N.Y. judge lets Chevron bring fraud claims against Patton Boggs

Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:13pm EDT
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By Casey Sullivan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York judge has allowed Chevron Corp to sue Patton Boggs over claims that the Washington law and lobbying firm engaged in fraud while trying to enforce a multibillion-dollar environmental judgment for a group of Ecuadorean villagers.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan gave his ruling on Monday in Manhattan federal court, saying he had "difficulties" with Patton Boggs' argument that a New York court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

"This is about holding accountable all those who are responsible for trying to enforce this travesty of justice that occurred in Ecuador," Chevron's lawyer, Randy Mastro, said in an interview. "Now there will be the opportunity to hold Patton Boggs accountable for its role."

In 2011, an Ecuadorean judge ruled in favor of plaintiff lawyer Steven Donziger against Chevron for polluting the country's rainforest. An award to the villagers for $18 billion was reduced in 2013 to $9.5 billion.

Patton Boggs was hired by the villagers in 2010 to come up with a strategy to enforce the judgment, with partner James Tyrrell leading the enforcement efforts, according to court records.

On March 4, Kaplan ruled that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that Donziger's legal team had used bribery, fraud and extortion in pursuit of the multibillion- dollar judgment, according to court papers.

After Patton Boggs began enforcement efforts, Chevron in May asked Kaplan if it could bring counterclaims against the firm that it had concealed Donziger's fraudulent tactics, among other things.

Chevron said in court papers that Tyrrell took the case despite having ethical concerns about its merits but did so because of "enormous financial pressure at Patton Boggs," according to court papers.   Continued...

A general view of the front entrance for law firm Patton Boggs LLC, in Washington, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler