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Lagniappe



Gustavo Coronel : Ecuador vs Chevron:
Donziger: from Hans Solo to Darth Vader

 

Bringing the Chevron in Ecuador saga up to date

NOTE: With this summary of the Chevron-Ecuador epic conflict I essentially end my following of a fascinating event, which started over four years ago. I was always an independent observer, never took any form of payment from either side. I present my conclusions at the end of this post and can only hope the truth prevails.

For a long while it looked like the stuff Hollywood blockbusters are made of. A handsome, idealistic, newly graduate Harvard lawyer had traveled to Ecuador in 1993 and, as he said in a New York Times interview: “I saw what honestly looked like an apocalyptic disaster, almost like the end of the world, describing seeing entire jungle lakes filled with oil and children walking barefoot on oil-covered roads”. From that moment onwards his life became dominated by a trial that already has gone on for more than 20 years and that, in the last few years, has taken a dramatic turn. See also a NYT story on the subject:

At the moment of joining the indigenous group in their legal action against Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, Donziger immediately received the sympathy of large groups of environmentalists, leftist organizations and individuals that see the devil behind every big oil company, of Hollywood actresses like Daryl Hannah and of the famous for being famous such as Bianca Jagger.
It was to be expected. The plaintiffs were a group of Ecuadorian Indians, assisted by two environmentalists, Pablo Fajardo and Luis Yanza, who were awarded the 2008 Goldman Prize for their efforts. They were assisted by Ecuadorian and U.S. lawyers and supported by a group called Amazon Defense Coalition, ADC, not to be confused with Washington DC based Amazon Coalition. After failing to residence the trial in the U.S. in 1993, the plaintiffs introduced it in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, in 2003. The action against the oil company was based on the claim that significant environmental damage had been done to the environment in the region where it operated.

Basic background

Between 1964 and 1990 the U.S. oil company Texaco operated an oil production concession from the Ecuadorian government on behalf of a consortium made up of Texaco, the Ecuadorian state oil company and, briefly, another U.S. oil company, Gulf. 13 years after the start of operations, in 1977, the state-owned oil company, PetroEcuador, became the majority partner in the consortium with 62,5 percent of the shares while Texaco remained as operator and minority partner with the remaining 37,5 percent. Texaco ceased operations in 1990 and, for the period 1990-1992, the sole operator in the area was the Ecuadorian state, through its oil agencies and companies. The state oil company has, in fact, operated in the area continuously for the last 21 years.

In 1998 the government of Ecuador, represented by the Minister of Energy and Mines and by the Chairman of PetroEcuador, signed a full release to Texaco that reads as follows: “the Government and Petro Ecuador proceed to release, absolve and discharge Texaco, Texas Petroleum Company, Compañía Texaco de Petróleos del Ecuador, S.A., Texaco Inc. and all their respective agents, servants, employees, officers, attorneys, indemnitors, guarantors, heirs, administrators, executors, beneficiaries, successors, predecessors, principals and subsidiaries, forever, from any liability and claims by the Government of the Republic of Ecuador, PetroEcuador and its Affiliates, for items related to the obligations assumed by Texpet in the aforementioned Contract, which has been fully performed by Texpet, within the framework of that agreed with the Government and PetroEcuador; for which reasons the parties declare the Contract dated May 4, 1995, and all its supplementary documents, scope, acts, etc., fully performed and concluded.” (The complete release document can be read at 1998 Rele...PDF).

It is interesting to note that, according to the testimony of Mr. Ricardo Reis Veiga in the current trial against Mr. Steven Donziger: “The arbitral panel hearing Chevron’s claims against the Republic of Ecuador under the Bilateral Investment Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Ecuador recently ruled that the settlement and release barred the Republic of Ecuador or anyone else from bringing claims for diffuse, general environmental harm. PX 2473 is a true and correct copy of the ruling by the BIT arbitral panel dated September 17, 2013. This ruling is consistent with my understanding of the legal effect of the 1995 Settlement Agreement and the 1998 Final Release at the time I signed them”. See the complete testimony of Mr. Reis Veiga in an attachment to this summary.

However, this was not the end of the story…because

In 1993 a group of Ecuadorian citizens, supported by U.S. lawyers, introduced a civil suit for environmental damages in U.S. courts against Texaco. This action was cut short since the U.S. Courts decided that they had no competence, referring the case back to Ecuadorian courts.

In 1999, a new Environmental Management Act was passed in Ecuador allowing individuals to introduce legal actions against potential transgressors of this law. This became the opening used by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, Maria Aguinda et Al, to introduce a 2003 legal action against Chevron in the Ecuadorian town of Lago Agrio.

