FOLEY SQUARE, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - Patton Boggs LLP has agreed to pay $15 million to Chevron Corporation in a lawsuit over the firm's involvement in obtaining a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in Ecuador.
Patton Boggs has agreed to pay Chevron $15 million, issue a statement of regret and withdraw from the Ecuador case, according to a settlement document filed May 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
"We are pleased that Patton Boggs is ending its association with the fraudulent and extortionate Ecuador litigation scheme," said Hewitt Pate, Chevron's vice president and general counsel, in a statement.
Pate also said in the statement that Chevron detailed its objections to Patton Boggs' conduct in its counterclaim, and today's agreement brings that litigation to an end.
"Chevron encourages others to disassociate themselves from this fraud," Pate said.
The villagers of the Ecuadorian Rainforest and Steven R. Donziger released a joint statement regarding the settlement.
The villagers said they were exploring their legal options against the law firm to prevent it from further violating its ethical duties by turning over privileged documents to the oil company.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms Chevron's continuing campaign of extortion and intimidation to retaliate against rainforest villagers for holding it accountable for its environmental crimes in the courts of Ecuador, where Chevron chose to hold the trial and promised to accept jurisdiction," the statement read.
Patton Boggs is now the latest victim of Chevron's campaign of intimidation, which will not deter the communities and the many lawyers who work on their behalf who are fighting for justice in Ecuador on behalf of indigenous and farmer communities, according to the statement.
"Once again, the American legal system has failed the Ecuadorian rainforest communities who now have been whipsawed by Chevron in various courts for two decades, with little end in sight," the statement continued. "We wish to thank the many dedicated attorneys at Patton Boggs who fought long and hard against Chevron on behalf of the company's many victims. We also wish to thank our friends inside Patton Boggs who internally opposed this settlement agreement and fought against this sad and unethical betrayal of their clients."
The firm's overall decision to surrender to Chevron's pressure campaign is a violation of its ethical duty to its clients, in this case the vulnerable rainforest communities of Ecuador who have suffered for decades, according to the statement.
On March 4, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled Donziger resorted to bribery and fraud in procuring the Chevron judgment in Ecuador that held the oil company liable for polluting the Amazon rain forest. Donziger has appealed the judge's findings.
Kaplan's ruling "includes a number of factual findings about matters which would have materially affected our firm's decision to become involved and stay involved as counsel," according to a statement released today by Patton Boggs. "Patton Boggs regrets its involvement in this matter."
On April 29, Kaplan threw out Patton Boggs's claim that Chevron maliciously sued the firm for pursuing collection of the judgment.
The law firm, which provided as much as $15 million to finance the Ecuadoran litigation, had sought access to $21.8 million Chevron had been ordered to post as a bond.
Chevron operated in Ecuador's Amazon from 1964 to 1992 under the Texaco brand.
Since 1993, lawyers representing local residents have sought to force Chevron and Texaco to clean up the area and to provide for the care of those allegedly affected.
The Ecuadorians have also sued Chevron in Brazil, Argentina and Canada, where the company has assets that can be seized.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled in December that the 47 villagers have the right to pursue Chevron's Canada assets. The other cases are pending.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York case number: 1:12-cv-09176
From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at email@example.com.