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Chevron Annual Meeting Dominated by Ecuador Disaster as Resolution Rebuking CEO Watson Gains Wide Support

CEO Watson refuses to respond to mounting questions around evidence proving company’s responsibility for contamination

Submitted by: Amazon Watch

Categories: Corporate Governance, Environment

Posted: May 28, 2015 – 02:11 PM EST


SAN RAMON, Calif., May 28 /CSRwire/ - Chevron CEO John Watson could not escape public outrage and shareholder dissent about his mishandling of the massive $9.5 billion environmental disaster in the Ecuadorian Amazon at the company's Annual General Meeting (AGM) of shareholders this week. 

A resolution stemming from the Ecuador disaster garnered a whopping 31% support from all shareholders, delivering a stern rebuke to Watson’s mishandling of the case.  A series of speakers – including Ecuadorian indigenous leader Humberto Piaguaje – also excoriated the CEO for his company’s refusal to pay the Ecuador court judgment, recently confirmed by the nation’s Supreme Court in a unanimous decision after 11 years of proceedings.

Outside the annual meeting, approximately 100 protesters from a growing coalition of environmental organizations and communities affected by Chevron’s operations denounced the company’s pattern of human rights abuses, environmental destruction and attacks on democracy.

Chevron has been on the run from the law after being found guilty by a court of its own choosing in Ecuador.  Because it refuses to pay the $9.5 billion judgment, Chevron has left rainforest communities to survive living among roughly 1,000 toxic waste pits built and abandoned by the company, contaminated drinking water due to toxic discharges into streams and rivers, and unremediated oil spills in what was once one of the most pristine rainforests on the planet.

Representatives of local indigenous and farmer communities sought answers from Watson as they seek to seize the company’s assets in Canada and Brazil to enforce the Ecuador judgment so they can clean up their ancestral lands.

Facing an impending enforcement action in Canada and potential overturn of the company’s retaliatory RICO lawsuit in the United States, Watson did his best to ignore the issue. That proved impossible as multiple Chevron shareholders challenged him for denying the company’s responsibility for the ecological disaster.

Amazon Watch supported Ecuadorian indigenous leader Humberto Piaguaje as he spoke directly to Watson and the company’s board of directors, while a coalition of environmental and human rights organizations gathered outside the meeting. 

"Is it good, is it a thing of beauty, do you like hearing the cry of people and then turn a deaf ear when they demand justice for a dignified life for future generations of our people and for the harmonious life of nature?” Piaguaje challenged Watson. “Do you think it’s good to make money when the cost is paid with human lives, environmental damage, and without responding to the consequences you have caused? 

Watson responded by showing a video crafted to paint the company as the victim that mocks the campaign of the indigenous groups -- further demonstrating Chevron’s strategy to address legitimate issues with PR smear campaigns, said Paul Paz y Miño, an Amazon Watch director.

With what came off as a complete lack of respect for Piaguaje and his organization, Watson claimed, "It saddens me greatly that the people of Ecuador continue to be used by trial attorneys in the United States."

Kevin Koenig, Ecuador Program Director for Amazon Watch, rose to address Watson’s self-serving version of the Ecuador issue only to have Watson cut off his microphone after a few seconds. Koenig had tried to alert the meeting that new forensic evidence has proven Chevron’s claims of a “ghostwritten” verdict in Ecuador as a lie after Chevron's star witness was found to have misled various courts under oath.

“By claiming in its own video that it had ‘remediated’ portions of its toxic waste, Chevron tacitly admitted to having dumped the waste in the first place,” said Koenig. “Yet when challenged to respond to new videos from a Chevron whistleblower revealing company technicians finding toxic waste at well sites the company claims to have remediated, Watson refused to respond. Watson then flatly denied that any statements critical of Chevron’s Ecuador operations were legitimate.”

In internal Chevron videos raised by Amazon Watch during the meeting, Chevron technicians also interviewed rainforest residents who reported they continued to get sick and die from contaminated water. One man lost two daughters and asked Chevron employees when help was coming. “CEO Watson knew this man had lost his family 10 years ago in areas where only Chevron operated. Did you lift a finger to help him? No, you call him criminal and attack anyone who stands with him,” charged Paul Paz y Miño, an Amazon Watch director, during the meeting.

“John Watson has created a legacy of lies, deceit and destruction at Chevron,” said Paz y Miño. “When Canada, Brazil or some other nation seizes its assets to pay for Chevron’s crimes, Watson will have to face shareholders once again and explain why he lost billions of market value. Yet even when Chevron finally pays its debt to the people of Ecuador, Watson will still be known as the man who let innocent men, women and children suffer grievous harm because of the company’s policies.”

Watson also got hit hard by shareholders, who gave a high level of support to a resolution related to the Ecuador pollution issue. The resolution received a whopping 31% of shareholder support representing $62 billion dollars of market share. “This represents a huge rebuke to Watson’s leadership,” said Paz y Miño.

Outside protesters delivered 200,000 new signatures on petitions calling for Chevron to pay its $9.5 debt. A global call for Chevron to reform was also signed by hundreds of organizations and individuals including Bishop Desmond Tutu and environmental leader Bill McKibben. 

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