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Senior Brazilian Official Backs Chevron in Oil Pollution Case

Bloomberg Business - Paul Barrett 18/05/2015

Seeking to avoid payment of a disputed $9.5 billion pollution judgment in Ecuador, Chevron won a round in Brazil. Last week, a senior Brazilian legal official recommended that his nation's courts refuse to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment. The recommendation isn't binding on the Brazilian judiciary, and lawyers for the alleged Ecuadorian victims are continuing to pursue enforcement in other countries.

The maneuvering in Latin America is part of a 22-year-long legal war pitting Ecuadorian farmers and indigenous tribe members against Chevron. In February 2011, a provincial trial court in Ecuador ruled that the American oil company was liable for decades of contamination in the rain forest east of the Andes Mountains. Higher Ecuadorian courts upheld the liability finding.

Chevron, however, continued to deny responsibility and turned the tables on the New York plaintiffs' lawyer who had engineered the case. Chevron went to the unusual length of suing that lawyer, Steven Donziger, in New York. In March 2014, a U.S. district court judge determined that the Ecuadorian pollution verdict was unenforceable because it was based on fabricated evidence, coercion, and bribery. Donziger denies those findings and is appealing the determination that he is an attorney-turned-racketeer.

Meanwhile, Donziger and his legal team can't enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in that country, because Chevron has no assets in Ecuador. So the plaintiffs have sought to enforce the verdict in other countries where the oil company does have assets worth billions of dollars. 

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