Chevron seeks prejudgment attachment in RICO case

Jessica M. Karmasek Nov. 30, 2011, 3:00pm


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - Chevron Corp. on Tuesday filed a motion for attachment, seeking to prevent the Ecuadorian plaintiffs suing the company from collecting any monies based on what it describes as a "fraudulent judgment that they have obtained through collusion with a corrupt Ecuadorian court."

Chevron's 36-page motion relates to its fraud and RICO claims against the Ecuadorian plaintiffs.

In February, an Ecuadorian court found Chevron liable for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, causing an outbreak of disease and decimating indigenous groups. Damages were found to be up to $18 billion.

Chevron, which has vowed never to pay the judgment, then filed a racketeering lawsuit, alleging that the Ecuador suit has been used to threaten the oil company, mislead U.S. government officials, and harass and intimidate its employees -- all to extort a financial settlement from the company.

In March, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the judgment.

In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered that the injunction be vacated.

The Second Circuit also stayed a trial that was scheduled for this month by Kaplan that Chevron sought on the enforceability of the judgment.

Chevron is now arguing that it is likely to prevail on its RICO, fraud and other common law claims.

"Indeed, this Court already has credited the 'ample evidence' that Chevron presented at the outset of this case to establish its probability of success in proving that Defendants engaged in fraud and other tortious conduct," the company's lawyers wrote in its motion.

The company contends that if the Ecuadorians had a "legitimate judgment they believed could withstand honest judicial scrutiny," they would have welcomed the opportunity to litigate in U.S. federal court, "in the sole country where Chevron Corp. is present and has assets to satisfy a judgment."

"But since they fear further exposure and adjudication of their corrupt practices, they are scheming to enforce the fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment in foreign jurisdictions where they, their counsel and their other conspirators have influence -- against separate Chevron affiliates with no connection to the Ecuadorian claims at issue -- and to convert alleged future interests in the fraudulent judgment into present cash while keeping any proceeds out of this Court's reach," it wrote.

To ensure that the Ecuadorians are not able to render Chevron's RICO and common law claims a "practical nullity" by dispersing their assets before trial, the company is seeking prejudgment attachment of their assets, in particular their alleged "interests" in the fraudulent judgment against Chevron.

In September, following the Second Circuit's order, the company said it remained committed to its "consistent goal" -- that is, obtaining judicial review on the merits of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' lawyers' fraud before they are allowed to attempt enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment.

At the time, Chevron said it also remained "confident" that once the full facts are examined, the judgment will be found unenforceable and those who procured it will be required to answer for their misconduct.

"There is no legitimate evidence supporting any finding of liability against Chevron because Texaco Petroleum Company cleaned up its share of environmental impacts in Ecuador and the remaining impacts are the responsibility of the government of Ecuador and its state-owned oil company, Petroecuador," the company said in a statement.

Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson said Tuesday that the company is still awaiting the opinion of the Second Circuit with respect to the enforceability of the judgment.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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