cheer the attacks against the San Ramon-based oil giant, the so-called Lago Agrio litigation is collapsing from the plaintiffs’ incriminating admissions. A federal judge in Manhattan this week is weighing Chevron’s RICO suit that charges the U.S. and Ecuadorean lawyers, activists and consultants conspired to extort a settlement from the company.

Central to the arguments from Chevron’s attorneys is this contention: When an Ecuadorean court called for a "global assessment" of damages by a supposedly independent scientific expert, the plaintiffs arranged his appointment, paid him, and then had their own U.S. consultants actually write the report.

Its ostensible author, Ecuadorean mining engineer Richard Stalin Cabrera, submitted the report in April 2008. In it, Cabrera concluded that Texaco — later acquired by Chevron — had contaminated the Amazonian jungle during its two decades of oil operations in partnership with the government-run PetroEcuador. Cabrera recommended damages that eventually reached some $26 billion. (A later report creatively reworked the findings to the current $113 billion.)

But evidence filed with the U.S. courts show the Cabrera Report to be anything but independent. In a Nov. 5, 2010, order, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote:

"[There] is substantial evidence that (1) Cabrera was appointed as a result of Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ … contacts with and pressure on the Ecuadorian [sic] courts, (2) at least part of his report was written by consultants retained by the Lago Agrio plaintiffs, and (3) the report was passed off as Cabrera’s independent work. In short, there is evidence to support Chevron’s claim that the ‘global assessment’ is a fraud orchestrated by the Lago Agrio plaintiffs."

In a subsequent deposition, Donziger admitted as much. Asked by a court-appointed special master about the title page, which stated, "This report was written by expert engineer Richard Stalin Cabrera Vega," Donziger responded, "I don’t think it is accurate." He adds, "Well, what he adopted was written by Stratus," and edited in part by Donziger.

Chevron names Stratus, a Boulder, Colo., environmental firm in its RICO suit, provoking an outraged news release and counter-attack from the consultants, "The claim that Stratus Consulting ‘plotted’ to ‘ghostwrite’ the Cabrera report is demonstrably false," calling the charges "reprehensible."

Yet Judge Kaplan has found more than just the Cabrera Report to be suspect. In the Nov. 5 order, he writes, "There is evidence, too, that other expert evidence submitted to the Ecuadorian [sic] courts on behalf of those plaintiffs also was fraudulent."

 

Carter Wood, a former newspaper journalist, has blogged about the Chevron-Ecuador litigation on Shopfloor.org, the blog of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), his employer. However, this three-part series, which is based in part on material gathered in Ecuador on a trip funded by Chevron, reflects only Wood’s views, not NAM’s.

 

Attack on Big Oil

Part two of a three-part series

Tuesday: From New York to the Amazon, lawsuit is a Chevron shakedown

Today: A lawsuit based on fraud, not fact

Thursday: A "Crude" propaganda campaign

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Carter Wood

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