Chevron Ecuador RICO Decision: One Year Later
One year after a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Steven Donziger and his team had committed “egregious fraud” against Chevron in Ecuador, the case built on corruption and lies continues to unravel.
One year ago today – March 4, 2014 – the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a 500-page ruling concluding that the $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron was the product of fraud and racketeering. Following the seven-week RICO trial, Judge Lewis Kaplan also found that Ecuador’s judgment was unenforceable in the U.S. and held Donziger liable for RICO violations.
In his decision, Kaplan cited key examples of fraud, including testimony from a former Ecuadorian judge who admitted to orchestrating the fraudulent judgment and testimony from Donziger’s own scientific expert who confirmed evidence of oil pollution was fabricated.
Kaplan concluded: “The wrongful actions of Donziger and his Ecuadorian legal team would be offensive to the laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including Ecuador – and they knew it.
In the past year, Donziger’s scheme has continued to unravel:
Key Funders Abandon the Fraud
After learning of the extent of the fraud, Patton Boggs LLP, a leading Washington D.C. lobbying and law firm, withdrew from supporting the lawsuit against Chevron in May 2014. The firm issued a statement of regret and assigned its interest in the litigation to Chevron. It also agreed to pay Chevron $15 million.
In February 2015, James Russell DeLeon, the lawsuit’s principal financial backer and a law school friend of Donziger, also withdrew his support for the suit after investing $23 million. DeLeon, a resident of Gibraltar, officially turned his stake in the $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment over to Chevron, becoming the 19th Donziger ally to jump ship. The settlement followed a key decision by the Supreme Court of Gibraltar allowing Chevron to pursue claims against DeLeon following the RICO verdict.
Human Rights Leaders, Legal Scholars and Women’s Rights Advocates Support Chevron’s Position
In October, a broad and diverse collection of organizations and legal experts filed Amicus briefs in support of Chevron’s arguments in the Chevron vs. Donziger appeal. The Amici included a leading women’s rights legal organization, a group of human rights experts, one of the authors of the original RICO act, Latin American legal scholars, business groups and the Washington Legal Foundation.
Donziger Resorts to Pressure, Humiliation and Intimidation as his Fraud Scheme Unravels
Unable to refute the evidence of fraud, Donziger and his team have resorted to personal and professional attacks against anyone who has challenged their scheme. They embarked on an international smear campaign against journalists, judges, human rights experts, women’s rights groups, and anyone else who spoke the truth about the case. Roger Parloff, a respected legal reporter for Fortune, wrote that journalists who enlist to cover this case deserve commendation: “It had to have been clear from the outset that anyone who [covered this] conscientiously—a task that would necessarily include discussing the overwhelming evidence of Donziger’s use of mendacity and intimidation to achieve his goals—would end up being tarred with baseless attacks on their integrity emanating from Donziger’s camp.”
One year after the federal RICO decision against him, it is clear that the fraudulent scheme built by Donziger and his ever-dwindling followers continues to collapse as truth and justice prevail.