Chevron has submitted to courts in the U.S. and Ecuador video outtakes and transcripts from the movie Crude that show the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ lawyers, consultants, and associates meeting with the Ecuadorian court’s supposedly neutral “Global Expert,” Richard Stalin Cabrera Vega, to plan and ghostwrite the $27.3 billion damages report that Cabrera would later present to the court as his own. The video evidence proves that plaintiffs’ lawyers and consultants colluded with Cabrera to present a fraudulent report and proves that the plaintiffs’ and Cabrera’s denials of their collusion have been false. Documents produced during discovery also show that plaintiffs’ consultants wrote objections to the report they had ghostwritten, wrote “Cabrera’s” responses to their own objections, then published a fraudulent “peer review” of “Cabrera’s” report in which they claimed to find the work, of which they were the true authors, to be scientifically accurate and in line with remediation projects elsewhere in the world.
The following excerpt is taken from a November 5, 2010 opinion issued by Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York:
“The outtakes reveal Pablo Fajardo, one of the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ Ecuadorian lawyers, describing several apparently ex parte meetings he had with an Ecuadorian judge – before Cabrera was appointed – regarding the global assessment and the appointment of a neutral and impartial expert to conduct it. In the course of doing so, he stated that he had a pretty good idea of who would be appointed. This appears to have been an understatement.
“Donziger boasted in the Crude outtakes that Cabrera ‘never would have [been appointed] had we not really pushed him.’ And the outtakes confirm that the Lago Agrio plaintiffs indeed did know in advance that Cabrera would be the appointee.”
“On March 3, 2007, more than two weeks before the appointment, they held an all-day meeting – attended by Cabrera, Donziger, plaintiffs’ Ecuadorian counsel, and partisan experts retained by the plaintiffs – to plan the report that Cabrera would issue. During that meeting, Fajardo informed the group that the goal of the meeting was to ‘define the overall structure of [the] comprehensive expert examination.’ Donziger later clarified that the plaintiffs’ work plan would involve not only evidence and remediation, but also writing the expert’s opinion.”
“The Crude outtakes reveal that Fajardo presented a PowerPoint presentation during the morning session that outlined the Plan Para Examen Pericial Global, or Plan for the Global Expert Assessment. He emphasized that everyone would contribute to the report, explaining: ‘And here is where we do want the support of our [i.e., the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’] entire technical team . . . of experts, scientists, attorneys, political scientists, so that all will contribute to that report– in other words – you see . . . the work isn’t going to be the expert’s. All of us bear the burden.’ Someone asked whether the final report would be prepared only by the expert. Fajardo responded that the expert would ‘sign the report and review it. But all of us . . . have to contribute to that report.’ Plaintiffs’ consultant Ann Maest said, ‘Together?,’ which Fajardo confirmed. Maest then stated, ‘But not Chevron,’ a comment met with widespread laughter.”
“In the afternoon session, the group discussed the ‘work plan,’ the first document that Cabrera would be required to sign and file with the Ecuadorian court Donziger proposed that he and the U.S.-based consultants form a ‘work committee’ to present a ‘draft plan’ in a few days. Looking at Cabrera, Donziger then said, ‘and Richard, of course you really have to be comfortable with all that. And we’ll also define the support the expert needs.’ The recording of the meeting ended with Donziger commenting, ‘We could jack this thing up to $30 billion in one day’.”
“Outtakes recorded on the following day reveal that Donziger made clear to one of plaintiffs’ U.S. environmental consultants that everything the plaintiffs were doing was to be concealed from Chevron, his ‘goal [being] that they don’t know *hit.’ During the same lunch, the consultants told Donziger that there was no evidence that contamination from the pits had spread into the surrounding groundwater. Donziger responded, saying ‘You can say whatever you want and at the end of the day, there’s a thousand people around the courthouse, you’re going to get what you want,’ and ‘[t]herefore, if we take our existing evidence on groundwater contamination, which admittedly is right below the source . . . [a]nd wanted to extrapolate based on nothing other than our. . . theory,’ then ‘[w]e can do it. And we can get money for it.’ He went on saying, ‘[T]his is all for the Court just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bull*hit.’ When one consultant argued that ‘there is not enough information on that groundwater’ and that ‘the one hole in the remediation is the water,’ Donziger broke off the discussion, stating, ‘There’s another point I got to make to these guys, but I can’t get this on camera,’ and the footage ended.”
“Nor was that the only occasion during lunch in which Donziger asked to go off the record. When one expert commented that it had been ‘bizarre’ to have Cabrera present at the meeting the day before, Donziger instructed the expert not to talk about that fact and told the camera operator that those comments were off the record. The expert elaborated that he was surprised that there had been a meeting during which ‘everything’ had been laid out while the expert was present.
This is the second in a series of posts this week that will highlight the degree to which the trial in Ecuador has been compromised by the misconduct of the plaintiffs’ lawyers. These concerns are conveyed in the words of a U.S. Magistrate Judge in New Mexico who found:
“The release of many hours of the outtakes has sent shockwaves through the nation’s legal communities, primarily because the footage shows, with unflattering frankness, inappropriate, unethical and perhaps illegal conduct.”