Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Chevron Misleads U.S. Courts with Inaccurate Translation in Multi-Billion Dollar Ecuador Contamination Lawsuit

Gibson Dunn's Aggressive Legal Strategy Backfires In Federal Court

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

Chevron has been submitting an inaccurate and misleading translation to U.S. federal courts as part of its effort to evade liability in the multi-billion dollar Ecuador environmental lawsuit, according to court papers filed recently.

Chevron's lawyers at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, who recently took over the Ecuador litigation for the company, submitted a highly misleading and inaccurate translation of lead Ecuadorian attorney Pablo Fajardo describing the role of court-appointed expert Richard Cabrera. Attacking Cabrera, who in 2008 submitted a damages assessment against Chevron of $27 billion, has been the centerpiece of the oil giant's strategy to discredit the Ecuadorian judicial system to defeat enforcement of an expected adverse judgment.

Gibson Dunn brags on its website that its litigators in the Ecuador case have been described by American Lawyer magazine as the "Game Changers"; the firm notes that "clients in deep trouble turn to Gibson Dunn for fresh, aggressive thinking and innovative rescues."

In a brief filed on Sept. 28 by representatives of the Amazonian communities in federal courts in New York and elsewhere, the plaintiffs blast Chevron for its erroneous translation of comments made by Fajardo. According to Chevron's translation of a 2007 meeting, Fajardo told a group of scientists in Quito that Cabrera would simply "sign the report and review it."

According to an accurate translation of the exchange, Fajardo actually said that what Cabrera WILL WRITE "ALL" OF THE REPORT AND "will...give his criteria...right...his opinion, and sign the report, and review as well."

Chevron also excluded from its court submission the contemporaneous translation of Fajardo during the meeting, which verifies that Chevron's translation was manipulated.

"What Fajardo actually said in the meeting is radically different from what Chevron claimed he said via its bogus translation," said Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the communities. "Once again, Chevron is misrepresenting facts to courts around the country in support of its contrived 'fraud' narrative."

"When the facts don't fit the contrived narrative, Chevron's lawyers seem content to just make them up," she added.

Chevron has claimed to U.S. courts that ex parte contacts with experts in Ecuador is illegal, when in fact the practice was commonly used by both parties and sanctioned by the court, said Hinton. Lawyers on both sides of the dispute were invited by the court to provide materials to Cabrera and other experts; Cabrera and these other experts adopted some of the materials provided by the parties.

The plaintiffs also have submitted evidence that Chevron's lawyers, on a regular basis, met ex parte with judges overseeing the trial.

This is not the first time that Chevron has manipulated the meaning of translations for legal or public relations purposes.

In 2009, Chevron accused the Ecuadorian judge then presiding over the case of saying an appeal by Chevron of an adverse decision would only be a "formality" when what he actually said was the parties would have to observe the "formalities" of the appeals process. Chevron then used the misleading translation to claim to the media that the judge had "fixed" the trial.

So far this year Chevron has sought to depose 23 persons in the U.S. associated with the Ecuador case, including two lawyers who have represented the plaintiffs.

Chevron's strategy of using U.S. discovery rules to harass the Amazonian communities in Ecuador – termed "abusive litigation" by the plaintiffs -- has not gone unnoticed. One U.S. federal magistrate judge recently ruled that Chevron's discovery strategy is "spiraling out of control" and is an attempt to circumvent the rules of Ecuador's courts, where Chevron had the trial moved after it was originally filed in U.S. federal court in 1993.