Who's Who in the Chevron Trial
The no-holds-barred litigation over Chevron's environmental record in Ecuador stars a galaxy of lawyers.
In the epic legal battle over Chevron Corporation’s responsibility for alleged environmental damage to the Amazon jungle, the first round went to the plaintiffs: An Ecuadorian judge awarded them $19 billion in 2011. But outtakes from a documentary film about the case, Crude, fueled Chevron’s contentions that the plaintiffs won the mega-verdict in Ecuador through extortion, fraud, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice. The next chapter unfolds with a civil racketeering trial—at press time scheduled to start October 15—in U.S. district court in Manhattan against the lead plaintiffs attorney, his cocounsel, and an environmental consulting firm. We think this could make a great movie, too.
A former prosecutor, Chevron’s lead lawyer at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has taken an aggressive stance in the case, accusing the plaintiffs attorneys of bribing an Ecuadorian judge and ghostwriting a supposedly independent expert’s report.
The lead plaintiffs attorney and Crude’s protagonist, Donziger was filmed saying that Ecuadorian judges could be pressured since “they make decisions based on who they fear the most.” He denies Chevron’s charges and accuses the oil company of committing its own improprieties.
JUDGE LEWIS KAPLAN
The U.S. district court judge set to hear the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act case has already said there is “substantial evidence” of fraud by the plaintiffs. They have tried—unsuccessfully—to remove him from the case six times.
The Patton Boggs partner was hired by the Ecuadorians to enforce the $19 billion judgment. Chevron has deposed him in a suit against Patton Boggs for allegedly covering up evidence that the $19 billion judgment was fraudulent—claims that the firm denies
The CEO of litigation funder Burford Capital, which invested million of dollars to bankroll the plaintiffs, renounced any profit from the case in April because of what Bogart called “mounting evidence of fraud and misconduct” by Donziger and Patton Boggs. Judge Kaplan denied a defense motion in the RICO case to depose the firm.