As some of you may know, I have been following the Chevron case in Ecuador, which is by all appearances the largest single extortion attempt in commercial history. (Full disclosure: Chevron advertises in National Review and has donated to the National Review Institute.) In fact, I was en route to Quito via the NRI Summit this weekend when my planned meetings were mysteriously canceled. Now I know why:
In a sworn declaration filed today in New York federal court, Alberto Guerra, who presided over the case when it was first filed in 2003, reveals that he was paid thousands of dollars by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and a subsequent judge, Nicholas Zambrano, for illegally ghostwriting judicial orders issued by Zambrano and steering the case in the plaintiffs’ favor. Guerra, who is no longer a judge, attests that the plaintiffs’ lawyers were permitted to draft the $18 billion judgment in their own favor after they promised to pay Zambrano a $500,000 bribe out of the judgment’s enforcement proceeds, and that Guerra then reviewed the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ draft for Zambrano before the judge issued it as his own. . . .
Guerra’s declaration, which is corroborated by computer, bank, and shipping records, as well as the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ own internal e-mails, provides a direct account of corruption that has tainted the trial for years. Guerra describes multiple meetings with the plaintiffs’ lawyers and representatives – namely, New York-based Steven Donziger, Pablo Fajardo, and Luis Yanza – to discuss payoffs, kickbacks, and the ghostwriting of court orders favorable to the plaintiffs.
Which is to say, the plaintiffs’ lawyers apparently wrote a settlement in their own favor — a settlement based on the results of a “third party” scientific study also ghostwritten by the plaintiffs.
The Chevron case is an inexplicable mess of nested fraud schemes and bribery, the sort of thing that would be an international scandal if the victim were any entity other than a multinational oil company. Chevron simply is not a sympathetic defendant. Never mind the rule of law — the Chevron-Ecuador fiasco is a case study in the rule of P.R.
But the United States government still has a Department of State and a Department of Commerce, both of which ought to be keenly interested in the fact that corrupt representatives of a foreign power are trying to shake down the shareholders of a U.S.-based firm for tens of billions of dollars. The major shareholders of Chevron are not monocle-wearing plutocrats, but regular-guy mutual-fund investors and retired schoolteachers from San Bernardino. Surely this government has a responsible to protect them from theft?
The Obama administration is of course nowhere to be seen in this. We can dole out billions to vaporous “green energy” companies but we do nothing when somebody is trying to plunder billions of dollars from an oil company. Curious fact: As a senator, Barack Obama did see fit to intervene in the Chevron case — on the side of the Ecuadoran government. After meeting with an old basketball buddy — the abovementioned Mr. Donziger, who stands to make billions of dollars as the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case — Barack Obama wrote a letter to the U.S. trade representative arguing that Ecuador’s actions should not be held against the regime when negotiating trade privileges. Donziger, with the help of a $10,000-a-month lobbyist, also got Andrew Cuomo to threaten to intervene in the case, even though the jurisdiction of the Empire State stops well north of Ecuador.
A leftist autocrat is attempting to plunder billions of shareholders’ dollars from a U.S.-based firm operating in a critical economic sector. If government exists to do anything, it exists to protect life and property. The administration has a responsibility to act — but that’s hard to do with the president on the wrong side.