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October 02, 2012
Chevron Wants Access to Emails of Critics
by Robert Kropp
The oil company's latest effort to avoid paying a $19 billion judgment for extensive environmental
damage in Ecuador involves trying to gain access to the private email accounts of 101 people who
have worked on the case.
In a report
published earlier this year, author Simon Billenness of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) wrote of Chevron's efforts to avoid paying a $19
billion judgment for extensive environmental damage in Ecuador, "Chevron's defenses to enforcement
actions have greatly narrowed."
The judgment against Chevron represents the largest
environmental judgment in history.
An appeals court in Ecuador upheld the original
court judgment, "giving the plaintiffs the right for the first time to collect on the judgment,"
Billenness wrote. Furthermore, he continued, "The US Second Circuit vacated in its entirety a
preliminary injunction from a US District Court that purported to bar the Ecuadorian plaintiffs
from enforcing the judgment against Chevron's assets anywhere in the world."
acknowledging its liability, however, Chevron's management continues to publish "false or
materially misleading information regarding its $18.1 billion judgment in Ecuador for causing
environmental damage," according to Graham
Erion, an attorney for the rainforest communities. In response to the company's failures of
disclosure, a coalition of shareowners sent a letter to the Securities
and Exchange Commission (SEC), requesting that it investigate what the coalition describes as
"evidence that the company is violating securities laws."
It might seem that effective
corporate governance would lead Chevron to abandon its efforts to avoid its corporate
responsibility, as it did last week in paying a $17.3 million fine to Brazil for an offshore oil
spill last year that released an estimated 155,000 gallons of crude oil. With regards to Ecuador,
however, Chevron remains intransigent, as the Amazon Defense Coalition reported last week.
According to the Coalition, "Chevron has launched a retaliation campaign by trying to gain
access to years of activity of the private email accounts of 101 people who have some connection to
the lawsuit – including about 15 summer interns who worked on the case years ago while in college
or attending law school."
One target of Chevron's subpoenas was Australian law professor
Kevin Jon Heller, who had exchanged two emails with Steven Donziger, an American lawyer for the
indigenous groups in Ecuador. Chevron withdrew its subpoena seeking access to Heller's email
account after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) contacted the company's law firm.
Despite having withdrawn its subpoena, Chevron refused to divulge why it wanted access to
Heller's email, he wrote in a blog piece. "It is unacceptable for a party to litigation to try to obtain
private information from a blogger-journalist who has criticized its tactics," Heller wrote.
"Tactics like this need to be exposed and resisted, no matter who uses them or whom they target;
passive acquiescence is simply an invitation to further abuses."
Persisting in calling the
judgment "a $19 billion fraud," a Chevron spokesperson said, "We're trying to get to the bottom of
that sort of conduct and understand how it contributed to the fraud."
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