In February 2011, a court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador issued an $18 billion judgment—later reduced to $9.5 billion—against Chevron. This judgment is illegitimate because of documented evidence of fraud and unethical action by the plaintiffs' lawyers as well as the Ecuadorian government and judiciary.
A former Ecuadorian judge acknowledged his direct involvement in orchestrating a fraudulent judgment against Chevron. In a sworn declaration filed on January 28, 2013, in New York federal court, Alberto Guerra, who presided over the case when it was first filed in 2003, reveals that he was paid thousands of dollars by the plaintiffs' lawyers and a subsequent judge, Nicholas Zambrano, for illegally ghostwriting judicial orders issued by Zambrano and steering the case in the plaintiffs' favor. Guerra, who is no longer a judge, attests that the plaintiffs' lawyers were permitted to draft the $18 billion judgment in their own favor after they promised to pay Zambrano a $500,000 bribe out of the judgment's enforcement proceeds, and that Guerra then reviewed the plaintiffs' lawyers' draft for Zambrano before the judge issued it as his own.
Guerra's declaration, which is corroborated by computer, bank and shipping records, as well as the plaintiffs' lawyers' own internal e-mails, provides a direct account of corruption that has tainted the trial for years, all of which will be examined at the upcoming RICO trial. Read more about Guerra's Admissions.
In addition, the environmental damages claims that underlay the February 2011 judgment have also been proven to be the result of fraud. On April 12, 2013, the plaintiffs' chief environmental consultants, Boulder, Colo.-based Stratus Consulting, filed sworn statements detailing their knowledge of the plaintiffs' lawyers' misconduct and testifying that there is no scientific merit to the allegations against Chevron.
In sworn declarations (here and here), senior Stratus executives detail the role the firm and the plaintiffs' lawyers played in drafting the supposedly independent damages report of Richard Cabrera, which serves as an evidentiary basis of the 2011 judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. The testimony also provides a direct account of lead plaintiffs' lawyer Steven Donziger's control of the "Cabrera Report" process and the pressure Donziger applied to contrive damages attributed to Chevron.
For information on additional evidence of fraudulent behavior by the plaintiffs' representatives, read more.
The case went to trial in October 2013. During the seven-week trial, Chevron called 24 witnesses, offered deposition testimony from 21 others, and offered more than 3,000 exhibits into evidence.
Testimony included those formerly aligned with the plaintiffs, who provided firsthand accounts of corruption:
- Environmental Consultants: The plaintiffs' key environmental consultants, from Stratus Consulting, provided sworn testimony disavowing their work for the plaintiffs' lawyers and affirming that there is no scientific merit to the plaintiffs' claims against Chevron.
- Funders: One of the largest financial backers of the plaintiffs, Burford Capital, provided sworn testimony documenting fraud and other misconduct on the part of the plaintiffs' lawyers to secure funding.
- Former Judge: A former Ecuadorian judge who once presided over the case testified that the judge who issued the ruling was promised a half-million dollar bribe from the plaintiffs' lawyers in exchange for ghostwriting the judgment in their favor.
On March 4, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment was the product of fraud and racketeering activity, finding it unenforceable.
The nearly 500-page ruling finds that Steven Donziger, the lead American lawyer behind the Ecuadorian lawsuit against the company, violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), committing extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, witness tampering and obstruction of justice in obtaining the Ecuadorian judgment and in trying to cover up his and his associates’ crimes.
The ruling prohibits Donziger and his associates from seeking to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in the United States and further prohibits them from profiting from their illegal acts.