Hidden Deal in Ecuador Case: Lawyers suing Chevron Strike Agreement That Spares Petroecuador From Litigation and Ensures Government Support
“Since Texaco left, Petro[Ecuador] has produced even more damage and many more disasters than Texaco.”
— Pablo Fajardo, member of plaintiffs legal team
Ever wonder why the U.S. trial lawyers in the Ecuadorian Amazon litigation case against Chevron choose to sue Texaco, the minority partner in the consortium that launched the country’s energy industry, and not Petroecuador? After all, Petroecuador, the state owned oil company, was the majority partner and became 100% responsible for the oil production in the concession area in 1992.
According to Ecuadorian news sources, the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the lawsuit against Chevron promised the Quito government they would not sue Ecuador’s state oil company Petroecuador over environmental damage in the Amazon.
Lawyer Cristobal Bonifaz, one of the architects of the lawsuit, has given written assurances to Ecuador’s government that Petroecuador would be spared a lawsuit if government officials threw their clout behind the plaintiffs.
In a 1997 interview appearing in the Ecuadorian newspaper Hoy, Bonifaz said, “There is no reason for the Government to worry because the plaintiffs and their lawyers have undertaken in legal documents to refrain from suing the Government if it is ultimately held to be jointly liable with Texaco for the environmental damage caused.”
A week later, Bonifaz told the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio, “I delivered notarized documents to the Attorney General confirming the indigenous people’s commitment to refrain from suing the Government.”
However, none of the plaintiffs’ attorneys have ever reported this arrangement or provided these documents to the Superior Court of Nueva Loja, which is overseeing the current trial. Nor have Chevron’s attorneys been able to obtain a copy.
Instead of taking on Texaco Petroleum and Petroecuador, U.S. trial lawyers have sought to sue only Chevron for environmental issues they say were left behind in Ecuador by Texaco (which Chevron acquired in 2001). Moreover, they knowingly ignore Petroecuador’s ongoing pollution and environmental mismanagement.
Meanwhile, the case in Ecuador has been marred by excessive government interference – interference that has prompted a warning by the U.S. government trade representatives.