Eye on the Amazon

Same Chevron Shareholder Circus? Look Closer!

Amazon Watch and the True Cost of Chevron network take on Chevron management.

The circus of lies, denial and propaganda videos that has become the Chevron annual shareholder meeting took place at Chevron's San Ramon, California headquarters once again yesterday. Not surprisingly, Chevron's lies about its Ecuador fiasco were recycled from years past – many of which seem to be nearing their expiration date.

As in years past, Amazon Watch was proud to support Humberto Piaguaje, a Secoya leader and coordinator of the Union de Afectados por la Petrolera Texaco (Union of Affected Communities) to confront CEO Watson and the board...again. No one actually expected Watson to treat Humberto or anyone from our team with respect, and he took the opposite approach with an eerie ease. Only in front of an audience of his own board members and executives could Watson get away with so offensively claiming that Humberto himself was being "used," and reject his presentation of the toxic reality in his own community. That wouldn't not stop Humberto from speaking the truth to Watson and the rest of the Chevron executives!

"We know very well the political and economic power that Chevron has, just as we know the magnitude of environmental damage and death to human life caused by your company. You are the criminals – you came, you contaminated, you lost in the courts, and you ran from the law just like any other thief."

But these are all things regular readers of The Eye are no strangers to, continuing to roll out of Chevron's predictable annual playbook as if on cue. And while many things about these meetings do not change from year to year, some important differences live behind the circus show and between lines and lies. Not to be overlooked in 2015:

  • John Watson's handling of the Ecuador issue is losing support even from within the company. In fact, shareholders representing $62 billion dollars of Chevron market value supported the resolution related to the Ecuador case. This is almost $10 billion more than just two years prior.
  • Even though he failed to disclose to his shareholders, Watson's legal woes are likely to get worse. For one, Canada's supreme court will rule any day now as to whether the Ecuadorians can continue enforcement efforts in Canada.
  • The release of "The Chevron Tapes" exposed just how much Watson has been keeping shareholders in the dark. Ten years ago Chevron's own technicians found toxic waste in former Texaco-only well sites, the same sites Chevron's most recent PR videos claim have been fully remediated.
  • Forensic evidence has been released disproving Chevron's allegations that the Ecuador verdict was somehow fraudulent. Worse, it indicates Chevron falsified evidence before a U.S. federal court and coached a paid witness to commit perjury.
  • Chevron's own efforts to have an international tribunal violate the rights of Ecuadorian communities and interfere in the case have backfired when it ruled that Texaco's remediation agreement (proven a sham) did not absolve it from civil litigation.
  • A U.S. federal judge overseeing the appeal of Chevron's retaliatory RICO case recently and embarrassingly called their bluff. Chevron backed itself into a corner stating that it never believed it could get a fair trial in Ecuador - despite arguing for ten years that the case must be moved there. The judge then asked Chevron to submit to a new trial in New York (even wondering aloud if it was in his power to enforce that). I don't have the words to describe the looks on the faces of Chevron's throng of overpaid lawyers when that happened! The last thing Chevron wants is for evidence in Ecuador to be evaluated, so the answer was a hasty and embarrassed "...uh no, Your Honor, we wouldn't agree to that."
  • Despite millions spent on legal intimidation efforts against its critics, the list of organizations and individuals opposing Chevron's activities continues to grow. Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and over 50 other organizations have condemned Chevron's actions related to this case. Bishop Desmond Tutu joined other nobel laureates and public figures calling for Chevron to change its ways and respect the rights of local communities around the globe, and specifically in Ecuador.

A responsible CEO not committed to a strategy of vilification and lies would have at least reported something about these developments to his shareholders. Not so with Watson. His personal commitment to using Chevron's vast resources to crush free speech, buy political power, threaten and intimidate critics and resort to smear tactics has earned Chevron the well deserved label of "world's worst."

Sadly, the most important and disturbing difference between this AGM and years prior is that each day the waste Texaco deliberately dumped decades ago relentlessly leaches more carcinogens into the drinking water of thousands. As a result, more Ecuadorian people continue to contract illnesses and are dying from exposure to Chevron's poison.

When asked by Humberto and by Amazon Watch on multiple occasions to respond to Chevron's responsibility for the suffering of the people of Ecuador – or to the damning new video evidence – Watson merely replied, "nothing you say is true. Let's move on."

Watson's unwillingness to respond with decency and respect demonstrates not only that he has no adequate answers to give in front of the public, but that he sees those suffering in Ecuador as less than human. Whatever allegations Chevron makes about the trial, nothing can erase the fact that Chevron admitted to deliberately dumping toxic waste in the first place, which their own video showed again during the meeting. Watson shows no remorse. They have spun their lies so deep and completely that they now claim that there's absolutely no evidence against them at all in Ecuador. None. Of course you'd be hard pressed to find a single person who has been to Ecuador who truly believes that.

The True Cost of Chevron network maintains that Chevron's actions are contrary to a healthy planet, healthy communities and a just world. Chevron does not need to destroy communities to be a profitable company. It doesn't need to poison democracy in America nor attack the free speech of critics to increase revenue. It does not need to poison water supplies and endanger the lives of children by fracking or deliberately polluting the environment. Those are choices the company makes and John Watson is the heart and voice of such choices.

The people of Richmond faced Chevron's attempts to buy their elections and they defeated the oil giant. The people of Ecuador fought in several courts for decades against Chevron and they won. But just as Chevron will try to corrupt democracy in the next round of elections, it will also use every weapon it has to try to destroy the Ecuadorians and their allies' ability to attain the justice they deserve. When we show up at each shareholder meeting to share our latest advances yet are faced with the same, tired lies, we ensure that arc of the moral universe continues to bend towards justice.

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