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Key Highlights from Week One of Chevron v Donziger RICO Trial

Politics in Ecuador

Christopher Bogart (CEO, Burford Capital LLC)

Burford Capital LLC Chief Executive Officer Christopher Bogart told a Manhattan federal judge yesterday that his firm, which he described as the world’s largest dedicated litigation financing provider, supplied $4 million to the Ecuadorean plaintiffs and later sold the share when it became “deeply concerned about the mounting evidence of fraud and misconduct.”  (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

David Russell (Environmental Expert)

A former expert for the plaintiffs, David Russell, testified yesterday that he provided a $6.114 billion damages estimate based “largely on assumptions Donziger told me to use.”

“Within a year of working for Donziger, I came to learn that my cost estimate was wildly inaccurate and had no scientific data to back it up,” he said in written testimony submitted to the judge. (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

After drawing up his observations in the Hotel Lago, he arrived at a cost-estimate of more than $6 billion. He called the figure Wednesday a S.W.A.G., or a “Scientific Wild Ass Guess.”

“While I was working on the estimate in the Hotel Lago, Donziger told me that he wanted a ‘really big number,’ and he needed a ‘really big number’ for purposes of ‘putting pressure’ on Chevron to settle the litigation,” the deposition states. “In response, I told him that I would try to come up with the biggest possible cost estimate I could.” (Courthouse News Service)

You’ve heard of courtroom “junk science.” How about SWAG?  Junk science refers to dubious technical evidence presented by hired-gun expert witnesses. It’s one of the banes of civil litigation. SWAG, or “scientific wild-assed guessing,” is a form of junk science that came up yesterday in Chevron’s continuing lawsuit against a plaintiffs’ attorney who won a $19 billion pollution verdict against the company in Ecuador….Russell also testified that he made some of his observations of waste oil pits from the comfort of a vehicle driving by at 40 or 50 miles an hour.  (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Randy Mastro (Chevron Legal Counsel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher)

“That’s what Steven Donziger was trying to do against Chevron — coerce a big payday against a big company until the pain went away.  But Chevron refused. It refused to be extorted and defrauded and that’s why we’re here today.”  (Bloomberg News)

“This is a new paradigm. It’s fraud and extortion and they’re trying to force a payoff. If they do, it will be open season on U.S. companies.” (Bloomberg News)

Mastro also praised his client for having fought the case as hard as it has. “Chevron didn’t give in,” he told Judge Kaplan. “It stood up and refused to be extorted and defrauded.” If Donziger’s “shakedown” of Chevron succeeds, he warned, “Who will be the next U.S. victim of his paradigm? It will be open season on U.S. corporations in corrupt foreign jurisdictions.” (Fortune Magazine)

“It’s been a long hard road to get here, but judgment day is at hand,” said Mastro, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He urged Kaplan to hold Donziger responsible as the man who “masterminded and orchestrated” the scheme and along the way committed “multiple acts of wire and mail fraud, extortion, bribery, witness tampering and money laundering.”

“Your honor, it’s a shakedown scheme pure and simple,” Mastro said. (New York Law Journal)

Steven Donziger (Defendant)

In an April 4, 2007 entry, Donziger called his co-litigants “fellow soldiers” and mused about the possibility of obtaining a settlement from Chevron. “I sit back and dream,” he wrote. “I cannot believe what we have accomplished. Important people interested in us. A new paradigm of not only a case, but how to do a case. Chevron wanting to settle. Billions of dollars on the table. A movie, a possible book. I cannot keep up with it all.” (Bloomberg News)

“Some days I fantasize about putting my strong hands around Reis Veiga’s neck and squeezing for mercy,” Donziger wrote in a book proposal about the Lago Agrio case that he shopped to a literary agent in 2006. (Fortune Magazine)

In the movie, as Donziger prepared to ambush an Ecuadorian judge in his chambers with a local TV news crew, he told the documentary maker: “This is something you would never do in the United States. But Ecuador, you know, this is how the game is played, it’s dirty.” (American Lawyer)

Mastro quoted Donziger’s compromising observations that a plaintiffs lawyer’s role is “to make [f-ing] money,” and that for the Ecuadorian court evidence was “just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bullshit”—as well as his boast that his case had created a “new paradigm.” (American Lawyer)

Again Mastro quoted Donziger: “If you repeat a lie a thousand times it becomes the truth.” (American Lawyer)

Ricardo Reis Veiga (Chevron’s Legal Counsel in Ecuador)

“I experienced an unimaginable nightmare, ranging from stress, anger, pain and frustration from having to face such accusations,” Veiga said in written testimony filed with U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan. (Bloomberg News)

According to his testimony, Reis Veiga was also the target of some of Front’s intimidating rallies outside the Lago Agrio courthouse. At one, Reis Veiga and four other Chevron officials were depicted as cardboard effigies wearing prison fatigues. A man dressed as the personification of “Death” then cut their throats and laid them in coffins, and then stabbed them again with his sickle. (Fortune Magazine)

Ted Boutrous (Chevron legal counsel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher)

Ted Boutrous, a lawyer for Chevron, said the proceedings in Ecuador were “one of the most egregious litigation frauds in history.” (Reuters)

Witness statements can be found here.

For information and the latest details on the case continue to visit


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