Today’s huge bombshell for Mr. Donziger has caused the wheels to fall off his $19 billion lawsuit against Chevron in the TexPet PetroEcuador controversy that became a lawsuit for money – big money. (The truth is that TexPet, and not Chevron, was the organization operating and producing oil in Ecuador until 1992, and TexPet was 70 percent owned by the Ecuadorian government. In truth, Ecuador should be suing itself.)
Today’s disclosure that Burford Capital, which helped fund Donziger’s case of alleged pollution against Chevron, believes it was lied to by him and Patton Boggs attorney James Tyrell Jr., who represents Donziger and the Ecuadorian plaintiffs in the case.
That news, and last week’s admission by Stratus Consulting that is was misled by Steven Donziger and the Ecuador plaintiffs, effectively exposes the 20 year effort to sue Chevron as a giant elaborate fraud lawsuit.
It was just two years that Chevron was hit with a $19 billion judgment for TexPet’s alleged pollution in the Amazon region of Ecuador. But during the past two years the entire case against Chevron / TexPet has come unglued, exposed as a fraudulent attempt to shake down the company through fake science, bribery, political cronyism, and manipulation of the Ecuadorian legal process.
Admissions by a former Ecuadorian judge, a major investor in the plaintiffs’ case (Burford Capital), and two former scientific consultants to the plaintiffs, demonstrate the case was manipulated by the unlawful collusion between the plaintiffs, led by Steven Donziger, and Ecuadorian government officials.
Recent international court rulings have ruled against Ecuador for breaking international law and treaties in its handling of the Chevron lawsuit.
Earlier this year an admission by a former Ecuador Judge Alberto Guerra revealed he was paid by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and a subsequent judge, Nicholas Zambrano, for illegally ghostwriting judicial orders issued by Zambrano and steering the case in the plaintiffs’ favor, is just one of the latest in a string of defections of Lago Agrio team members who have come forward and admitted participation in manipulating the justice system against Chevron to falsely find the oil company guilty of damages in the Ecuador environmental case.
(And on the matter of the name Lago Agrio, used to name the case plaintiffs, it was taken from a woman the plaintiff’s claim was impacted by TexPet’s oil activities; journalists discovered that woman had never known of the case, or that her name was being used in it.)
In December 2012, Engineer Fernando Reyes, a key member of the plaintiffs’ team came forward with evidence of fraud and manipulation in the case and his life was immediately threatened in Ecuador. Mr. Reyes submitted a sworn declaration in support of Chevron’s fraud and racketeering lawsuit in New York against the plaintiffs’ lawyers and backers.
Fernando Reyes provides an eyewitness account as to how the plaintiffs’ lawyers have sought to manipulate the trial since its infancy, deceived the court, corrupted the trial process, and engaged in the development of a fraudulent “independent” report. Mr. Reyes’ testimony is confirmed not only by his notes, but by several documents produced by Donziger in court-ordered discovery, deposition testimony and this , and outtakes from the movie “Crude”,” a Hollywood movie funded and produced by the plaintiffs to build sympathy and publicity for their case against Chevron.
Steven Donziger, the plaintiffs’ lead American lawyer, once described Reyes as “one of the most qualified engineers and academics in the field.”
The Reyes Declaration is confirmation of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fraud on many levels. Reyes had considerable involvement in the Lago Agrio case for the plaintiffs, first serving as what was represented as an “independent” monitor of court experts and then as a “shadow” advisor to Richard Cabrera, a supposedly-independent Ecuadorian court expert. (Don’t forget, Lago Agrio‘s named for a woman who doesn’t even know her name’s being used in the case!)
In fact, Reyes introduced Cabrera to Donziger and his co-counsel, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers pressured the court in Ecuador to appoint Cabrera to conduct a “global assessment” of environment conditions in the Oriente region of Ecuador’s Amazon.
Fernando Reyes was also present in a meeting between the plaintiffs’ lawyers and consultants and Cabrera before Cabrera was appointed as an independent court expert. Mr. Cabrera eventually turned in a report to the court, described by one of the plaintiffs’ consultants as “the single most important technical document for the case,” assigning the unbelievable amount of more than $27 billion in damages against Chevron.
Cabrera’s report has since been shown to be a fraud, written by the plaintiffs’ representatives and passed off as the work of a neutral and independent court appointee. Reyes’ declaration describes the process by which the plaintiffs’ lawyers sought out someone who, as Donziger put it, would “totally play ball with us and let us take the lead while projecting the image that he is working for the court.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyers’ were aware of the fraud they were committing: as their scheme to deceive the court was unraveling, Donziger’s co-counsel wrote, “all of us, your attorneys, might go to jail.”
While courts in Ecuador have ignored the evidence of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fraud, even going as far as to include many of “Cabrera’s” claims in the judgment issued last year, other courts have not.
In a legal opinion issued in July, the court in the U.S. Southern District of New York found that “uncontradicted evidence demonstrates that the report and subsequent responses filed in Cabrera’s name were tainted by fraud.”
In April of 2010, Charles Calmbacher, a former plaintiffs’ environmental expert, testified in a deposition that two reports the plaintiffs had submitted in his name to the Ecuadorian courts in 2005 – purporting to find grave contamination at four former Texaco well sites – were not, in fact, written by him and contained conclusions that he didn’t consider scientifically supportable. “I did not reach these conclusions and I did not write this report,” he testified.
The plaintiffs had hired Mr. Calmbacher, a biologist and environmental scientist, to help oversee soil and water tests in Ecuador. The reports allegedly signed by Mr. Calmbacher, were submitted to an Ecuadorean court in 2005, showed high levels of toxins at two sites and estimated contamination would cost more than $40 million to clean up at these sites.
Manipulation and ghostwriting of judgments in Ecuador is not unique to the Lago Agrio Chevron case.
Ecuador’s El Universo newspaper suffered similar treatment in an equally-politicized trial featuring evidence that the ultimate judgment was written by lawyers working for the plaintiff, in this instance President Rafael Correa.
The El Universo case was, in the words of The Washington Post, “alas, worthy of a banana republic. After four changes of judge, a ‘temporary’ magistrate took over the case, held one hearing, and-33 hours after his appointment-issued the 156-page ruling. A subsequent independent investigation determined that he did not write it, and that the author was probably Mr. Correa’s attorney.”
The crookedness of the Ecuadorian judiciary has been noted by other independent organizations. Since President Correa’s election, the U.S. State Department has reported on “the susceptibility of the judiciary to bribes for favorable decisions and resolution of legal cases and on judges parceling out cases to outside lawyers, who wrote the judicial sentences and sent them back to the presiding judge for signature.”
Other organizations have reached similar conclusions, finding that Ecuador ranks near the bottom of all nations for rule of law and similar measures.
As proof the international legal community will no longer tolerate Ecuador’s breaking of the World’s rule of law, in February the international arbitration tribunal at The Hague issued an award finding that the Republic of Ecuador has violated the international law and a treaty between the United States and Ecuador by not preventing the attempted enforcement of a $19 billion judgment against Chevron.
The end of the Ecuador lawsuit against Chevron is near – the walls are closing in. The biggest question that remains is what will happen to Steven Donziger and how soon will his friends at the Patton Boggs law firm join others who have left the sinking ship before it goes down for the last time.