This past weekend, Australia’s Channel 7 program Sunday Night ran a biased and misleading report on the long-running lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador. The story was solicited by Zoe Tryon, an activist associated with the lawyers suing Chevron, who is featured prominently in the segment making a series of outright false statements. In email correspondence produced pursuant to a court-ordered subpoena, Ms. Tryon told the plaintiffs’ lead U.S. lawyer, Steven Donziger, that she had approached Channel 7 reporter Mike Munro to do the story because he was a “great friend” of her family, and that she could “vouch for [Munro and his producer] completely.” As might be expected under such circumstances, the report was sensationalized, biased, and factually inaccurate.
The Channel 7 program omitted key information that was made available to Channel 7. Texaco Petroleum Company held only a 37.5% interest in the consortium in Ecuador while state-owned Petroecuador owned 62.5%. At the end of its participation in 1992, Texaco Petroleum fully remediated its contractual share of environmental impacts in a program approved by all pertinent local, provincial and national authorities in Ecuador. All remaining impacts are the legal responsibility of Ecuador’s government and its national oil company, Petroecuador, which has been the sole owner and operator of greatly expanded operations in the region for the past two decades.
At Chevron’s request, many of the world’s top toxicologists, epidemiologists, ecologists, anthropologists and geoscientists have considered the evidence, including more than 1,500 environmental samples, and have concluded that there is no scientific support for plaintiffs’ claims of social, health and environmental harms caused by the operations in which Texaco Petroleum participated prior to 1992.
The program included only a highly edited and improperly juxtaposed interview with Chevron’s spokesman in Ecuador, and made no effort to fact check information supplied by Ms. Tryon or the plaintiffs’ lawyers with Chevron. On many occasions, Chevron attempted to convey the facts of the case [see here and here] and bring evidence of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fraud and misconduct to the attention of Channel 7, only to be rebuffed at every turn. There is overwhelming evidence that the plaintiffs’ lawyers have engaged in a fraudulent scheme in Ecuador. They ghostwrote the official damages report of a court-appointed expert who was supposedly neutral but actually was hand-selected by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and clandestinely paid from a “secret account,” and submitted other fraudulent expert reports presenting false findings of contamination that were contrary to those their expert testified he actually reached. Evidence showing that the plaintiffs’ attorneys went so far as to ghostwrite significant portions of the judgment issued by the Ecuadorian court in February remains undisputed by the plaintiffs and unmentioned by Channel 7. The facts uncovered regarding this massive litigation fraud have been covered by major media outlets for over a year, and U.S. federal courts have recognized the overwhelming evidence of fraud marring the case, remarking that “what has blatantly occurred in this matter would in fact be considered fraud by any court” and “there is ample evidence of fraud in the Ecuadorian proceedings.”
The network’s lack of interest in the facts of the case and in the fraud findings of court after court made sure that the program would not be objective, let alone accurate or even relevant to the ongoing dispute. A transcript of the questions posed to Chevron by Mr. Munro can be found here, together with a side-by-side presentation of information responding to his assertions. As one can see, the interviewer was poorly informed about the facts of the case and instead was simply repeating the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ baseless and fraudulent claims.
It is disappointing that Channel 7 failed to develop a basic understanding of the case and allowed misinformation to shape its reporting. We remain confident, however, that objective observers of the Ecuador litigation will come away with a different point of view. For instance, they may well be interested to know that eight different U.S. federal judges have found evidence of fraud by the plaintiffs’ lawyers in connection with the trial in Ecuador and that, after extensive hearings, an international tribunal presiding in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ordered Ecuador to suspend any enforcement of the Lago Agrio judgment. It was facts like these that Sunday Night knowingly withheld from its viewers.
The Channel 7 story also ignored Chevron’s strong environmental record in Australia. Chevron is proud of its environmental record in Australia. We have demonstrated our commitment to environmental stewardship through our management of the Western Australia (WA) oil asset on Barrow Island for the past 45 years, and we will continue to do so with the Gorgon and Wheatstone projects.
Barrow Island has been recognized internationally as an outstanding example of the coexistence of industry and the environment on a Class A nature reserve while contributing to the economic well-being of the WA community. Our quarantine management system was acknowledged by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority as world class and was recently awarded a prestigious WA engineering award.
Chevron Australia is committed to maintaining the island’s biodiversity and conservation values while making an even bigger contribution to Western Australia’s economic growth and well-being in the future. For more information on Chevron in Australia, please visit: http://www.chevronaustralia.com/home.aspx