Even in the more liberal climes of our northern neighbors do flop the bald-faced schemes and scams concocted and perpetrated by one Steven Donziger, litigant extraordinaire, foe of Chevron, repeat loser, legal masochist. Ahab had better luck with Moby.
The story in brief: Leftist enviro-activists plotted to turn Chevron into an ATM to fund their operations and line their pockets. The claim: Texaco (Chevron’s predecessor) failed to remediate old oil-drilling sites in Ecuador (it had), creating pollution that resulted in cancer and disease for inhabitants. A suit was filed locally, instigated and choreographed by Donziger & Co., bankrolled by various hedge funds and opportunists (which, like Patton Boggs, came to sorely rue their involvement). Down in Quito, the judges and experts were bought off, the government was in on the take too, and a trial, if that’s what you can call it, ended with a massive judgment (over $17 billion) leveled against Chevron.
But unlike many a lefty-threatened knee-shaking corporation, it fought back, in U.S. courts and elsewhere, famously filing civil RICO charges against the Donziger cabal. With much of its bribery and data-rigging confirmed via forensics (and by their own on-camera bragging), in 2014 U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan clobbered the greens, ruling their Chevron shakedown was, well, here’s how the New York Times put it: “Mr. Donziger, a Manhattan lawyer, and his litigation team engaged in a conspiracy and criminal conduct.” Last year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Kaplan. By then, the affair had earned the title of “the legal fraud of the century.” Quite deservedly.
Alas, feeling no shame, and obsessed with a Chevron payday, in 2015 Donziger took his flim-flam to Canada, expecting the courts there to enforce the judgment rendered in Ecuador. Conrad Black explained the idiocy of this new tactic and venue. Whether or not it listened to Lord Black’s wisdom, on January 20, 2017, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice told Donziger, in essence, to pound tar sands. Yet another win for Chevron (bless it, an NR advertiser, we are proud to say). Last Friday, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs appealed that ruling. And so it goes.
Having reported on this case for a few years now, I believe the time long ago passed for this entire madness to end, except for one aspect. Donziger needs to be prosecuted.
“Imagine if a conservative . . . ” — that argument too may be old. But it’s true. Had Donziger been masterminding a conservative scam to fleece, say, a green-energy firm (maybe on behalf of bald eagles chopped by wind turbines), and had a federal judge and appeals court ruled it a blatant RICO undertaking, the Obama administration would have dropped the prosecutorial hammer and pose criminal RICO charges against Donziger — he being, after all, a racketeer. But now with a Trump administration, the time may have come for Preet Bharara, the carry-over feared U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District, to do what he should have done nearly three years ago when Kaplan issued his incredible ruling. Until Bharara does, Donziger will prowl the world, seeking the ruin of innocent U.S. corporations and their shareholders.