National Review’s Jack Fowler beat me to the punch on this today, but the point is still worth making: The oil and gas giant Chevron keeps proving the way to stop shakedown artists is to fight them, honorably and relentlessly. And in this case, “relentlessly” means for more than a decade.
It was 11 years ago next week that I drafted for the Washington Examiner my first of well more than a dozen editorials and columns explaining how the corrupt leftist government of Ecuador, aided by apparently corrupt American lawyers, was trying to bilk Chevron for up to $16 billion.
This attempted swindle began with claims alleging environmental damage back in the 1990s, which was almost surely not the fault of Chevron, or, rather, of Texaco, which became a subsidiary of Chevron in 2001.. The evidence pointed to Ecuador's state oil company as the culprit, but Ecuador's government hoped to get the foreign companies to pay for the cleanup instead. And Ecuador's rigged judicial system, amid copious evidence of payoffs, false affidavits, and fabrication of evidence, ruled in the government's favor.
Fortunately, the story did not end there. In subsequent years, U.S. and foreign courts all over the world, including the international Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, have ruled in favor of Chevron. Several of these courts have also concluded that the U.S. lawyers involved in helping Ecuador's government had committed “egregious fraud” or some other version of that phrase.
Still, even after an American court ruled the lawyers’ scheme amounted to criminal racketeering, lawyer Steven Donziger continues to press his claims anywhere he can. And he keeps failing.
The most recent setback for his nefarious plot came this week, when Canada’s Supreme Court dismissed all Ecuador’s claims against Chevron.
“The decision,” reported Reuters, “comes after an international tribunal last year unanimously ruled that the pollution judgment by Ecuador’s Supreme Court against Chevron was procured through fraud, bribery and corruption.”
While the Canadian ruling doesn’t directly crush all of Donziger’s bogus efforts, it might create a sort of “bank shot” effect that knocks him off the table. For before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York, the judge who first called Donziger’s lawsuit “egregious fraud," Chevron has now argued that Donziger is in contempt of court. According to the company's argument, “Donziger flouted an order barring him from profiting off a fraudulent $9.5 billion judgment in an Ecuadorian environmental case, saying his ‘brazen’ misdeeds warrant sanctions.” The oil giant asked the judge to impose heavy fines or even jail time on Donziger for “knowing, intentional contempt” of court.
One of these days, surely, Ecuador and its American lawyer will see fit to throw in the towel. Oil companies certainly aren’t saints, nor are they always innocent of extreme wrongdoing. But if someone tries rigging a court case against them, thus hurting all their shareholders (including pensioners) and all the would-be workers whose jobs might be destroyed in the process, that someone deserves no mercy.