Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
Back in July of this year, we discussed a successful request by oil giant Chevron to subpoena 9 years of metadata from countless defendants and non-defendants. This was arguably an attempt to attack a $19 Billion dollar judgment handed down by an Ecuadorian court against Chevron by going after the parties involved in the lawsuit.
Chevron was not deterred when the United States Supreme Court refused to review the judgment. It merely went on the attack and found an allegedly friendly judge in New York to assist in refusing to pay the judgment owed to various indigenous communities that were devastated by Chevron’s predecessor’s actions in the rainforests where it was drilling for oil. We need to revisit this issue now that the RICO action filed by Chevron started this week in New York.
“But have you heard of Hugo Camacho? Or Javier Piaguaje? They’re not exactly household names. Nor gangster names for that matter. And that’s because one is a campesino farmer that makes about $200 a month growing cacao. The other is a leader of the Secoya indigenous people, and both are from the rainforests of Ecuador’s Amazon. Their crime? Suing the second largest oil company for the worst oil-related environmental disaster on the planet. And winning.
But starting today in a lower Manhattan courthouse, they are being accused using the same criminal statute under which the big crime bosses of our time have been prosecuted: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). It’s the latest in Chevron‘s scorched earth campaign to avoid paying a record environmental verdict against the company for massive contamination stemming from its operations in Ecuador’s Amazon between 1964 and 1990.” Reader Supported News
Our article in July discussed the First Amendment issues that occurred when Chevron subpoenaed the enormous metadata records of the successful Ecuadorian plaintiffs. Chevron is now proceeding with the RICO action claiming that the Ecuadorians engaged in fraud and therefore Chevron should not be required to pay the $19 Billion dollar judgment. You probably know that RICO stands for “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).”
The RICO act was designed to prosecute United States crime families and mob bosses and Chevron is using it to hide from a judgment that it doesn’t want to pay. It doesn’t want to pay it even though it was decided in a forum that Chevron requested. Complicating matters for the judgment creditors is the fact that Chevron does not own any assets in Ecuador. The judgment creditors are attempting to collect against Chevron in countries where it does own assets, but it is a long and expensive process.
Speaking of expenses, Chevron has hired a legal army in its attempt to avoid paying the judgment. “But Chevron, armed with more than 60 legal firms, some 2,000 legal professionals, top PR companies, the shadowy “investigative and risk” management firm Kroll and endless resources, has tried to outlast and vanquish the Ecuadorians and their advocates like Donziger. Unable to put a pair of cement shoes on him and drop in the Hudson, Chevron has ironically gone after Donziger and the Ecuadorians with a statute that is better applied to the company itself. Is there a business more fitting of RICO charges than the oil industry?” Reader Supported News
Does anyone else find it disturbing that a large oil company like Chevron, would not only hide from its lawful obligations to pay up for its disastrous practices in drilling for oil, but would personally attack the successful judgment creditors? I realize that the Supreme Court considers corporations to be people. Shouldn’t the people of Chevron be required to pay their bills like the rest of us?
This is a real life David versus Goliath moment. Would it be important to you in your review of this case to know that the judge, Lewis Kaplan, has a connection to Chevron? “After forum shopping for several years, Chevron found an ally in Judge Lewis Kaplan, who had worked previously for a firm that represented Chevron. Kaplan actually invited Chevron to bring RICO charges.” Reader Supported News
Since Chevron is alleging fraud on the parts of the judgment creditors, it is important to review Chevron’s actions during the trial process in Ecuador. I apologize for the length, but Chevron was so “busy” in Ecuador, that it is important to see the full extent of its activities there.
“When the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for New York remanded the case to Ecuador, a caveat of Chevron’s compliance with any judgment was if any type of fraud occurred. And that is what Chevron is conveniently now claiming. And fraud did occur alright, and many of Chevron employees should be in jail for engaging in it.
During the trial in Ecuador, Chevron:
- Orchestrated a deceptive “sting” operation involving a former Chevron employee and a convicted felon who attempted to bribe the sitting judge.
- When the scandal unraveled, Chevron helped move the former employee to the U.S. and continues to pay his rent, legal counsel and a generous monthly salary, though he does no work for the company.
- Worked with the Ecuadorian military to fabricate a false military report which delayed crucial judicial inspections of contaminated sites.
- Selected soil and water samples from conveniently illogical places, such upstream from contamination sources.
- Used an “independent” laboratory operated by the wife of a Chevron employee to process its sampling evidence, where samples were swapped or destroyed.
- Offered a former judge in the case a literal “suitcase full of cash” and helped move him to the U.S., where Chevron provides him with payments of $144,000 per month-approximately 30 times the basic salary in Ecuador.
- Offered the judge who issued the verdict a $1 million bribe in exchange for a favorable verdict. He rejected the bribe.” Reader Supported News
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that an oil corporation might take dubious steps in attempting to hide from a lawful judgment. What is a surprise to me is that a United States court would allow the RICO statute to be utilized to shield that corporation/person from a lawful foreign judgment. What do you think?
Additional References: Common Dreams;