Ecuador $9.5 billion ruling against Chevron was corrupt: U.S. judge
By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - An American lawyer used "corrupt means" to secure a multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron Corp in Ecuador, a U.S. judge ruled on Tuesday, a major setback for Ecuadorean villagers hoping to collect on the award.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said he found "clear and convincing evidence" that attorney Steven Donziger's legal team bribed an Ecuadorean judge to issue an $18 billion judgment against the oil company in 2011.
The villagers had said Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992. Ecuador's high court cut the judgment to $9.5 billion last year.
Kaplan's decision bars Donziger and the villagers from enforcing the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States. It may also give Chevron legal ammunition in other countries where the plaintiffs could try to go after Chevron's assets.
At a six-week trial last year, Chevron accused Donziger of fraud and racketeering and said Texaco cleaned up the site, known as Lago Agrio, before handing it over to a state-controlled entity.
Donziger, who has repeatedly leveled accusations of bias against Kaplan and who predicted he would lose the case, called Tuesday's decision "appalling" and blamed Kaplan's "implacable hostility" toward him and his Ecuadorean clients.
"Through this decision, we now have the spectacle of a Manhattan trial judge purporting to overrule Ecuador's Supreme Court on questions of Ecuadorean law," he said in a written statement. He vowed to appeal and said the ruling would not stop his clients from seeking to enforce the judgment in other countries.
Chevron no longer has significant assets in Ecuador, and the villagers have tried to enforce the ruling in Canada, Argentina and Brazil. Continued...