A former Ecuadorean judge testified Wednesday that he was paid $1,000 a month to ghostwrite rulings and “expedite” proceedings in an environmental lawsuit against Chevron Corp. in Ecuador that ultimately resulted in a $19 billion judgment against the oil giant
On the witness stand on Wednesday, the former judge, Alberto Guerra, said he met in 2009 with Donziger and other representatives of the villagers at Honey & Honey, a restaurant in Quito.
Guerra said another lawyer representing the villagers had already agreed to pay him $1,000 a month to ghost-write court orders for the presiding judge, Nicolas Zambrano. Zambrano, who was also being paid, agreed to expedite the case and limit procedural avenues by which Chevron could delay it, Guerra said.
Donziger was fully aware of the arrangement, Guerra said.
“Mr. Donziger thanked me for the work that I was going to do,” Guerra said of the restaurant meeting.
In late 2003, Guerra presided over the initial stages of a lawsuit against Chevron that Donziger engineered on behalf of thousands of rain-forest residents who allege massive harm from oil contamination. Later, supervision of the case shifted to other judges. Guerra testified that he essentially went into business with one of those subsequent judges, ghostwriting interim rulings that generally—although not always—favored Donziger’s clients. Guerra said that he received monthly $1,000 cash payments from Donziger’s legal team in Ecuador.
Guerra also asserted under oath that he and the other judge, Nicolas Zambrano, offered their services to both Chevron and the Donziger team. Chevron turned them down, but Donziger agreed to play ball, according to Guerra.
Bloomberg: Ecuador’s Worn-Out War on Chevron
David Russell, an environmental consultant who formerly served as a witness for Ecuador’s lawyers, testified that his original damage estimate of $6.114 billion stemmed in large part from assumptions that Donzinger instructed him to use. “I came to learn that my cost estimate was wildly inaccurate and had no scientific data to back it up,” Russell noted in written testimony.
Racketeering aside, the case also looks rather weak on its own merits. For starters, Texaco operated as a minority partner under state-owned Petroecuador when the pollution occurred, so it is difficult to argue the damage is all its doing. Through agreements in 1995 and 1998, the Ecuadorian government also freed the company of further liability following a $40 million cleanup. An arbitration panel in The Hague cited the government’s sign-off when it ruled last month that Ecuador’s lawsuit should have never proceeded in the first place.
And Rafael Correa barked at The Economist, who replied,
Oil, Ecuador and The Economist
A volcano erupts
Rafael Correa lambasts us and “the empire of capital”