Chevron Defeats Attorney-Privilege Claims

     RICHMOND, Va. – Two Maryland attorneys who Chevron says participated in the extortionate scheme against it in Ecuador were properly denied privilege, the 4th Circuit ruled.
     The dispute is one of many in the labyrinthine litigation stemming massive oil contamination of the Amazon. As part of its attempt to show that a multibillion-dollar verdict entered against Chevron in Lago Agrio was procured by fraud and corruption, engineered by attorney Steven Donziger, the oil giant has initiated discovery actions across the United States.
     In the case at hand, Chevron set its sights on Maryland-based attorneys Aaron and Daria Page. As summarized Wednesday by the 4th Circuit, Chevron said the Pages “developed certain extortion strategies meant to pressure Chevron into settling, such as instigating a bogus Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, accusing Chevron of committing genocide, and claiming that Chevron violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”
     “The Pages also allegedly contrived an entirely unsubstantiated damages estimate,” the 39-page ruling continues. “And most importantly, the Pages are said to have written (or at least helped to write) ‘the Draft Alegato’ and ‘the Fusion Memo,’ two internal documents that were then partially incorporated verbatim into the Ecuadorian court’s final judgment.”
     A federal judge in Greenbelt granted Chevron’s subpoenas of the Pages, rejecting their arguments that the sought-after documents were privileged.
     In affirming one of those decisions Wednesday, and dismissing a second appeal as moot, the 4th Circuit upheld the lower court’s determination “that the crime-fraud exception applied because of [Aaron] Page’s involvement in obtaining the allegedly fraudulent judgment in Ecuador. In addition, various voluntary disclosures … defeated the privileges that Page asserted by effecting a subject-matter waiver. Having already found substantial and independent reason to affirm the District Court’s order in the § 1782 proceeding, we do not address these other grounds and express no opinion on them.”
     The ruling referred to Aaron Page alone because Daria did not join the appeal at issue.
     Hugo Camacho and Javier Piaguaje, two of the Ecuadorians who have been suing Chevron since 1993, joined the appellate challenge with Aaron Page.
     Chevron’s claims that Donziger violated federal anti-racketeering law hit the mark with U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan earlier this year. Donziger and his former Ecuadorean clients are appealing that ruling separately.

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