The secret arbitration panel convened by Chevron in Washington, DC last week has issued its ruling — and not surprisingly, the trio of corporate lawyers has found that they have jurisdiction to review the civil suit brought against Chevron in the public court system of the sovereign nation of Ecuador.
I say it’s not surprising because of course the panel found they have jurisdiction: they’d be throwing away millions in legal fees if they didn’t. I reported last week that the three lawyers on the panel stood to make as much as $3 million apiece, but I was wrong. Given the unprecedented scope and nature of the lawsuit to hold Chevron accountable for the 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste it deliberately dumped in the Ecuadorean Amazon, the lawyers, who get paid by the hour, stand to make as much as $10 million each.
What is somewhat surprising — or rather, appalling — is that these three lawyers also saw fit to issue a ruling intended to block enforcement of the $18 billion judgment issued against Chevron that was upheld on appeal earlier this year. The panel has ordered the government of Ecuador to take “all necessary steps” to stop the plaintiffs from seeking enforcement, even though such interference by the executive branch in the judiciary would violate Ecuador’s Constitution, just as it would the US Constitution.
The Ecuadorean plaintiffs are adamant that the secret panel’s ruling will have no impact on the $18 billion judgment, as the Ecuadorean government will not abide by the order just as the US government would not. According to Karen Hinton, a US spokesperson for the 30,000 Ecuadoreans who won the judgment against Chevron: “This arbitration panel has just lost the last remnants of its legitimacy by trying to order a sovereign nation to violate its own Constitution and quash the legal claims of citizens who are literally dying off in the rainforest due to Chevron’s pollution.”
The bottom line here is: This arbitration panel is just Chevron’s latest and most desperate attempt to evade justice in Ecuador. The company was found guilty based on the overwhelming scientific evidence that it dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste in the Amazon and triggered a health crisis amongst local communities. There is no lie, mistruth, or distraction that the company can concoct to ever change that fact.
To wit, here’s a video on “The True Story of Chevron’s Ecuador Disaster”: