Chevron Ecuador’s Steven Donziger Is Like Elizabeth Holmes Of Theranos Fraud – Donziger Admitted Scheme Was To “Make F-King Money”
Disbarred attorney Steven Donziger will be sentenced Friday, Oct. 1, for criminal contempt by United States District Judge Loretta Preska in a New York courtroom. Donziger faces six months’ imprisonment.
How We Got Here With Steven Donziger, Chevron, and Ecuador
That is the latest episode in a legal saga that extends back to 1993, when a then-youthful trail lawyer named Steven Donziger saw a way to make that “f-king money” by accusing Texaco of not doing its part in environmental cleanup of lands the oil company used in partnership with Ecuador’s state-owned Petroecuador Oil Company. Donziger’s claim was that he and his legal team were working on behalf of 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians, but the truth was the people he claimed to help had no idea who he was or what he was doing. Meanwhile Texaco started and completed its environmental cleanup in 1998, and then left Ecuador.
With that, Donziger and team never once filed a lawsuit against Petroecuador, even though it eventually became the majority-owner of the Texaco / Petroecuador partnership called TexPet by 1992 – one year before Donziger’s initial legal action.
Steven pressed on, continuing to build his legal strategy and relationships in Ecuador, and eventually found an ally in the leftist regime of then-new Ecuador President Rafael Correa, in 2006. In becoming buddy-buddy with Correa, Donziger set for himself and his team a place where they could launch doctored environmental studies and even fashion their own legal judgment against Chevron. In 2008, I first pointed out Donizger’s desire to get rich from the legal attack, and why:
Eventually, Donziger’s strategy worked and in 2009, an Ecuador Court handed down a $19 billion judgement against Chevron, which was then reduced to $9.5 billion. The climate that produced the outcome was shady, but no evidence was available until outtakes from a movie called CRUDE were made available to Chevron, and eventually the public. The movie was a purely ego-driven product marked with a number of examples of Donziger openly bragging about what a lawyer could get away with doing in Ecuador, from intimidating and bribing judges to ghost-writing the $19 billion judgement. In other words, CRUDE revealed the existence of a corrupt organization, and that led to Donziger’s legal battle against Chevron’s initial claims of fraud in the form of R.I.C.O violations in 2011.
In 2014 Chevron prevailed, the judge barred enforcement of the $9.5 billion judgment. Donziger, faced with an American judge he could not bribe or control, treated New York Judge Lewis A. Kaplan with complete disrespect, and refusing to follow Kaplan’s order in turning over evidence associated with his fraud against Chevron. That led to a string of legal challenges around the matter of Donziger’s contempt of court, and which were resolved on July 26th, when US District Court Judge Loretta Preska ruled that Donziger was guilty of six contempt charges brought against him.
In fighting that court battle against the original ruling of contempt, Donziger was already under house arrest for 600 days. He used that punishment to call in any sympathetic ear he could draw to help him tell his story of an abusive jailing at home that took his freedom away. Now, the question is, what will Donziger’s punishment be, since he lost the case July 26th?
As detailed in Michael Krauss’ Forbes story this week, Donziger has received a litany of letters of support seeking leniency for the disgraced Harvard lawyer who bribed an Ecuadorian judge, faked and tampered with evidence, laundered money, and committed other crimes as part of a massive fraud against Chevron in Ecuador.
The “amicus briefs” submitted on his behalf, including one from fraud co-conspirator Amazon Watch, all argue that Donziger should be sentenced to “time served,” even though, as Krauss notes, Donziger has not served any time. Instead, “he has been confined to his home, from which he has requested and obtained leave to depart on several occasions for family obligations, employment, attorney visits, religious services, medical appointments, and other activities approved by his Pretrial Services Officer.”
Many of the supportive letters describe Donziger’s altruistic motives in the fraud he committed against Chevron and its shareholders. Some even make him out to be like Mother Theresa, claiming that he committed his crimes against an oil company to help poor Ecuadorian villagers.
But the reality is far different. Steven Donziger is no different than Elizabeth Holmes of the
Theranos fraud. Just like Ms. Holmes, Donziger has never admitted his fraud, but a rarely seen
outtake from the discredited Hollywood movie, “Crude: The Real Price of Oil” produced as part
of the Ecuador fraud shows the real reason behind his scam against chevron in Ecuador is “To
Make F**king Money.”
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