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Steven Donziger and Chevron: How those who fight corporate tyranny are crushed


The persecution of the attorney Steven Donziger is a grim illustration of what occurs when we confront the true centers of vitality, masked and unacknowledged by the divisive cant from the Trump White Condo or the sentimental drivel of the Democratic Social gathering. These, love Donziger, who title and war the company protect a watch on of our society on behalf of the prone gaze the judiciary, the clicking and the institutions of authorities unite to crucify them.

“Or now not it’s been a lengthy war, 27 years,” Donziger stated after I reached him by phone in his house in Fresh york.

Donziger, who has been struggling with polluting American oil corporations for in the case of three a long time on behalf of indigenous communities and peasant farmers in Ecuador, has been below house arrest in Fresh york for a yr. He’ll creep to trial in federal courtroom in Fresh York on Sept. 9 on contempt of courtroom charges, which would perchance furthermore gaze him jailed for six months. Ever since he acquired a multibillion-greenback judgment in 2011 in opposition to the oil enormous Chevron, the multinational has attain after him for my share thru litigation that threatens to slay him economically, professionally and for my share.

“Our L-T [long-term] approach is to demonize Donziger,” Chevron wrote in an inner memo in 2009, as reviewed by Courthouse Records.

“It started when Texaco went into Ecuador within the Amazon within the 1960s and lower a sweetheart take care of the militia authorities then ruling Ecuador,” Donziger instructed me. “Over the next 25 years, Texaco became the weird operator of a extremely colossal location of the Amazon that had several oil fields inner this location, 1,500 sq. miles. They drilled a total bunch of wells. They created thousands of originate-air, unlined toxic waste pits the assign they dumped the heavy metals and toxins that came up from the ground when they drilled. They ran pipes from the pits into rivers and streams that local other folks relied on for their drinking water, their fishing and their sustenance. They poisoned this pristine ecosystem, in which lived five indigenous peoples, besides to rather a range of assorted non-indigenous rural communities. There became a mass industrial poisoning.”

“By the point I went down there within the early 1990s, many folks had died, cancer charges were skyrocketing in accordance to several independent health opinions, other folks were truly hurting. There became zero regard for the lives of the local other folks by Texaco. I became a extremely young lawyer again in 1993 after I first went to Ecuador. It became love attempting at an apocalyptic scene. There became oil on the roads. People were residing in abject poverty. They had no shoes. They would gather oil on their feet when they walked along the roads. The oil air pollution had permeated every say of on daily basis life. It became within the meals supply. It became within the water supply. It became within the air. The life like particular person there would gather uncovered multiple times a day to very gross, cancer-causing toxins, with foreseeable outcomes.”

“I, with assorted lawyers, filed a lawsuit in Fresh York in opposition to Texaco. The motive we filed in Fresh York became because Texaco’s headquarters were in Fresh York in 1993. The alternatives to pollute in Ecuador, to play God to the opposite folks of Ecuador, were made in Fresh York. We sued in Fresh York. Texaco tried to gather the case again to Ecuador the assign they’d by no manner been held responsible, the assign they knew the indigenous peoples had no money or resources to web lawyers.”

“They thought it might perchance perchance well correct creep away,” stated Donziger. “Over a 10-yr period, we battled to gather a jury trial within the usa. Within the slay, they acquired that part of the war. It went all of the manner down to Ecuador.”

“We started working with a crew of Ecuadorian lawyers within the early 2000s. We went ahead with the lawsuit. We produced voluminous scientific and testimonial proof, exhibiting that they brought about potentially the enviornment’s worst oil air pollution. It became referred to as the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’ by locals and experts. They dumped 16 billion gallons of toxic waste. They did it deliberately to assign money. This became unlike the BP spill within the Gulf of Mexico, which became a terrifying accident, despite the indisputable reality that it became a product of horrendous negligence by BP. This became performed by procedure to pollute, shimmering that of us would die, and that indigenous groups might perchance well be decimated, and that this beautiful part of the Amazon might perchance well be destroyed.”

The refusal to abide by even minimal environmental rules saved Texaco an estimated $3 on every barrel of oil produced over 26 years (1964 to 1992), in accordance to Amazon Gape, or an estimated extra $5 billion in earnings. The a total bunch of waste pits the company at remaining abandoned in Ecuador, on life like, possess 200 times the contamination allowed by long-established global standards.

