The last time we checked in on the progress of the Chevron Shakedown in November of last year, things were not looking good for Manhattan lawyer and convicted racketeer Steven Donziger. Following the numerous losses he had suffered in court over his fraudulent attempts to pick Chevron’s pockets to the tune of billions of dollars, he had been found by a federal judge to have engaged in racketeering through what was described as a, “multi-year campaign of fraud, bribery, extortion, money laundering, and other offenses.” All of that stemmed from the dishonest practices his team and their clients engaged in when originally “winning” a multi-billion dollar settlement from a corrupt judge in Ecuador. He appealed the decision, but in November the Second Circuit appeals court shot him down.
Now Donziger has only one chance left and it’s coming up shortly. Chevron has filed a brief with the Supreme Court asking them to affirm the lower court’s decision and turn Donziger away once and for all. (Yahoo News)
Time may be running short for New York lawyer Steven Donziger.
Chevron filed a brief this week, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rebuff Donziger’s petition asking it to overturn a devastating judgment against him and his greatest achievement: a multibillion-dollar verdict in an environmental case he’d been pressing for more than 20 years.
Donziger’s campaign against Chevron reached its high-water mark six years ago, in March 2011, when he and a team of local lawyers won an $18 billion verdict—later reduced to $9.5 billion—in a provincial court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, on behalf of residents of the Amazon region where Texaco, acquired by Chevron in 2001, had drilled from 1964 to 1992…
So unless Donziger can persuade the Supreme Court to intervene, the stain of Kaplan’s withering assessment of the Lago Agrio judgment—that it was the product of outlandish corruption—will become indelible. To be sure, Donziger will always be able to take that judgment to any other country where Chevron has assets and see if its courts are willing to enforce it.
As the linked article suggests, this may not be technically “the end” of this saga because Donziger can still continue his quest to go to courts in other countries and ask them to enforce the judgement. As we’ve covered here repeatedly, he’s already doing just that in Canada, but he hasn’t fared very well there so far either. But the key point of the upcoming SCOTUS decision (assuming they agree to speak to it) is that it’s the end of the line in the judicial process in Chevron’s home nation. If Donziger loses there he is forever branded a fraudulent racketeer by the highest court in the land.
That fact can and will be cited by Chevron attorneys in any other country’s courts should they be challenged there and it will be a powerful argument in their favor unless Donziger can find a court as corrupt as the one in Ecuador to take up the case. Even then, Chevron should easily be able to come back and challenge the ruling at home when they try to collect. And when that happens we’re right back where we started with the fraud and racketeering charge hanging over his head.
I first started writing about the Chevron Shakedown more than six years ago (Good Lord, has it really been that long?) and have been following this twisted tale the entire way. It’s been a long and expensive road for Chevron. In the beginning they could have simply agreed to a settlement with the plaintiffs, no matter how baseless their claims were. That’s what many large corporations do just to avoid a protracted suit such as this. But instead, they stuck to their guns and have fought Donziger and his environmentalist backers every step of the way. On the unofficial judges’ scorecards they haven’t lost a round yet. Perhaps this will serve as a template for other companies to follow when someone comes along trying to hit them up for a fast but unsubstantiated claim.
If you’re not already familiar with this saga you can see all of our coverage of it here.