In a 2009 conversation with a friend in Washington DC I was told of this event. Being a petroleum geologist and having visited the area related to the litigation, I started reading about it and what I read suggested that the story was not as straightforward as public opinion seemed to take for granted. Since then I have followed the event rather closely.

The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that an oil company was being sued for environmental damages in an area from which it had departed 21 years ago and where a different company had been operating all that time but was not even a party to the suit. As a petroleum geologist I failed to see how this could be possible. It was as if a crime detective had visited the scene of a crime 21 years later, a scene that had been trampled on by other actors but had to assume that what he saw was done by someone who had left the scene years before.

Therefore I decided to meet with representatives of the two sides: Ms. Karen Hinton, spokesperson of the plaintiffs in the Washington DC area and Mr. Jim Craig, a spokesperson for ChevronTexaco. I met with them separately for about one hour or so.

I first met with Ms. Hinton and told her about my misgivings related to the environmental damage really being done. I doubted about how bad it was, who had done it and saw the difficulties of charging Texaco with responsibility after so many years. She told me they had very competent technical consultants, STRATUS, from Denver, Colorado and promised me to arrange a meeting with them, although this never took place. I also let her know about my doubts related to the credentials of the expert named by the Court. At the time we spoke the plaintiffs were clearly winning the battle of public opinion. In Internet the links supporting them outnumbered Chevron’s at least six to one. This was understandable because everybody loves an underdog and oil companies are among the organizations that many love to hate. At the end of my conversation with Ms. Hinton I ventured that Chevron could be amenable to a settlement but that I considered the case of the plaintiffs very weak and mentioned that such a settlement would probably be of the order of $500-800 million, perhaps as much as one billion dollars, provided that most of the money went directly to regional environmental upgrading and to works for the benefit of the Indian communities. I could see that she was very disappointed with my opinion. At the time I did not realize that the lawyers for the plaintiffs were after much bigger numbers.

My meeting with Mr. Craig from Chevron went very well. He came across as a very serious, objective person and supplied me with public documents related to the trial that reinforced my belief that Mr. Cabrera, the Court expert was unqualified for the job.

The Court expert

In March 19, 2007 the court designated an expert, Mr. Richard Stalin Cabrera Vega, to prepare a report to the court and submit his conclusions on the case, essentially an evaluation of: (1), the magnitude and origin of the environmental damage in the region, (2), the current environmental conditions in the area and (3), the issuing of recommendations for the remedial action that would be required to bring back the environment to its original conditions. The original report by Mr. Cabrera described the damages sustained by the region and its inhabitants and estimated those damages as follows:

Reparations for Damages, U.S. dollars: $3.4 billion

Compensation for Losses: $3.7 to $4.6 billion

Total Damages and Losses: in the range of $7.2 to $ 8.0 billion.

In addition to these totals Mr. Cabrera said that the company had increased its benefits unfairly by cutting down on environmental work and estimated this “unjust enrichment” in $8.3 billion. As a result the compensation to be paid by Chevron was estimated by the expert in $16.3 billion.

In November 2008, Mr. Cabrera released an updated report, increasing the damage assessment by $9.5 billion, for a total of some $26 billion. According to the report this additional amount was required to provide compensation for more exposure-related deaths than previously estimated and to address the additional cost of remediation groundwater and soil not included in the original report.

The report by the Court expert received a strong endorsement from STRATUS CONSULTING, a Boulder, Colorado company engaged by the plaintiffs.

Chevron’s early defense

Chevron countered by claiming that they were not the proper party to be accused, not only because they had been given a full release by the government but because the state oil company had been the operator in the area for the last 21 years. As the majority shareholder in the consortium, they knew of, and approved all operations by Texaco. They also argued that Chevron could not be the object of a legal action based on a 1999 law that did not exist when Texaco was active in Ecuador. Chevron rejected the manner in which the expert was named, as well as his credentials. They felt that there should have been a team of experts, named both by the plaintiffs and the defendant. They also rejected the transparency and the qualifications of the team named by the expert, the validity of the methods utilized by Mr. Cabrera to conduct his analysis and, as a result, the validity of his conclusions.

