Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Chevron P.R. Director Donald Samson Behind Secret Payments to Bloggers to Hide Ecuador Liability

Shareholders Increasingly Nervous About Possible $27 Billion Liability for Oil GiantMisinformation Posted by Zennie Abraham Paid For By Oil Giant

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

San Francisco, CA (March 31, 2009) -- Chevron public relations director Donald Samson is orchestrating secret payments to bloggers to make on-line postings attacking Ecuador’s courts for determining the oil giant might owe up to  $27 billion for the dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest, the Amazon Defense Coalition charged today.
The practice of paying bloggers for editorial content is considered highly unethical and Chevron shareholders should be aware company management engages in the practice to hide its actual financial risk in Ecuador, said Julio Prieto, a lawyer for the group, which represents 30,000 rainforest residents in the legal case.

“Paying so-called independent bloggers to post is just one part of a wide-ranging fraud designed by Chevron to cover up the company’s enormous exposure in Ecuador,” said Prieto.
Prieto said Samson, Chevron’s public relations director, has built an “empire” of consultants in the U.S. and Ecuador to put out misleading information about the case.  Chevron’s environmental problems in Ecuador have become the company’s largest worldwide public relations problem.

Samson has retained the New York office of the global public relations behemoth Hill & Knowlton -- the same firm that represented the tobacco industry for decades– to manage Chevron’s image problems stemming from the Ecuador case. 

Chevron is now claiming in Ecuador there is no link between oil contamination and cancer using the same form of junk science the tobacco industry used to deny the link between cigarette smoking and cancer, said Prieto.

Zennie Abraham, a blogger known as Zennie 62, has several postings on his site that parrot Chevron’s litigation strategy in the Ecuador case without disclosing payments he is receiving, said Prieto.  Abraham also posts pro-Chevron blogs on a human rights legal case stemming from the killing of Nigerian villagers protesting Chevron’s environmental practices.

“Zennie Abraham’s postings on the Ecuador litigation are grossly one-sided, ill-informed, and favorable to Chevron,” said Prieto. 

“We are putting Samson on notice that he can longer propagate misinformation from the shadows using people like Zennie Abraham,” added Prieto. 

In 2008, Amazon Watch disclosed that Chevron was paying another Bay Area blogger, Pat Murphy, to post pro-Chevron comments on the Ecuador case in his small online newspaper.  Murphy has publicly acknowledged he accepted fees for control of editorial content.

Both Murphy and Abraham have close ties to Sam Singer, a public relations consultant in San Francisco who has been retained by Chevron.  Prieto said Singer acts as a “corporate hit man” for Chevron and that his public relations firm might pay bloggers for the company.

“Singer is an unabashed Chevron mercenary,” said Prieto.  “It can be a lucrative business if you’re willing to  accept fees to cover up the dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste.”
The Ecuador lawsuit seeks damages for the systematic dumping of more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and the clean-up of 916 waste pits gouged out of the jungle floor.  The pollution occurred between  1964 to 1990, when Texaco (now Chevron) was the exclusive operator of a large oil concession in an area of Ecuador’s rainforest roughly the size of Rhode Island.

A final decision on the $27 billion damages claim is expected later this year.