Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ecuador: For Fourth Time, Ecuador Appellate Denies Chevron Attempt to Block Enforcement of $18 Billion Judgment

SOURCE Amazon Defense Coalition

A three-judge appellate panel in Ecuador has denied for the fourth time a Chevron attempt to block enforcement of the $18 billion environmental judgment against the oil giant, according to a decision released this week.

The panel ruled that Chevron was not entitled to use an order from an international investor arbitration to block the rainforest communities from enforcing their judgment, which was affirmed on appeal in January after 18 years of hard-fought litigation.

After the original appellate court decision, Chevron asked the panel on four separate occasions to block enforcement of the judgment based on the arbitration. Each time the Ecuador appellate panel has found that Chevron, by refusing to post a bond, was not entitled under Ecuador law to suspend enforcement of the judgment. See here.

Further, the panel ruled that the rainforest communities -- known as "the affected ones" for living for decades in one of the world's most polluted areas -- are not a party to the arbitration and thus not subject to its orders. The arbitration is between Ecuador's government and Chevron.

"From the beginning, we have ruled that the failure of Chevron to avoid execution of the judgment is the direct and exclusive result of its failure to utilize the legal mechanism available" to post a bond, wrote the panel, whose members are Juan Encarcacion, Luis Zambrano, and Maria Delgado.

The latest decision was a double blow for Chevron in that it comes on the heels of a decision in 2011 by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs have a right to enforce their judgment "in any country in the world where Chevron has assets."

"As part of its abusive campaign of never-ending litigation, Chevron continues to bring up the same tired issues with the Ecuador court and suffer the same tired defeats," said Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorian rainforest communities.

In February 2011, after an eight-year trial that produced 220,000 pages of evidence, an Ecuador court found Chevron liable for deliberately dumping more than 16 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways when it operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992 under the Texaco brand. The dumping decimated indigenous groups and caused an outbreak of cancer and other diseases, according to the evidence.

The court set damages at roughly $18 billion, which the plaintiffs say is a modest amount compared to BP's liability in the comparatively smaller environmental disaster related to the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010. The Ecuador trial court decision was supported by a wide body of scientific evidence, much of it provided by Chevron. See here.

Earlier, members of the appellate panel noted the oil giant's abuse of the judicial process in Ecuador. In a 16-page decision in January, the panel noted that Chevron had "staged incidents that encumbered the process of the trial" and that it dumped 20,000 pages of largely redundant evidence on the appellate court to delay the case.

The plaintiffs have long accused Chevron of trying to undermine the trial by filing frivolous motions and trying to intimidate judges.

The environmental case was heard in Ecuador at the request of Chevron, which fought for almost a decade to shift the venue away from the U.S. federal court where it was originally filed in 1993.

"This latest decision yet again confirms what we have been saying for years," said Pablo Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorian lawyer. "Chevron is guilty of extraordinary greed that has created a humanitarian crisis in Ecuador that puts thousands of people at risk.

"Yet it continues to abuse court systems worldwide to avoid its responsibilities," he added.

Chevron has stripped its assets from Ecuador and should be treated as a "fugitive from justice" like any common criminal fleeing a jurisdiction to avoid a legal sanction, said Hinton.

The plaintiffs are being forced to prepare standard enforcement actions against Chevron assets around the world to satisfy the judgment, said Hinton.

In the meantime, Chevron is pursuing an appeal to Ecuador's National Court of Justice, which has yet to decide if it will take the case. The voluminous trial record was transferred today from the appellate court in the Amazon town of Lago Agrio to Quito, where the high court is located.