By Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes
28 May 2013
A day before Chevron's shareholder meeting in San Ramon, CA, environmental groups and and activists gathered for a conference call in Oakland to demand the firing of John Watson, the company's chief executive.
Described by Amazon Watch as the poster child for corporate unaccountability, CEO John Watson is leading Chevron into a ditch, activist shareholders and some anti-Chevron environmental NGOs say.
The company still faces a gigantic $19 billion verdict in the U.S. for an Ecuadorean oil project gone bad, and have had assets frozen in Argentina in a show of solidarity in Buenos Aires.
The company was unavailable for immediate comment.
Watson will face four resolutions Wednesday from shareholders like Green Century Capital, an investment company located on State Street STT +4.12% in Boston. Not all are environmental related. One includes a request to end political contributions.
Shoshana Wechsler, an activist affiliated with the non-profit corporate reform group Public Citizen, said shareholders don't want Chevron spending money to influence elections. "They have an awful lot invested in the status quo: massive tax breaks and subsidies and full assurance that investigations into environmental violations will be friendly, not to forget their hefty government contracts," she said. "This is a compnay that has caused massive environmental damage and injects millions into small town politics to sway voters."
Chevron's political ads are not illegal however, thanks to the landmark Citizens United ruling. Chevron donated to a SuperPAC run by Republican John Boehner during the 2012 elections. And Public Citizen has since filed a complaint against them both, saying that as a federal contractor Chevron cannot buy political influence. That case is still pending.
Chevron's dabbling in politics has not always turned out. Last year it spent $1.2 million in a campaign to oust Richmond, Calif. Green Party Mayor Gayle MacLaughlin from office. They failed.
A handful of local activists joined Mayor MacLaughlin to discuss Chevron today. The city has a bone to pick with the oil giant after a major refinery caught fire there in January, causing environmental damage that has impacted the community, they said.
Political contributions aside, Chevron's Watson was also called out for trying to avoid a legal judgement on toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon, a charge that Chevron has told Forbes it is not required to pay.
Servio Curipoma, a community representative in Ecuador, spoke through an Amazon Watch translator to give an impassioned speech about Chevron. "I'm a living witness to how Chevron operated in the Amazon in Ecuador and have photos of them dumping toxic waste in rivers and streams," he said to applause. "Watson hid these problems and conflicts from shareholders," he said, adding "I'll seek them out to the last corner of the world and make them pay up to the last cent for the (environmental) crime they committed in Ecuador."
Amazon Watch and like-minded groups will gather in front of Chevron's San Ramon offices bright and early Wednesday. One activist said he was going to bring water allegedly contaminated by Chevron to see if Watson would drink it.