Chevron Shareholder Meeting Again Dominated by Ecuador Disaster
CEO Watson refuses to respond to mounting questions around evidence proving company’s responsibility for contamination
- May 27, 2015
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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San Ramon, CA – Chevron CEO John Watson could not escape public outrage and shareholder dissent about his mishandling of the massive $9.5 billion environmental disaster in the Ecuadorian Amazon at the company's Annual General Meeting (AGM) of shareholders today. A growing coalition of communities affected by Chevron's ruthless operations and environmental organizations returned to the company's headquarters to denounce its pattern of human rights abuses, environmental destruction and attacks on democracy.
Chevron has been on the run from the law after being found guilty by a court of its own choosing in Ecuador, unwilling to abide by the judgment and it has left rainforest communities to survive amongst toxic waste pits, contaminated drinking water and unremediated oil spills in what was once one of the most pristine rainforests on the planet. Representatives of local indigenous and farmer communities sought answers from Watson as they seek to seize the company's assets on two continents in efforts to enforce the judgment and obtain the court-ordered environmental clean up they are owed.
Facing an impending enforcement action in Canada and potential overturn of the company's retaliatory RICO assault, Watson did his best to ignore the issue. That proved impossible as multiple questions from Chevron shareholders challenged Watson for negating the company's responsibility in the ecological disaster despite the Ecuador court decision.
Amazon Watch supported Ecuadorian indigenous leader Humberto Piaguaje as he spoke directly to Watson and the company's board of directors, while more than 100 protesters and a coalition of environmental and human rights organizations gathered outside the meeting.
"Do you like hearing the cry of people and then turn a deaf ear when they demand justice for a dignified life for future generations of our people and for the harmonious life of nature?" Piaguaje challenged Watson. "Do you think it's good to make money when the cost is paid with human lives, environmental damage, and without responding to the consequences you have caused?"
Watson responded by mocking the legitimacy of the victims in Ecuador, showing a video crafted to paint the company as the victim, further demonstrating Chevron's strategy to address legitimate issues with PR smear campaigns. With complete lack of respect for Piaguaje and his organization, Watson claimed, "It saddens me greatly that the people of Ecuador continue to be used by trial attorneys in the United States."
Kevin Koenig, Ecuador Program Director for Amazon Watch, rose to address Watson's self-serving version of the Ecuador issue. He was cut off by Watson after a few seconds. Koenig had tried to alert the board and others that new forensic evidence has proven Chevron's claims of a "ghost-written" verdict as a lie, demonstrating Chevron's star witness lied under oath.
"By claiming in its own video that it had 'remediated' portions of its toxic waste, Chevron tacitly admitted to having dumped the waste in the first place," said Koenig. "Yet when challenged to respond to new videos from a Chevron whistleblower revealing company technicians finding toxic waste at well sites the company claims to have remediated, Watson refused to respond. Watson then flatly denied that any statements critical of Chevron's Ecuador operations were legitimate."
In internal Chevron videos, Chevron technicians also interviewed rainforest residents who reported they continued to get sick and die from contaminated water. One man lost two daughters and asked Chevron employees when help was coming. "CEO Watson knew this man had lost his family ten years ago in areas where only Chevron operated. Did you lift a finger to help him? No, you call him criminal and attack anyone who stands with him," charged Paul Paz y Miño, an Amazon Watch director, during the meeting.
"John Watson has created a legacy of lies, deceit and destruction at Chevron," said Paz y Miño. "When Canada, Brazil or some other nation seizes its assets to pay for Chevron's crimes, Watson will have to face shareholders once again and explain why he lost billions of market value. Yet even when Chevron finally pays its debt to the people of Ecuador, Watson will still be known as the man who let innocent men, women and children suffer grievous harm because of the company's policies."
Watson also got hit hard by shareholders, who gave a high level of support to a resolution related to the Ecuador pollution issue. The resolution received a whopping 31% of shareholder support representing $62 billion dollars of market share. "This represents a huge rebuke to Watson's leadership," said Paz y Miño.
Outside protesters delivered 200,000 new signatures on petitions calling for Chevron to pay its $9.5 billion debt. A global call for Chevron to reform was also signed by hundreds of organizations and individuals including Bishop Desmond Tutu and environmental leader Bill McKibben.