Oleoducto Ecuatoriano, foto usada por FORTUNE
The Ecuador ChevronTexaco saga continues and has no signs of resolution in the short term. The legal action taken by a group of Ecuadorians against the oil company has been deeply tainted by all kinds of irregularities and fraud: the legal expert designated by the judge was working for the plaintiffs. The lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote his report or significant portions of it. Even the President of Ecuador and some of his staff have been involved in this grotesque attempt to frame the oil company. And now, the oil company is accusing the well-known law firm of Patton Boggs of helping the plaintiffs to cover up their dirty work. A story published by FORTUNE says the following (see complete story in http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/09/25/chevron-patton-boggs/?iid=SF_F_River )
Chevron claims Patton Boggs tried to cover up a fraud
The oil giant has subpoenaed the big DC firm concerning its role in a fraud-tainted case.
By Roger Parloff
FORTUNE -- While everyone is entitled to a lawyer to help him pursue his legal rights, no one is entitled to a lawyer to help him complete a crime in progress.
In a hearing this morning in a federal suit in New York, oil giant Chevron Corp. is accusing the politically connected, 500-attorney law firm of Patton Boggs of having violated that basic rule by assisting crooked plaintiffs lawyers who are attempting to shake the company down. It's an extraordinary claim to level at any law firm, let alone at an AmLaw 100 firm which is one of the leading lobbying and government-relations shops in Washington, D.C. (Patton Boggs's election law expert, Ben Ginsberg, is currently acting as national counsel to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Ginsberg is not personally involved in the disputes that are the subject of this article, however.)
Chevron's gripe arises from Patton Boggs's involvement in the long-running environmental suit that was filed against Chevron in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, in 2003 on behalf of Amazon rainforest inhabitants. The suit claims that a subsidiary of Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, contaminated the rivers and wells the plaintiffs relied on for sustenance by employing shoddy drilling practices between 1964 and 1990. In February 2011 the plaintiffs won an $18.2 billion judgment in the case from an Ecuadorian provincial court, which they are now seeking to enforce in the courts of other countries, because Chevron has no assets in Ecuador.
The big fly in the ointment is that Manhattan federal judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in July that, judging from "uncontradicted evidence," the Lago Agrio plaintiffs' case has been "unquestionably … tainted" by an elaborate fraud committed by their lead U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger and his Ecuadorian co-counsel Pablo Fajardo. (At least five other U.S. federal district judges have also found "prima facie" evidence of fraud tainting the plaintiffs' case—a more tentative finding—as has one federal appeals panel.
The tricky part for Patton Boggs is that, since 2010, Donziger's and Fajardo's co-captain on the case has been Patton Boggs partner James E. Tyrrell, Jr., the regional managing partner for its New York and New Jersey offices and a member of its executive committee….”
Other legal firms originally hired by the plaintiffs to help them have withdrawn from the case. According to FORTUNE: “Two American law firms retained by Donziger [head of the plaintiff’s legal team] in February to handle this effort abruptly withdrew from the assignment in March, after interviewing a Stratus official about the facts of the case."I'm sorry it has come to this," one attorney explained to Donziger in an email, "but I feel if we proceed I may be compromising this firm's reputation and ethical stature and I cannot do that.". In their opinion the case against ChevronTexaco had serious ethical defects that would have made them accomplices, were they to take it.
This is a long and bitter battle. In this particular case we are convinced that ChevronTexaco is right and that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their legal hired guns led by Mr. Donziger are wrong. The main culprits of whatever environmental situation might exist today in the Ecuador oil areas is PetroEcuador, the state oil company. They have not been touched. Of course, that would not be "patriotic".