Chevron claimed that Mr. Cabrera had received money from the plaintiffs. They also claimed that the Ecuadorian government, at the highest level, the Presidency, was publicly in favor of the plaintiffs, which made a fair trial impossible. They strongly rejected the study on which Mr. Cabrera based his assertions about “excess cancer cases” and argued that Petro Ecuador was more responsible for any environmental damages done to the region and its people than Texaco, since they have operated in the area for the last 19 years. They added that PetroEcuador’s performance had been very poor during that period, experiencing 801 oil spills with a loss of almost 2 million gallons of oil.

They argued that Chevron had been selected as the target for this action, rather than PetroEcuador, because it had deeper pockets and was an international and not an Ecuadorian company. In brief, they defined the action as a fraudulent attempt against the company.

My perspective at that time

(a), I felt that Texaco, PetroEcuador and the Ministry of Petroleum of Ecuador had a shared responsibility to the people of Ecuador during the course of the life of the consortium. Rarely, if ever, the sole responsibility for the performance of the operations could be attributed to only one of the partners, much less so to the minority partner, even if it were the operator. Partners are legally and ethically obliged to have full knowledge of the operations at all times. The reason is simple: the way these operations are conducted will impact their finances, legal status and reputation. Therefore, the state oil company of Ecuador could not reasonably claim that “they did not know”.

(b), the report by the Court expert was very poor and many of its assertions weakly substantiated, particularly those related to the cost of any required remedial action that would be needed. When I saw the credentials of Mr. Cabrera I could clearly see that this person lacked the required degree of experience. He was a professional lightweight, incapable – in my view- of handling such a complex assignment. I say this because Mr. Cabrera’s work experience, as given in the C.V. was related almost completely to the mining sector, with no significant petroleum related experience. It is not easy to understand for anyone looking at his C.V. why Mr. Cabrera was chosen to conduct an evaluation of such complexity, one that would dramatically influence the lives of thousands of Ecuadorians and the finances and reputation of a big international oil company. If I had been given this C.V. to consider Mr. Cabrera for employment in a major oil company I would have rejected it, thinking that the person in question should more logically direct his employment search to the mining industry, where he had modest experience.

The Court expert report

I attach below selected portions of Mr. Richard Cabrera’s statement, which I consider to be inaccurate assertions by Mr. Cabrera:

• [much damage was done to people] inhaling vapor either from crude oil operations or gas flares… I find this a gross exaggeration

• The fact that new Ecuadorian environmental regulations were established after Texpet operations had concluded is irrelevant, and these standards should be used to determine adequate levels of contaminant cleanup. Laws should not be applied retroactively

• Texpet operated in the Concession area until June 1990, when PetroEcuador took over operations via PetroAmazonas, currently Petroproducción. Since then PetroEcuador has installed additional wells, although these wells are not included at all in this report. Why not?

• PetroEcuador continues to discharge waste into unlined pits at the oil wells. For several years, PetroEcuador continued to discharge production water directly into rivers and streams… And yet, they are not a party to the legal action!

• PetroEcuador is still releasing gases despite the fact it has constructed installations to capture more gas and not flare it into the atmosphere. Same comment as above

• There have also been additional oil spills since PetroEcuador took over operations in 1990.

• Texpet is still responsible for the majority of the contamination at these sites since it established the operating methods of the sites which started the contamination and which are still being used… It is unrealistic to expect that PetroEcuador could immediately change all of the Concession operations in order to make them safer. Instead, Petro Ecuador has had to operate… in the manner in which it was handed over by Texpet, and thus the contamination which has continued since June 1990 at the sites originally operated by Texpet is substantially the responsibility of Texpet. This is absurd. An oil company can and should stop any manner of operation that it considers harmful!

• Human Rights violations suffered at the hands of Texpet employees, such as rape, ethnic violence and discrimination. Highly vague charges

I felt that these assertions were particularly unwarranted and that the report was largely lacking in substance. As an oilman I could not accept the argument that Petro Ecuador could not change the manner of operation if it considered it to be wrong. This is absurd.

Chevron countered Mr. Cabrera’s report as follows :

• Specifically, court-appointed experts suggested by Chevron have conducted judicial inspections at 45 sites, during which they properly collected and analyzed 1344 water and soil samples. These experts concluded, based on the reliable scientific data collected, that Chevron has no liability for Plaintiffs’ claimed environmental damages. The first set of five settling experts (for the Sacha 53 site) agreed with the conclusions of Chevron’s suggested experts and issued a report—now properly before this Court—finalizing the Sacha 53 judicial inspection with a finding in favor of Chevron’s defense.

• All reliable evidence shows that TexPet properly remediated the sites.

