In the details

When I travel, and I guess in my life generally, I try very hard to embody and project the values of my practice, most fundamentally, equality, in all things, top to bottom, no questions asked.

Thus, yesterday, as I was second in the wait-list line for the flight from Lago to Quito, where I had very important reasons to be, I let it play out, and in fact when we were told there was only one seat left, I made sure the nice woman in front of me knew it was hers, she shouldn’t feel bad, rules are rules.  (As it happened, we both got screwed and nobody got on the flight, even several people in front of us who were told by agents they were getting on.)

That required me to spend a night in Lago as opposed to Quito, miss a meeting, but so it goes.

Then there was today.  If I didn’t get on that flight, I would miss my flight back to the US, miss seeing my little boys on Sunday morning, miss crawling into bed with my wife tonight.  Not gonna miss that flight.  Nope.

They sent a much smaller plane to Lago than they were supposed to.  About 15 Ecuadorians crowded around the ticket desk when I got there, all confirmed but trying to get on the plane, which was flat out full.  And so it goes: I pulled every elitist tactic in the book.  Many of the points I made were simply true – I did have an $800 plane ticket, the status of which was unclear if I had to reschedule.  They were putting other people on 5-hour taxis to Quito, which might be inconvenient but hardly devastating for somebody who lives there, or was getting a connecting bus or something.  It was more important that I get on that flight.

But still.  I ruffled the same feathers, raised the same back hairs that I have seen Chevron’s lawyers and so many others effect over the years.  How dare you?, it says.  Don’t you know who I am?  I made sure they understood how outrageous it would be to keep a gringo in Lago another day, as opposed the many petroleros crowded around me.  To a significant extent, I didn’t even speak but simply maintained eye contact  with the desk agents, and let my lighter skin speak for itself.  Basically I pulled every piece of rank I could find.

And rank it was.  But I got on the flight.  There are lessons there, which include simply the fact that I love the hell out of my family and can’t wait to get back to see them in a few hours.  But there are others too, worth chewing on, with time, and hopefully some generosity of spirit.

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.

New BHRRC Quarterly Report

The latest Quarterly Report from the Business & Human Rights Resources Centre is out.  These periodic BHRRC reports, together with BHRRC’s weekly newsletters, are the best and most comprehensive resources available on corporate accountability / business and human rights lawsuits and other developments.  The latest reports summary of developments with lawsuits in national jurisdictions is as follows (for links to more information on each, see the Report itself).  I hope to be able to provide further comment on some of these cases shortly. Continue reading

Second Circuit Response, Part I

Second Circuit Decision in Chevron Corp. v Donziger et al.:

PART I: Rubber-Stamping Biased Findings Designed to Intimidate Foreign Courts and Protect an “Important” U.S. Company

[W]e are dealing here with a company of considerable importance to our economy that employs thousands all over the world, that supplies a group of commodities, gasoline, heating oil, other fuels and lubricants on which every one of us depends every single day. I don’t think there is anybody in this courtroom who wants to pull his car into a gas station to fill up and finds that there isn’t any gas there because these folks [the Ecuadorians, as part of their efforts to enforce their environmental judgment] have attached it in Singapore or wherever else.

—U.S. federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan, Feb. 18, 2011

The Second Circuit opinion in the Chevron Corp. v Donziger et al. case has been a disappointment for those who (try to) think that U.S. federal courts are “above the fray” of ideological politics and corporate interests. The opinion is a blatant “hatchet job” on Steven Donziger, the New York-based human rights lawyer who for the last 20 years has teamed up with Ecuadorian indigenous nationalities and Amazon farmers to press an historic environmental lawsuit against Chevron, and who Chevron considered so dangerous that in 2009 its top strategists crafted “long-term strategy” to avoid the environmental liability, a strategy that they succinctly summarized, in internal emails, in two words: “demonize Donziger.” Continue reading