“They tried to grind us down the usage of classic company defense tactics,” Donziger stated of the honest war. “They filed thousands of motions. We stood stable. We had a colossal honest crew of Ecuadorian lawyers.”

Within the tip, they acquired a horny victory, a rare 2nd of accountability for first-world conglomerates who rape the environment of constructing nations by exploiting frail, wicked governments.

“The verdict came down, about $18 billion in desire of the affected communities, which is what it might perchance perchance well take at a minimum to scrub up the true ache and compensate the opposite folks for some of their accidents. That at remaining got reduced on attraction in Ecuador to $9.5 billion, alternatively it became affirmed by three appellate courts, including the final observe courtroom of Ecuador. It became affirmed by the Canadian Supreme Court docket, the assign the Ecuadorians went to place into effect their judgment in a unanimous conception in 2015.”

Chevron, which had bought Texaco in 2000, equipped its resources in Ecuador and left the nation as the proof mounted in opposition to it. The corporation threatened the plaintiffs with a “lifetime of litigation” if they tried to procure, and, in accordance to inner Chevron memos, launched a honest and media campaign that has label an estimated $2 billion to forestall payment of the settlement and to demonize and slay Donziger.

Donziger came to his chronicle war in opposition to Chevron thru journalism. “I became a journalist on my college newspaper,” he stated of his time as a history major at American University. “My first job out of college became as a journalist with [United Press International]. I worked for UPI in Washington. They were stable in Latin America. I traveled to Managua in 1983 or 1984, I produce now not take into account exactly, and stumbled on work within the UPI bureau. I became 23 years frail. I worked within the UPI bureau in Managua for the period of the Sandinista generation.”

He left UPI after a yr in Managua however stayed on in Nicaragua to work as a contract journalist for newspapers equivalent to the Citadel Lauderdale Records, the Toronto Broad title and the Atlanta Constitution. He spent about three years as a reporter before going to Harvard Laws College. When he graduated from Harvard Laws College in 1991, he worked as a public defender in Washington, D.C. He documented Iraqi civilian casualties in Iraq following the first Gulf Battle, in work that became a file adopted by the United Countries. 

A classmate at law college became from Ecuador. His classmate’s father organized a day out in April 1993 for lawyers and clinical mavens to sight on the contamination attributable to the oil extraction within the Amazon. That day out, which Donziger joined, spawned the suit in opposition to Texaco. He would gather more than 250 trips to Ecuador over the next two a long time.

“Journalism very a lot formed my views and skill assign,” he stated. “It became valuable to permitting my work to attain success. From the initiating assign this became a special litigation, for many reasons, however some of the reasons became we, as a crew, determined to work across multiple platforms. If we simplest saw this case as a lawsuit we would by no manner take.”

“Chevron managed the honest system in Ecuador with their impact. We wished to attempt across assorted platforms, including involving with the media and conducting valuable public education. Most Ecuadorians, assorted than other folks that lived within the aim, knew nothing in regards to the air pollution that had been going on of their nation. We performed zealous advocacy within the overall public enviornment. We realized that the indigenous other folks would by no manner gather a devoted trial in Ecuador if they did now not illuminate what had occurred to them and gather public give a increase to.”

Every the deem who oversaw Chevron’s lawsuit in opposition to Donziger for “racketeering” and Chevron itself “claim that this style of exercise is unpleasant,” he stated. “The irony is that what we were doing is what the great oil corporations personal constantly performed. They constantly aim within the overall public relatives enviornment, lobbying Congress to pass regulations to extinguish diverse honest claims, assembly political leaders unhurried the scenes. They aim across every platform they’ll web to exercise their vitality. We were neat sufficient to fulfill them toe-to-toe wherever they were working and neutralize their ability to undermine the fairness of the trial. That is how they aim. They’re attempting and manipulate courtroom systems.”

“My journalism [experience] sensitized me to injustice. It allowed me to fancy the media. I knew the manner to write down press releases, which issues whenever you attain a public case love this. I knew the manner to work across assorted platforms to mobilize obvious vitality spherical the case. Human rights work involves, on the initiating, justice for victims. But equally valuable is accountability for the perpetrators. The indisputable reality that I am detained presentations how a ways we have attain and how mighty threat Chevron feels. Or now not it’s now not a designate we misplaced. Or now not it’s a ways the reverse.”

