Texaco/Chevron lawsuits (re Ecuador)
Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales contra Texaco/Chevron por actividades en Ecuador, haga clic acá.
United States lawsuits
In 1993, a group of Ecuadorian citizens of the Oriente region filed a class action lawsuit in US federal court against Texaco (Aguinda v. Texaco), and in 1994 a group of Peruvian citizens living downstream from the Oriente region also filed a class action lawsuit against Texaco in US federal court (Jota v. Texaco). Both complaints alleged that between 1964 and 1992 Texaco’s oil operations polluted the rainforests and rivers in Ecuador and Peru, resulting in environmental damage and damage to the health of those who live in the region. Both lawsuits were dismissed by the US federal court in 2002 on forum non conveniens grounds (i.e., the court stated that Ecuador was a more appropriate venue for litigating these claims). In connection with the dismissal, Texaco agreed that courts in Ecuador and/or Peru would have jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims.
Proceedings in Ecuador
In 2003, a class action lawsuit was brought against Texaco (acquired by Chevron in 2001) in Ecuador alleging severe environmental contamination of the land where Texaco conducted its oil operation activities. The plaintiffs alleged that this contamination has led to increased rates of cancer as well as other serious health problems for the residents of the region. Judicial inspections of the allegedly contaminated sites commenced in August 2004. In early 2008, an independent expert recommended to the court that Chevron should pay $7-16 billion in compensation for the pollution. This expert increased his estimate of damages to $27 billion in November 2008. In 2008, Chevron reportedly lobbied the US Government to end trade preferences with Ecuador over this lawsuit. Following allegations of judicial misconduct, the original trial judge recused himself from the case and a new judge was appointed. Following a successful petition in US court to receive unused footage from the documentary "Crude", Chevron filed a petition with the court in August 2010 seeking to dismiss the lawsuit based on the company's assertion that certain parts of this footage show alleged fraud on the part of the plaintiffs. In September 2010, the plaintiffs submitted a new assessment of damages for the claims stating that the cost would be between $90 and $113 billion. In the same month, the judge concluded the evidentiary phase of the lawsuit. On 14 February 2011, the Ecuadorian judge issued a ruling against Chevron in the lawsuit. Chevron was ordered to pay $8.6 billion in damages and clean up costs, with the damages increasing to $18 billion if Chevron does not issue a public apology. Chevron indicated that it believes the ruling is "illegitimate" and "unenforceable", and it filed an appeal. On 3 January 2012 a panel of three judges from the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios upheld the February 2011 ruling against Chevron. On 20 January 2012, Chevron appealed the decision with Ecuador's National Court of Justice. In March 2012, Chevron asked the Provincial Court of Justice for the fourth time to block the Ecuadorian Government from enforcing the $18 billion judgment against it. On 28 March 2012, the court ruled that Chevron was not entitled to use an order from the international arbitration tribunal, which asked Ecuador's Government to suspend the litigation, to block the plaintiffs from enforcing the judgment. In an effort to enforce the judgment, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Canada in May 2012 and one in Brazil in June 2012 targetting Chevron's assets in those countries. On 6 August 2012, the Ecuadorian court ruled that Chevron had until the end of the day to pay the $19 billion judgment. The award was increased in July 2012, after Judge Ortiz calculated various mandatory costs required by Ecuadorian law. In October 2012, the Ecuadorian court issued an order permitting the plaintiffs to seize about $200 million of Chevron's assets located in the country, in an effort to collect on the judgment against the company. On 12 November 2013, Ecuador Supreme Court upheld the August 2012 ruling against Texaco/Chevron for environmental damage but halved damages to $9.51 billion.
In September 2014, Chevron reportedly filed a claim against Woodsford Litigation Funding, which had financed lawyers working on enforcing the $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgement against Chevron. Chevron claims the judgement was achieved by fraud and bribery.
