WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2012 - As part of his ongoing campaign to mislead shareholders, Chevron CEO John Watson is engaged in a wide-ranging litigation strategy to use courts to block the release of internal company documents that would shed light on the oil giant's fraud and corruption that led to a $19 billion liability in Ecuador, court records show.
Chevron is trying to hide documents that the rainforest communities say will prove how the company tried to sabotage a trial in Ecuador and cover up its responsibility for dumping more than 16 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon rainforest, said Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians.
Chevron has received protective orders from courts in California, Florida, and Colorado that are being used to seal critical internal documents in the company's international arbitration case, preventing shareholders and lawyers for the rainforest communities from seeing them.
"Chevron's management is fighting furiously to hide thousands of pages of critical internal documents because it fears having its greed and misconduct exposed to the world," said Hinton. "Watson is also terrified that shareholders who are raising questions about his bungling of the Ecuador lawsuit will use the documents to make an even stronger case against his continued leadership of the company."
"We believe these hidden documents will demonstrate that Chevron knowingly committed environmental crimes in Ecuador, and then tried to cover it up with a sham remediation, bribes to government officials, and threats to judges," said Hinton.
Among the sealed documents are those related to the American Robert Hinchee, a prominent Chevron technical expert implicated in the manipulation of scientific sampling results during the eight-year Ecuador trial.
In San Francisco, three separate Chevron law firms – including Boies Schiller, the law firm founded by David Boies -- have fought for two years to block the release of Chevron documents related to undercover agent and Ecuadorian national Diego Borja. Working as a dirty tricks operative for Chevron during the trial in Ecuador, Borja tried to entrap an Ecuadorian judge in a bribe scandal and was caught on tape admitting he corrupted scientific evidence. See here for more details.
A federal judge in California, Nathaniel Cousins, has inexplicably refused to rule for more than a year on whether 500 documents from Borja can be released. See here.
In Canada, Chevron has fought to block the release of documents related to the estimated $12 billion in assets the Ecuadorians are trying to seize in that country to satisfy their judgment. Chevron also is refusing to release the transcripts from the international arbitration case filed against Ecuador's government over the environmental liability.
Separately, Chevron is trying to obstruct the release of documents in its "fraud" case in New York federal court before Judge Lewis A. Kaplan. The rainforest communities and their counsel have alleged that Chevron is using that case as a smokescreen to distract attention from its wrongdoing in Ecuador, where it was convicted of creating the worst oil-related contamination on the planet. See here.
In counterclaims, New York attorney Steven R. Donziger has accused Chevron of trying to hide documents related to its private contacts with judges in Ecuador; its attempts to bribe government officials to quash the case; donations it has made to political candidates in Ecuador; its use of laboratories to hide chemical evidence documenting its contamination; and its use of a judicial inspection "playbook" during the trial to manipulate the selection of soil and water samples. See here for more details.
Watson, who was forced to beat back a shareholder revolt in 2011 related to the Ecuador matter, recently has taken the highly unusual step of ordering his lawyers to subpoena documents from several large Chevron shareholders who have questioned his management of the company. Several shareholders have blasted Watson, saying the move is an attempt to intimidate his critics. See here.
Watson's fortunes with shareholders have taken a beating in recent months.
Earlier this year, Watson was blasted in a report for misleading shareholders on the Ecuador matter. The report prompted a U.S. Congresswoman and several investors to request that the SEC investigate the company. Later, a shareholder resolution seeking to strip Watson of his dual titles of CEO and Chairman garnered 38% of shareholder votes, a stunningly high number for a resolution opposed by management.
For more background on how Chevron is trying to use the courts to block the release of damaging material that would expose its corrupt activities, see this legal brief.
If Chevron had nothing to hide, it would simply open up its entire case file on the Ecuador matter, Hinton said.
"Helped by a biased U.S. judge, Chevron has millions of documents from the plaintiffs but the plaintiffs have virtually nothing from Chevron," said Hinton. "Chevron knows its documents will further damage its credibility and undermine Watson if released."
After an eight-year trial, an Ecuador court last year found Chevron liable for abandoning hundreds of toxic waste pits and dumping more than 16 billion gallons of oil sludge into Ecuador's Amazon waterways. The pollution decimated indigenous groups and has killed or threatens to kill thousands of people due to an increase in cancer and other oil-related diseases, according to evidence before the court.
For a summary of the overwhelming evidence against Chevron, see here; for a video about the case, see here; for a 60 Minutes report on the case, see here.
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