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Chevron's views and opinions on the Ecuador lawsuit

A Web of Influence: The Complex Case Against Chevron in Ecuador

The Ecuadorian government and U.S. trial lawyers are combining forces to influence the outcome of the lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador. The tool below will help you learn more about the relationships, the politics and the flow of money.

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ACTIVISTS, COURTS, AND OFFICIALS LINKED BY SHARED INTERESTS Lawyers, Lobbyists and US Activist Groups Amazon Defense Front Attorney General's Office Richard Cabrera Fabricio Correa Rafael Correa Pablo Fajardo Patricio García Gustavo Larrea Juan Núñez Washington Pesántez Petroecuador Selva Viva Luis Yanza

The Trial in Lago Agrio

Government of Ecuador

Lawyers, Lobbyists and
US Activist Groups

Connections
Money
Relationship

Click on the name of a person or organization for details on their involvement in the case.

Roll over a connection line to see how the two individuals or groups are linked.

A US LAW FIRM MANIPULATING AN ECUADORIAN COURT The Correa Administration Amazon Defense Front Amazon Watch Ben Barnes Cristóbal Bonifaz Richard Cabrera Steven Donziger Pablo Fajardo Fenton Communications Karen Hinton Kohn, Swift & Graf PC Juan Núñez Selva Viva Alberto Wray Luis Yanza

The Trial in Lago Agrio

Government of Ecuador

Lawyers, Lobbyists and
US Activist Groups

Connections
Money
Relationship

Click on the name of a person or organization for details on their involvement in the case.

Roll over a connection line to see how the two individuals or groups are linked.

COLLUSION BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF ECUADOR AND US LAWYERS AND ACTIVISTS The Trial in Lago Agrio Attorney General's Office Fabricio Correa Rafael Correa Patricio García Gustavo Larrea Washington Pesántez Petroecuador Amazon Watch Ben Barnes Cristóbal Bonifaz Steven Donziger Fenton Communications Karen Hinton Kohn, Swift & Graf PC Alberto Wray

The Trial in Lago Agrio

Government of Ecuador

Lawyers, Lobbyists and
US Activist Groups

Connections
Money
Relationship

Click on the name of a person or organization for details on their involvement in the case.

Roll over a connection line to see how the two individuals or groups are linked.

Amazon Defense Front

Financial Beneficiary of Lawsuit

The Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia (Frente), or Amazon Defense Front (sometimes referred to as the “ADF”), is the sole named financial beneficiary of the lawsuit against Chevron. Per the terms of the complaint, none of the 48 named plaintiffs in the lawsuit would receive any part of an award stemming from a decision against Chevron. Despite a stated goal on their website to “defend and sustain” the people and the environment of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Amazon Defense Front has not taken what would seem to be the most obvious step – pursuing legal action against Petroecuador, the sole owner and operator of the former Concession fields for almost 20 years.

Amazon Watch

San Francisco-based Activist Group

Amazon Watch is a San Francisco-based activist group that has partnered with the Amazon Defense Front in an international campaign against Chevron. Amazon Watch has also closely aligned itself with both the US and Ecuadorian trial lawyers representing the Lago Agrio plaintiffs. In particular, Amazon Watch has taken a lead role in the effort to pressure and discredit Chevron, spearheading a campaign to generate doubt in the investment community, specifically among Chevron’s shareholders and with the SEC, by questioning Chevron’s legal and ethical handling of the Ecuador matter.

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Attorney General's Office

Ecuador’s Attorney General’s office has attempted to undermine Chevron’s legal position. The Attorney General’s office has conspired with plaintiffs’ attorneys in an ongoing scheme to try to nullify the 1998 release granted by the government to Texaco Petroleum.

In an email exchange among representatives of the plaintiffs and the Ecuador Attorney General’s office dated August 5, 2005, one of the plaintiffs’ lead lawyers, Alberto Wray, wrote “if at some point we want the Government and the Attorney General to play for our side, we must give them some ability to maneuver.” Martha Escobar, a deputy of the Attorney General, responded:

“I explained that the Attorney General’s Office and all of us working on the State’s defense were searching for a way to nullify or undermine the value of the remediation contract and the final acta and that our greatest difficulty lay in the time that has passed.”

Ms. Escobar continued,

“The Attorney General remains resolved to have the Comptroller’s Office conduct another audit (that also seems unlikely to me given the time); he wants to criminally try those who executed the contract (that also seems unlikely to me, since the evidence of criminal liability established by the Comptroller’s Office was rejected by the prosecutor...”

