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Finally, indeed

Reprinted from The Huffington Post:

Finally! A Candid Exposé of Chevron’s Dirty Tricks

It’s not easy to try to explain the saga of the decades long battle to hold Chevron to account for deliberately poisoning people and planet in the Ecuadorian Amazon.Rolling Stone does a very good job of it, however, in yesterday’s article Sludge Match: Inside Chevron’s $9 Billion Legal Battle With Ecuadorean Villagers by Alexander Zaitchik.

The article skillfully explains how Chevron turned a straightforward case into a neverending legal battle – because winning based on the merits was never an option for the oil giant. From blaming the victim to threatening and pressuring their allies,Chevron’s tactics are as dirty as the crude they dumped in the rainforest. The oil giant has launched the greatest assault on corporate accountability to date, yet until now, mainstream coverage of that attack has been frustratingly scarce.

In fact, considering Chevron’s history of going after anyone critical of their actions in EcuadorRolling Stone should be applauded for aggressively investigating a story that few others have been brave enough to take on. Zaitchik confronts the sordid details of the false narrative concocted by Chevron to fuel its retaliatory RICO suit against Steven Donziger and the Ecuadorians, but unlike others reporters, he doesn’t let fear of Chevron’s army of lawyers or Judge Kaplan’s outrageously biased decision dilute his reporting or outweigh the facts.

Most importantly, Zaitchik reminds readers that, “it’s the farmers and the Indians, not the lawyers, who continue to struggle daily with the 50-year legacy of oil production in the region.” For their sake, it’s about time the media told the full story.

Read the full article here.


Chevron: Release The Secret Evidence That Proves Your Guilt In Ecuador

Reprinted from The Huffington Post:

In the wake of a controversial U.S. court ruling that a $9.5 billion Ecuador judgment against Chevron is fraudulent, the oil giant has been touting loudly its innocence of any environmental crimes in the South American country.

Chevron’s lawyers even successfully pressured some CBS News corporate suits to yank a damning 60 Minutes piece from the network’s website about the deliberate contamination of the Ecuador rainforest from 1964 to 1992 by Texaco, which Chevron later bought.

(See the dead link here. You can see the segment on my company’s web site. So sue me, CBS.)

Instead of succumbing to Chevron’s pressure tactics, CBS’ lawyers should grow a backbone and demand to see contamination “playbook” documents that Chevron has been forced to produce in an international arbitration proceeding.

They are explosive and prove 60 Minutes got it right, and the U.S. judge got it wrong.

More here…

 


Why didn’t the Boliden case settle?

Reprinted from CSRWire Talkbalk

Sometime later this year or early next, lawyers for Swedish mining giant Boliden will head to court in northern Sweden to square off with lawyers for over 700 community members from Arica, Chile.

A Clean-up Gone Wrong

The dispute concerns some 20,000 tons of arsenic-laden smelting waste that Boliden off-loaded in the mid-1980s to an inexperienced Chilean enterprise that claimed it could “process” the waste, but in fact just dumped it on the outskirts of town. Boliden claims the dumping wasn’t its fault; the Chileans say Boliden was negligent.

The lawsuit is a vindication of the affected Arica community’s decades of effort to demand justice, but at the same time presents them with new uncertainties: a jurisdictionally complex case, a new round of legal costs (albeit to be borne by the lawyers), the prospect of lengthy appeals, and litigation’s well-deserved reputation for driving even the most embattled parties farther apart.

Boliden, which in its latest Annual Report talks about wanting to “highlight the positive role that a responsible mining industry plays in society,” can’t be looking forward to the spectacle either.

What Happened to Negotiation?

Indeed, no sane business wants litigation—especially litigation involving alleged human rights and environmental abuses. That’s why CSR observers often find litigation itself less interesting than picking through the wreckage of failed pre-trial Boliden-minenegotiations to try to figure out what went wrong. The Boliden case is a particularly interesting and mysterious debris field because a number of factors suggest that the conditions for a negotiated settlement were ripe. Continue reading


Under Fire, Chevron CEO Quietly Moves Annual Shareholder Meeting to Remote Town In Texas

Reprinted from The Chevron Pit

Chevron CEO John Watson seems nervous about the Ecuadorian villagers who won a $9.5 billion judgment against his company for dumping toxic waste into the rainforest.

Apparently Watson is so nervous that he and Chevron General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate are making elaborate plans to move the company’s 2014 annual meeting from company headquarters near San Francisco to a rented petroleum museum in Midland, in the hinterlands of west Texas and a five-hour drive from the nearest metropolitan area of Dallas-Ft. Worth.

