Chevron Corp. (CVX:US), the U.S. oil producer considering investing in Argentina’s shale oil fields, is seeking to revoke a court embargo on its assets in the country related to a $19 billion award over pollution in Ecuador.
Two units of the San Ramon, California-based company filed the motion at a Buenos Aires civil court today, Chevron said in an e-mailed response to questions. Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda ordered 40 percent of Chevron’s Argentina bank accounts to be held in escrow, Enrique Bruchou, an Argentine attorney representing the Ecuadoreans, said on Nov. 7.
The plaintiffs are seeking to enforce a $19 billion award against Chevron, which they say is responsible for destroying the environment in the Lago Agrio region, damaging living conditions of 30,000 inhabitants. Chevron, which signed on Sept. 14 a memorandum of understanding to help develop Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation, says the Ecuador judgment is illegitimate and the embargo is improper.
“The plaintiffs’ lawyers have no legal right to embargo subsidiary assets in Argentina and should not be allowed to disrupt Argentina’s pursuit of its important energy resources,” Kent Robertson, a Chevron spokesman, said by e-mail.
The Ecuadoreans’ attorneys said Oct. 31 that they were filing an attachment order in Buenos Aires in line with an international treaty signed by Ecuador, Argentina and Colombia. Julio Cesar Rivera, an Argentine attorney who represents Chevron, declined to comment from the tribunal today.
Judge Elcuj Miranda declined to comment on the case today after receiving eight Chevron attorneys in his Buenos Aires office. Rivera, who led the group, declined to comment when asked if a check he was carrying was to pay court fees or to cover the attachments. Under Argentine law, attachments are ruled in an inaudita parte basis, meaning the judge orders an embargo on assets without hearing the other party’s arguments.
Chevron on Oct. 9 lost a U.S. Supreme Court bid to block the judgment imposed by an Ecuadorean court. The highest U.S. court let stand a federal appeals court ruling against Chevron that the Ecuadoreans can’t be barred from seeking to collect the award anywhere in the world.
On Oct. 31 Bruchou estimated Chevron’s assets in Argentina worth $2 billion.
Chevron will face more attachment requests in Europe, Asia and Oceania, Bruchou said Nov. 7 to obtain the total award from Ecuador.
Another related lawsuit was filed by the Ecuadoreans in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on May 30. Chevron Canada Ltd. will have a hearing on the lawsuit Nov. 28.
The Ecuadoreans’ plaintiffs filed in the Superior Tribunal of Justice in Brazil’s capital of Brasilia on June 27, Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the Ecuadoreans, said today in an e- mailed statement.
“We expect that Chevron’s attempt to undo the freeze order in Argentina will fail,” Hinton said.
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