Ben Barnes

Lobbyist

Ben Barnes is a well-known Washington, D.C. lobbyist retained by Kohn, Swift & Graf PC to lobby members of Congress on “environmental matters resulting from oil exploration in Ecuador.” A Newsweek article confirmed Barnes’ hiring and noted that Steven Donziger was “coordinating the DC opposition to Chevron.” Barnes is also listed on the Hinton Communications website as one of the PR firm’s clients.

Cristóbal Bonifaz

Architect of Lawsuit

Cristóbal Bonifaz initiated the original Aguinda lawsuit brought by a larger but overlapping group of Ecuadorian plaintiffs. In 1993, he enlisted the support of Joe Kohn, of Kohn, Swift & Graf PC, and Steven Donziger to file the first lawsuit against Texaco in a New York federal court. When it looked like that lawsuit would be dismissed and sent back to Ecuador, Bonifaz, whose father was President of Ecuador in the 1930s, and his team worked with the Ecuador legislature to enact a new law that would allow individuals the right to sue for environmental remediation of government-owned land. In 1999, a year after Texaco completed its remediation and was granted a full release by the government, the law was passed. Today, the Lago Agrio plaintiffs and their attorneys are trying to apply the law retroactively, which is not permitted under Ecuador law.

According to news sources, Bonifaz gave written assurances to the Ecuadorian Attorney General’s office that his clients would not sue Petroecuador over environmental damage in the Amazon if government officials threw their clout behind the plaintiffs.

Cristóbal Bonifaz

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Richard Cabrera

Court-Appointed Ecuadorian Mining Engineer

Richard Cabrera was appointed by the Lago Agrio court to assess possible environmental damage in the former Concession oilfields, the cause and chronology of such damages, if any, and suitable remediation projects to be carried out to remedy those damages. Cabrera was given this task despite the fact that he is a mining engineer with no experience or training in oilfield remediation work. In addition to being patently unqualified for the limited task he was given, Cabrera ignored directions from the court and improperly expanded his work scope to invent suggested categories of damages that have nothing to do with the issues raised by the lawsuit or with environmental remediation of the former Concession area.

Further compounding his unscientific methods and the substantive errors in his report, Cabrera’s work was far from independent. Cabrera’s reports read more like an advocacy piece for the plaintiffs than a competent, impartial assessment of the evidence. A number of indicators suggest that Cabrera worked closely with the plaintiffs’ lawyers to prepare his report:

In his report, Cabrera absolves Petroecuador of any responsibility or remediation obligations associated with past or present oil operations. Instead, he exclusively attributes pollution in the Amazon region of Ecuador to Texaco Petroleum and even concludes that Chevron should buy hundreds of millions of dollars of new equipment for Petroecuador.

Fabricio Correa

President Correa’s brother

In 2009, scandal broke over government contracts awarded to companies in which Fabricio Correa, President Rafael Correa’s brother, has an interest. The scandal was compounded by the fact that an Ecuador law specifically promulgated by the Correa administration prohibits family members of high-ranking officials from doing business with the State.

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Read news articles about Fabricio Correa’s government contract scandal:

Rafael Correa

President of Ecuador

“[We] then received representatives of the Amazon Defense Front who have been for decades against ChevronTexaco and now have all the support of the national government. This is a legal problem, but they know they can count on the support given by the national government.”

– Rafael Correa, January 19, 2008, Weekly Presidential Radio Program

Since assuming office in January 2007, President Correa has consolidated his power over all of Ecuador, including its political, financial, and media institutions:

There is evidence going back to previous administrations that the lawyers representing the Lago Agrio plaintiffs and the Government of Ecuador are working together to ensure a verdict against Chevron in the Lago Agrio lawsuit. The Correa Administration has maintained and furthered this arrangement, converting the lawsuit against Chevron from a legal matter to a political cause.

The Government of Ecuador could benefit greatly from a decision against Chevron, which would absolve it of its own remediation obligations and result in the transfer of an enormous amount of money to Ecuador (the proposed $27 billion judgment would represent half of Ecuador’s GDP). Politically, the Lago Agrio case diverts attention and responsibility for environmental conditions away from Petroecuador and allows Correa to blame all social ills in the Oriente on Chevron.

Steven Donziger

Lago Agrio Plaintiffs’ Legal Advisor / Lead US Lawyer

“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. We have to occasionally use pressure tactics…”

– Steven Donziger, quoted in the film Crude

One of the original lawyers in the 1993 Aguinda action, today Steven Donziger oversees the international campaign against Chevron. This includes collaborating on legal strategy with the Ecuador plaintiffs’ lawyers and overseeing the public relations campaign against the company, enlisting celebrity sympathizers such as Trudy Styler and Daryl Hannah to support the cause.

