U.S. trial ends over Ecuador pollution judgment against Chevron

Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:45pm EST
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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An attorney for Chevron Corp on Tuesday accused U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger of orchestrating an international criminal conspiracy by using bribery and fraud in Ecuador to secure a multibillion-dollar pollution judgment against the oil company.

"It was a scheme so audacious, so bold, that it would make even a Mafia boss blush," lawyer Randy Mastro said during his closing argument before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the non-jury trial.

Lawyers for the defense said Chevron had failed to prove Donziger's involvement in any conspiracy.

"Raw accusations and allegations are not proof," said Zoe Littlepage, a lawyer for Donziger. "Steven Donziger may be a jerk. That's not a crime."

The six-week trial concerned an $18 billion judgment issued in 2011 against Chevron by Judge Nicolas Zambrano in Ecuador. The ruling was in favor of a group of villagers, who claimed Texaco had contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992. This month, Ecuador's Supreme Court cut the amount to $9.5 billion.

Chevron, which later acquired Texaco, has said Texaco remediated the site before closing operations. The company hopes a verdict from Kaplan that the judgment was based on fraud will help it defend against attempts to enforce the judgment outside Ecuador.

Kaplan will not render a decision right away; the two sides will submit post-trial briefs over the next couple of months.

During the trial, Chevron submitted reams of documents, including Donziger's private notebook. The company also called more than a dozen witnesses, including linguistics, psychology and computer experts who testified that Zambrano could not possibly have authored the judgment without assistance.   Continued...

Oil workers clean up a contaminated pool in Taracoa December 10, 2007. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja