It’s been a while since we checked in on Steven Donziger, the New York City attorney who was the architect of the failed Chevron Shakedown. How are things going for him these days? Well, the first item to note is that I should issue a correction to that first sentence. Donziger has reportedly been disbarred from every place where he was previously allowed to practice law. He can now represent nobody but himself, so is he still technically an attorney?
Whether he is or not, he may want some outside representation in the near future. As it turns out, Donziger has raised the hackles of at least one judge he’s come before and is currently being held in contempt of court. (Forbes)
I’ve detailed the civil contempt of court motion against Steven Donziger in prior columns. So it’s very pleasing to read United States District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s remarkable, 75-page, contempt of court ruling. It begins with these words: “Steven Donziger, formerly a lawyer, has led a corrupt effort to extort billions of dollars from Chevron Corporation.”
After that devastating introduction, things only got worse. Donziger, whose “corrupt effort” has been described in this column, is now in contempt of court for blatantly and willfully violating Judge Kaplan’s orders. Those orders enjoined Donziger from continuing to personally profit from what Judge Kaplan termed “the fraudulent procurement of a multibillion judgment from a provincial court in Ecuador (the “Ecuador Judgment”).”
As noted in the Forbes column, this isn’t the first time Donziger has been held in contempt. But the latest ruling (you can read the details of it here) really brings the judicial hammer down on him. He was previously ordered not to continue attempting to profit from his “fraudulent procurement of a multi-billion dollar judgment” regarding the Ecuador affair. (Those are the judge’s words, not mine.)
It seems that the shakedown effort has still been attracting “investors” hoping to nab a share of any money picked from Chevron’s pockets, and Donziger has managed to vacuum up roughly a million dollars since the injunction was first issued. He apparently assumed that nobody would notice, but he’s under a lot of scrutiny these days. So how does the judge propose that he purge himself of the contempt?
It looks like a pretty harsh punishment, at least in terms of Donziger’s wallet. The court has given him until May 28th to remit all of the money he collected since the injunction was put in place… to Chevron. Yep. He has to write a seven-figure check to the same company he’s been trying to extort money from. If he doesn’t do that, the court will begin imposing a daily fine on him. Starting on May 28th the fine will be $2,000.00 and it will double each day after that until the payment to Chevron is complete. If he doesn’t repay the money quickly, he could soon be in debt to the court for even more.
If he continues to refuse, it’s believed that he may wind up in criminal contempt, and that means cooling his heels in a jail cell. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Of the entire history of attempted fraudulent scams, this one may have wound up backfiring on a scale that merits some sort of trophy.