Steven Donziger

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Pablo Fajardo

Ecuadorian Lawyer

“They look at individual cases of cancer and say it can not [sic] be traced back to the oil that was spilled by Chevron…It’s true that the exact correlation cannot be proved…”

– Pablo Fajardo, The (Eugene, OR) Register-Guard, August 27, 2009

Pablo Fajardo became the lead Ecuadorian lawyer on the case in February 2006. He is also active in the PR campaign against Chevron – appearing frequently in both Ecudorian and international press and participating in media events, including press conferences, rallies, and demonstrations.

“In my case, in 2004 when we were starting the case, one of my brothers was killed. I cannot say Texaco is to be blamed for this, and neither can I say the opposite. This was never investigated. There have been a lot of things, a lot of pressure and persecution.”

– Pablo Fajardo, Ecuador TV, April 22, 2008

Fenton Communications

US PR Agency

Fenton Communications is a U.S.-based public relations agency. According to media reports, the firm was retained by the government of Ecuador. Fenton has also lobbied the U.S. Congress in support of Ecuador’s trade preferences.

On January 13, 2010, Fenton Communications issued a press release containing false accusations about Chevron. Fenton partnered with Amazon Watch, a San Francisco-based activist group, aligned with the Amazon Defense Front to issue the release.

Fenton’s clients include a number of organizations that are waging a public relations and media campaign against Chevron, including Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange.

Patricio García

Purported Party Official

Patricio García was recently caught on videotape as part of a bribery scheme in which he represented himself as an official with Alianza PAIS, Ecuador’s ruling political party. The bribery plot – which involved solicitation of a $3 million payment in exchange for environmental remediation contracts to be awarded once a decision comes down against Chevron in the Lago Agrio lawsuit – was brought to Chevron’s attention by an Ecuadorian citizen who was pursuing business opportunities in Ecuador with a US business associate. García appears in videos of two separate meetings and makes clear in the second of the two that he “took over the reins” of the scheme.

Karen Hinton, Hinton Communications

Runs Public Relations Firm

“The lawsuit does not seek to prove health claims because of the associated costs; it has been expensive enough to prove the contamination itself…”

– Karen Hinton, comment posted on SFGate.com, May 31, 2009

Karen Hinton is a Washington D.C.-based publicist retained to provide public relations and media support for the campaign against Chevron. She is one of the leading spokespersons for the Amazon Defense Front. Hinton also features The Ben Barnes Group as a client on her firm’s website.

“The entire lawsuit and its cost is funded by the Philadelphia law firm of Kohn & Swift.”

– Karen Hinton, Bob McCarty Writes, May 26, 2009

Kohn, Swift & Graf PC

US Personal Injury Law Firm / Funder of Lawsuit

“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.”

– Joe Kohn, Crude

Kohn, Swift & Graf PC provides a majority, if not all, of the funding for the lawsuit against Chevron. When U.S.-based trial lawyer, Cristóbal Bonifaz, concocted the original lawsuit against Texaco in 1993, he contacted Harold Kohn, a Philadelphia class-action lawyer. Kohn’s son, Joe, a partner at Kohn Swift & Graf PC in Philadelphia, signed on. Steven Donziger, a New York-based trial lawyer who went to law school with Bonifaz’s son, also joined the case.

Gustavo Larrea

Former Correa Campaign Manager and Cabinet Member

Gustavo Larrea was manager of Rafael Correa’s presidential campaign in the 2006 elections and, once Correa assumed power, was widely regarded as one of President Correa’s most influential cabinet members. In Correa’s first administration, Larrea was appointed Minister of Government and was tasked with preparing the referendum that led to the election of the Constituent Assembly, used by President Correa to consolidate his control over all branches of Ecuador’s government. Later, Larrea became the Minister of Security, a post he gave up in the early weeks of Correa’s second administration so he could run for the National Assembly on the Alianza PAIS ticket. Larrea’s congressional hopes were dashed shortly thereafter, however, when news reports broke linking his office to the Colombian terrorist group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Larrea himself has acknowledged meeting with Raúl Reyes, a FARC leader.

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Juan Núñez

Provincial Court Judge

Judge Juan Núñez is the current President of the Provincial Court of Lago Agrio, and it was expected that he would issue a ruling in the lawsuit against Chevron sometime in late 2009 or early 2010. However, Núñez excused himself from presiding over the case at the end of September 2009 after he was implicated in a bribery scheme linked to the Lago Agrio litigation.

The bribery scheme involved solicitation of a $3 million payment in exchange for environmental remediation contracts to be awarded once a decision comes down against Chevron in the Lago Agrio lawsuit. The bribery plot was brought to Chevron’s attention by an Ecuadorian citizen who was pursuing business opportunities in Ecuador with a US business associate. The two men were told that of the $3 million, $1 million would go to Núñez. In meetings with Núñez, as demonstrated by the videos, Núñez assured the two businessmen that the decision against Chevron was a done deal.

