Chevron’s Star Witness Alberto Guerra’s Fatal Credibility Problems

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Chevron promises that Alberto Guerra, disgraced former judge in the Ecuadorian case, will testify to the company’s most explosive allegations—that the judgment against Chevron was ghostwritten by the Plaintiffs and that his efforts to seek bribes were partly on behalf of Judge Nicolas Zambrano, who issued the historic $19 billion final judgment in the Ecuadorian environmental litigation.

But who is Alberto Guerra?  A series of underlying documents from Guerra himself—recordings of his meetings with Chevron’s attorneys, his deposition, and even his prepared direct witness testimony in the RICO case—show that Guerra, who only presided over the Ecuador case for a few months, on multiple occasions sought out the parties in the Lago Agrio litigation, offering to help “fix” the case. Guerra Deposition, pg. 32. Only in the last year, as large parts of Chevron’s RICO case were falling apart, does it now appear that Guerra and the company have struck a deal. Chevron-Guerra Agreement, Dkt. 755-14, pgs. 3-4.  Now Guerra is here in federal court in Manhattan to tell “the truth:” a magic bullet theory that purports to rescue Chevron’s RICO case.  The story may be entertaining but it is impossible to believe—in large part because of who is telling it.

Guerra has admitted that he has sought and received bribes throughout his career as a judge, and paid bribes as a lawyer in private practice. Guerra Witness Statement, Plaintiffs’ Trial Exhibit 4800, pg. 3, With respect to his dealings in this case, he has repeatedly contradicted himself, changed his story, and admitted to “exaggerating” when necessary to serve his self-interests—even to Chevron itself in order to get the company to cough up more cash for his cooperation. Defendants’ Motion for Terminating Sanctions, Dkt. 1422, pgs. 21-22.

Guerra testified that Chevron “led me to understand that I was the bridge with Mr. Zambrano, and I myself, from the very beginning, had also believed that” Guerra Deposition, pg. 169. He testified how he tried to secure Zambrano’s cooperation on multiple occasions. id. 164 Unfortunately for Guerra and Chevron, Zambrano was unwilling to join in the scheme.  Instead, Zambrano, who is still living a modest life in Ecuador, will be traveling to New York later in the trial to testify—with no promise of payment—and contradict Guerra’s story from top to bottom.

Furthermore, Chevron has agreed to pay Guerra at least $326,000 through 2015 as compensation for his favorable testimony and cooperation, a sum—negotiated directly with Guerra in the U.S. by Gibson Dunn’s lead lawyer in the RICO trial Randy Mastro—that cannot be justified under any reasonable interpretation of the case law or ethical rules. Chevron-Guerra Agreement, Dkt. 755-14

In short, Guerra’s stories are are bought and paid for by Chevron, and his credibility utterly evaporates upon examination of the admissions and wildly inconsistent statements contained in his testimony.

Guerra’s Corruption and Contradictions:

  • Last week on the witness stand, Ricardo Reis Vega, Chevron vice president who oversaw its legal defense in the Ecuador case, was asked if he had personal knowledge that in 2009, Guerra approached Chevron promising to “fix the case,” to which Reis Vega replied, “Yes, I do.” Oct. 16, 2013
  • In his declaration as well as in his deposition, Guerra has admitted to breaking Ecuadorian law and explained in his deposition that he expected that he could be prosecuted for it. Dkt. 746-3, pg. 7, Guerra Deposition, pg. 33
  • According to deposition testimony, Guerra has admitted that his motivation in approaching Chevron was to be “the recipient of some amount of money,” and further explained that he felt he could negotiate for “strong amounts of money.” Guerra Deposition, pg. 39, id. 189.
  • Guerra has admitted, that in order to exact a larger payment from Chevron, he exaggerated or invented wholesale his claims that the Lago Agrio Plaintiffs had offered him $300,000 during the time he oversaw the trial in Ecuador, explaining that, “My intent was to improve my position… to that end I said some things or I exaggerated some things.” Guerra Deposition, pg. 150.
  • Guerra has repeatedly changed his testimony regarding ghostwriting of the judgment in the Lago Agrio case. Only after Chevron was unable to locate the draft judgment Guerra claimed was on the computer and flash drives he turned over did Guerra then suggest that he had done the work on a separate computer. When asked to confirm that he “had not told Chevron that [he] had worked on any part of the project on a separate computer in Lago Agrio before July 31st, correct?” he responded, “I told Chevron several things. Some of them were true, others were exaggerations.” Guerra Deposition, pg. 168.
  • Guerra admitted in deposition testimony to telling visiting North American lawyers that Judge Zambrano was “not pressured or influenced by anyone” regarding the Lago Agrio judgment. Guerra Deposition, pg. 109.
  • Guerra admitted that he asked Chevron representatives to “add a couple of zeros to that” when told they had $20,000 in cash available to pay him for his cooperation. Guerra Deposition, pg. 153. Ultimately, he signed an agreement to be paid $10,000 per month, as well as significant additional compensation, for his cooperation, outlined below.

Chevron Pays Guerra for Testimony & Cooperation

Chevron has attempted to skirt prohibitions against paying “fact witnesses” by providing an outrageous package of perks—including large monthly payments for “living expenses” that are 30 times the average salary in Ecuador—to secure Guerra’s favorable testimony and cooperation in its RICO case. Chevron-Guerra Agreement, Dkt. 755-14.

  • In one of their earliest meetings, a Chevron lawyer and a Chevron secret operative (“Investigator #5) provided $18,000 in cash from a backpack to Guerra for turning over his laptop and a few flash drives. Chevron also provided Guerra with a replacement computer.
  • Chevron has guaranteed $12,000 per month for “cooperating,” comprising $10,000 for “living expenses” as well as a $2,000 housing allowance. These payments are guaranteed for 24 months, and potentially longer depending on the outcome of a reassessment by an “independent” evaluator.
  • Chevron has provided travel and moving expenses to move Guerra and his entire family—including his son and son’s family—from Ecuador to the United States.
  • Chevron has agreed to pay for a new car comparable to that which Guerra had in Ecuador, as well as for health insurance for Guerra, his spouse, his son, his son’s spouse and grandson.
  • Chevron has agreed to pay for a lawyer to represent Guerra in dealings with any federal or state government investigative authorities and any civil matters.
  • Chevron has agreed to pay an immigration lawyer for Guerra, his wife, his son and his son’s wife and his grandson, as well as promised future immigration assistance for Guerra’s other son, already living in the U.S.
  • Guerra also testified that he has been offered or promised at least two additional sums of money outside the terms of his agreement with Chevron totaling $15,000. Guerra Deposition, pg. 142, id. 213.