$19 Billion Ecuadorian Lawsuit Dominates Chevron AGM
Communities and stakeholders unite to demand CEO Watson resign
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | May 29, 2013
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Interviews available with Ecuadorian community members & Amazon Watch
San Ramon, CA – At the company's Annual General Meeting (AGM) of shareholders today, Chevron CEO John Watson personally came under fire for his mishandling of the massive $19 billion environmental disaster in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Years after the landmark legal victory against Chevron in an Ecuadorian court, the Ecuadorian Amazon remains destroyed as the company continues to challenge the verdict and evade justice.
Ecuadorian community member Servio Curipoma traveled for the second time from the polluted town of San Carlos in Ecuador's northeast Amazon rainforest to Chevron's AGM on behalf of indigenous and community leaders who are demanding that CEO Watson be fired for his gross environmental and human rights abuses and mismanagement of the legal battle. Curipoma presented Watson with a large symbolic "pink slip" outside the meeting and offered his personal story to the company's shareholders and management inside the meeting.
"My parents both died from cancer due to Chevron's contamination," said Curipoma. "I am still fighting for justice so that no one else will have to suffer the pain they did, and the loss I have. Chevron has lied to its shareholders, to the world, to me. I'm here on behalf of all of us to say that CEO Watson should be fired."
Faced with mounting critics around the globe, Chevron and Watson persist in dismissal and denial that is blatantly disconnected from the reality of their operations and their impact on people and the environment.
In a Q&A at the meeting, Amazon Watch Executive Director at Atossa Soltani questioned Chevron's Board of Directors' oversight of Watson as he continues to lead Chevron down a path of denying truth and ignoring immense suffering in Ecuador. Watson responded with a ready video clip taken out of context and designed to mislead, and proceeded to have Soltani removed from the meeting.
"This marks 12 years since the shareholders meeting on the eve of Chevron's acquisition of Texaco, when I stood before then-Chevron CEO David O'Reilly, warning him that by buying Texaco he was purchasing a multibillion dollar liability that would end badly for the company," said Soltani. "I hoped that Chevron would take a different path. Instead, the crisis in Ecuador has ballooned into a $19 billion guilty verdict and the company continues to evade justice. CEO Watson should be fired for his gross abuses and mismanagement."
Shareholders representing over $34 billion of Chevron stock voted for a proposal that would allow a lower threshold for shareholders to schedule meetings outside of the AGM. Shareholders representing over $54 billion of Chevron stock voted for the board to appoint a director with environmental expertise.
"Just how many shareholders wish to be dragged to hell by the company's lawyers? This shareholder certainly does not," said Simon Billenness, representative of Investor Voice and Zevin Asset Management responding to Watson's claims that Chevron would fight the Ecuador judgment "until hell freezes over."
Curipoma and Amazon Watch are part of a coalition of Ecuadorian indigenous and community leaders who have built unprecedented support for their efforts from Chevron institutional investors and shareholders, as well as environmental and human rights advocates after winning a historic $19 billion judgment against Chevron for deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic wastewaters into the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. The company, led by CEO Watson, continues to challenge the verdict and evade justice.
The group joined Chevron shareholders and other activist groups in a protest outside the AGM to call on the company to refrain from spending in elections, which they claim has allowed the company to avoid taking responsibility for its environmental violations, its contribution to the growing threat of climate change and human rights abuses in around the world.
Today in his own arena Watson was able to avoid directly responding to critics. Within the next two weeks he will sit under oath, deposed, and will be unable to escape responding to questions about his Chevron's malfeasance and own misdeeds under oath.