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Chevron’s Shareholders Voice Outrage Over $19 Billion Ecuador Liability at Annual Meeting

Published 05-29-13

Submitted by Amazon Defense Coalition

A resolution put forward by Chevron shareholders concerned about the company’s $19 billion liability in Ecuador got surprisingly strong support over the fierce opposition of Chairman and CEO John Watson at the company’s annual meeting today. 

“A Chevron lawyer summed up the legal strategy in this case as ‘fight till hell freezes over and then fight it out on the ice’.   Just how many shareholders wish to be dragged to hell by the company’s lawyers?” Chevron shareholder Simon Billenness, speaking for Investor Voice of Seattle and Zevin Asset Management of Boston, said.

A full 33 per cent of Chevron’s shares – representing $80.5 billion in company stock – sided with Billenness and his resolution lowering the threshold to allow shareholders to call their own meetings over what Billenness called “the need for better tools for shareholder scrutiny of management.”  He noted that since the last meeting significant legal challenges against Chevron moved forward in Argentina, Brazil and Canada without reconsideration by the company of its vulnerabilities.

Watson made shareholders sit through a video which he said proved fraud and deception by the Amazon plaintiffs’ lawyers.  It was a video the company has circulated before taking selected outtakes from the film “Crude,” out of context.  The discussion of Ecuador from the floor dominated the tightly run two-hour meeting.

One of the 30,000 affected parties in the Ecuador environmental catastroph, also spoke at the shareholders’ meeting.  Servio Curipoma, a 39-year-old cacoa farmer from San Carlos in the damaged region, told Watson and the audience that he has lost both parents and a sister-in-law “from cancer due to Chevron’s contamination.”

New York State Deputy Comptroller Patrick Doherty (whose boss, Tomas DeNapoli was also hit with an ethics complaint by Chevron over his support for the Ecuador case) spoke in support of his resolution to appoint an independent director to the board with environmental expertise.  That resolution received a 22 per cent vote (still considered high for shareholder resolutions opposed by management) up slightly from last year.

Chevron’s management also came under fire at this year’s meeting to disclose the company’s lobbying practices following a report last week on the company’s extensive – and often illicit – lobbying to try to kill the Ecuador case.  See here.

John Watson has been on the hot seat over the Ecuador case for years at his annual meetings (see here).  Last year over 38% of Chevron’s shares voting to strip him of his dual CEO/Chair role due to his mismanagement of the Ecuador lawsuit (see here) and he is facing the embarrassing prospect of having to be personally deposed about his involvement in the case next month.

Last week 14 Chevron shareholder groups petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the company’s misleading statements and material omissions about the Ecuador lawsuit in securities filings.

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Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition

The Amazon Defense Coalition is a part of a regional, national and global struggle for environmental and collective rights in the Ecuadorian Amazon

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