International arbitration proceedings
In December 2006, and again in September 2009, Chevron filed an international arbitration claim before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, alleging that the Government of Ecuador violated an US-Ecuador bilateral investment treaty. Chevron claimed that the Government of Ecuador violated international law by unduly influencing the judiciary and thereby compromising the judiciary's independence. In March 2010 the arbitration panel ruled that Ecuador's government had violated the bilateral investment treaty and international law by delaying rulings on the commercial dispute currently pending in Ecuador's courts. The Government of Ecuador and the plaintiffs in the Ecuadorian lawsuit filed a lawsuit in US federal court seeking an injunction barring Chevron from proceeding with arbitration under the bilateral investment treaty. The parties argued that due process rights in Ecuador would be denied should Chevron proceed with its arbitration.
In March 2010 the US court ruled that Chevron may pursue international arbitration in this case. The plaintiffs and Government of Ecuador have appealed this ruling. In an effort to prove its case, Chevron has sued in ten different US federal courts to try and obtain discovery documents from various consultants the plaintiffs engaged in the assessment of damages.
In February 2011 the international arbitration panel issued an Interim Measures Order in favour of Chevron ordering Ecuador to take all measures to suspend enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment. In August 2011, the internatioanl arbitration tribunal awarded Chevron $96 million.
In February 2012 the arbitration panel met to review Ecuador's compliance with the Interim Measures Order. In February 2013 the arbitration tribunal ruled that Ecuador had not complied with the Interim Measures Order.
In March 2015, the arbitration tribunal held that the settlement between Chevron and Ecuador did not preclude residents from suing over the pollution in the future. The tribunal has yet to consider whether the issuing of the Ecuadorian judgment was in violation of the investment agreement with Texaco.
In January 2016, the international arbitration tribunal ruled in favour of Chevron over Ecuador being bound by the US-Ecuador investment agreement. Ecuador said it will appeal the decision.
In June 2016, The US Supreme Court declined to hear Ecuador's challenge to Chevron's arbitration award.
In July 216, Ecuador indicated that it had executed the arbitrary decision and paid the $112 million ($96 million award plus interrests) compensation to Chevron.
US legal proceedings following Ecuadorian judgment
Chevron filed a racketeering lawsuit against the plaintiffs' lawyers and representatives in US federal court on 1 February 2011. This lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs' lawyers and representatives have conspired to extort up to $113 billion from Chevron through the Ecuadorian legal proceedings. In addition, Chevron obtained a temporary restraining order from a US federal judge, Lewis Kaplan, on 9 February 2011 enjoining the plaintiffs from attempting to enforce a judgment in the Ecuadorian legal proceedings in the United States. This temporary restraining order was extended in March 2011 and later appealed by the plaintiffs. Meanwhile, a US law firm has filed its own lawsuit against Chevron and Chevron's US legal counsel claiming that they have illegally interfered with its representation of the claimants in the legal proceedings.
On 19 September 2011, the US federal appeals court lifted the lower court’s order preventing enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment. The court also ordered a stay of the racketeering case that Chevron filed against the plaintiffs. On 29 November 2011, Chevron filed a pre-trial motion to seize assets of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs in the racketeering lawsuit. In January 2012, US federal judge rejected Chevron’s request, stating it could be renewed at a later date.
On 5 January 2012, Chevron asked the US federal appeals court to restore the injunction enjoining the plaintiffs from enforcing the Ecuadorian judgment. On 19 January 2012, the court rejected Chevron’s request. On 26 January 2012, explaining its previous decision, the court of appeals ruled that Judge Kaplan lacked authority to block the enforcement of the $18 billion judgment. On 15 May 2012, the district judge overseeing the racketeering lawsuit allowed for the racketeering claims to continue, while dismissing claims of fraud. In October 2012 the US Supreme Court refused to hear Chevron's appeal of the lower court's decision ruling that Judge Kaplan lacked authority to issue the injunction blocking enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment.
