As noted previously this week, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan shot down a $9.5 billion (reported in some news accounts as $6 billion) judgment against Chevron for allegedly bespoiling Ecuadorian wilderness in cahoots with PetroEcuador. Judge Kaplan exonerated Chevron, and had some particularly nasty things to say about Steven Donziger, the attorney who sued the oil company for $113 billion.
I pointed out that Donziger’s since-discredited claims were taken up quickly by religious shareholder activists, many who submitted resolutions requesting that Chevron concede to Donziger’s extortion. Attach the “environmental disaster” epithet to any given legal claim and some leftists will buy it at face value. Mother Superior jumped the gun – before waiting for the courts to determine if Chevron would be exonerated. Indeed, Donziger’s charges were found without merit – as well as completely fraudulent, and the initial judgment rendered by the Ecuadorian court was found to have resulted from bribery, coercion and a vast public relations conspiracy consisting of half-truths, lies and bald-faced lies.
The Wall Street Journal editorialized:
In a 485-page opinion, the judge called the case “extraordinary,” calling the actions of Mr. Donziger and his legal team “offensive to the laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including Ecuador.” The corrupt extortion was intended to “instill fear of a catastrophic outcome in order to increase the amount Chevron would pay to avoid the worst,” Judge Kaplan wrote.
But the Mothers Superior of Trillium Asset Management, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Boston Common Asset Management, Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church, Catholic Health Care Partners and The Society of Jesus-Wisconsin Province scrambled helter-skelter to condemn Chevron from the get-go. Perhaps they’d do well heeding these words from the WSJ moving forward:
Chevron refused to give in, and now the case may serve as an example of how companies can fight back if they have the nerve and the cash. Mr. Donziger says he’ll appeal, but on the factual record he stands discredited. Another worthy casualty may be financially strapped Washington law firm Patton Boggs, which got involved on behalf of Burford Capital’s effort to provide litigation financing to the plaintiffs. Tuesday’s opinion means the firm won’t collect any plunder, which couldn’t happen to a nicer crowd.
Mr. Donziger is a pioneer of the foreign environmental tort, trying to exploit Third World juries to bleed U.S. companies regardless of the merits. We’re glad to see his dishonesty face American justice.
However, there exists no evidence thus far that any of the above shareholder groups exhibit any remorse over their ill-considered campaign against Chevron. Nor does it seem likely they’ll wait in the future before flogging a company in which they invest to the detriment of their own interests as well as those of fellow shareholders and the millions of customers worldwide benefiting from the goods and services of publicly owned companies.