WEEK TWO CHEVRON V DONZIGER HIGHLIGHTS
ALBERTO GUERRA (former Ecuadorean judge)
On the witness stand on Wednesday, the former judge, Alberto Guerra, said he met in 2009 with Donziger and other representatives of the villagers at Honey & Honey, a restaurant in Quito. Guerra said another lawyer representing the villagers had already agreed to pay him $1,000 a month to ghost-write court orders for the presiding judge, Nicolas Zambrano. Zambrano, who was also being paid, agreed to expedite the case and limit procedural avenues by which Chevron could delay it, Guerra said. (Reuters)
Guerra has said in a declaration filed with the court that he was paid thousands of dollars by lawyers for the plaintiffs to steer the case in their favor. Another former Ecuadorean judge who issued the $19 billion ruling, Nicolas Zambrano, was promised $500,000 from the proceeds, Guerra said in the November filing. Guerra said he also routinely ghost wrote judgments for Zambrano and was paid for those services.
Guerra said in court that he was given the bribes sometimes in the form of deposits in his bank account and other times in envelopes filled with $20 and $50 bills. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Guerra said he and Zambrano had previously discussed soliciting a bribe from Chevron, and that Zambrano asked him to contact lawyers representing the oil company. The two targeted Chevron because they believed it was “in quite a better financial situation than the plaintiffs,” and that there was a “larger financial benefit [that] could be obtained” for them, Guerra said. Chevron’s attorneys declined the offer a few weeks later, Guerra testified, leaving Zambrano “discouraged, dispirited.” He said that’s when they solicited Donziger’s team. (Courthouse News Service)
“Mr. Fajardo summarized the agreement he had reached with me to Mr. Donziger and Mr. Yanza, and Mr. Donziger asked me if it was accurate,” Guerra said via a translator. “After hearing my positive answer, Mr. Donziger and Mr. Yanza thanked me for the work I was going to do.” Guerra alleges that in late 2009 he was illegally ghostwriting court orders in a number of cases for Nicholas Zambrano, the Ecuadorean judge who ultimately entered the contested judgment, and that it was Zambrano’s idea to solicit bribes from the parties.
On Wednesday, Guerra testified that he went about issuing court orders in Zambrano’s name per the alleged arrangement, occasionally including findings favorable to Chevron in order to avoid raising suspicions. In exchange, he claims he was paid via direct bank deposits or envelopes full of cash delivered by Fajardo himself on a Quito street corner. (Law360)
“It could not seem as though all of the orders were being issued for the benefit of the plaintiffs,” he said through an interpreter in court yesterday, explaining why some of the rulings he was involved with favored Chevron. “The idea was to not have it look suspicious.” (Bloomberg)
While on the stand, Guerra told his sordid tale in a calm, convincing way. Dressed neatly in a light-gray business suit, he spoke without hesitation in Spanish. Via a translator, he matter-of-factly described an Ecuadorian court system so rife with corruption that his own felonious behavior sounded merely routine. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
“Did you understand you were violating Ecuadorian law?” Chevron counsel Randy Mastro of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher repeatedly asked. “It hurts me to say so, but yes,” replied Guerra. (American Lawyer, The Litigation Daily)
ADOLFO CALLEJAS (Ecuadorian Counsel to Chevron)
Callejas took the stand for Chevron on Monday and Tuesday in the company’s fraud and racketeering case against the holders of the Ecuadorian mega-judgment and their U.S. lawyer, Steven Donziger. First, Callejas testified that ex-judge Alberto Guerra contacted one of Callejas’s colleagues by telephone so many times in 2009, at least once offering overtly to “fix” the case, that he urged his colleague to change his phone number. Then, in October of that year, Callejas said he received a call from a former clerk of the court, inviting him to meet directly with the judge who would write the final judgment, Nicolas Zambrano. The next miraculous offer came about a year later, according to Callejas’ written direct testimony, when another colleague was approached by a friend, who said that Guerra said Zambrano wished to know whether Chevron would like to ghostwrite a judgment in its own favor.
Then Gomez then asked one question too many. In all those years had he ever been threatened? Well, Callejas noted, there was the time in 2009 when an effigy bearing his photo, dressed in prison garb, was beheaded by a costumed angel of death with a giant scythe. In his written statement Callejas testified that protesters led by the plaintiffs were shouting: “Let death bury him! Bury him face down so the one below likes it!” Then the effigies of Chevron’s lawyers and CEO were placed in coffins, led outside Lago Agrio in a mock funeral march, and buried in shallow graves strewn with flowers by their mock widows. “If that was not an incitement to personal violence,” concluded Callejas, his voice rising on the stand, “I don’t know what would be.”
Gomez’s reply: “No more questions, Your Honor.” (American Lawyer, The Litigation Daily)
SARA MCMILLEN (Chevron Scientist—Testified Friday, October 18))
McMillen was suspicious of the LAPs’ testing laboratory, known as HAVOC, which to me sounds like KAOS from Get Smart. Her suspicions arose because HAVOC had reported results “below detection limits that could be achieved using state of the art equipment and methods in U.S. laboratories.” Chevron obtained an Ecuadorian court order to inspect HAVOC, which “was in a house or residential building, which had an exhaust duct sticking out of the upstairs window,” but HAVOC “would not permit the court-appointed expert or Chevron’s legal team access to its facility.” She points to something Donziger wrote: an inspection of HAVOC “WOULD BE A DISASTER FOR THE LAGO AGRIO CASE.” (Letters Blogatory)
SPENCER LYNCH (Director of Digital Forensics at Stroz Friedberg, LLC)
Lynch said Donziger’s hard drive contained a draft of the expert report prepared by Richard Cabrera for the Lago Agrio trial. Though Cabrera was supposed to be independent, Chevron says his report was ghostwritten by Stratus Consultants, a Colorado-based firm working for Donziger. The draft of this report on Donziger’s computer was included in an email April 1, 2008, sent by email@example.com, Lynch said.
Donziger’s hard drive also contained a draft of the Cabrera Report, “which was most likely modified and saved by Ecuadorean plaintiffs’ lawyer Juan Pablo Saenz the day before it was filed with the Ecuadorian court by Richard Cabrara,” Lynch wrote in his witness statement. “Excepting the court markings and handwriting, that draft is identical to the report filed with the Ecuadorean court by Richard Cabrera on April 1, 2008. I therefore conclude that [it] was the final draft of the Cabrera report.”
After comparing the draft of the Cabrera report on Donziger’s hard drive with the final, Lynch found both documents identical. “In other words, the text, figures and charts from the final draft Cabrera Report appear verbatim in the filed Cabrera Report,” Lynch said. “It is the same document.” (Courthouse News Service)
Ecuador’s Worn-Out War on Chevron
Raul Gallegos is the Latin American correspondent for the World View blog
It is hard for many to take Correa’s environmental protestations seriously. On Oct. 6, Ecuadorian journalist Emilio Palacio asked the obvious question: “After 30 years, how come no one has done anything to clean up that mess?” he said, referring to successive Ecuadorian governments. Ecuador’s “neoliberal governments, we know, didn’t care much about environmental rights. But we now have nearly seven years” of the Citizens’ Revolution, citing Correa’s political coalition. “Why haven’t they done anything to remedy this?” Palacio’s report presented documents purporting to show that, as recently as 2011, years after Texaco had left, Petroecuador continued to dump crude, including into the pool in which Correa dramatically dipped his hand. (Bloomberg-World View)
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