Chevron Gets Sloppy: Longtime Strategy of Using Courts as PR Platform Exposed

posted by Rainforest Action Network

Chevron has a playbook, a playbook they use to silence critics, dodge legal liability, create illusions of pollution clean-up, buy favorable media (or attempt to), and disempower communities, to name just a few. One of Chevron’s most tired tactics is that of masquerading public relations stunts as court claims. Chevron to their credit is very savvy when it comes to these kinds of games. Chevron lines up their bloggers and leans on their media contacts as they role out a meticulously manufactured story. So it should come as no surprise that last week Chevron filled, yet a again, to have their $27 billion court case in Ecuador to be dismissed. Chevron has done this a few times, always for PR never because of substance. Why, because Chevron is grasping for straws.

This most recent charade struck me as desperately elaborate, even for Chevron. Chevron went to great lengths to manufacture their latest claim, and I was struck by the sloppy nature of how they executed the ploy.

Last month Chevron won a court motion allowing them access to hundreds of hours of film footage from the documentary CRUDE. This request was met with fierce opposition from thousands of film-makers, journalist and 13 media giants like the Washington Post and Dow Jones who filed a “friend of the court brief” on behalf of  CRUDE filmmaker Joe Berlinger. The court, ignoring journalist privilege under the first amendment, decided to allow Chevron access to film footage under the strict stipulation that Chevron would only use the footage they acquired in judicial proceedings. In fact the Second Circuit court’s decision reads, “material produced under this order shall be used by the petitioners solely for litigation, arbitration, or submission to official bodies, either local or international.” So had Chevron’s intentions been genuine they would surely have honored the courts decision. Why risk the repercussions of violating a court order for a public relations stunt?…Unless all it is, is a public relations stunt.

Fact is that is all it was, a new round of public relations trickery. First, Chevron has turned around and submitted blatantly edited video which was done so poorly that Joe Berlinger, the films director, explicitly called out Chevron’s tricks.

“The footage citations are being taken out of context and not being presented to the court in its entirety, creating numerous false impressions, precisely what we feared when we were first issued the original subpoena.”

Secondly, Chevron has gone against the court’s order prohibiting Chevron from using the footage or PR. Instead of first filing a claim based on Chevron’s edited video Chevron actually went on a media blitz before they filed any such claim.

Upon editing the video Chevron immediately distributed the material on Twitter and provided it to bloggers hours before it was even served to opposing lawyers.

According to Berlinger’s legal filing, Chevron’s violations of the court order include:

  • On August 3 at 7:47 p.m. — more than two hours before Chevron served its motion on Berlinger’s lawyers — a detailed article on the film outtakes was posted on the blog of the National Association of Manufacturers.
  • Nineteen minutes later and also well before the papers were served, Chevron posted “Crude’ Footage Reveals Lies Behind Trial Lawyers’ Suit Against Chevron” to its page, and linked to the above-referenced article.
  • On August 5 the San Francisco Chronicle posted an article entitled “Chevron: Outtakes prove collusion with expert,” in which the author states that he was given the outtakes by Chevron.

As laid out in a recent press release, the simple above timeline shows Chevron’s intentions are only to divert attention from their responsibility, and the decades forth of pollution in the Amazon while dragging film directors, lawyers, and courts through another merry-go-round of deflection and delay. Deflection and delay that becomes more elaborate and desperate as Chevron realizes they have run out of options to obstruct justice any further.