Chevron, which had left Ecuador, went again to the Fresh York courtroom, the assign Donziger had on the initiating filed the lawsuit before Chevron got a exchange of venue to Ecuador, and sued him, the usage of a civil courts share of the federal law considerable for breaking the Fresh York Mafia within the 1970s, the Racketeer Influenced and Unfriendly Organizations Act.

In accomplish, “They sued me as a civil racketeer, below a civil RICO statute for $60 billion,” he stated. “That became the final observe amount of cash an American particular particular person ever had been sued for. This started a 10-yr campaign to demonize me by Chevron and by its judicial allies.”

Chevron, which has more than $260 billion in resources, has employed an estimated 2,000 lawyers from 60 law companies to accomplish its campaign, in accordance to courtroom documents. The oil enormous dropped its request for financial damages weeks before the RICO trial, which would personal necessitated a jury trial. Utter Lewis A. Kaplan, a frail lawyer for the tobacco industry who had undisclosed investments in funds with Chevron holdings, in accordance to his public financial disclosure assertion, determined the RICO case by myself. He stumbled on credible a stare named Alberto Guerra, relocated to the U.S. by Chevron at a label of some $2 million, who claimed the verdict in Ecuador became the product of a bribe. Kaplan extinct Guerra’s testimony as main proof for the racketeering fee, even supposing Guerra, a frail deem, later admitted to an global tribunal that he had falsified his testimony.

 “[Kaplan] wouldn’t enable me to raise in any environmental proof that the Ecuadorian courts had extinct to web Chevron liable,” Donziger stated. “He wouldn’t let me testify on my delight in behalf on issue. He allowed Chevron to utilize secret witnesses whose identities he wouldn’t bid to me. He tried to take care of it love a national-security style of case to take a sight at to demonize me. On story of Chevron’s total approach is to demonize [me] as a style to distract consideration from its environmental crimes in Ecuador. And Utter Kaplan, who’s conscious of the total programs within the books because he extinct to work for [tobacco company] Brown & Williamson, when he became [an attorney with the law firm of] Paul, Weiss. He is conscious of the tobacco industry playbook that they extinct for years and years and continue to utilize. And he worked with the Chevron lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to place into effect them in opposition to me with out a jury. And there became nothing I might perchance furthermore attain about it.”

(Paul, Weiss is a colossal law firm that presently advises Chevron on its $13 billion take hold of of one other vitality company.)

John Keker, one of Donziger’s lawyers on that case, stated he became up in opposition to 160 lawyers for Chevron and for the period of the trial he felt “love a goat tethered to a stake.” He referred to as the courtroom courtroom cases below Kaplan “a Dickensian farce” and a “verbalize trial.” Within the tip, Kaplan dominated that the judgment within the Ecuadorian courtroom in opposition to Chevron became the tip consequence of fraud.

He furthermore ordered Donziger to mumble over a long time of all consumer dialog to Chevron, in accomplish eradicating attorney-consumer privilege, a backbone of the Anglo-American honest system with roots courting to extinct Rome. Donziger appealed what became, in accordance to honest experts following the case, an phenomenal and unlawful verbalize. While Donziger’s attraction became pending, Kaplan charged him with prison contempt for this principled stance, besides to his refusal to mumble over his passport, his personal electronics and to refrain from searching for the assortment of the distinctive award in opposition to Chevron.

When his prison contempt charges in opposition to the environmental lawyer were omitted by the U.S. attorney’s place of job for over five years, Utter Kaplan, the usage of an exceedingly rare judicial maneuver, appointed the private law firm of Seward & Kissel to behave within the title of the authorities to prosecute Donziger. Neither the deem nor the law firm disclosed that Chevron has been a consumer of Seward & Kissel.

Kaplan furthermore violated the established random case task protocol to for my share assign Utter Loretta Preska, a member of the true-skim Federalist Society, to listen to the case. Chevron is a valuable donor to the Federalist Society. Preska, in a verbalize of bias, already has stated the costs in opposition to Donziger seem like “very stable,” in accordance to Courthouse Records. In Would perchance, she disallowed him from having his charges heard by a jury.

