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October 10, 2012
$18 Billion Judgment Against Chevron Stands
    by Robert Kropp

The US Supreme Court declines to hear Chevron's arguments for overturning the largest environmental judgment in history, leaving the company vulnerable to charges of securities law violations.


The US Supreme Court effectively upheld the largest environmental judgment in history this week, when it refused to hear Chevron's bid to overturn an $18 billion judgment against it for extensive environmental damage in Ecuador.

As shareowner advocate Simon Billenness wrote months before the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, "Chevron's defenses to enforcement actions have greatly narrowed." Furthermore, if Chevron persists in publishing "false or materially misleading information regarding its $18.1 billion judgment in Ecuador for causing environmental damage," as Graham Erion, an attorney for the rainforest communities, argued, then it could well be the case that the company is indeed in violation of securities laws.

The Court declined to comment on its decision to uphold a judgment against Chevron in a New York federal appeals court, which allows the Ecuadorian plaintiffs to take action to seize the assets of the company in order to collect the $18 billion judgment. The appeals court determined that Chevron could only contest the judgment "defensively, in response to attempted enforcement." Furthermore, the appeals courts decided, the US justice system could not prevent other countries from seizing Chevron's assets.

Following this week's decision, Aaron Marr Page, a lawyer for the Ecuadorians, said, "Chevron's latest loss before the Supreme Court is an example of the company's increasingly futile battle to avoid paying its legal obligations in Ecuador. Chevron is running from justice while its toxic dumping continues to create an imminent danger of death to indigenous peoples in Ecuador."

Chevron persists in framing the oft-upheld legal decision as fraudulent. In a statement, a company spokesperson said, "While Chevron is disappointed that the court denied our petition, we will continue to defend against the plaintiffs' lawyers' attempts to enforce the fraudulent Ecuadorean judgment and to further expose their misconduct."

"This was the second time in the long history of the Ecuador lawsuit that the Supreme Court declined to hear a Chevron petition for review," according to the Amazon Defense Coalition. "In 2009, the court declined to review a decision that denied Chevron's attempt to force Ecuador's government into a private arbitration over who should pay for the clean-up in Ecuador."

Recently, the Coalition reported, "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."

 

 
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