Just published: my new Storify on the ignoble demise of what had been billed as one of the world’s biggest human rights lawsuits, the so-called Lago Agrio case against Chevron over pollution in Ecuador. We’ve covered it for years, before and after the tainted $18 billion verdict obtained by attorney Steven Donziger, and the Storify feature links to many of our key posts. Big-name environmental groups like the Sierra Club, 350.org, and EarthJustice promoted Donziger’s case long after they had reason to know better.
“Brad Pitt’s production company has edged out George Clooney’s to win the film rights to a book about the epic, fraud-marred Ecuadorian environmental suit against Chevron, according to two sources with indirect knowledge of the situation.” Back story: “Pitt is known to have been interested in the Lago Agrio pollution for several years, and has visited Ecuador with his wife, Angelina Jolie, to observe the situation and meet with [plaintiff lawyer Steven] Donziger’s team.” However, the book, Paul Barrett’s Law of the Jungle, includes much detail unfavorable to Donziger, who has lashed out against it and numerous other journalistic treatments of the affair such as Michael Goldhaber’s Crude Awakening. [Roger Parloff, Fortune] We’ve been covering the story for years, but alas have yet to hear from any stars interested in optioning rights.
Roger Parloff at Fortune reviews the two new Chevron-Ecuador books by Paul Barrett and Michael Goldhaber (earlier here, etc.), and also asks where ubiquitous S.D.N.Y. federal prosecutor Preet Bharara is in a case where he might appropriately take an interest. Meanwhile, Paul Barrett recounts being on the receiving end of a P.R. campaign to tear down his book, and an excerpt from his book recounts the fall of celebrated law firm Patton Boggs after it was tripped up in the dispute; and actress Mia Farrow reveals at least one way in which she might be thought to resemble former education secretary Bill Bennett.
The George Mason law professor favorably reviews one of the two new books on the case, Michael Goldhaber’s Crude Awakening. After Prof. Krauss wrote on the litigation in March, he says, the government of Ecuador unsuccessfully tried to pressure Forbes to retract the piece. Earlier (Glenn Garvin on the William Langewiesche Vanity Fair piece), generally, and related (takedown attempts).
“U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said he found ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that attorney Steven Donziger’s legal team used bribery, fraud and extortion in pursuit of an $18 billion judgment against the oil company issued in 2011.” [Reuters, Bloomberg, 485-pp., 1842-footnote opinion; SFGate, Kevin Williamson, Quin Hillyer, Ira Stoll (New York politicians including Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli roped in as allies of Donziger)] We’ve been covering the story for years.
“The judge, Alberto Guerra, took the stand … in Manhattan federal court during the trial in a racketeering suit in which Chevron alleged that the verdict in Ecuador was procured through fraud. Guerra has said in a declaration filed with the court that he was paid thousands of dollars by lawyers for the plaintiffs to steer the case in their favor.” A spokesman for Steven Donziger, Chevron’s adversary at the trial, calls the former jurist an “extortionist.” [Bloomberg Business Week, Christie Smythe and Paul M. Barrett; Bernard Vaughan, Reuters; earlier]
Striking new ruling (PDF) from Judge Lewis Kaplan denying lawyers’ request to be excused from a subpoena (courtesy David McGowan, Legal Ethics Forum). “Chevron has established at least probable cause to believe there was fraud or other criminal activity in the procurement of the Judgment and in other respects relating to the Lago Agrio litigation in which that Judgment was rendered and in certain litigations in the United States relating to the Ecuadorian litigation.” Kaplan proceeds to lay out over 70 or so pages the aromatic history of the litigation both in Ecuador and stateside.
In Manhattan federal district court this morning, Chevron filed the declaration of a former Ecuadorian judge, Alberto Guerra, who describes how he and a second former judge, Nicolás Zambrano, allegedly allowed the plaintiffs lawyers to ghostwrite their entire 188-page, $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron [in the Lago Agrio environmental litigation] in exchange for a promise of $500,000 from the anticipated recovery.
The bribery charge is completely new, and the ghostwriting charge is more sweeping and better substantiated than before.
Since some readers may be having a hard time keeping all the case’s scandals straight, here’s a précis. Chevron has now presented evidence of two distinct, large-scale, ghostwriting frauds which, among other problems, it maintains, taint the Ecuadorian judgment.
Complicating Chevron’s claims of vindication — and opening an avenue for the plaintiff’s camp to argue against giving any credence to the new allegations — the oil company acknowledges that it has made and intends to go on making payments of “living expenses” to the former Ecuadorian judge, now resident with his family in the United States. Read the whole thing here.
More from Kevin Williamson at National Review Online:
Curious fact: As a senator, Barack Obama did see fit to intervene in the Chevron case — on the side of the Ecuadoran government. After meeting with an old basketball buddy — the abovementioned Mr. Donziger, who stands to make billions of dollars as the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case — Barack Obama wrote a letter to the U.S. trade representative arguing that Ecuador’s actions should not be held against the regime when negotiating trade privileges. Donziger, with the help of a $10,000-a-month lobbyist, also got Andrew Cuomo to threaten to intervene in the case, even though the jurisdiction of the Empire State stops well north of Ecuador.
Yet more: Daniel Fisher, Forbes.
Daniel Fisher at Forbes has the latest on an unsurprising development in a story we’ve been following for a long time (e.g.). More: Roger Alford/Opinio Juris and more, Carter Wood/ShopFloor, Ashby Jones/WSJ Law Blog (with breakdown of verdict), more from Fisher. And: Carter Wood begins a 3-part series in the Examiner. And who’s more incurious about all the indicia of plaintiff misconduct in the case, BoingBoing or their average commenter?