Washington Pesántez

Prosecutor General of Ecuador

“[T]here was no evidence of [liability of a] civil, administrative or criminal nature… on the part of the officials of the Government of Ecuador… or the representatives of the TEXACO Company, with respect to environmental damage that had allegedly been caused in the Amazon region.”

– Washington Pesántez, September 2007 opinion affirming the dismissal of criminal charges related to Texaco Petroleum’s remediation and the Settlement and Release

Washington Pesántez is the current Prosecutor General of Ecuador and was responsible for issuing indictments against two Chevron lawyers and several former government officials based on criminal charges that had been repeatedly rejected by his predecessors. As a district prosecutor, prior to being named Prosecutor General, Pesántez issued a written opinion, quoted above, stating that Texaco Petroleum’s remediation had been complete and in full compliance with the contractual terms agreed to with the Government of Ecuador. He also found that the statements in the actas, issued as specific remediation tasks were completed, were “true and correct” and “absolutely effective legally.”

After having disqualified himself from the indictment process, Pesántez has once again come forward to attack Chevron following disclosure of a bribery scheme implicating, among others, the Lago Agrio judge and members of President Correa’s ruling party.

Petroecuador

State-Owned Oil Company

Petroecuador, Ecuador’s state-owned oil company, was the majority partner in the Consortium with Texaco Petroleum. Today, Petroecuador still owns and operates the oilfields in the former Concession area as well as other fields in the Amazon. Petroecuador took over Consortium operations in 1990 and became the sole owner of the Consortium fields and installations when Texaco Petroleum’s concession contract expired in 1992. Since that time, Petroecuador has developed a widely acknowledged record of operational and environmental mismanagement, due to, among other things, widespread corruption, a lack of investment in or proper maintenance of its equipment and installations, and numerous spills.

Despite Petroecuador’s dismal environmental record, neither the Amazon Defense Front nor Amazon Watch has made Petroecuador a focus of their Oriente clean-up campaign, and the plaintiffs and their lawyers have never pursued any legal action against the state oil company. To the contrary, Petroecuador stands to benefit, directly and indirectly, more than any other Ecuadorian entity if the cost for widespread remediation is shifted to Chevron by:

“Texaco, in its own way, worked on the remediation of the respective pits; this was 33% of the total. However, for over 30 years, Petroecuador had not done anything regarding the ones that were of the state owned company’s responsibility to remediate.”

– Manuel Muñoz, National Director DINAPA, an environmental agency of the Ministry of Energy, May 10, 2006, Sworn Testimony before Ecuador’s Congress, May 10, 2006

Selva Viva

Ecuadorian Company

Selva Viva is an Ecuadorian company that serves as the financial and logistical intermediary for the Amazon Defense Front. The company was founded in 2004, and the original shareholders included Alberto Wray, who at that time was one of the lead attorneys in the lawsuit against Chevron. It is not clear what the current legal status of this company is; in a September 2009 review of the Ecuador business registry, Selva Viva was classified as “inactive.”

Alberto Wray

Former Lead Attorney

Alberto Wray was one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs when the case was filed in Ecuador. Wray conspired with Ecuador’s Attorney General’s office in an attempt to nullify the 1998 release granted by the government to Texaco Petroleum and extort a settlement from Chevron.

In an email exchange among representatives of the plaintiffs and the Ecuador Attorney General’s office dated August 5, 2005, Alberto Wray wrote “if at some point we want the Government and the Attorney General to play for our side, we must give them some ability to maneuver.” Martha Escobar, a deputy of the Attorney General, responded:

“I explained that the Attorney General’s Office and all of us working on the State’s defense were searching for a way to nullify or undermine the value of the remediation contract and the final acta and that our greatest difficulty lay in the time that has passed.”

Ms. Escobar continued,

“The Attorney General remains resolved to have the Comptroller’s Office conduct another audit (that also seems unlikely to me given the time); he wants to criminally try those who executed the contract (that also seems unlikely to me, since the evidence of criminal liability established by the Comptroller’s Office was rejected by the prosecutor...”

Luis Yanza

Legal Coordinator of Amazon Defense Front / General Manager of Selva Viva

Luis Yanza is a community activist with the Amazon Defense Front and appears in Ecuador’s business-registry records as general manager of Selva Viva, an Ecuadorian company that serves as the financial and logistical intermediary for the Amazon Defense Front. In 2008, Selva Viva paid at least $200,000 to Richard Cabrera, the court-appointed mining engineer who recommended that Chevron pay over $27 billion in damages in the Lago Agrio lawsuit.