"Who's Bribin' Who?"
Donny Rico (and Chevron) explain how to pollute the Amazon and get away wit’ it.
- May 28, 2014
Do people give people backpacks full of cold hard cash in exchange for legal testimony? People do. Chevron should know. They did exactly that.
Chevron's effort to avoid responsibility for one of the world's largest oil disasters and sink the $9 billion guilty verdict against it delivered by Ecuadorian courts – and upheld on three occasions – comes down to one man: Alberto Guerra. A corrupt ex-judge, he became Chevron's star witness in the company's RICO lawsuit against the Ecuador rainforest communities and their council. In testimony in U.S. Federal Court in New York, he testified that he had received a backpack full of cash in exchange for his testimony, along with a monthly stipend of $12,000 USD, a home, a car, and a crack legal team to get himself – and his family – political asylum in the United States. Pretty good deal for a guy who admitted to accepting bribes as low as $200.
But of course you won't be hearing John Watson mention that today as shareholders gather for the company's annual general meeting in Midland, Texas. Watson will be touting the recent decision from Judge Kaplan's kangaroo court in New York against the Ecuadorians as the silver bullet that saved Chevron from liability for one of the world's most egregious environmental and human rights crimes. But Kaplan's decision – based almost entirely on Guerra's testimony – is on appeal before the Second Circuit in New York that overruled Kaplan before on the Ecuador issue.
But does the decision do what Watson claims it will? Does it insulate shareholders from risk? As has been written, Chevron is not out of the woods yet, and the Ecuadorians are not out of options. Chevron's problems under Watson go beyond the courtroom – to the court of public opinion.
Another liability that will likely be unmentioned by Watson is last week's global #AntiChevron day. In a sign that the fallout from the company's poor environmental and human rights record worldwide is spiraling out of control, some 20 actions occurred on five continents. Importantly, many of these were in communities where Chevron has existing operations, seeks to expand, or plans new exploration – critical to adding new reserves and increasing shareholder value. And while he can throw millions at lawyers and PR firms to continue to run from the Ecuador issue, the liability continues to rear its head in Canada, Brazil, and beyond.
Another major problem that Watson will surely sidestep is the increasing campaign of the Ecuadorian government to pressure Chevron to do the right thing. While the company has consistently dismissed it, there's a certain geopolitical reality that isn't good for Chevron. It can't be good for business to have Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa, widely considered the new leader of Latin America's left (who is in the process of changing the constitution to allow indefinite re-election), chumming it up with the presidents of UNASUR and ALBA countries about how Chevron drilled, dumped, and ran. In particular, Venezuela and Argentina represent both the company's largest operations in South America, and its biggest new upstream investment, respectively.
Watson thought he would find solace in the wilds of west Texas by moving the meeting and thereby avoiding the protests in the Bay Area which have confronted him year in and year out. But even in oil-friendly, middle-of-nowhere Midland, affected community members found him. Humberto Piaguaje, a Secoya indigenous leader and representative of the network of affected communities said, “Wherever they go, we will be there, because the crime Chevron committed in Ecuador is unforgivable.”
To help shareholders cut through Watson's smokescreen at today's meeting, we turn it over to Chevron crony Donny Rico for a true rendering of how Chevron got an Ecuadorian judge to do its bidding.