Feb 242012

Here is a brief update on the multi-jurisdictional dispute between Chevron and Ecuadorian plaintiffs:

You might remember that Ecuadorian plaintiffs accused Chevron (well, technically Texaco until Chevron bought Texaco) of dumping waste and causing illness in their country.  The case moved from the United States to Ecuador and back to the United States.  Each side has been trading shots, with Chevron claiming it did not receive a fair trial in Ecuador.

As I previously reported, Chevron is faced with an $18 billion judgment by an Ecuadorian court.  In an effort to block enforcement of the judgment, Chevron got a US arbitration firm to freeze the Ecuadorian judgment.  Of course, this week the Ecuadorian court rejected the arbitrator’s decision (surprise!).

The dispute may be movin’ on up… a federal court has referred Chevron’s appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

This saga is long from over and could impact the liability of United States based companies operating abroad.  This saga is long from over…

[A link to the news sans legal analysis can be found here.]

Jan 182011

Forgive my foray into the world of youtube, but I have come across some clips from the documentary “Crude” that might be of some interest.

Last week a Federal Judge in New York denied an appeal to shield the documentary film’s footage.  The AP, via the Wall Street Journal, has the story.  Now, more clips from the documentary, which chronicles the ongoing Ecuadorian legal battle between Chevron and the Ecuadorian government, have surfaced.

Regardless of your take on the case, many of these videos are fairly fascinating.  Check them out here.

Also of note is a new column by Michael D. Goldhaber of the AM Law Daily.  The article is titled, The Global Lawyer: Judging Chevron in Ecuador on the Evidence.  It provides a basic overview of the facts of the case and is worth a read.

Jan 032011

Happy New Year!

I begin 2011 with a topic I covered heavily in 2010, the ongoing Chevron litigation in Ecuador.  The New York Times reports on Chevron’s battle to obtain footage from the documentary film, “Crude.”  You can read John Schwartz and Dave Itzoff’s article here, which, among other things reports on the filmmaker’s concern that the ruling will silence  those interviewed for documentaries and other journalistic purposes.  The Chevron/Ecuador litigation is unique, and I highly doubt that the rulings would be construed in a manner that would oppress speech in the future, but take a look for yourself.

Nov 092010

The Chevron/Ecuador litigation continues, and of course, it keeps getting more interesting.

For several weeks, I have been posting about the documentary film Crude. Steven Donziger, an Ecuadorian plaintiff’s attorney, has been accused of fraudulent activity associated with the Chevron case, and Chevron claimed that outtakes from the film offered evidence of said fraud.

Chevron sought to discover footage and documents related to the documentary, the court agreed, and Mr. Donziger ultimately moved to suppress the subpoenas.   Last week, New York District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan refused to squash the subpoenas, thus allowing Chevron to continue its discovery.

Now, the public knows a little more about the footage at issue…

I imagine the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ lawyers are none too pleased because many of the questionable clips have appeared on Law.com’s Corporate Counsel blog.  Head here to watch the clips to discover what Chevron was crowing about.

UPDATE: There are more tapes at Law.com’s Corporate Counsel blog.  Click here for continuing coverage.

Oct 252010

Late last week, a New York Federal Court has ruled that Chevron may dispose Steven Donziger, the lead attorney representing the Ecuadorian plaintiffs in the Ecuador/Chevron litigation.   According to Alison Frankel’s Law.com article:

“The outtakes contain substantial evidence that Donziger and others were involved in ex parte contacts with the court to obtain appointment of the expert; met secretly with the supposedly neutral and impartial expert prior to his appointment and outlined a detailed work plan for the plaintiffs’ own consultants; and wrote some or all of the expert’s final report that was submitted to the Lago Agrio court and the Prosecutor General’s Office, supposedly as the neutral and independent product of the expert,” Kaplan wrote.

Moreover, the judge concluded, the outtakes contained evidence that Donziger lobbied for criminal charges against the former Chevron lawyers in order to pressure Chevron in the Lago Agrio case.

Based on that evidence, the judge found, the need to obtain evidence from Donziger outweighed the general prejudice against deposing adversary counsel in civil litigation, particularly because Donziger was not acting only as a lawyer for the Ecuadorian claimants (whom he cannot actually represent in Ecuador).

“His principal functions have included lobbying, media and press relations, and politics,” Kaplan wrote. “He has acknowledged in the outtakes that the purported civil litigation in Ecuador ‘is not a legal case. It’s a political battle’ in which ‘we need to get the politics in order in a country that doesn’t favor people from the rainforest.’”

This step is highly unusual, as opposing counsel is typically not deposed in litigation.  This deposition will further Chevron’s claims against the Ecuadorian counsel and make it more difficult for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ to ultimately enforce any judgment against Chevron in the United States.

Oct 052010

My mind is reeling from the string of news articles suggesting that developing countries could sue nations for damages incurred from global climate change.

Many nations claim harm from global climate change, including small nation islands facing rising ocean waters.  According to the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development, developing countries claiming to be harmed by climate change could sue industrialized nations.  Theoretically the countries could sue for injective relief (forcing industrialized nations to curb emissions), financial damages, or both.

This seems unlikely for many reasons.

As Edward Cameron, former advisor to the Maldives, said in a New York Times article, there are issues relating to how the suit is brought and what political consequences bringing such a suit may have on a developing nation (i.e., the withdrawal of foreign aide, etc.).  On the flip side, Cameron speculates that threatened litigation may push countries like the US to adopt climate change reform rather than face the uncertainty of international litigation.

I do not see how such a case could ultimately succeed.  Assuming you passed all of the procedural and evidentiary hurdles, will global power players (and chief polluters), i.e. industrialized nations, allow a judgment against a nation knowing that they would likely face the same liability?

Oct 012010

A couple weeks after Judge Leonardo Ordonez declared an end to the Ecuadorian Chevorn trial, the Judge Ordonez has been replaced at Chevron’s request.    Here’s a link to the full story.

This is significant because it will likely delay any judgment by  the court, and it allows Chevron more time fight the lawsuit both in Ecuadorian and US courts.  This comes after Chevron alleged fraud on the part of the Ecuadorian plaintiff’s attorneys and members of the Ecuadorian judiciary.

At least at this moment, it seems like  another success for Chevron.

Sep 202010

Ecuadorian judge Leonardo Ordonez has declared the conclusion of the Chevron trial.  The judge is set to consider the evidence and make a ruling by March 2011.  Mercedes Alvoro covers the story for the Wall Street Journal.

This case has stretched two continents and multiple jurisdictions since 1993, and a ruling by the Ecuadorian judge will not be the end of the case.  Even if the Ecuadorian judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs, there will be multiple appeals, and any final judgment must be enforceable in a jurisdiction where Chevron has sufficient assets (i.e., the United States) to fulfill the judgment.

Continuing issues of relevance in the case include the fraud claims made by Chevron and the plaintiffs, choice and conflicts of laws analysis, and how to get a foreign judgment enforced by a US court.  The latter issue is often one of great concern.  After all, what good is a paper judgment if it cannot be enforced?

Enforcement of foreign judgments is a tricky issue, but there are some great texts on the topic.  Later this week I will highlight some of them, including a great book by Professor Robert E. Lutz.

Meanwhile, all eyes in this case are on judge Ordonez and the many judges hearing claims in US courts.