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Jack King: The other side on Chevron

Times Herald Online 29/09/2015

Letter writer Michael J. Haworth tells us of a most “pleasing” article in the New York Times, (Sept. 18, “Anywhere But Chevron”), concerning Chevron Texaco and the many evils this “multinational corporation” perpetrated against the poor Ecuadorian indigenous peoples, the pristine rain forest and the Amazon River.

The Times article tells of a lawsuit brought against Chevron in the Ecuadorian Courts that awarded the farmers $17.2 billion in 2011, which was subsequently lowered to $9.5 billion on appeal. To this day Chevron, “crying fraud,” still refuses to pay. Apparently the pleasing part is that a Canadian court has now agreed to hear the case.

Mr. Hayworth says correctly, that “Chevron argues on the one hand that Texaco cleaned up the mess, and on the other, that most of the pollution was caused by PetroEcuador and the Ecuadorian government.” He then asks, “If that were true, why then would Texaco feel responsible for the cleanup?”

Mr. Haworth, let me help you out with that. Drilling and pumping oil is a dirty business. Cleanup is always necessary. Texaco, being a responsible company, acted according to its contract when it ceased operations in Ecuador. Per the partnership agreement, Texaco conducted remediation of 133 production sites spending $40 million on the process, while PetroEcuador, a government owned company, committed to perform any remaining cleanup. The government of Ecuador oversaw and certified the successful completion of Texaco’s remediation and fully released Texaco from further environmental liability. Allow me to say again, certified and fully released from further liability. Texaco left Ecuador with those legal government documents in hand. PetroEcuador, however, failed to conduct the cleanup it promised and has continued to operate there over the past 20 years. Turns out it was the own government of the “indigenous peoples” that shafted them.

Enter an outfit called the Amazon Defense Front, formed for one reason and dedicated to one goal: The shakedown of Chevron Texaco. After all, it can be unwise to try to shake down a Banana Republic. Its lead attorney is Steve Donziger, the “David” in Mr. Haworth’s tale. Donziger has worked for 20 years with this lawsuit as his only important case.

Enter an oil company with back bone. Chevron took them to court on civil RICO charges. In 2014, a U.S. District Court of New York ruled that the Ecuadorian judgment was the product of fraud and racketeering activity, finding it unenforceable.

The court found that Steven Donziger violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), committing extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, witness tampering and obstruction of justice in obtaining the Ecuadorian judgment and in trying to cover up his own and his associates’ crimes. The ruling prohibits Donziger and his associates from seeking to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in the United States and further prohibits them from profiting from their illegal acts.

After finally learning all this, many of Donziger’s former supporters, including funders, investors, (oh yes, investors) scientific experts and legal counsel have bailed out on him.

Chevron is schooling Ecuador through an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague, convened under the authority of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty and administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The court has already ruled that Ecuador released Texaco and therefore Chevron from liability for all public interest or collective environmental claims through the agreements signed in the 1990s. So, Chevron didn’t “cry fraud,” they proved fraud, twice.

I think the information contained here in should well and truly clear up any negative impression of Chevron one might harbor after reading Mr. Haworth’s decidedly ambiguous presentation.

And now I have a confession. I worked for Chevron for 20 years. I got much of the material for this letter at a Chevron site, along with some others including the Wall Street Journal. And I’m damned proud of it. I am proudest of all though that the company I worked for is the one that finally stood up to these shysters. Turns out this Donziger guy wasn’t so much a “David” as a Harvard trained extortionist who got his butt kicked all the way down the court house steps and clean out of the country. So now he’s court shopping in Canada. Where will he go next? Serbia? Somalia? Who knows.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, I also gleaned some insight from an op-ed titled “Behind the Chevron Case” by Joe Nocera. It was published in the Sept. 22, 2014 New York Times. And yes, I was pleased.

— Jack King/Vallejo

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