Chevron goes to trial over $18b Ecuador award

Updated: 2013-10-16 11:01


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Racketeer accusations

In the lawsuit, Chevron accuses Donziger of violating the US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and says both he and the villagers committed fraud.

Central to Chevron's case is the evidence of a former Ecuadorean judge, Alberto Guerra. Guerra said in a sworn deposition that he often wrote opinions for Judge Nicolas Zambrano, who issued the award to the villagers.

Guerra said Donziger and another lawyer pledged to pay Zambrano $500,000 from whatever they collected from the judgment in exchange for allowing them to write it. Guerra also said Zambrano promised to share part of the bribe.

Ted Boutrous, a lawyer for Chevron, said the proceedings in Ecuador were "one of the most egregious litigation frauds in history."

Donziger and the Ecuadoreans say Guerra has no credibility and say he is being paid for his testimony by Chevron. Donziger denies writing the judgment.

"We are completely and utterly denying the allegations by Chevron," his spokesman Gowen told reporters on Friday.

"Steven Donziger did not ghostwrite a judgment," Gowen said. "Steven Donziger did not bribe a judge."

In January, Chevron said it relocated Guerra's family to protect his safety and paid him $38,000 for the costs of providing his evidence. Chevron also confirmed that it agreed to pay Guerra's family $10,000 per month for living expenses and $2,000 for housing.

Guerra and Zambrano are expected to testify at the trial, which is expected to last several weeks.

Donziger and the Ecuadoreans argue that the relief Chevron seeks - a ban on enforcing the Ecuadorean judgment in US courts or profiting from it in any way - would violate the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals' reversal of Kaplan's 2011 injunction.

They also say they are fighting an unfair battle. Chevron has overwhelmingly more resources. And Donziger and the villagers accuse Kaplan of bias. In a court filing, they wrote that Kaplan's "contempt" for Ecuador, "its courts, and its laws has only grown more prominent over time."

The 2nd Circuit on September 26 rejected their request to remove Kaplan from the case.

Earlier this month, Kaplan ruled that the villagers and Donziger are not entitled to a trial by jury, as they had preferred, because Chevron waived damages claims against them.

The case is Chevron Corp v. Steven Donziger et al, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, No 11-0691.