Bogus Lab Tests, Threats against Plaintiffs Counsel, Ex Parte Meetings with Judge Paint Nasty Picture of Oil Giant's Litigation Tactics
Amazon Defense Coalition
13 September 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul Paz y Miño: +1 510.281.9020 x302, firstname.lastname@example.org
New York, NY – Evidence of fraud by Chevron is mounting in Ecuador, dealing the oil giant a potentially crippling blow as it faces a potential multi-billion judgment for environmental damage, representatives of the Amazonian communities asserted today.
"Chevron's true complaint is not with the Ecuadorian courts, but with the evidence of its own wrongdoing"
In a series of recent court filings in federal courts across the United States, the Ecuadorians suing Chevron for oil contamination in the Amazon rainforest have demonstrated the oil company faces an increasing array of problems, among them:
- Diego Borja, a Chevron contractor in Ecuador, ran a "dirty tricks" operation for the oil giant in Ecuador that attempted to ensnare the trial judge in a corruption scandal, according to taped phone conversations.
- Borja claimed that Chevron had "cooked" court evidence and that he would turn against Chevron if company officials did not pay him what they promised for videotapes he made of the judge in the lawsuit. Widely covered by the news media, the videotapes were later discredited.
- Chevron hired Kroll, the publicly traded investigations firm, to try to pay an American journalist to become an undercover spy for the company in Ecuador, according to a recent article in The Atlantic.
- Chevron's lawyers had ex parte meetings with judges and have not denied having ex parte meetings with court-appointed experts on the case – the exact same basis for Chevron's false claims of "fraud" against lawyers for the plaintiffs.
- The plaintiffs also produced evidence that a court-appointed expert adopted many materials wholesale that were prepared by Chevron's own expert without citation – the exact same charge that Chevron has leveled against the plaintiffs.
- Two Chevron officials are under criminal indictment in Ecuador for, according to the charges, conspiring to defraud the government by lying about the results of a sham remediation in the mid-1990s. Chevron's own tests submitted into evidence show illegal levels of contamination at the so-called "remediated" sites.
- Due to a series of death threats from unknown sources, lawyers for the plaintiffs and their families are now protected with armed bodyguards.
Chevron is arguing in various jurisdictions around the country that any ex parte meetings between the plaintiffs and a court-appointed expert prove "fraud," though they have failed to cite any order, rule, regulation, or law prohibiting such meetings under Ecuadorian court procedures. Legal experts in both Ecuador and in the United States have disagreed with Chevron's argument.
"Chevron has not denied that its own lawyers met with court experts and has yet to deny the evidence that its lawyers met ex parte with judges in the lawsuit," said Ilann Maazel, an American who is representing the Ecuadorians. "Why can Chevron meet ex parte with judges, but plaintiffs can not meet with an expert? This is hypocrisy with a capital "H".
"Chevron's true complaint is not with the Ecuadorian courts, but with the evidence of its own wrongdoing," Maazel said.
Originally filed in the U.S. in 1993, Chevron requested the case be moved to Ecuador. Now that a decision is approaching and the evidence points to its culpability, Chevron is attempting to retry the lawsuit in the same U.S. court system it once rejected as inappropriate.
In a brief submitted to the Southern District Court of New York last week, attorneys for the Ecuadorians argued that Chevron had conducted ex parte meetings with court-appointed experts and that one of them, Gerado Barros, copied entire pages of a 2005 Chevron report into his expert report, entitled Prácticas y Reglamentos Internacionales Para el Uso y la Remediación de Piscinas de Campos Petroleros. Barros is one of several experts who have written about 100 reports, in total, that the court may rely on as evidence in the case. The majority of the reports show illegal levels of contamination, even at sites allegedly "remediated" by Texaco.
The plaintiffs assert that adopting materials directly from reports is not inappropriate, as long as the court-appointed expert is in agreement with the materials or is using them to explain or make a point. Such practice is common in U.S. courts, Maazel said.
Maazel said Chevron has yet to identify an "order, rule regulation, or law prohibiting" contact with experts.
Penn State law professor Catherine Rogers, a scholar of international arbitration and professional ethics, wrote on Opiniojuris.org, a well-respected online legal forum, that Ecuadorian "standards for the impartiality of court-appointed experts may treat such attendance (ex parte meetings) as acceptable, and perhaps not even necessary to disclose..."