Argentine Appeals Court Rejects Fraudulent Ecuadorian Judgment Against Chevron
An appeals court in Argentina has rejected an attempt to enforce a fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron Corporation, making Argentina the latest country where courts have dismissed the judgment found by U.S. courts to have been obtained through racketeering and corruption.
The three-judge panel from the Chamber of Appeals in Buenos Aires unanimously dismissed the action against Chevron Corporation for lack of jurisdiction. The Chamber of Appeals concluded that Chevron Corporation has no legal presence or assets in Argentina and that the Ecuadorian judgment cannot be enforced against Chevron Argentina SRL and other indirect local subsidiaries because they are separate legal entities with no connection to the Ecuadorian case. In so ruling, the Chamber of Appeals agreed with the reasoning of the lower court judge’s decision and the recommendation from the Argentinean prosecutor’s office.
“The local courts lack international jurisdiction to hear the main claim because there is no reasonable point of connection between the case and the forum,” the Chamber of Appeals said in its decision on July 3. The court added that the absence of this point of connection prevents Argentinean courts from recognizing or enforcing the Ecuadorian judgment.
“Just weeks after favorable court decisions in Brazil, Canada, and Gibraltar, the extortion scheme against Chevron continues to collapse,” said R. Hewitt Pate, vice president and general counsel, Chevron Corporation. “Argentina’s court of appeals has tossed out this case, and any court that respects the rule of law should do the same.”
In 2014, a U.S. federal court found that the judgment issued against Chevron Corporation by a court in Ecuador was the product of bribery, extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. The U.S. court also prohibited enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment in the United States and prohibited the wrongdoers from profiting from the judgment anywhere in the world. The U.S. federal court judgment is now final after having been unanimously affirmed by the U.S. court of appeals and denied review by the Supreme Court.
Since Chevron Corporation has never had any assets in Ecuador, the plaintiffs, led by American lawyer Steven Donziger, are attempting to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in other jurisdictions.
The Chamber of Appeals found the appellants liable for the cost of the appeal.
“Chevron will continue to hold those attempting to profit from this fraudulent scheme accountable,” Pate said.
Since the extent of the fraud was revealed, more than a dozen former insiders and allies have abandoned Donziger and his scheme, including his former co-counsel, environmental consultants, funders, investors, employees and Ecuadorian collaborators.
Any current environmental conditions in the former concession area in Ecuador are the exclusive responsibility of the Republic of Ecuador and its national oil company. Chevron Corporation has never operated in Ecuador. An indirect subsidiary of Texaco Inc. properly carried out a government-approved and supervised environmental remediation program in Ecuador after the government took over its minority interest in 1990. Ecuador’s national oil company has been the exclusive owner and operator for the past 26 years, significantly expanding operations during that period.
Last month, Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice ended the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ attempt to extend their fraud to Brazil, declaring final its decision last November to dismiss the enforcement action in that country. In May, the Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiffs’ enforcement action against Chevron Canada Ltd., an indirect subsidiary. Also in May, the Supreme Court of Gibraltar issued a judgment against plaintiffs’ lead Ecuadorian lawyer and representatives for their role in procuring and attempting to enforce the fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment, ordering them to pay Chevron $38 million in damages.
See the Chamber of Appeals decision here.