Chevron Expert Questions Report That Led to $19 Billion Ecuador Verdict
MANHATTAN (CN) - Chevron's bid to invalidate a $19 billion judgment it faces for oil contamination of the Amazon in Ecuador turned Monday on a digital forensics expert's analyses of metadata.
Chevron claims in its federal racketeering lawsuit that U.S.-based lawyers bribed a judge and doctored scientific studies to have a court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, slap it in 2011 with the largest environmental award ever secured.
The Lago Agrio court found that Chevron was liable for oil pollution and health problems based on the decades of drilling by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001.
Steven Donziger was the attorney who spearheaded the Ecuadoreans' lawsuit, and bears the brunt of the conspiracy claims Chevron filed days before the Ecuadorean ruling.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan is hearing Chevron's case in Manhattan without a jury.
As the second week of trial kicked off Monday, the director of digital forensics at Stroz Friedberg took the stand for Chevron.
The oil giant's attorneys at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher hired this man Spencer Lynch to dig into the computers, mobile phones, removable storage devices and other electronic files of the Ecuadorean team.
Lynch said Donziger's hard drive contained a draft of the expert report prepared by Richard Cabrera for the Lago Agrio trial.
Though Cabrera was supposed to be independent, Chevron says his report was ghostwritten by Stratus Consultants, a Colorado-based firm working for Donziger.
The draft of this report on Donziger's computer was included in an email April 1, 2008, sent by firstname.lastname@example.org, Lynch said.
Juan Pablo Saenz, a lawyer for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs, modified and saved this file on March 31, 2008 - the day before Cabrera filed it with the Lago Agrio court, he added.
Four Ecuadorean judges were recused from the Lago Agrio case amid accusations of misconduct or corruption.
The first judge was Alberto Guerra, and Judge Nicolas Zambrano delivered the verdict in 2011. Both men have been disciplined in the past for freeing narcotics traffickers.
Lynch also said Guerra's computer hard drive contained nine "draft orders" that Zambrano eventually issued.
Text from the orders on Guerra's computer hard drive also appears "verbatim" in nine orders issued by Zambrano, the expert said.
Guerra's computer hard drive and thumb drives additionally contained 105 draft rulings that the Ecuadorian court issued unrelated to the Chevron litigation, he added.
Donziger's hard drive also contained a draft of the Cabrera Report, "which was most likely modified and saved by Ecuadorean plaintiffs' lawyer Juan Pablo Saenz the day before it was filed with the Ecuadorian court by Richard Cabrara," Lynch wrote in his witness statement. "Excepting the court markings and handwriting, that draft is identical to the report filed with the Ecuadorean court by Richard Cabrera on April 1, 2008. I therefore conclude that [it] was the final draft of the Cabrera report."
Guerra's computer hard drive and thumb drives also contained drafts of 105 rulings that the Ecuadorean court issued in cases not related to the Chevron case, Lynch wrote in his testimony. At least 101 of those were issued by Judge Zambrano or in cases assigned to him.
Text from the 105 Guerra rulings - "including whole sentences and sections" - appears "verbatim" in 105 rulings that the Ecuadorian court issued, Lynch said.
He added that the judgment in Ecuador repeats 100 specific "data irregularities" and other errors, that were copied, cut-and-pasted, and "otherwise taken directly from the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' lawyers' unfiled data compilation."
After comparing the draft of the Cabrera report on Donziger's hard drive with the final, Lynch found both documents identical.
"In other words, the text, figures and charts from the final draft Cabrera Report appear verbatim in the filed Cabrera Report," Lynch said. "It is the same document."
Monday morning's testimony started off rocky, with an agitated Kaplan reprimanding Donziger and the other attorneys for "the sniping going on here."
He ordered the parties to "get along like reasonable lawyers," and added that his reprimand does not "exempt anybody from what I just said."