“The relaxation say any of them wants is for a neighborhood of extraordinary voters to gape what has occurred to Steven Donziger,” Rick Friedman, one of Donziger’s attorneys, stated of Chevron.

Preska’s fealty to company vitality became previously on public verbalize in 2013 when she imposed a 10-yr sentence, the utmost allowed below a plea deal, on Jeremy Hammond, the activist who hacked into Stratfor, a non-public security firm. Hammond made public a barrage of damning inner emails and uncovered the electronic mail take care of and password of an story extinct for exchange by Preska’s husband, Thomas Kavaler, a associate on the law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel. Preska, despite the battle of ardour, refused to recuse herself. The 10-yr sentence became some of the longest in U.S. history for hacking.

Kaplan had Preska request Donziger put up an $800,000 bond on a misdemeanor fee. Preska positioned him below house arrest and confiscated his passport, which he has extinct to fulfill with attorneys world wide attempting to place into effect the judgment in opposition to Chevron. Kaplan managed to personal Donziger disbarred. He allowed Chevron to freeze Donziger’s bank accounts, slapped Donziger with thousands and thousands in fines with out permitting him a jury, compelled him to position on an ankle video display 24 hours a day and effectively shut down his ability to assign a residing. Kaplan allowed Chevron to impose a lien on Donziger’s house in Fresh york, the assign he lives with his associate and teenage son.

Donziger is scheduled to lunge to trial with out a jury on Sept. 9 in Fresh York Metropolis for contempt. Preska will preside over the trial. There has now not been a prison trial in Fresh york federal courtroom since March thanks to the pandemic. Donziger’s trial might perchance well be the first, even supposing a total bunch of assorted defendants facing mighty more valuable prison charges are waiting in jails, infested with COVID-19, for a trial date. Donziger’s four legitimate bono lawyers stated they attain now not want to threat their lives by touring to Fresh York for the period of the pandemic for what is a misdemeanor offense.

“The judgment in opposition to Chevron Corporation in Ecuador became the product of fraud, bribery and corruption,” Sean Comey, senior consultant for external affairs at Chevron Corporation stated after I requested the corporation to touch upon the case. “Steven Donziger is a confirmed liar and an adjudicated racketeer. He dedicated prison acts within the U.S. and in one other nation in pursuit of his extortion plot within the Ecuadorian courts. Donziger’s persevering with lawlessness is now a topic for prosecutors and the U.S. courts to utilize. Chevron is now not interested by Donziger’s prison prosecution.”

The flagrant corruption and misuse of the honest system to abjectly relieve company interests within the Donziger case illustrates the deep decay inner our judiciary and democratic institutions, one that became abetted by Democratic administrations that stacked the courts with company lawyers — Kaplan became appointed by Bill Clinton — and by Donald Trump, who has elevated ideologues selected by the Federalist Society to the federal bench. Ruling after ruling in Donziger’s case has omitted or grossly distorted the law on behalf of Chevron to be obvious Donziger shall be prosecuted, despatched to detention center and remain in debt for all times, all while the $9.5 billion settlement is by no manner paid to again the opposite folks harmed in Ecuador.

The Worldwide Association of Democratic Lawyers and the worldwide committee of the Nationwide Lawyers Guild issued a letter signed by more than 70 organizations calling the persecution of Donziger an “attack on the rule of thumb of law.” The letter stated his house arrest became “phenomenal” and charged that he became being targeted for what it referred to as “some of the final observe company accountability and human rights circumstances of our time.” The letter accused Kaplan of “violating classic notions of fairness within the judicial course of that lie on the core of the rule of thumb of law.”

“We will now not enable the rule of thumb of law to be upended by company interests and a highly biased federal deem searching for to slay the self-self-discipline of one lawyer who has already withstood a long time of brutal litigation and scathing personal and legit attacks,” the letter be taught.

Chevron has furthermore extinct its clout and promoting greenbacks to protect the memoir from being reported in rather a range of media retail outlets.

“Based utterly mostly on the assign this memoir is trending, now we personal launched a elephantine offensive to assassinate it or redirect it,” an Aug. 10, 2010, inner memo from Chevron reads referring to a most likely file on the case being performed by the Fox Records bureau in Miami.