In July-August 2013, US federal courts upheld subpoenas served by Chevron on Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! demanding private user information about environmental advocates, journalists, lawyers and others. Chevron sought this as part of its fraud lawsuit against certain Ecuadorian oil pollution plaintiffs and their lawyers.
In March 2014, Judge Kaplan ruled in favour of Chevron, and found that the lawyers for the Ecuadorian community had used fabricated evidence, made bribes and ghost-wrote court documents. The plaintiffs were therefore barred from collecting the $9.51 billion judgment because the "decision was obtained by corrupt means.” The plaintiffs appealed arguing that the requirement that a US court recognizes a ruling of a foreign jurisdiction barred Chevron from challenging the judgement.
On 8 August 2016, a US court of appeals agreed with the lower court’s ruling that the Ecuadorian community cannot collect the $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgement on the basis that judgment was obtained by corrupt means. In May 2017, the lawyers for the Ecuadorian asked the US Supreme Court to overturn a lower court decision allowing Chevron to use the US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to try to block a foreign court judgement.
In an effort to enforce the $9.51 billion Ecuadorian judgment, the Ecuadorian villagers filed a lawsuit in Canada in May 2012 targetting Chevron's assets in this country. In September 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs were able to sue Chevron and its Canadian subsidiary in Canada. In September 2016, hearings began in Canada. In January 2017, the Ontario superior court ruled that the Ecuadorean judgment could not be enforced against Chevron's subsidiary, Chevron Canada, because it is a separate entity. The plaintiffs will likely appeal. The judge also decided that the case against Chevron Corp. can proceed to trial.
In October 2014, Ecuadorian communities made a complaint to International Criminal Court against Chevron CEO John Watson. The complaint alleged that decisions by Chevron and its high ranking officers to pollute the rainforest, and subsequently to evade remediation, constituted a crime against humanity. According to the letter received by the Chevron's lawyer in March 2015 from the ICC Office of the Prosecutor, the allegations described in the communication to the ICC by the Lago Agrio plaintiffs were outside the Court's jurisdiction. The alleged crimes, according to the ICC Prosecutor, did not appear to amount to the international crimes under the Court's jurisdiction, based on the available information. In addition, although the ICC recently declared its intent to address environmental abuses, the Court may only hear cases occurred after 1 July 2002, whereas the alleged abuse happened in the 1990s.
- "Supreme Court May Weigh Big Weapon for U.S. Companies Sued Abroad", Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week, 16 May 2017
- "ICC Won’t Prosecute Chevron", Lachlan Markay, Washington Free Beacon, 2 Apr 2015
- "Ecuador court deals Chevron fresh blow in pollution case", Reuters, 16 Oct 2012
- "Chevron fails to squelch $19 billion Ecuador verdict", Paul Barrett Bloomberg Businessweek, 9 Oct 2012
- "Chevron Faces Midnight Deadline in $19 Billion Ecuador Judgment", Environment News Service, 6 Aug 2012
- "Ecuador plaintiffs target Chevron's assets in Brazil", Eduardo Garcia, Reuters, 28 Jun 2012
- "Ecuador plainitffs file lawsuit in Canada against Chevron", Eduardo Garcia, Reuters, 30 May 2012
- "Chevron Gets Some Claims Dismissed From Ecuador Lawsuit (Update 2)", Patricia Hurtado, Bob Van Voris, Bloomberg 15 May 2012
- "Ecuadorian panel again squashes Chevron motion to block judgment", Jessica M. Karmasek, Legal Newsline, 2 Apr 2012
- "Ecuadoreans Blast 'Secret' Hague Tribunal Convened for Chevron", Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service, 10 Feb 2012
- "Circuit Faults Use of State Law to Block Chevron Judgment", Mark Hamblett, New York Law Journal, 27 Jan 2012
- "Ecuador Update: One Door Shuts, Another Opens, and Chevron Lists Its Law Firms—All 39 of Them", Michael D. Goldhaber, Am Law Daily, 24 Jan 2012
