Tribunal presses Ecuador to halt Chevron case enforcement

Fri Feb 8, 2013 9:51pm EST
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By Braden Reddall

Feb 8 (Reuters) - An international tribunal arbitrating Chevron Corp's (CVX.N: Quote) long-running legal dispute over pollution in Ecuador has found the country violated the panel's previous order to do all it could to prevent enforcement of a contested $19 billion judgment against the company.

The tribunal, acting under The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration, said the Ecuador government should have stopped plaintiffs in the case from going to courts in Brazil, Argentina and Canada to try to collect the judgment handed down by an Ecuadorean court in 2011.

The ruling by the panel came a year after it reaffirmed its original 2011 finding that the Quito government "take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition within and without Ecuador of any

judgment against (Chevron) in the Lago Agrio case."

The Ecuadorean court ruled in February 2011 that Chevron should pay billions to plaintiffs living in the region around Ecuador's Lago Agrio, who had sued the company over pollution in the country's rain forest.

That judgment came a decade after Chevron bought Texaco, and 18 years after Texaco was first accused in a New York court of polluting the Ecuadorean rain forest and sickening people there. The case was moved to Ecuador after Texaco argued for a change in venue.

Chevron has contested the Ecuador court judgment, saying it uncovered through U.S. courts evidence of fraud by lawyers for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs, allegations the lawyers deny.

The company launched action in 2009 through the Permanent Court of Arbitration, charging that Ecuador had breached a trade agreement with the United States by not ensuring a fair trial.   Continued...