Earlier this week, a New York appeals court toppled the legal house of cards Chevron built to shield itself from having to clean up its oil contamination in the Ecuadorean Amazon. Now a series of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks has gone and made what was already a very bad week for Chevron even worse.
The cables, written by U.S. officials, show that Chevron engaged in a covert lobbying campaign aimed at getting the Ecuadorean government to intervene in the lawsuit brought against the company by thousands of rural and Indigenous Ecuadoreans over massive oil contamination in the Amazon (see the cables here, here, here and here). Intervention in judicial matters by the government of Ecuador is, of course, forbidden by the country’s Constitution. Nonetheless, Chevron tried to barter with the administration of President Raphael Correa: If the administration would break the law and save Chevron from having to clean up its mess, the company would return the favor by funding “social projects” in Ecuador. (Which begs the question: Why not just fund clean up of your mess, Chevron?)
But that’s not even why these revelations are so embarrassing for the company. You might recall that Chevron filed racketeering charges against the Ecuadorean plaintiffs and their US lawyers earlier this year. Those charges were based in part on allegations that the plaintiffs were colluding with the government of Ecuador to improperly influence the judiciary to rule against Chevron. You see where I’m going with this: At the very same time that Chevron’s lawyers in the US were attempting to build a racketeering case, Chevron’s operatives in Ecuador were engaging in the very criminal conduct Chevron was accusing the plaintiffs of.
Those racketeering charges were part of Chevron’s aggressive “Blame The Victim” legal strategy, which all came toppling down on Monday. When the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in NYC threw out a preliminary injunction that barred enforcement of an $18 billion judgment finding Chevron guilty of polluting the Amazon, it also indefinitely postponed the trial over the racketeering charges.
No wonder Oppenheimer oil and gas analyst Fadel Gheit is speculating that Chevron CEO “John Watson is not a happy camper today.” Watson was a key player in Chevron’s purchase of Texaco in 2001, and the appeals court’s decision clears the way for seizure of Chevron assets to pay off the $18 billion judgment if the company continues to refuse to take responsibility for its environmental and human rights catastrophe in the Amazon.
Not a good week for Chevron at all. Which means the Ecuadoreans suffering from Chevron’s oil pollution are that much closer to seeing justice served at long last.