• PetroEcuador, the state-owned Ecuadorian oil company, has grievously failed to fulfill its remediation obligations and has operated the oil fields in question in a manner that has caused numerous environmental problems. Petro Ecuador (formerly CEPE) has been the sole operator of the oil concession in Lago Agrio for the last seventeen [now 21] years, the sole owner for the last fifteen years [now 18], and was the majority partner in the concession for 15 years before that. For over 30 years, Petro Ecuador has done absolutely nothing to remediate those pits under its responsibility… Indeed, Petro Ecuador has an established history of environmental negligence. According to its own data, Petro Ecuador has recorded a total of 801 spills between 1990 and 2004 and a total spill volume of 1.9 million gallons. Published reports in the press reveal that the number of spills is even higher: 325 spills between 2003 and 2004, and a total spill volume greater than 3.2 million gallons between 1990 and 2005.

The verdict

In February 2011 the Lago Agrio court decided against Chevron, condemning the company to pay around $19 billion, the exact amount fluctuating after several appeals by the company.

However, already in September 2009 Chevron had made public information on a $3 million bribe scheme involving the judge of the case and members of the Ecuadorian “ruling party and government officials”. The company published videos “showing discussions of a prejudged verdict against the company by the judge and details of how the bribe might work”. A letter by the company to Ecuadorian authorities asked for a complete investigation of the bribery scheme and also an investigation of the role of the legal adviser to president Correa, Mr. Alexis Mera, and other government officials in efforts to influence the outcome of the trial, “including assisting the judge to write an opinion against Chevron”.

The company also requested an investigation of bank transactions in Galveston, Texas, which would hold the bribe payments. The company demanded an investigation of the relationship between Judge Juan Nuñez and the expert of the trial, Richard Cabrera and claimed that Judge Cabrera had acted in Cabrera’s favor when they requested his being deposed. The company requested an investigation into “any communication between parties involved in the Lago Agrio suit…relating to the distribution, use or administration of any damages relating to the damages awarded by the Lago Agrio court”. As a result of these revelations the judge was replaced but the trial continued.

In parallel the role played by Ecuadorian President Rafaél Correa in favor of the plaintiffs became evident. Correa made no efforts to disguise his sympathy for the plaintiffs and had harsh words to say about the Ecuadorian government officials who signed the Texaco release, calling them traitors. During the visit of U.S. Congressman James McGovern to Quito he said:

“At 4 p.m. we received U.S. Democrat Congress member James McGovern. He is a very nice guy… not a gangster like many Americans.. McGovern came to meet with the Amazon Defense Coalition who has this long battle with Chevron Texaco”…..

In August 2008 President Correa said:

“… August 9 at 8:30 am we received the Amazon Defense Front; we received Luis Yanza and Pablo Fajardo, extraordinary Ecuadorians who work for their people, for the Amazonia, for the whole country. They filed a lawsuit against Chevron Texaco for the destruction the company left behind after years of oil exploitation activities in the country. I told them: “compañeros” we are with the truth, with justice… the days of those submissive and treacherous governments are over; those governments that were always on the multinational’s side. Weekly Radio Program (August 16, 2008)

Also in August 2008, in a radio program, he emphasized:

“Former governments supported Texaco Chevron and betrayed our people. They signed agreements saying that everything was solved –when nothing was solved-… Washington Pesantez, the Public Prosecutor, has wisely opened investigations to sanction these people, because it is a lie. Nothing had been solved; no contamination had been remediated.” – Weekly Radio Program (August 9, 2008). It must be noted that Prosecutor Pesantez found no evidence of wrongdoing by Texaco and said so publicly.

In April, 2007, in TV, he said:

“Who was it? Well, it was Chevron Texaco that operated in Ecuador from 1964 on, and it applied technologies which were absolutely brutal on the environment; it totally destroyed the area at the beginning of the 90’s.”- La Televisión, Ecuavisa TV Station, (April 29, 2007)

In April 2007 President Correa said:

“Here we have Chevron-Texaco’s attorneys, these lawyers “vende patria” (sold to foreign interests), who for a fistful of dollars are capable of selling their souls, their country. We also have people from Petro Ecuador who in 1998 signed an Agreement declaring everything had been remediated, when many of these pits had not been even covered. I hereby call the Attorney General to present a report to the General Comptroller’s Office establishing criminal responsibilities against Petro Ecuador’s officials who signed this nonsense.

