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Trial Lawyers Bankroll Lawsuit, Bank on Payday

“This lawsuit started in the United States and is financed by a law firm.” – Julio Prieto, plaintiff’s attorney

In a December 7th interview with Ecuadorian radio station Majestad, plaintiff’s attorney Julio Prieto makes mention of a law firm bankrolling the environmental lawsuit currently pending against Chevron in Ecuador.

The referenced firm is Kohn, Swift & Graf PC of Philadelphia, the primary entity providing a majority of, if not all of the funding for the lawsuit against Chevron.

When U.S.-based trial lawyer, Cristóbal Bonifaz, first concocted the original lawsuit against Texaco in 1993, he contacted Harold Kohn, a Philadelphia class-action lawyer. Shortly thereafter, Kohn’s son, Joe, who later became a partner at Kohn Swift & Graf, signed on. Subsequently, Kohn enlisted Steven Donziger, a New York-based trial lawyer who went to law school with Bonifaz’s son.

When asked about his motivation for taking on the case against Chevron in the movie Crude, Joe Kohn candidly stated, “it was not taken as a pro bono case, you know, a lot of my motivation is, at the end of the day… it will be a lucrative case for the firm.”

As part of the Kohn, Swift and Graf financed PR campaign to take Chevron’s reputation hostage and ransom it back to the company in the form of a large settlement, Kohn has hired DC lobbyist Ben Barnes to lobby the US Congress on “environmental matters resulting from oil exploration in Ecuador.” Barnes then hired DC based PR representative Karen Hinton to spread misinformation and distort the facts of the case.

Years of misinformation and distortion spread by U.S. trial lawyers and their PR cohorts lead the public and media to believe that 30,000 indigenous Amazonians are behind this lawsuit, and that any financial award from a settlement or verdict would go to the indigenous peoples of the Oriente.

However, the truth tells a different story.  Kohn’s firm has coordinated a series of economic and political relationships between the Ecuadorian government, U.S. trial lawyers and activist groups in an effort to put pressure on a small rural courtroom in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, to find Chevron guilty in an environmental lawsuit. Any financial awards as a result of a settlement or judgment against Chevron would invariably go only to the Ecuadorian government and the U.S. contingency fee lawyers driving this frivolous lawsuit. In fact, Washington Pesántez Prosecutor General of Ecuador confirmed that “90% [of any judgment against Chevron] would be delivered to the State…”

One thing is certain, Chevron will continue to fight this misguided and disingenuous lawsuit until justice prevails.

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