Harvard welcomes noted racketeer Steven Donziger to discuss Chevron Shakedown

Harvard University may be sending a none too subtle message regarding their feelings about capitalism and successful businesses in America. They are hosting a panel discussion event this weekend with the innocent sounding name, Insider perspectives and implications for the future of transnational corporate liability. On the surface that probably sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry, but one of the distinguished speakers on the panel is none other than Chevron Shakedown lawyer Steven Donziger, famous for being instrumental in trying to shake down the energy giant for billions of dollars. This is an effort which has since gone totally off the rails and seen the attorney hauled into court and found complicit in a vast conspiracy to defraud the company. What’s even more odd is that even though this campaign has been completely discredited, this is the second time Harvard has hosted him.

Last April, shortly before his first appearance, Paul M. Barrett at Bloomberg Business found it rather incredible that the renowned institution was inviting someone who had been determined in court to be a racketeer to address the high and mighty. (Emphasis added.)

Donziger, you’ll recall, is the flamboyant New York environmental attorney found liable in U.S. district court on March 4 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Judge Lewis Kaplan concluded that Donziger had orchestrated a multiyear scheme of bribery and coercion aimed at shaking down Chevron (CVX). Donziger’s wrongdoing culminated in a 2011 multibillion-dollar pollution judgment against the U.S. oil company in Ecuador, according to Kaplan.

On April 9, Donziger is scheduled to deliver a talk at Harvard Law titled “The Future of Corporate Impact Litigation After the Chevron Case.” The session will be sponsored by the Human Rights @ Harvard Law project. Curious, I called HLS spokeswoman Michelle Deakin. She asked around and came back to tell me: “From what I’ve learned so far, the event is intended to explore the complexities of the case and subject Donziger to hard questions.”

I’m not sure what sort of “hard questions” the Harvard elite asked him last time, but they must have loved his answers. For this outing, he still seems to be billed as some sort of hero. (Emphasis added again.)

Now 22-year litigation by Ecuadorian rainforest communities against Chevron over oil pollution in the Amazon—one of the largest judgments ever against an American company.

Panel: Luis Yanza, Goldman Prize winner; Paola Romero, Ecuadorian lawyer; Steven Donziger, lawyer for affected communities and target of Chevron’s retaliation campaign

So they are billing Donziger as the target of Chevron’s retaliation campaign, eh? I suppose that’s a better title than guy who was branded in court as a racketeer under the civil provisions of RICO. But who knows? Perhaps they are still in the mood to ask him more “hard questions” this year. Just in case they are, The Amazon Post has assembled ten of them which could be put to their guest. Here’s just a few of them.

Why haven’t you rebutted or explained the evidence of fraud, bribery and collusion against you, under oath in a court of law?

If you did not commit fraud in this case, why did Julio Prieto, one of your Ecuadorian lawyers, email you with fears that if your activities were discovered “all of us, your lawyers, might go to jail”?

If you did not commit fraud in this case, how do you explain the bank records that show $1,000 was deposited in an Ecuadorian judge’s bank account on several occasions? Why were the deposit slips signed by a staff member of your organization, Selva Viva?

If you did not ghostwrite the Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron, how do you explain that text from your internal work product was found word-for-word, typos and all, in the judgment?

Good questions one and all. But if you’ll pardon my admittedly skeptical attitude toward Harvard – particularly in light of the tone of their event announcement material – I rather doubt you’ll see any of them being asked. What we really need to find out is how much credibility should be assigned to the folks at Harvard, rather than Donziger himself, if they are willing to ignore the mountain of evidence against this racketeer and treat him as some sort of human rights crusader and victim of big business retaliation.

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