Representatives from both sides make their case in response to our cover story on the $18 billion pollution verdict against Chevron in Ecuador
We appreciate Paul M. Barrett's story on the lawsuit in Ecuador ("Amazon Crusader. Corporate Pest. Fraud?" Features, Mar. 14-Mar. 20) and the staggering evidence of fraud that's come to light. As a federal magistrate judge in North Carolina wrote in ordering production of evidence from one of the plaintiffs' consultants, "[T]he court must believe that the concept of fraud is universal, and that what has blatantly occurred in this matter would in fact be considered fraud by any court."
The plaintiffs' lawyers resorted to fraud because the legitimate scientific evidence supports Chevron. The vast majority of deforestation in the region is due to government policy-driven colonization, logging, large-scale palm plantations, and other agriculture. Census data show that cancer rates are lower in the region than elsewhere in Ecuador. Bacterial contamination of the water due to lack of sanitation infrastructure is a much more acute health concern.
Chevron recognizes that the people of the region face real challenges. But American lawyers exploiting the situation and corrupting Ecuador's courts to advance a fraud in pursuit of a big payday is simply wrong. The evidence and the plaintiffs' lawyers' own misconduct show that the judgment in Ecuador is illegitimate. That is why Chevron has appealed the court's ruling and seeks to hold the plaintiffs' lawyers accountable. After all, lawyers with a winning case don't need to engage in fraud.
General Manager of Public Affairs
San Ramon, Calif.
Your article does not come close to fully explaining the extent to which the plaintiffs have presented evidence that Chevron (CVX) has engaged in deliberate misconduct to avoid liability for what could be the world's worst oil-related disaster.
The dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste by Chevron's predecessor company Texaco (CVX) created a disaster that dwarfs the impact of the BP (BP) Gulf spill and has been contaminating the Amazon ecosystem for almost 50 years. It also has hurtled indigenous populations down a path of cultural decimation and put tens of thousands of people at risk of contracting cancer and other oil-related diseases. An area the size of Rhode Island is poisoned, and it will take a Herculean effort by the world community to restore this precious habitat.
In the trial, the plaintiffs presented evidence that Chevron has doctored sampling results; engaged in a sham remediation that has led to criminal fraud charges against two Chevron lawyers; fabricated security threats against their lawyers to delay the trial; is lobbying the U.S. government to cancel Ecuador's trade preferences in retaliation for the lawsuit; offered a U.S. journalist money to spy on the plaintiffs; harbored Ecuadorean employees in the U.S. to evade investigations in Ecuador; used a convicted American drug trafficker to mount a sting operation against a sitting Ecuadorean judge; and continues to misrepresent the extent of its liability to shareholders, financial markets, and industry analysts.
In short, Chevron is engaged in a racketeering scheme in Ecuador to undermine the rule of law and cover up the humanitarian crisis produced by its substandard operations. It has retained four leading American law firms to help deflect attention from this sordid fact and delay the outcome. Chevron's own racketeering case in U.S. federal court against the plaintiffs—including 47 individuals who live in the Amazon rain forest—is primarily a public relations stratagem to cover up the company's own reckless and inexcusable conduct. That Chevron is now trying to delay a jury trial in the U.S. on its so-called racketeering claims speaks volumes about how fearful it is of an impartial jury of U.S. citizens.
Editor's Note: Hinton is spokesperson for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs suing Chevron.