Attorney Steven Donziger was the toast of Hollywood, environmentalists, and activists for bringing a case against Texaco (now Chevron) for what he termed an “Amazon Chernobyl” of pollution caused by the oil company in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. He won a $19 billion verdict against Texaco in Ecuador (meanwhile PetroEcuador, the true cause of the environmental damage and subsequent oil spills, has managed to emerge without a single fine, lawsuit, or protest against it).
Donziger attracted Hollywood stars like Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Darryl Hanna, to his side. Rockstar Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, left-wing journalist Eva Golinger, and Mick Jagger’s ex-wife Bianca Jagger all joined the chorus that Donziger was a saint and Chevron was a sinner–and that reparations in the billions of dollars must be paid by the oil company for its alleged role in polluting the Amazon river.
But, as they say, that was then, this is now: Donziger was exposed in an American courtroom and found guilty of creating a RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization) fraud, using extortion, bribery, and faked evidence all in a scheme to wrongfully blame Chevron, so he and investors in his lawsuit against Texaco/Chevron could enjoy billions in ill-gotten litigation gains.
Not only did Hollywood and stars like Sting get stung, but Hollywood film-maker Joe Berlinger, who produced a movie Crude: the Real Price of Oil was exposed as a shill and a patsy for Donziger’s legal case. Courtroom evidence revealed that Berlinger’s “Crude” movie, which appeared to be a documentary, was in fact wholly paid for by Donziger and his investors to apply pressure against the oil company to settle the case.
One would imagine that after being exposed as a fraud, Donziger would quietly give up, take whatever money he had and move to some small cabin in a forest or an unnamed atoll somewhere in the Pacific. But, no. Donziger likes to double-down when he is caught in a lie.
But doubling-down isn’t turning out well for him. Or for his “supporters.”
Donziger’s hubris is exposing how activists and environmentalists from rockstars to AmazonWatch from Reuters news reporters to toady “journalists” like Maduro-apologist Eva Golinger were all getting some of the action—meaning they were either paid directly by Donziger for their “support” or they have been promised a piece of the action if Donziger ever wins a dime.
Fascinatingly, Donziger doesn’t have a single major supporter who isn’t on his payroll or who hasn’t been promised money.
The court document provides evidence that Donziger, the lead attorney in the Ecuador environmental litigation against Chevron, continues to personally profit from the legal case in violation of the RICO judgment against him.
N.Y. Judge Lewis Kaplan unsealed a motion recently that had previously been redacted. The document reveals that Donziger, in the post the RICO judgment in the 2nd District Court of New York against him, has raised at least $2.4 million (for a total of $40 million) and at diverted at least $1.5 million into his and his wife’s bank accounts.
The new information shows Donziger’s distain for the alleged Ecuadorian clients that he represents as none of the funds have gone to them; instead the money has gone directly into Donziger’s personal bank accounts and to pay for public relations and lobbying activities to support his fraudulent lawsuit.
Chevron’s latest allegations are that Donziger has engaged in obstruction of justice, money laundering, extortionate actions against the company, payments to Hollywood celebrities, and has paid for a Canadian event and its participants to continue to apply pressure on Canadian courts to rule in Donziger’s favor.
As reporter Kevin D. Williamson writes: Keeping in mind that this is Chevron’s view of the case, not that of the court, it is worth quoting at length not for its analysis but for its assertions of fact from Chevron’s filing:
Donziger paid a phalanx of activists and journalists to produce inflammatory media coverage against Chevron.
Rex Weyler, a Greenpeace activist who wrote a blog post titled “Chevron’s Amazon Chernobyl Case moves to Canada,” was paid over $15,000.
Canadian indigenous activist Phil Fontaine, who claimed in a statement to the media that Chevron “must be held accountable” for “devastating, and shocking” environmental harm, received an interest in the Ecuadorian judgment. Donziger also planned to give Canadian indigenous activist Ed John an equity interest in the Ecuadorian judgment.
Venezuelan-American activist Eva Golinger, who participated in the “dirty hand of Chevron” campaign orchestrated by Ecuador and the [plaintiffs], received a 0.125% interest in the Ecuadorian judgment.
Another prominent public supporter of Donziger’s media campaign is Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who also has an undisclosed interest in the Ecuadorian judgment.
Kevin Koenig, a senior strategist with Amazon Watch, who attended Chevron’s shareholder meeting and contributed to the hostile media coverage surrounding it, was also paid thousands of dollars by Donziger.
Donziger budgeted $1,500 per month — later marked up to $2,500 — for public relations, including $500 per month for Reuters’ reporter Cristina Munoz.
Karen Hinton, long-time spokesperson for Donziger’s team and an “important actor in the pressure campaign” received a 0.125% interest in the Ecuadorian judgment on January 11, 2017. Hinton regularly issues press releases under her name that Donziger has written or heavily edited.
Press releases issued by Donziger’s team have also quoted Patricio Salazar and Aaron Page, both of whom have recently received interests in the Ecuadorian judgment. (Salazar and Page each held a 0.25% interest in the Judgment).
Page, who also participated in preparing press releases and preparing investment agreements, was also paid nearly $100,000 in cash (to himself or his firm, Forum Nobis) out of Donziger’s accounts based on invoices bereft of detail, including to the $50,000 kickback he received after transferring the balance of the CWP account to Donziger.
Donziger touted these false press releases — which, like “neutral” expert Richard Cabrera, he bought and paid for — to investors as evidence of “Chevron starting to feel serious pressure.” (“Steven frequently sent his press releases to investors and potential investors, and had me do the same.”).
A “key part” of Donziger’s current “out-of-court strategy” is an Indigenous Rights conference in Alberta, Canada, organized by University of Calgary professor Kathleen Mahoney (the wife of Phil Fontaine, who holds a 0.175% interest in the judgment) that is scheduled to be held in November 2018. Mahoney wrote to Donziger that she believed that she could organize a conference that would “bring significant pressure to bear on Chevron to come to the table” but would need “some significant funding to pull it off.”
Donziger agreed that the conference would “put enormous pressure on Chevron to come to table if executed well,” and arranged funding for the conference.
Donziger authorized payment of a deposit of $50,000 and budgeted $200,000 for the conference even as Canadian counsel were representing to the court that their clients lacked funds for court costs.
The above-mentioned Karen Hinton is a former aide to Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic National Committee, and later went to work as New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary. She wrote pieces on the controversy for the Huffington Post and Politico.
A very interesting article in the Miami Herald described how Vanity Fair’s reporting on the case was corrupted — Donziger even apologized to contributor William Langewiesche for being “a little aggressive in the editing.” Langewiesche denies any journalistic malpractice.
Regarding the budgeting of money for Munoz, a Reuters spokesman writes: “This has just been brought to our attention and we [are] looking into it.”
Chevron wants the court to find Donziger in contempt because he “willfully and repeatedly has violated the RICO injunction, monetizing and profiting from the fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment by selling, assigning, pledging, transferring, and encumbering interests therein.” The court is considering its claims.
Roger Waters, the rock musician, has denounced Chevron for its “greed,” complaining that it is “disquietingly apparent that the rich and powerful are still much attached to the feathering of their own nests at any cost to others.” Well. Documents submitted to the court show “George R. Waters” taking two equity positions in the case, one for 0.076 percent and 0.025 percent
As Eric Hoffer’s proverb goes: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” But this case began as a racket and then became a movement. There are many good-faith environmentalists in the world. These are not they. But that has not stopped progressive activists and their media allies from enabling this multi-billion-dollar extortion attempt — an attempt in which many of them had, and have, a financial interest of their own.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media