In August 2005, he said:

“One example is the oil activity since Texaco started working in the 60´s. The damage can be quantified in thousands of millions of dollars caused by spills, contamination, burning of gas, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, death of animals, salinity of rivers, diseases…Texaco is responsible for the extinction of Indian communities like the Tetetes and Sansahuaris.”- Hoy (August 24, 2005)

Chevron kept fighting back

In parallel with, and after, the verdict Chevron was able to obtain video footage about Court expert Cabrera, see The Amazon Post video and abundant graphic material left out of a documentary produced by the plaintiffs. The videos show lawyer Steven Donziger dismissing the Ecuadorean court system as corrupt and joking about assassinating an Ecuadorean judge – or at least making him fear he will be assassinated. In the videos he also comments that Ecuadorean judges make decisions on what they fear the most, not based on what the laws dictate, suggesting the need to intimidate them with marches and protests. At another point in the videos, Donziger and his team are discussing the lack of evidence on their side and Donziger points out that they can simply create their own facts. They also discuss how they will write the Court expert testimony, as follows: “On March 3, 2007, they held an all-day meeting – attended by Cabrera, Donziger, plaintiffs’ Ecuadorian counsel, and partisan experts retained by the plaintiffs – to plan the report that Cabrera would issue. During that meeting, Fajardo informed the group that the goal of the meeting was to ‘define the overall structure of [the] comprehensive expert examination.’ Donziger later clarified that the plaintiffs’ work plan would involve not only evidence and remediation, but also writing the expert’s opinion.”

“The Crude outtakes reveal that Fajardo presented a PowerPoint presentation during the morning session that outlined the Plan Para Examen Pericial Global, or Plan for the Global Expert Assessment. He emphasized that everyone would contribute to the report, explaining: ‘Here is where we do want the support of our [i.e., the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’] entire technical team. See entire meetings

The evidence of fraud contained in these videos led a prominent legal firm from Philadelphia - Kohn, Swift & Graf- to withdraw from the case (reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, December 23, 2010), after they had financed the plaintiffs and contributed to the production of the documentary. The Inquirer said that Kohn severed relations with Donziger and his case in 2009, when charges of ethical improprieties by the plaintiffs began to emerge.

Another piece of evidence of fraud became public when Alberto Guerra, a former Ecuadorian judge, declared under oath that the judge in the Lago Agrio trial, Mr. Nicolas Zambrano had told him that “he allowed the plaintiffs’ legal team, led by New York lawyer Steven Donziger, to draft the final trial judgment in exchange for a promise of $500,000 to be paid to Zambrano out of the plaintiffs’ recovery” See: Payoffs to Ex-Judge Are Latest Twist in Chevron Case

Darth Vader takes over

As a result of these revelations an unexpected dark side began to emerge in what had been taken by many to be a fight between a decent David (Donziger) against a criminal Goliath (Chevron). Evidence about the illegal maneuvers of Steven Donziger kept mounting to such an extent that Chevron was not only able to freeze the execution of the $19 billion judgment against them but also of introducing a civil racketeering suit against Steven Donziger. This trial is currently being held in New York.

In the first week of this trial Chevron called four witnesses. Two of them are Chevron’s executives, the other two a private technical consultant and the top executive from Burford, a financial services company.

In general the four testimonies (see complete statements attached) are extremely revealing of the extent of the fraud committed by S. Donziger. Unless the defense finds important errors or inaccuracies in those statements they will be very damaging to Mr. Donziger. I found the statement by Mr. Ricardo Reis Vega extremely well organized and coherent. The statement by Ms. Sara McMillen is very straightforward and professional, suggesting a very clean personality. I was shocked by the unprofessional behavior of Mr. David Russell and, after reading the testimony of Mr. Christopher Bogart, I would never do business with Burford, much less with Patton Boggs.

The statements

Some of my comments after reading the transcripts follow :

David Russell. This gentleman is a private consultant and he was hired by lawyer Steven Donziger to make an estimate of environmental damages on behalf of the plaintiffs. By his own admission he made this estimate without doing the necessary field or laboratory work, following guidelines from Mr. Donziger, who asked for a “big number”. Obediently he produced a big number, $6.1 billion. Months later, according to his testimony, he felt this was a too large a number, not based on solid data but, by that time this estimate had become pretty much the backbone of the case against ChevronTexaco and Mr. Donziger certainly got a lot of mileage out of it. Russell’s honest side took a long time to reveal itself and to start protesting against the use of this wild estimate, but by that time the damage against Chevron was largely done. Even after he demanded that the number should no longer be used by the plaintiffs they keep doing it. The catchy reference to an Ecuadorian Chernobyl was based on this estimate.