- "Chevron Appeals Ruling In Ecuadorian Court", Dow Jones Newswires, 20 Jan 2012
- "So much for Plan B: Kaplan denies Chevron attachment motion", Alison Frankel, Reuters, 6 Jan 2012
- "Reversal of Fortune", Patrick Radden Keefe, New Yorker, 9 Jan 2012 [subscription only]
- "Chevron to fight Ecuador ruling", Naomi Mapstone, Financial Times, 6 Jan 2012
- "Chevron Bid to Dismiss $18 Billion Judgment Rejected in Ecuador Court", Karen Gullo & Mark Chediak, Bloomberg, 4 Jan 2012
- [Español] "Corte de Ecuador ratifica fallo contra petrolera Chevron", Reuters, 3 Jan 2012
- "U.S. court rules against Chevron in Ecuador case", David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, 20 Sep 2011
- [Español] "Corte de EEUU apoya a Ecuador en cuantioso juicio contra Chevron", AP, 19 Sep 2011
- "Ecuador: finally, the polluter is commanded to pay", Independent, 16 Feb 2011
- "Chevron Fined $8.6 Billion in Epic Environmental Case", Frank Bajak & Gonzalo Solano, Associated Press, 15 Feb 2011
- "Federal Judge Blocks Enforcement of Likely Judgment Against Chevron", Mark Hamblett, New York Law Journal, 9 Feb 2011
- "Law firm fires back at Chevron in Ecuador case", Dan Levine, Reuters, 8 Feb 2011
- "Year 18 of Ecuador vs. Chevron Pollution Dispute", Michael D. Goldhaber, American Lawyer, 23 Sep 2010
- "Chevron keeps up pressure in Ecuador suit", David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, 7 Sep 2010
- "Chevron wins an Ecuador claim, awaits major ruling", Braden Reddall, Reuters, 30 Mar 2010
-"Texaco Toxic Past Haunts Chevron as Judgment Looms", Michael Smith & Karen Gullo, Bloomberg, 30 Dec 2008
- "Chevron Estimate for Amazon Damages Rises by $11 Billion", Karen Gullo, Bloomberg, 27 Nov 2008
- "A $16 Billion Problem", Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, 26 Jul 2008
- [Español] "Nueve ecuatorianos demandan a Texaco", Olga Imbaquingo, Diario el Comercio [Ecuador], 26 abril 2006
- "Amazon Indians Say Texaco Left Damage", Gonzalo Solano, Associated Press, 20 Oct 2005
- “Chevron Trial Opens”, Alan Zibel, Oakland Tribune, 21 Oct 2003
- "Canadian Court Rejects Attempt to Enforce Fraudulent Ecuadorian Judgment Against Chevron Subsidiary", 20 Jan 2017
- "Chevron response to U.S. Court of Appeals decision", 22 Aug 2016
- "U.S. Appeals Court Affirms RICO Judgment Against Lawyer Behind Fraudulent Ecuador Lawsuit", 8 Aug 2016
- "Chevron Statement on United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals Order", 19 Sep 2011
- The Amazon Post
- "Ecuador Lawsuit - Facts about Chevron and Texaco in Ecuador"
- "Ecuador Lawsuit - Press Releases"
- "History of Texaco and Chevron in Ecuador" [includes links to US court decisions, certain filings by Texaco and status of Ecuadorian proceedings]
- [Español] "Texaco en Ecuador" [incluye enlaces a decisiones judiciales en los EEUU, varios documentos de Texaco y el estado actual de los procedimientos en Ecuador – material sólo en inglés]
Amazon Defense Coalition [NGO supporting plaintiffs]:
- "Step Towards Justice in Chevron Ecuador Contamination Case"
- "Chevron's $27 Billion Catastrophe"
- "Press Releases"
- "Key Documents & Court Filings from Aguinda Legal Team"
- "Communication to Office of the Prosecutor, ICC", Pablo Fajardo Mendoza & Eduardo Bernabé Toledo
- Earthrights International [filed brief in support of plaintiffs in the US proceedings]: "Amicus Brief in Jota v. Texaco and Aguida v. Texaco"
- Letter from the Office of the Prosecutor to R. Doak Bishop, Chevron's lawyer, International Criminal Court, 16 March 2015
- [Español] Fallo de la Corte Provincial de Justicia de Sucumbíos en el caso Maria Aguida y Otros, Corte Provincial de Justicia de Sucumbíos, 15 octubre 2012
- [Español] Fallo de la Corte Provincial de Justicia de Sucumbíos en el caso Maria Aguida y Otros contra Chevron Corporation, Corte Provincial de Justicia de Sucumbíos, 28 marzo 2012
- Chevron Corporation v Camacho Naranjo, et al- Order, US Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit, 19 Jan 2012
- [Español] Juez ponente: Dr. Milton Toral Zevallos - Corte provincial de justicia de Sucumbíos, Sala única de la corte provincial de justicia de Sucumbíos, 3 de enero 2012
- Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios, 3 Jan 2012 [English translation of appeals court decision]
- Chevron Corporation v Steven Donziger et al - Memorandum Opinion, US District Court Southern District of New York, 6 Jan 2012
- Chevron's appeal to Chief Judge of Sucumbios Provincial Court, 21 Mar 2011
- Chevron Corporation v. Camacho Naranjo, et al. - Summary Order, US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 19 Sep 2011
- [Español] Juez ponente: AB. Nicolas Zambrano Lozada - Corte Provincial de Justicia Sucumbíos, Corte Provincial de Justicia Sucumbíos [Ecuador], 14 de febrero de 2011 [Fallo completo en el caso por daños ambientales contra Chevron]
- Provincial Court of Sucumbios - Judgment of Case No. 2003-0002, 14 Feb 2011 [English translation of decision issued by the Provincial Court of Sucumbios, Ecuador]
All components of this story
Author: Paul Barrett, BloombergBusinessweek (USA)
Can U.S. companies use the federal racketeering law to fend off costly foreign court judgments?...[T]he Supreme Court will decide whether to hear an appeal...The federal appeals court in New York ruled last August that Chevron, and indeed, any American corporation facing an expensive judgment abroad, may come home and use the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) as a weapon to go after the lawyers on the other side. The losers in that clash—impoverished Ecuadorian villagers and their New York-based attorney, Steven Donziger—are asking the justices to forbid this use of RICO as unwise and unfair. Chevron, naturally, wants the high court to stay out of it. The justices are expected to announce their intentions in the coming weeks...[T]he justices ordinarily like to resolve conflicts among lower federal courts...
Author: Amazon Watch & Rainforest Action Network
[Full text of the amicus brief providing arguments in support of the claim that Chevron allegedly "committed corrupt and illegal actions in Ecuador, and during the racketeering proceeding" against Steven Donziger]
Author: Winston & Strawn LLP (Counsel for Amicus Curiae)
[Full text of the amicus brief providing arguments in support of the claim that the appeal decision fails to take into account principles of international comity and conflicts with previous decisions]
Brief of Friends of The Earth and 14 Other Non-Profit Organizations as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners
Author: Friends of the Earth & 14 NGOs
[Full text of the amicus brief providing arguments in support of the claim that the initial racketeering ruling threatens the First Amendment rights of US citizens speaking out against human rights abuses and corporate wrongdoing]
Author: Donald K. Anton (Griffith Law School, Griffith University) & 18 International Law Professors
[Full text of the amicus brief providing arguments in support of the claim that the racketeering decision and appeal violate the norms of international comity and international law]
Civil Society Groups Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Reject Chevron's Attempts to Suppress Free Speech and Undermine Historic Amazon Pollution Case
Author: Amazon Watch
...Seventeen separate environmental and human rights groups filed two amicus briefs today urging the [US Supreme Court] justices to overturn Chevron's retaliatory racketeering suit against Ecuadorian Amazonian communities and their lawyers. The briefs seek a reversal of an unprecedented lower court ruling...that allowed Chevron to use U.S. courts to personally sue the villagers, their lawyers, and also Ecuador's entire judicial system to try block a legitimate $9.5 billion environmental judgment issued in the South American nation after the oil giant insisted the environmental trial be held there...The first brief...affirms that the initial ruling...tramples the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens who dare to speak out against human rights abuses..The second brief...details extensive evidence that Chevron committed corrupt and illegal actions in Ecuador and during the [racketeering] proceeding...
