Chevron Corporation has never lacked for targets in its crusade against claims that it fouled Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. On Friday the oil giant’s wrath fell on the highly pedigreed litigation consulting company H5, which it hopes to milk for information against yet another Chevron foe—the Gibraltar-based billionaire Russell DeLeon.
Chevron’s lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher scored a major blow against their main enemy in the Amazon case in March, when a judge in New York ruled that attorney Steven Donziger procured a $9.5 billion Ecuadorean judgment against the company through fraud. More recently, Chevron forced Patton Boggs to renounce its decision to back Donziger, and to pay for its choice. Now Chevron is pursuing DeLeon, who heavily funded the Ecuador litigation, and it wants to force H5 to help build its case.
In a petition filed Friday in Manhattan federal district court, Chevron asked for a judge’s permission to depose H5 CEO Nicolas Economou and H5 general counsel Julia Brickell about their alleged role in securing as much as $25 million in funding from DeLeon. Chevron’s brief also seeks documents from the duo, and details about their creation of an offshore vehicle to finance the Ecuador litigation.
Chevron brought the H5 case as a Section 1782 proceeding, which allows litigants to pursue discovery in the U.S. that will help them in foreign courts. Chevron argues that discovery from H5 will bolster a civil lawsuit it has pending in Gibraltar against DeLeon and an investment vehicle he controls called Torvia Ltd. DeLeon recently lost a bid to dismiss Chevron’s unlawful conspiracy claims in the Gibraltar case.
“H5 has actively participated in the ongoing conspiracy to extort a multibillion-dollar payoff from Chevron,” Gibson Dunn’s Randy Mastro wrote in Friday’s brief. “It is clear that H5 possesses information that directly addresses DeLeon’s and Torvia’s knowledge of and involvement in the fraud in the Ecuadorean proceeding and the ongoing efforts to fund and perpetuate the extortionate conspiracy against Chevron.”
H5 bills itself as a leading provider of e-discovery services and other forms of litigation support. Its executives and board members come from the upper echelons of law, academia and industry. Brickell, the general counsel, once practiced at Davis Polk & Wardwell before going in-house to Philip Morris USA.
H5 began collaborating with Donziger in 2009, two years before Donziger won his multibillion-dollar judgment from an Ecuadorean court. Chevron alleges that H5 was “involved in virtually every aspect of the case,” from devising a PR strategy to helping Donziger recruit litigation funders and lawyers at Patton Boggs. Chevron also alleges that H5 helped cover up the ghostwriting of a supposedly independent expert’s report.
According to Chevron, H5 is working on a partial contingency fee arrangement and stands to collect a bit more than 1 percent of the $9.5 billion judgment if a foreign court ever forces Chevron to pay up. Because Chevron no longer has assets in Ecuador, the plaintiffs are seeking to enforce the judgment in other countries.
In a statement, H5 said it would comply with “legal and appropriate requests for information” but downplayed the importance of the discovery action, noting that “litigants at times seek information from third-party service providers like H5.”