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Analysis: Why Chevron’s RICO Case Won’t Survive Appeal and Will Backfire Abroad

Submitted by: The Law Offices of Steven Donziger

Categories: Environment, Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted: Dec 13, 2013 – 03:18 PM EST


NEW YORK, Dec. 13 /CSRwire/ - Chevron’s RICO case will not survive appeal in the U.S. and will backfire against the oil giant in foreign courts where Ecuadorian villagers are trying to collect on their $9.5 billion judgment to pay for a clean-up of their polluted ancestral lands, according to a new analysis posted to The Chevron Pit, and available at

The analysis, called After the Smoke Clears: What Chevron’s RICO Show Trial Means With Hindsight, characterized Chevron’s legal strategy as “one of the greatest abuses of the American civil justice system ever” and said the racketeering allegations against its own victims in Ecuador are “the most recent installment of Chevron’s global forum shopping to evade accountability for its toxic dumping.”

Ecuador’s Supreme Court last month affirmed the trial court judgment that relied largely on Chevron’s own scientific evidence to find it liable for creating a massive ecological disaster in Ecuador’s northern Amazon region, home to six indigenous groups.  The villagers originally filed the case in New York in 1993, but the trial took place in Ecuador at Chevron’s request after the company submitted numerous sworn affidavits praising that country’s court system. The proceedings in Ecuador began in 2003 and ended in 2011 with a $9.5 billion decision in favor of the villagers.

As the evidence against Chevron mounted in the Ecuador trial, the company began to attack the courts it had previously praised and retaliated by filing civil racketeering charges against the plaintiffs in the U.S.   Chevron also stripped its assets from Ecuador and refused to pay the judgment, despite having promised U.S. courts it would abide by any adverse rulings from Ecuador as a condition of the case being moved to the South American nation.

According to the analysis on The Chevron Pit, Chevron “has filed thousands of motions in more than 30 U.S. courts to try to undermine the Ecuador judgment.  It also filed two claims against Ecuador’s government in a futile attempt to shift its own clean-up responsibility to Ecuadorian taxpayers.  It has targeted more than 100 supporters of the Ecuadorians, including journalists and human rights activists, with subpoenas seeking their private communications.”

“The RICO case remains a sideshow that Chevron is using to try to distract its shareholders and employees from evidence of its crimes, fraud, and human rights absues in Ecuador,” says the analysis.

The analysis summarized the reasons that the RICO case won’t survive appeal:

**Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who presided over Chevron’s RICO trial, has displayed clear bias against the Ecuadorians and their attorneys, leading to multiple legal mistakes that include the exclusion of all evidence of Chevron’s contamination relied on by Ecuador’s trial court for its decision.  Kaplan has repeatedly referred to the villagers as the “so-called plaintiffs” and accused Steven Donziger, a human rights lawyer who has represented the Ecuadorians for two decades, of trying to be “the next big thing to fix the balance of payments deficit” in the U.S.

**Chevron has no legal remedy because it dropped money damages claims on the eve of trial to avoid a jury of impartial fact finders.   Chevron is now seeking an injunction to block the Ecuador judgment.  However, such an injunction is not allowed under RICO and in any event already has been declared illegal once by a federal appellate court when Judge Kaplan tried to impose it an earlier part of the case.

**Judge Kaplan is violating international law by trying to act as a de facto appellate court for Ecuador.  Kaplan has repeatedly tried to rule on the validity of a legal judgment in a foreign country, which is barred by international law and would create chaos in the international community.

The analysis calls Chevron’s factual case a “paper tiger”.  The analysis pointed out that Chevron lawyers violated federal law by paying for witness testimony and essentially bribed a former Ecuador judge to testify on its behalf.

The parties have until December. 23 to submit post-trial briefs to Judge Kaplan, with reply briefs due January 6. 

Both parties have indicated that they expect Judge Kaplan to rule in favor of Chevron, which is seeking a global injunction blocking the Ecuadorians and their lawyers from enforcing the Ecuador judgment.  The Ecuador legal team for the villagers has said such an injunction would be illegal and unenforceable.

Currently, judgment enforcement actions against Chevron assets are pending in Canada, Brazil, and Argentina.  Chevron operated in Ecuador under the Texaco brand from 1964 to 1992. 

The company admitted to dumping billions of gallons of untreated toxic water of production into the Amazon during that time, resulting in dramatically higher cancer rates and a public health catastrophe, according to evidence before the court.

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