Much has been written about Steven Donziger, the lead American lawyer behind the fraudulent lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador, but less is known about Pablo Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorian lawyer behind the scheme.
Who is Pablo Fajardo?
Fajardo is a key player in Donziger’s fraudulent scheme against Chevron, from soliciting support from Ecuadorian government officials to bribing judges to helping ghostwrite the final judgment against Chevron. His misconduct is confirmed by sworn testimony and a host of evidence, including hours of outtakes from the movie Crude.
Fajardo stands to personally make $190 million in the unlikely event that the fraudulent $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron is enforced.
Here’s how the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York described Pablo Fajardo’s role in the scheme:
Fajardo Promised an Ecuadorian Judge $500,000 to Decide the Case for the Plaintiffs and Sign the Judgment they Prepared: The court found that the Lago Agrio Plaintiff (LAP) team “wrote [the judgment], and Judge Zambrano signed it.” The Court determined that “Fajardo—with Donziger’s approval—agreed to pay Zambrano $500,000 out of the proceeds of the Judgment in exchange for Zambrano deciding the Lago Agrio case in the LAPs’ favor and signing a decision provided by the LAP’s.” The Court went on: “In view of the entire record . . . this Court finds that (a) Zambrano agreed with Fajardo to fix the case for a payment of $500,000 paid out of any judgment proceeds, (b) Fajardo did so with Donziger’s express authorization, (c) the LAPs drafted all or most of the Judgment, and (d) Zambrano signed their draft without consequential modification as part of the quid pro quo for the promise of $500,000.”
Illegal acts were committed to procure the Ecuador judgment: The U.S. court found that Donziger was civilly liable for the commission, with the assistance of Fajardo and other members of the plaintiffs’ team, of a variety of illegal acts during the Lago Agrio litigation, including extortion, wire fraud, money laundering, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and violating the United States’ Travel Act, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Accordingly, the court found that “[t]he decision in the Lago Agrio case was obtained by corrupt means. The defendants here may not be allowed to benefit from that in any way.”
Fajardo illegally paid former judge Alberto Guerra to ghostwrite orders and opinions: The court also found that Fajardo arranged for a former Ecuadorian judge, Alberto Guerra, to act as Zambrano’s ghostwriter in the Lago Agrio case drafting orders favorable to the plaintiffs in exchange for roughly $1,000 per month. Forensic analysis of Guerra’s computer revealed nine draft orders that were later issued by Zambrano in the Lago Agrio case. In exchange for his ghostwriting services, “Fajardo sometimes paid [Guerra] in cash on the street in Quito.” As Guerra testified at trial, “[Fajardo] would hand me a blank white envelope and inside the envelope were $20 and $50 bills.” At other times, members of the LAPs’ team “deposited money into Guerra’s account at Banco Pichincha”—payments which were verified by Guerra’s bank records.
Fajardo and his team bribed court-appointee: Fajardo and the plaintiffs’ team bribed a court-appointee named Richard Cabrera, and ghostwrote Cabrera’s report, on which the judgment is based. The Ecuador court required Cabrera to act “with complete impartiality and independence vis-á-vis the parties.” But Fajardo and his team surreptitiously and illegally predetermined Cabrera’s conclusions and bribed him to submit them. Shortly before Cabrera’s appointment, Fajardo led a meeting between Cabrera and the plaintiffs’ team. At the meeting, Fajardo explained, “The work isn’t going to be the expert’s. All of us bear the burden.” Another team member, testifying about that meeting, remarked that Fajardo “dropped any pretense that Mr. Cabrera would act independently.” Ultimately, the plaintiffs’ team drafted Cabrera’s report and paid him over $100,000 in bribes.
Fajardo and his team knew their actions were wrong: The court found, “Donziger knew at every step that what he and the LAPs team did with Cabrera was wrong, deceptive, and illegal.” Fearing that emails among, Fajardo, the technical consultants who had written Cabrera’s report, and himself would be revealed, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys emailed the team: “[T]he effects are potentially devastating in Ecuador (apart from destroying the proceeding, all of us, your attorneys, might go to jail).” The court found that this email was “one of those blinding rays of candor that can occur even in a cloud of lies.”
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