It’s time to check back in on the attempts by New York attorney Steven Donziger and his environmental activist friends to shake down energy giant Chevron for billions of dollars. Unfortunately for Steve, the news continues to be bad without exception. Having been exposed as a racketeer under the auspices of RICO, the various groups who had invested money in the litigation in exchange for a percentage of the expected shakedown money continue to bail out. The latest is the British group Woodsford Litigation Funding Limited.
Chevron Corporation (CVX) has reached a settlement agreement with Woodsford Litigation Funding Limited, a U.K.-based litigation funder that provided $2.5 million in funding to the fraudulent lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador. Chevron brought conspiracy claims against Woodsford in Gibraltar for the company’s role in funding and advancing the fraudulent lawsuit. In the settlement Woodsford has resolved those claims by withdrawing all financial support related to the Ecuador litigation and assigning all of its interest in the litigation to Chevron. Chevron, in turn, has agreed to release all of its claims against Woodsford and Woodsford’s Gibraltar-based funding entity, Temeraire Limited.
Even though Donziger is still being invited to speak at Ivy League institutions, his list of allies in the shakedown grows thin. It will come as no surprise to anyone if other large energy producers take notice of Chevron’s success and begin duplicating their tactics. It’s been a common practice for energy companies to simply pay off people with specious claims rather than spending the time, money and public relations hit of a drawn out court battle, but that seems to be coming to an end. Chevron has not only beaten back Donziger and the corrupt officials in Ecuador, but they have pursued all of the entities who funded the fraudulent efforts around the globe, taking them to court and getting them to turn over their interests in the suit while swallowing the losses for their investments. This has to be sending a strong message to such lawsuit investment groups everywhere in terms of being careful when you poke the sleeping bear.
Keep in mind that Woodsford is only the most recent one to bail out. Kohn, Swift & Graf exited the battlefield nearly a year and a half ago. Burford Capital LLC and Stratus Consulting followed suit not long after. Russ DeLeon expressed many regrets over becoming involved with Donziger when he bowed out. And the list goes on.
This hasn’t been a cheap process for Chevron, but they’re striking a blow against pickpockets masquerading as environmental warriors. Good for them.