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October 19, 2012
Court in Ecuador Approves Seizure of Chevron Assets
    by Robert Kropp

Chevron says it will appeal decision clearing the way for seizure of $200 million of assets in Ecuador as payment toward a $19 billion judgment for environmental damage in the country.

Last week, the US Supreme Court declined to hear Chevron's argument for overturning a $19 billion judgment against it for extensive environmental damage in Ecuador, leaving the oil company with one less defense against the seizure of its assets by the plaintiffs in the case.

According to the Amazon Defense Coalition, illegal dumping of highly toxic waste in Ecuador's rainforest led to the decimation of traditional lifestyles there, as well as significantly increased rates of cancer.

This week, those plaintiffs—rainforest villagers living in the Ecuadorian Amazon—won a ruling in Ecuador affirming their right to seize the $200 million of assets that Chevron has not yet removed from the country. An Ecuadorian court froze the bank accounts of Chevron in the country, and ordered that a $96 million debt owed to Chevron by the national government be turned over to the plaintiffs instead.

Following the decision, the plaintiffs stated that they intend to collect the entire $19 billion through seizure of Chevron assets in other countries. "This is the first example of how Chevron is losing assets as courts force it to comply with its obligations," Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the communities, said, calling the decision "a huge first step for the rainforest villagers on the road to collecting the entire $19 billion judgment."

The plaintiffs have already announced that they are pursuing the seizure of Chevron's assets in Brazil and Canada.

Meanwhile, Chevron—which may by now be in violation of US securities law for providing "false or materially misleading information" to investors about the judgment, according to Graham Erion, an attorney for the rainforest communities—persists in describing the widely accepted judgment as fraudulent.

Following last week's US Supreme Court decision, a Chevron spokesperson stated, "We will continue to defend against the plaintiffs' lawyers' attempts to enforce the fraudulent Ecuadorean judgment and to further expose their misconduct."

That effort failed in an Ecuadorian court this week. Stating that Chevron intends to appeal the decision, a spokesperson said, "The plaintiffs have shown they are able to get any order they wish granted by the Lago Agrio court."

A date has been set for next fall for a lawsuit brought by Chevron, accusing Steven Donziger, a US lawyer for the plaintiffs, of conspiracy and fraud.

In May, a coalition of 40 institutional investors with $580 billion in assets under management called on Chevron to end its legal wrangling over the judgment. And following the publication of Erion's study, a group of sustainable investment firms wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), requesting that it launch an investigation into "evidence that the company is violating securities laws by repeatedly making misrepresentations and material omissions regarding its adverse judgment in Ecuador."


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