It is worth noting that Watson and Pate are making these elaborate plans – which will include flying in top management and Board members on a corporate jet — despite the company’s self-proclaimed “victory” in March in a New York civil fraud case against the villagers and their lawyers.  As we recount here, the verdict is nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory resulting from the obvious biases of an activist American judge who tried to overrule Ecuador’s Supreme Court on questions of Ecuadorian law.  We predict the decision will not survive appeal and in any event will either backfire against Chevron in enforcement courts abroad or be ignored.

Why are Watson and Pate are going to such great lengths to find a friendly location? Continue reading


Changing the Culture

The key to deep, lasting social change is changing the intellectual and social culture that serves as a platform for the politics, the norms, the ingrained assumptions and expectations, and certainly the day-to-day exchange of interests and playing of tactics.

In the broader field of U.S. society, conservatives did this in the 1980s with a linked limited government/family values discourse, and liberals did it a generation earlier through the civil rights and anti-war movements.  In the legal field, which both follows and leads broader societal changes, “conservative” legal thinkers (the labels are harder here) changed the culture in the 1990s with a linked strict-constructionist and law-and-economics discourse, but only after “liberals” changed it a generation earlier through critical legal theory and the clinical legal education discourses.

Sometimes these culture-changing developments are easy to follow: key cases, articles, or political or social events.  But far more often they occur under the radar, subtly but (I believe) intentionally masked, and very often using controversial methods and tactics, such as, for those with money and power, lobbying and interest-sharing deals, or for those that don’t, street protests and civil disobedience.  These are only examples: part of what makes the culture-change analysis so fascinating is the amazing variety of methods and tactics that interest and ideology groups employ.

A great illustrative article on how this has been done by Google was published recently in the Washington Post.  Google is a great subject to really explore the difficulties here because of its unique identity — I would submit that the vitality of Google’s halcyon-days promise to not be “evil” is the defining question of the technological/political/legal moment we are witnessing.  What is going on here is a damning indictment, from one perspective, and a celebration of social dynamics, from another perspective.  Food for so much thought. 

Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence, Wash Post, Apr. 13, 2014.  Describes how Google has developed a massive lobbying shop, but in particular focuses on how Google orchestrated a series of apparently independent academic symposium on the state of competition in the online search field at the same time as it was facing an FTC investigation on the same and used the symposium to mount a massive de facto lobbying campaign on key congressional and FTC contacts.

The behind-the-scenes machinations demonstrate how Google — once a lobbying weakling — has come to master a new method of operating in modern-day Washington, where spending on traditional lobbying is rivaled by other, less visible forms of influence.

That system includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects.

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The company has also pioneered new and unexpected ways to influence decision-makers, harnessing its vast reach. It has befriended key lawmakers in both parties by offering free training sessions to Capitol Hill staffers and campaign operatives on how to use Google products that can help target voters.

Through a program for charities, Google donates in-kind advertising, customized YouTube channels and Web site analytics to think tanks that are allied with the company’s policy goals.

Google “fellows” — young lawyers, writers and thinkers paid by the company — populate elite think tanks such as the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the New America Foundation.

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An early sign of Google’s new Washington attitude came in September 2011, when executives paid a visit to the Heritage Foundation, the stalwart conservative think tank that has long served as an intellectual hub on the right, to attend a weekly lunch for conservative bloggers. . . .

A few weeks after the blogger session, Heritage researcher James L. Gattuso penned a critique of the antitrust investigation into Google, praising the company as “an American success story.”

That winter, Heritage joined the chorus of groups weighing in against the anti-piracy legislation.

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[re GMU] For the past several years, the free-market-oriented law center has received an annual donation from the company, a grant that totaled $350,000 last year, according to the school. . .

Even as Google executives peppered the GMU staff with suggestions of speakers and guests to invite to the event, the company asked the school not to broadcast its involvement.

“It may seem like Google is overwhelming the conference,” [Google's lawyer] fretted in an e-mail to the center’s administrative coordinator, Jeffrey Smith, after reviewing the confirmed list of attendees a few weeks before the event. She asked Smith to mention “only a few Googlers.”

Smith was reassuring. “We will certainly limit who we announce publicly from Google,” he replied.

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Cato was not always in sync with Google’s policy agenda. In previous years, the think tank’s bloggers and scholars had been sharply critical of the company’s support for government rules limiting the ways providers such as Comcast and Verizon could charge for Internet services.

But, like many institutions in Washington, Cato has since found common ground with Google.

And the think tank has benefited from the company’s investments, receiving $480,000 worth of in-kind “ad words” from Google last year, according to people familiar with the donation.