Author: Michael Phillis, Keith Goldberg & Sara Ziegler, Law360
Attorney Steven Donziger has asked the Supreme Court to hear his appeal of a finding that a $9.5 billion oil pollution judgment against Chevron in Ecuador was fraudulently produced and could not be enforced...In a petition for a writ of certiorari...Donziger argued that the Supreme Court should address whether disappointed litigants from other countries could launch a preemptive collateral attack on a foreign civil judgment...In addition, the...petition questions the...finding that plaintiffs can use injunctive-relief-only [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] suits to seek culpability. Donziger...lost [a lower court] appeal...seeking to overturn a district judge’s finding that the judgment against Chevron was the product of “egregious fraud.” Chevron...had sued Donziger for allegedly bribing the Ecuadorean court and ghostwriting the judgment it issued — allegations he strongly denies....[Chevron] said in a statement...“We do not think Donziger’s latest attempt to distract from his fraudulent behavior is worthy of Supreme Court review.”...
Commentary: Canadian companies are increasingly at risk from lawsuits over human rights abuses of foreign subsidiaries
Author: Miles F. Pittman & Rick Williams, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, on Mondaq
"Canada: Canadian Companies And The Effects Of Foreign Operations – Out Of Sight, Front Of Mind", 27 Mar 2017
Foreign litigants are increasingly using the Canadian court system to attempt to recover damages from Canadian parents or affiliates in cases where the claim arose from foreign operations entirely conducted by a foreign affiliate or subsidiary...[In] Garcia v Tahoe Resources...[t]he BC Court of Appeal...held that the correct [forum conveniens] test is whether...evidence discloses a real risk of an unfair trial process in the foreign court...The plaintiffs' claims...are novel because they focus on the Canadian parent's public statements regarding its commitment to corporate social responsibility, thus avoiding the corporate veil issue...the fact that the action is proceeding on the merits gives significant leverage to the Guatemalan plaintiffs to negotiate a settlement...[I]n Yaiguaje v. Chevron...the plaintiffs chose Canada [due to] its relatively low threshold for enforcement of foreign judgments]...[T]he test is that the subject-matter of the action must have a "real and substantial connection" to the jurisdiction where the action was brought; once that is shown, there are limited defences to the enforcement of the action...
Author: Gupta Wessler PLLC (Counsel for Petitioners)
[Full text of the Writ of Certiorari]
- Related stories: Texaco/Chevron lawsuits (re Ecuador)
Ecuadorian plaintiffs in lawsuit against Chevron over oil pollution plan to appeal in Canadian court
Author: Alex Robinson, Law Times (Canada)
"Plaintiffs plan to appeal Chevron decision", 13 Feb 2017
The lawyers representing Ecuadorian plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Chevron Corporation have applied for leave to appeal a judge’s decision to dismiss an action against the company’s Canadian subsidiary...The case, Yaiguaje v. Chevron Corporation, made headlines recently after Ontario Superior Court Justice Glenn Hainey said the assets of Chevron Canada Limited could not be seized to pay out a foreign judgment against Chevron Corp., as the seven-level indirect subsidiary is not an asset of the parent company. The plaintiffs have now applied for leave to appeal the decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal. In their Notice of Appeal, the plaintiffs took issue with the judge’s finding that the assets of the subsidiary are not assets of Chevron Corp...A spokesman for Chevron Corporation said the company is confident that any court that rules on the case will rule in its favour.