If you’ve had a hard time following the epic legal battle between Chevron and the Ecuadorean plaintiffs suing the company for its oil pollution in the Amazon, you are probably not alone. It can be hard to follow some times — especially given how hard Chevron is working to make sure the truth gets buried.
There’s really only one thing you need to know, though: Chevron has been found guilty of deliberately dumping over 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste in the Ecuadorean Amazon, but the company refuses to pay to clean up its mess even though people are sick and dying this very second thanks to Chevron’s pollution.
The current cover story in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine is a lengthy and thorough report on the case, if you still want more info. In his attempt to be impartial, the writer, Paul Barrett, some times regurgitates Chevron’s spin, but he definitely did his research, and he got many things exactly right.
In particular, the piece rightly dismisses Chevron’s allegations that the lawsuit is nothing but an attempt to extort money from the company led by US plaintiff lawyer Steven Donziger:
[Donziger] has been paid a total of about $1 million since 2003, which works out to $125,000 annually for round-the-clock, 365-days-a-year labor. Even with the Feb. 14 judgment, the odds remain iffy that he will collect a fat paycheck by class-action standards. His diary indicates that what drives him has more to do with true devotion and an ornery refusal to quit than it does with the accumulation of lucre. “I think it is a miracle how much we have accomplished with so little,” he wrote in May 2006. “But in the end of the day that means nothing if we don’t win.”
Barrett also highlighted the fact that U.S. federal judge Lewis Kaplan’s biased decisions in Chevron’s favor have perhaps tested the limits of judicial propriety. Of Kaplan’s restraining order against enforcement of any verdict against Chevron — which came out before the court in Ecuador even issued a verdict — Barrett writes:
It was highly unusual for a federal judge to block the effect of a foreign court’s action before it occurred. (He has since turned his order into a preliminary injunction, which remains in effect.) Kaplan didn’t rule on the merits of the environmental claims; in fact, he stressed that he didn’t know much about the underlying equities. He didn’t sound sympathetic, however: “Among the obvious facts here are that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs are in this for money. They may be in it for other things, but they are in it for money.”
Kaplan “didn’t know much” about the actual facts of the case? Not surprising, since that is exactly how Chevron wants it. Barrett makes this point too: “As the mud flies, the degradation at the heart of the Chevron case grows increasingly obscure.” The less anyone knows about the actual facts of the case the better it suits Chevron, because the facts clearly show the company is guilty.
Chevron is not acting alone to evade its responsibility to clean up Ecuador, of course. We recently launched a new website detailing the bad actors helping Chevron deny justice to the Ecuadorean plaintiffs. Check out the site — Chevron’s Human Rights Hitmen — and help us name and shame the folks doing Chevron’s dirty work.