Chevron Swats at Motion to Dismiss From Donziger
MANHATTAN (CN) - As a federal judge considers whether a $9.5 billion judgment Chevron faces in Ecuador is extortionate, the latest motion to dismiss from its opponents is "nonsense," the oil giant said.
The response comes just over a week after attorney Steven Donziger asked U.S. District Judge Edward Kaplan to dismiss the oil giant's racketeering claims against him for lack of standing.
"This unseemly spectacle of a case must come to an end," Donziger wrote. "For all of its gargantuan briefing, Chevron has not even identified (much less proven) a single injury that would give it standing. That's because none exists." (Emphasis and parentheses in original.)
Chevron noted Thursday that Donziger's motion came after a 16-days trial involving dozens of witnesses and thousands of legal documents.
The oil giant had sued Donziger and others in February 2011, days before Judge Nicolas Zambrano in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, ordered it to pay billions for environmental damages brought by decades of oil drilling in the region. Chevron inherited the lawsuit with its acquisition of Texaco in 2001, but it never actually broke ground in Ecuador.
At trial, Chevron accused Donziger and "criminal confederates" of masterminding a scheme to take advantage of the Amazonian nation's corrupt legal system. They accused him of bribing judges, and said Zambrano merely rubber-stamped the final ruling that Donziger and his co-counsel wrote.
Donziger, a Harvard Law graduate, has adamantly denied any wrongdoing, accused Chevron of corporate retaliation, and suggested in his motion to dismiss that Chevron lacks standing in the case.
"Although Chevron has never had standing to bring this lawsuit, whatever argument it might have had for standing (before dropping its damages claim and before articulating its requested equitable relief) is now gone - and with it, so too is this court's authority over the dispute," Donziger wrote. "And because that is true regardless of whatever factual findings or conclusions of law the court could eventually issue, this action must be dismissed before the court ever gets that far."
Chevron, which forfeited its claim for damages to let Kaplan hear the case without a jury, wants the judge to categorize the verdict as a racketeering scheme so that it can dissuade other countries, like Canada , Argentina and Brazil where the company has assets, from enforcing the verdict.
"Chevron proved at trial that defendants have injured it, and threaten further injury, through an ongoing scheme to extort and defraud the company by means of falsehoods and corrupt acts in the United States, Ecuador, and elsewhere," Chevron's attorney, Andrea Neuman with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, wrote in opposition Thursday.
Neuman also spoke of the "substantial risk" that Chevron's foes "will press forward with their ongoing scheme, as they have time and again promised to do."
"Indeed, it is a virtual certainty that defendants will continue their efforts to extort Chevron by, among other things, litigating the extant enforcement actions and bringing new ones elsewhere (including in the United States), attempting to obtain additional financing for their scheme by selling off pieces of the fraudulent judgment, and maintaining their ongoing public pressure campaign against Chevron founded on demonstratable falsehoods," the opposition brief states.
Long outspoken on the point that Kaplan will likely rule against him, Donziger has already tapped appellate counsel for a 2nd Circuit battle. That appeal is expected to question the bearing of Kaplan's ruling on foreign courts.
Advocates for Ecuadoreans meanwhile have vowed to renew their fight.