Chevron Corporation has filed an amended complaint in its lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking to block enforcement and recognition of a judgment entered against the company in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. The amended complaint cites newly discovered evidence that the Lago Agrio plaintiffs' lawyers and consultants, at a minimum, provided clandestine assistance to the Ecuadorian court in drafting the judgment against Chevron.
Through its U.S. discovery efforts, Chevron has obtained previously private files belonging to the Lago Agrio plaintiffs' lawyers and their co-conspirators. These files contain numerous and unique errors, large and small, and the same errors and irregularities now appear in the Ecuadorian court's judgment despite never having been entered into the trial record.
"There is no apparent explanation as to how the judgment would have incorporated these errors and irregularities without cooperation between the Ecuadorian court and the plaintiffs' representatives," stated R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel. "This is another instance of the fraud and corruption that have permeated the Ecuadorian judicial proceedings."
Examples of the overlap between the judgment and the plaintiffs' private files include:
The judgment repeatedly uses an irregular naming scheme for sampling data that is unique to a convention used in the Lago Agrio plaintiffs' lawyers' non-public files.
The internal files erroneously replace "micrograms" with "milligrams" for certain sample reports, and the judgment makes the same error for the same samples.
The Lago Agrio plaintiffs' lawyers' private files present data in a manner that can make it appear that certain test results showed the presence of mercury, even though the actual laboratory reports indicate that no mercury was detected. The judgment incorrectly reports the presence of mercury in these same samples.
The judgment repeats errors found in other internal documents prepared by the Lago Agrio plaintiffs' lawyers and their co-conspirators, including citations to the wrong page in the Ecuadorian court record, and other grammatical and substantive errors.
This latest evidence adds to a record that already has led to fraud rulings against the plaintiffs' representatives in discovery proceedings before multiple U.S. federal courts over the past year. The filing of the amended complaint also follows recent notable federal court decisions in New York and Washington, D.C.:
On March 7, 2011, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York entered a preliminary injunction barring attempts to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment outside of Ecuador.
On April 15, 2011, Judge Kaplan granted Chevron's motion to bifurcate its claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and other state and federal laws, and set an early trial date on Chevron's claim seeking a declaration that the Ecuadorian judgment should not be recognized or enforced.
On April 18, 2011, Judge Kaplan rejected a request to stay the preliminary injunction, finding that "It is difficult to see any substantial reason to allow the defendants and others bound by the preliminary injunction to prepare to enforce a judgment that the Court already has held they probably never will be permitted to enforce outside Ecuador."
On April 19, 2011, Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. of the District Court in the District of Columbia dismissed a complaint previously filed against Chevron by the law firm Patton Boggs LLP, one of the Lago Agrio plaintiffs' law firms named as a non-party co-conspirator in the RICO action. In denying Patton Boggs leave to assert a tortious interference claim against Chevron and its counsel at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Judge Kennedy wrote, "Patton Boggs misunderstands the law."