05 March 2014, News Wires – A New York judge has ruled in favour of Chevron in a case in which the US supermajor alleged a $19 billion Ecuador pollution judgement against it was obtained fraudulently.
The verdict was a blow to indigenous plaintiffs and lawyer Steven Donzinger, who have waged a messy decades-long court fight claiming legacy pollution from Texaco had polluted the Amazon jungle.
But the court was apparently swayed by Chevron’s argument that the mega-environmental verdict was obtained with the help of false evidence and bribes to judges which were slowly uncovered as key environmental witnesses for the plaintiffs later recanted their testimony.
“The ruling is a resounding victory for Chevron,” chief executive John Watson told reporters at IHS CeraWeek in Houston on Tuesday, restating the supermajor’s stance that Ecuador’s 2011 verdict “is a fraud and the product of a criminal enterprise”.
The plaintiffs, he said, “can now be held accountable and will not be allowed to profit from their illegal acts”.
The ruling will be a key element of Chevron’s strategy as it works to defend itself against enforcement of the original Ecuador judgement, Watson said.
Plaintiffs have sought to have the judgement enforced in countries including Argentina and Canada as the supermajor, which acquired Texaco in the 1990s, no longer has assets in Ecuador.
According to a Reuters report Donziger said the verdict was “appalling”,and reiterated claims that US district judge Lewis Kaplan was biased against him throughout a theatrical trial late last year.
“We now have the spectacle of a Manhattan trial judge purporting to overrule Ecuador’s Supreme Court on questions of Ecuadorean law,” he told the news wire in a statement while vowing to appeal the decision.
A statement from the Amazon Watch non-profit quoted plaintiff’s lawyer Deepak Gupta, as saying the verdict “underscores the threat that well-financed corporations pose to justice and the rule of law with their ability to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on efforts to attack victims and their allies.”
A high court in Ecuador in November upheld the lower court’s initial judgement but reduced the damages involved to $9.5 billion.