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The Ecuador Court Affirms The $18 Billion Ruling Against Chevron
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On Tuesday, the first-level appeal court in Ecuador, also known as the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios, upheld a lower court’s $18 billion judgment against Chevron for destroying a large portion of the Amazon rainforest through its historical oil operations, and by contaminating everything. Does this ruling mean that Chevron and the Ecuadorian plaintiffs are finally going to settle, as Patrick Radder Keefe suggested in The New Yorker back on Wednesday?

As it has become quite typical in the 18-year saga, the opposing camps issued a dueling press release on the latest development.


The Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ representative, Karen Hinton, hailed the decision as a ”confirmation of Chevron’s extraordinary greed and criminal misconduct in Ecuador.” The ruling, said Hinton, ”is based on overwhelming scientific evidence presented at trial that proved Chevron deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste that poisoned the water supply of the Amazon rainforest, destroying indigenous groups and causing a major outbreak of cancers and other diseases that are continually threatening thousands of innocent lives.”

On the other hand, the Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson cited the ruling as further proof of the company’s core contention that the Ecuadorian courts can’t be trusted to reach a fair conclusion in the case. ”Today’s decision is another glaring example of the politicization and corruption of Ecuador’s judiciary that has plagued this fraudulent case from the start,” said Robertson.
The statements from both sides barely suggested that the peace talks are about to get going. But even if the statements are no more than boilerplate rhetoric, there are other reasons to be skeptical about The New Yorker’s settlement theory.

Reefe had noted that ”Chevron has one final appeal in Ecuador, to the country’s Supreme Court.” But, he continues on, ”to proceed with that appeal and stop the plaintiffs from trying to collect on the judgment in the meantime, Chevron would have to post a multi-billion dollar bond, which, given its jaundiced view of the rule of law in Ecuador, it seems unlikely to do.”

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The first flaw with Reefe’s analysis is to take for granted that there is an appeal bond requirement. Chevron’s Robertson stated that, on Chevron’s interpretation of Ecuadorian law, an appeal on the bond is not necessary. Even Pablo Fajardo, who is the lead Ecuadorian lawyer for the plaintiffs, stated that only Chevron ”might first be required to post a bond.”

The reality is more likely that no one really knows what the Ecuadorian law is on this point. That may mean that in practice, the Ecuadorian court can just make it up as it goes on. The parties will submit requests for clarification of the ruling by week’s end, and when the court rules on those clarifications, most likely within the next few weeks, it is either going to demand a bond or not. If the court ultimately does end up demand an appeal bond, then there is a strong enough case that Chevron is going to refuse. Then the judgment would most likely become final and enforceable.


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