Chevron Ecuador: Environmental Claims Disavowed by Plaintiffs’ Experts
Stratus Consulting has provided sworn declarations outlining the firm’s knowledge of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ misconduct in the ongoing environmental litigation in Lago Agrio, Ecuador as well as testifying that there is no scientific merit to the plaintiffs’ damages claims against Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) and Texaco Petroleum (TexPet).
Chevron recently settled pending fraud and extortion claims against Boulder, Colo.-based Stratus. Stratus had been the lead environmental consultants to the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the trial.
“We are pleased that Stratus came forward to reveal the truth. We call on others with knowledge of the fraud tainting the trial in Ecuador to come forward and do the right thing,” said Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel.
In sworn declarations (here and here), Stratus details the role the firm and the plaintiffs’ lawyers played in drafting the supposedly independent damages report of Richard Cabrera, which serves as an evidentiary basis of the 2011 judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. Testimony also provides a direct account of lead plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Donziger’s control of the “Cabrera Report” process and the pressure Donziger applied to contrive damages attributed to Chevron. In filings submitted in the Southern District of New York today, Stratus’s representatives state:
- “Stratus is not aware of any scientific evidence that people in the former concession area are drinking water contaminated with petroleum.”
- “At no time while working on the Ecuador Project did I see any data supporting a finding of groundwater contamination from TexPet operations…”
- “I am not aware of any scientific data that shows that any adverse health effects are caused by contamination from petroleum operations in the Oriente.”
- “…the conclusion that there were 1,400 ‘excess cancer’ deaths near the oil operations area is invalid and unsupported.”
- “I am not aware of any credible scientific evidence that supports the statement that cancer rates were up to 30 times higher than normal, or that the incidence of childhood leukemia was found to have reached alarming levels.”
- “I am not aware of credible scientific evidence that more than 9,000 people in the area of oil operations in Ecuador are going to contract cancer in the coming decades or that links any such incidence to oil operations.”
- “I am not aware of any credible scientific evidence that supports the statement that TexPet’s operation of the concession ravaged thousands of square miles of once-pristine rainforest, that it poisoned the environment of tens of thousands of people, or that it decimated indigenous tribes who lived in the region.”
- “I disavow any and all findings and conclusions in all of my reports and testimony on the Ecuador Project. I deeply regret that I allowed myself and my company to be used in the Lago Agrio Litigation in the way that we were…”
Stratus is the latest instance of individuals and groups formerly aligned with the plaintiffs either accusing the plaintiffs’ lawyers of fraud or providing firsthand accounts of corruption tainting the trial and judgment. In January, a former Ecuadorian judge came forward to admit his role in orchestrating the fraudulent judgment against Chevron. It was also revealed that Burford Capital, one of the largest financial backers of the plaintiffs, accused the plaintiffs’ lawyers of fraud and other misconduct in connection with their pursuit of their case. In December, a former environmental consultant to the plaintiffs came forward with additional proof of fraud and the fabrication of evidence on the part of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Chevron’s RICO claim is set for trial on October 15, 2013.