Christopher Bogart. His statement was also surprising. His company, Burford, was contacted by Patton Boggs to find $15 million financing for Mr. Donziger. If the case against Chevron was won and money collected Burford would obtain some 5.54% of the recovered amount, about $900 million. In considering the financing Burford did not conduct its own due diligence. Bogart says they could not do it (?) and simply accepted the arguments of Patton Boggs in favor of the financing. He relied on the opinion from a friend of his and senior lawyer in Patton Boggs. According to him, however, this organization consciously and repeatedly deceived Burford. To me this revelation was as shockingly unprofessional as Mr. Russell’s behavior, if not more so, since these are big corporations while Russell was a one man band. An incredible letter from Donziger to Burford, quoted by Mr. Bogart, says they should have been aware of the deceit since everything they had to know about it was already public knowledge when they signed the agreement. Burford never contacted Mr. J. Kohn directly, who had severed ties with Mr. Donziger and could have told them what was going on. They never attempted to do their own evaluation of the Cabrera’s report. For two years this company was misled and did not know it. It took them $4 million to find out.

Ricardo Reis Veiga. He is a senior lawyer for ChevronTexaco. His statement is extremely well organized and informative about the process. He pointed out that Texaco was a minority shareholder and that for two years Texaco was not operating while Petro Amazonas was the operator, 1990-1992. Even when Texaco operated the state oil company was fully informed of what was going on. During this testimony he gave a lot of information. He quoted the expert, Mr. Cabrera, as saying that his duty was to “find contamination”. He spoke at length of the collusion of the Ecuadorian government with the plaintiffs and gave a detailed account of the harassment of Chevron lawyers Reis and Perez Pallares by the Correa government, as a strategy conceived by Mr. Donziger to force a settlement.

Sara McMillen. She is a technical manager in Chevron and comes through as very clean and with a sharp instinct to detect fraud. He rapidly saw through Cabrera and the show put up by the “technical” side of Donziger’s team. She readily identified HAVOC, the Quito laboratory used by the plaintiffs as unqualified. She was at the oil sites and saw the way the investigation was manipulated by the plaintiffs. She mentions the Government financing of plaintiff’s studies. She quotes Petro Ecuador, the state oil company of Ecuador saying that remedial action in the area under litigation would cost some $96 million. This is certainly quite a difference from the $6.1 billion estimated originally by Mr. Russell and one that demolishes the claim about a tropical Chernobyl.

What next?

The outcome of Mr. Steven Donziger civil trial will not be the end of this story. Thousands of pages have been written about the Chevron trial in Ecuador and I am afraid that the truth might never emerge from this sea of ink.

As far as I am concerned I believe that:

(1), Texaco did do some damage to the environment when it operated in the Amazonia. I believe they did a reasonable job of remediation but am not sure that it was all they could have done. However, their full release was given by Ecuador and this is an inescapable fact.

(2) I believe the main responsibility for any environmental damage found today in the area where Texaco previously operated is Petro Ecuador’s, the state oil company.

(3) I believe that some of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs might have started their action with good intentions but fell into the hands of an unprincipled operator, Steven Donziger, who saw dollars in this, much more so than the opportunity to right a wrong.

(5), I believe the trial was highly tainted by corruption at the level of the Ecuadorian judges and of the legal team of the plaintiffs. It should have been declared null and void.

(6), I believe that for the trial to end like it did, the current Ecuadorian government and President Rafael Correa pressured and intimidated the members of the judicial system and harassed the defendants

(7) I believe that this long and bitter confrontation will have some winners but they will not be the main actors. Both stand to lose, one way or another. The winners will be the lawyers hired by each side, the technical experts and the contractors who served as strategists for public opinion campaigns. According to FORBES just a 15 month breakdown of costs incurred by the plaintiffs included $375,000 for expenses in Ecuador, $195,000 for a U.S. environmental consulting firm,$150,000 for the spokesperson, $214,000 on travel and $2.3 million on various technical consultants, well over one million dollars per year, excluding legal fees. Mr. Donziger would have billed millions of dollars during the long trial.

However, Mr. Donziger recently estimated that he would need to pay $6-10 million in legal fees to defend himself in the current civil suit and claims Chevron pays a similar amount per month. See :Letters blogatory.com

Whatever the real costs are, they are bound to be staggering.

Beyond this partial list of winners and losers I believe the main losers in this affair are the country and the people of Ecuador. They are pawns in a sinister game of greed and politics played by persons who have tried to advance their personal political and financial agendas at all costs.

I just hope Darth Vader does not win.

 

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