“Moreover to to working thru the Miami bureau, now we personal reached out to more senior news of us at Fox Records, each in NY (thru Dana) and in WDC (thru Greg Mueller). So, we are attempting to attack this memoir on multiple fronts. To this stop, Kent is assign to verify with John Stack and Sean Smith who each live at Fox Records in NY at 1: 30 this day. At remaining, if need be, I deem we might perchance furthermore want to pull the JSW card with Roger Ailes. Now we personal checked John’s availability to assign a name to Roger, however his first availability is the following day to come afternoon.”

“JSW” and “John” consult with John S. Watson, who became CEO and chairman of the Chevron Corporation from 2010 to 2018.

The memoir became killed.

One other inner memo lays out the steps, furthermore finally a success, to forestall a the same memoir from appearing in GQ journal. The memo suggests that Chevron work “with the Columbia Journalism Overview (that ran the rebuke of 60 minutes) and the Media Study Heart to bid any stage of bias by GQ and develop alerts in regards to the reporting tactics old to the memoir’s newsletter.”

The memo recommends letting the journal know that this might face honest action if the memoir runs and calls on Chevron investigators to “habits further due diligence on reporter.” Chevron has furthermore employed journalists to procedure false objects of journalism that peddle the corporation’s propaganda on false news sites it runs.

The Fresh York Times Magazine earlier this yr regarded as a memoir about Donziger and then dropped it. The newspaper runs its delight in advert agency referred to as T Impress Studio. Chevron is a valuable consumer, which manner that The Fresh York Times, thru T Impress Studio, produces ads for Chevron.

Jake Silverstein, editor of the journal, when requested to comment stated by electronic mail: “It became one of several reports William [Langewiesche] regarded as writing for us within the past yr, one that finally we determined now not to assign. Many factors creep into our choices about what to assign, and none of them ever include who’s or is now not a consumer of T Impress Studio or any assorted part of the paper’s promoting exchange.”

Dean Baquet, the newspaper’s government editor, stated, after I reached him by electronic mail, that the foundation that the journal share on Donziger became killed because Chevron is a valuable advertiser is “a ridiculous claim.” He added, “I didn’t even know Chevron worked with T Impress [Studio].”

But that Chevron has invested colossal resources to assassinate reports about this case is indisputable given the detailed campaigns to dam protection outlined in its delight in inner memos.

“I’ve experienced this multiple times with media over the last 10 to 15 years,” Donziger stated. “An entity will start writing the memoir, utilize rather a range of time on it, then the reporter disappears. The memoir doesn’t creep.”

While The NationThe Intercept and Courthouse Records Service personal reported on Donziger’s recent honest war, no major mainstream newsletter has touched it.

“Company impact over our federal judiciary has elevated dramatically in most up-to-date years,” Donziger stated. “This firm [Chevron] has captured a ingredient of vitality from the authorities and deployed it in opposition to a human rights activist.”

Entrance Line Defenders issued a file in 2019 that stumbled on that 300 human rights activists had been murdered in 31 countries, more than two-thirds in Latin America. Of those killed, 40 percent fought for land rights, indigenous peoples and environmental justice.

“What’s gorgeous to rather a range of other folks is that here is now going on within the usa,” Donziger stated. “I produce now not mean abolish, however death by a thousand cuts. Chevron does now not desire me to be a lawyer anymore, at a minimum. They produce now not desire me advocating even as a non-lawyer. They want to silence me. They want to assassinate every memoir they’ll. They’d moderately don’t personal any memoir about this case than even a obvious memoir about their facet. They produce now not desire other folks to grab about it. They want to erase it from other folks’s thought course of.

“I can not gather a devoted trial with a deem appointed by Utter Kaplan moderately than though the random task course of,” he lamented. “I can not gather a devoted trial with a prosecutor whose law firm [has worked] for Chevron. These are egregious conflicts of ardour. Or now not it’s misconduct on a enormous scale. I have been locked up four times as lengthy as the longest sentence ever imposed on a lawyer for prison contempt in Fresh York. Anybody who cares in regards to the rule of thumb of law ought to be appalled.”

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