Chevron reveals lawyer in Ecuador lawsuit is biased

In a court filing today in Lago Agrio, Ecuador,Chevron Corp. (CVX) provided newly discovered information showing that the author of a report recommending that Chevron be ordered to pay $27 billion in damages is the majority owner of an oil field remediation company that stands to gain financially from a judgment against Chevron. Due to the remediation company's relationship with Ecuador's state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, Chevron called upon the court to immediately reject the work of Richard Cabrera on the grounds that he knowingly hid his relationship and that he stands to gain from what was supposed to be unbiased work for the court. 

"For three years, Mr. Cabrera has concealed clear financial conflicts of interest that disqualify him from acting as an independent and objective evaluator of the evidence in the case," Chevron Vice President and General Counsel Hewitt Pate said. "While Mr. Cabrera's financial interests alone are sufficient grounds for his report to be rejected, his intentional concealment of those interests further demonstrates that the entirety of his work lacks honesty, integrity, or credibility." 

Recently uncovered records, from 2003 through 2008, show Cabrera is co-founder, general manager, majority stockholder, and legal representative of an oilfield remediation company, Compañía Ambiental Minera-Petrolera S.A. ("CAMPET"), which is registered to perform oilfield remediation and other services for Petroecuador. Cabrera failed to disclose these business interests as required by law. 

In his report, Cabrera absolves Petroecuador of any responsibility or remediation obligations associated with past or present oil operations despite its majority ownership of the Petroecuador-Texaco Petroleum consortium, which operated until mid-1992, and Petroecuador's sole ownership and operation of the former consortium fields for the past 18 years. Disregarding Ecuadorian media reports and other evidence showing that Petroecuador has spilled millions of gallons of oil since taking over exclusive ownership and operations in 1992, Cabrera exclusively attributes pollution in the Amazon region of Ecuador to Texaco Petroleum, now a fifth-tier subsidiary of Chevron. Cabrera's report says that Chevron, because it acquired Texaco Inc. in 2001, is solely liable for damages, citing grossly inflated remediation costs while ignoring Petroecuador's role in oil operations and its well-documented poor environmental performance. Cabrera's report also calls on Chevron to pay $375 million to update Petroecuador's oilfield equipment, which Petroecuador has for decades failed to properly maintain or replace. These findings make no sense as a matter of Ecuadorian law or common sense, but are consistent with furthering Petroecuador's interests, as well as Cabrera's own. 

After knowingly omitting to disclose his financial interest in CAMPET, as well as CAMPET's status as a registered Petroecuador contractor, Cabrera affirmatively misrepresented in court filings that he did not have any impediment or conflict that would affect his performance as an "independent" court-appointed witness. Cabrera violated the law by accepting his appointment, which required an explicit acknowledgment of public duties as an impartial analyst--an acknowledgment Cabrera could not truthfully have made given his financial interests. 

Chevron previously challenged Cabrera's lack of qualifications as well as the biased and baseless substance of his report. But Judge Juan Nuñez, who subsequently was disqualified for his involvement in a scheme to solicit bribes in connection with letting remediation contracts that were supposed to be funded with the proceeds of the judgment Cabrera recommended, inexplicably ignored those challenges, thus shielding Cabrera's work from scrutiny. Now that Cabrera's clear conflicts of interest are revealed, Chevron has demanded that the court strike his entire involvement in the case. 

"Mr. Cabrera has placed his own financial interests, as well as the interests of Petroecuador and the Amazon Defense Front, ahead of the interest of justice," Chevron's Pate added. "Today's disclosure further illustrates the illegitimacy of Mr. Cabrera's fictitious $27 billion recommendation. Taken into account with Mr. Cabrera's collusion with the plaintiffs' lawyers and representatives, it is clear that his report should have no bearing in the outcome of this trial."

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