Chevron Seeks Annulment of Rulings by Ecuadorian Judge
Company Says Decisions Regarding Cabrera's $27 Billion Damages Report are Tainted and Unusable
SAN RAMON, Calif., Sept. 11, 2009 - Lawyers for Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) have filed a motion with the Provincial Court of Sucumbios in Ecuador to annul all rulings made by the judge who last week stepped down from presiding over an environmental lawsuit against the company in Lago Agrio.
Judge Juan Núñez of the Provincial Court of Nueva Loja appeared at meetings arranged by representatives of the government and ruling Alianza PAIS party, who as part of a multi-million bribe scheme, sought to assure prospective environmental remediation contractors that they could get remediation work arising from an adverse judgment against Chevron. In those meetings, Judge Núñez confirmed that he would find Chevron liable and order it to pay money to the government, even though the trial is still ongoing and evidence is still being received. His involvement in the meetings was revealed in video recordings made by the businessmen and released to the public and authorities in Ecuador and the United States by Chevron last week.
Following release of the videos, and purportedly at the request of Prosecutor General Washington Pesantez, Judge Núñez asked to be removed from the case.
Chevron contends that a number of Judge Núñez's rulings explicitly facilitated and shielded from scrutiny the $27 billion damages report filed in the case by Richard Cabrera, a mining engineer with no relevant experience in either oil field operations or oil field remediation. Cabrera was paid by the plaintiffs and worked closely with them in drafting his report. Chevron lawyers argue that, among other things, Núñez unjustly sided with the plaintiffs by arbitrarily denying Chevron's challenges to the report, preventing a rigorous examination of the numerous fundamental flaws of the work process and research that supported his disputed recommendations. The company asserts that the Cabrera report is not based on valid scientific evidence or law.
Lawyers for Chevron filed motions with the court this week to have Judge Núñez's rulings annulled and to formally seek recognition from the court that Núñez should be recused.
Chevron's court filing seeking the annulment states: "Judge Núñez is biased and has engaged in improper behavior while presiding over this case … Judge Núñez's acts are expressly prohibited by the Constitution and the law, and therefore, constitute a flagrant violation of Chevron's rights."
The filing points out in conclusion that if Judge Núñez's rulings were allowed to stand, "Chevron would be denied the right to impartial justice and due process guaranteed by the Constitution."
Chevron has raised numerous significant complaints about the Cabrera report, including:
- Unsupported findings of contamination: Cabrera didn't visit all the sites but declares all are in need of remediation; his testing didn't include a single water sample from a municipal water supply, drinking water well, river or stream yet claims that all drinking water systems should be replaced;
- Grossly inflated cost estimates for soil remediation: Cabrera says pit remediation will cost $2.7 billion, or about $3million per pit, but the current, actual costs are $85,000 per pit;
- Unsubstantiated cancer claims: Not one medical record or name is associated with the cancer claims in his report and the cancer rate he claims is more than 250 times higher than the official rate published by the Government of Ecuador; Cabrera copies passages from the plaintiffs' filing almost word-for-word and assesses $9.5 billion in damages without naming a single victim;
- Non-existent unjust enrichment claims: Cabrera assesses $8.3 billion for unjust enrichment even though the company earned less than two percent of the $25 billion in total revenue generated by the consortium with Petroecuador over 25 years; the unjust enrichment concept has no basis under Ecuador law.
Attached to this news release are Chevron's motion to disqualify Judge Núñez (filed Sept. 9, 2009) and Chevron's motion to annul Judge Núñez's rulings (filed today).
To review the comprehensive information about the case, or to view and learn more about the videos recordings of Judge Núñez released last week, please visit www.chevron.com/ecuador.
Updated: September 2009