Your editorial on the Ecuador pollution lawsuit ignores judicial findings from three layers of courts that the oil company engaged in misconduct and fraud.
By Steven Donziger, Wall Street Journal
23 February 2015
The editorial on the settlement between Chevron and financier James Russell DeLeon over the Ecuador pollution lawsuit ignores judicial findings from three layers of courts that the oil company engaged in misconduct and fraud.
Technical evidentiary reports submitted during the eight-year trial in Chevron’s chosen forum of Ecuador confirm that for decades the company (operating as Texaco) deliberately discharged billions of gallons of oil-laden waste into rivers and streams relied on by indigenous groups for their drinking water and fishing. Eight appellate judges in total affirmed the findings, including five justices on the country’s Supreme Court, who in 2013 issued a unanimous 222-page decision that meticulously documented extensive pollution at hundreds of former well sites.
Chevron and Mr. DeLeon base their settlement on an unprecedented decision by a U.S. trial judge that attempts to overturn the Ecuador Supreme Court ruling. We believe the resulting decision, which is under appeal, is likely to be vacated and in any event won’t impact enforcement actions in other jurisdictions.
The real fraud in the Ecuador case is Chevron’s litigation shell game. After agreeing to jurisdiction in Ecuador, Chevron sold its remaining assets there. Chevron then returned to the same U.S. court where it had blocked the original lawsuit to try to prevent enforcement in this country. That forced the villagers to try to collect their judgment in Canada and Brazil. But Chevron claims its assets there are immunized because they are held by wholly owned subsidiaries. Given that Chevron operates outside the U.S. only through its wholly owned subsidiaries, under the company’s theory the villagers – after 22 years of litigation – will never collect the first dollar of their judgment anywhere. That is a mockery of the rule of law.
Chevron for years kept a litigation bazooka pointed at Mr. DeLeon’s head. The fact he finally blinked won’t diminish the company’s ongoing risk from its Ecuador liability.