Having been found by a U.S. Federal Court to have violated federal racketeering laws, Steven Donziger and his supporters are resorting to their old playbook. In an attempt to take the spotlight off of the overwhelming evidence of fraud, Donziger and his supporters – including activist groups like Amazon Watch – are working overtime to downplay the significance of the RICO judgment by raising the same old, tired arguments and allegations that were disproven years ago. In press releases, blog posts and tweets they continue desperately trying to cover up their crimes. Here are the Top 5 Distractions Donziger’s team is using to divert attention from the fact that they were found to have committed extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, witness tampering and obstruction of justice:
Distraction #1: Raise Issues Not Relevant to the RICO Trial
Despite the fact that a U.S. Federal Court was very clear that the RICO trial was only about issues related to Donziger’s fraud and misconduct, he and his team continue to claim that the recent judgment is meaningless because the trial did not include the merits of the case.
FACT: The RICO trial was solely about the fraud and racketeering activity that allowed Donziger and his team to secure the $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. The court was consistently clear about the scope of the trial. In fact, the judgment even addresses Donziger’s repeated attempts to make the trial about environmental issues by stating, “…the defendants’ effort to change the subject to the Oriente, understandable as it is as a tactic, misses the point of this case.”
Distraction #2: Claim Chevron Wanted the Case Heard in Ecuador
Donziger and his team like to claim Chevron wanted to be sued in Ecuador. In fact, they recently issued a press release stating, “Chevron wanted the trial to be held in Ecuador and promised to abide by any adverse decision.”
FACT: Chevron did not agree to any stipulation concerning jurisdiction in Ecuador. In fact, Chevron was not a party to the prior New York action. The case that was brought against Texaco in New York is completely different than what has been brought against Chevron in Ecuador, including different plaintiffs and different claims. The Amazon Post exposed this myth here in 2010.
Distraction #3: Allege Death Threats
Donziger’s Ecuadorian team has accused Chevron of, or implied that Chevron was connected with, death threats or other harms against them. Despite having no evidence whatsoever to support their claims, Juan Pablo Saenz, an Ecuadorian lawyer on Donziger’s team was recently quoted claiming he has received two anonymous death threats, implying Chevron was to blame.
FACT: This is not the first time that the plaintiffs’ representatives have thrown around these types of unfounded accusations. The Amazon Post thoroughly debunked the issue previously, highlighting that Donziger’s spokesperson, Karen Hinton, and his Ecuadorian lawyer, Pablo Fajardo, have repeatedly implied that Chevron is responsible for the murder of Fajardo’s brother.
Distraction #4: Take the Fight Back to Ecuador
As many in the U.S. media and independent press have come to realize that Donziger has sought to use them as part of his scheme, he and his team are now working with the Republic of Ecuador to invite international journalists and celebrities to take part in a ‘Toxic Tour’ of the region. They claim the tour highlights environmental damage caused by Chevron.
FACT: The Republic of Ecuador has launched a campaign against Chevron in an attempt to evade its own responsibility for addressing the environmental, social and economic needs of the people of the Oriente. In fact, the Republic is even paying for journalists to participate in the junket. What these journalists and celebrities are not being told is that TexPet, a subsidiary of Texaco, cleaned-up its share of impacted sites before leaving Ecuador. After TexPet ceased operations in Ecuador, pursuant to an agreement with the Republic, it fully remediated its share of production sites. The sites that TexPet was to remediate were negotiated and agreed to by the Republic of Ecuador. After the remediation was complete, it was certified by the government and state oil company Petroecuador, and TexPet exited the country with a full release by the Republic of Ecuador from further environmental liability. Petroecuador, however, has continued to operate many of the sites in the former concession area over the last 20 years – including the site visited on the government’s tour, Aguarico 4 (AG-04). A video detailing TexPet’s successful remediation can be found here.
Distraction #5: Attack the Judge
According to Donziger’s playbook, when all else fails, attack the judge.
FACT: This tactic was a favorite of Donziger’s team in Ecuador, as is evidenced by an outtake from the movie Crude, in which Donziger is caught saying, “the only language that I believe this judge is going to understand is one of pressure, intimidation and humiliation.” His team has tried similar tactics against the U.S. federal judge presiding over the RICO case, accusing him of bias and even racism. Judge Kaplan is far from alone in finding the judgment against Chevron in Ecuador to be the product of fraud. Eight federal courts in the U.S. have found that the Lago Agrio trial was marred by the plaintiffs’ representatives’ fraud. Chevron is also seeking relief against Ecuador in international arbitration, where an international arbitration tribunal has already issued a partial award in favor of Chevron. In addition, the Supreme Court of Gibraltar recently issued a lengthy ruling allowing Chevron to proceed with its conspiracy and other claims against James Russell DeLeon, the main funder of the movie Crude and a key financial backer of Donziger’s lawsuit against Chevron.