Colorado Firm Disavows Work on Behalf of Plaintiff in $19 Billion ‘Shakedown’ Lawsuit in Ecuador

Officials with Boulder, Colo.-based Stratus Consulting Inc. announced Thursday they had been misled by Steven Donziger, the lead attorney in the $19 billion “rainforest shakedown” lawsuit against Chevron.  The text of their stunning news release appears below:

CRUDE_Outtakes

Steven Donziger

Stratus Consulting Inc. announced today that Chevron has dismissed with prejudice the fraud and racketeering claims against Stratus and two of its employees that were initiated by Chevron Corp. on February 1, 2011 in the U.S. District Court of New York. Stratus is pleased that these claims have been fully and finally resolved.

Chevron Logo

Click to read Chevron’s News Release 4-12-2013.

Chevron’s lawsuit alleged racketeering and fraud claims against Steven Donziger, the Lago Agrio plaintiffs, Stratus, and others relating to the long-running environmental trial against Chevron in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. That trial resulted in an approximately $19 billion judgment against Chevron. Prior to the judgment, Stratus had been retained by Donziger, on behalf of the Lago Agrio plaintiffs, to serve as an environmental consultant. Stratus’s environmental consulting work for Donziger was used in a report submitted to the Ecuadorian court by the supposedly “independent” court expert Richard Cabrera as part of a process that Stratus has learned was tainted by Donziger and the Lago Agrio plaintiffs representatives’ “behind the scenes activities.”

Cabrera-Moncayo Photo“Stratus believes that the damages assessment in the Cabrera Report and the entire Cabrera process were fatally tainted and are not reliable. Stratus disavows the Cabrera Report, has agreed to cooperate fully and to provide testimony about the Ecuador litigation.”

“Stratus deeply regrets its involvement in the Ecuador litigation. We are delighted to have this matter behind us.”

Thursday’s news came almost 27 months after I published an exclusive story about Stratus Consulting’s role in the lawsuit and, in so doing, scooped The New York Times by 100 days.  Am I alone in thinking this news should serve as the proverbial “nail in the coffin” of the corruption-filled lawsuit against Chevron that began almost 20 years ago?  No.  The folks at BusinessWeek seem to have reached the same conclusion.

FYI:  I’ve written and published nearly 60 pieces related to this lawsuit since April 22, 2009.  Hopefully, this will be one of the last pieces I have to write.

UPDATE 4/12/2013 at 10:24 a.m. Central:  Chevron issued a news release this morning in which Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel, said, “We are pleased that Stratus came forward to reveal the truth.  We call on others with knowledge of the fraud tainting the trial in Ecuador to come forward and do the right thing.”  Read the rest of the news release here.

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Ecuadoran Judge Admits Being Bribed in Chevron Shakedown

It seems as if big developments in the case of “Chevron v. the Rainforest Scam Artists” are occurring every nine months.  Today is no exception.

Nine months after my last report, Chevron Continues Fighting Fraudulent Ecuador Lawsuit, I received news that a former Ecuadorian judge has acknowledged his direct involvement in orchestrating a fraudulent judgment against Chevron Corporation in the environmental trial against the company in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.  Not your ordinary legal judgment, this one was set to cost the San Ramon, Calif.-based oil giant $18 billion if allowed to proceed.

Here’s the “nuts and bolts” of today’s news:

In a sworn declaration filed today in New York federal court, Alberto Guerra, who presided over the case when it was first filed in 2003, reveals that he was paid thousands of dollars by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and a subsequent judge, Nicholas Zambrano, for illegally ghostwriting judicial orders issued by Zambrano and steering the case in the plaintiffs’ favor.  Guerra, who is no longer a judge, attests that the plaintiffs’ lawyers were permitted to draft the $18 billion judgment in their own favor after they promised to pay Zambrano a $500,000 bribe out of the judgment’s enforcement proceeds, and that Guerra then reviewed the plaintiffs’ lawyers draft for Zambrano before the judge issued it as his own.

Simply because he’s been in the news a lot lately for his idiotic position on gun ownership in the United States, I decided to revisit more than three-dozen posts I’ve published on this topic since April 22, 2009, and focus your attention on several in which I highlighted Gov. Mario Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) ties to this ugly litigation.  Dating back to his days as the Empire State’s attorney general, they appear below:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.)

Chevron Seeks Docs From Cuomo Administration – Chevron submitted to the office of the New York State Comptroller a request under New York’s Freedom of Information Law for documents regarding connections between the Comptroller’s office and plaintiffs’ representatives in the long-running lawsuit involving the oil giant in Ecuador.

Amazon Defense Coalition PR Hack Once Worked for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo – Yes, thanks to the capabilities of a well-known search engine, I was able to pinpoint the reason which then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo might be so interested in helping the Amazon Defense Coalition in its lawsuit against Chevron Corporation.

NY AG Cuomo Tries to ‘FOIL’ Blogger’s Efforts – In a May 28 Freedom of Information Law (a.k.a., “FOIL”) request filed with Cuomo’s office, I asked for “copies of all paper and electronic correspondence between Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and any and all representatives of the Amazon Defense Coalition with whom he communicated during the past 12 months.” Seven days later, I received a reply from Amy C. Karp, an assistant counsel in Cuomo’s office.  Karp informed me that “the Office of the Attorney General has conducted a diligent search and does not possess any records” of contact with representatives of ADC, the over-the-top-zealous group behind a $27 billion class-action lawsuit filed against the nation’s second-largest oil company 16 years ago.

NY Freedom of Information Law Put to Test – Barely three weeks after New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, sent an inflammatory and provocative letter to Chevron Corporation’s David J. O’Reilly, I sent a communication of my own. To Cuomo’s office.  That’s right, I decided to put the State of New York’s Freedom of Information Law (a.k.a., “FOIL”) to the test.

To read more about this latest development in the Chevron lawsuit in Ecuador, click here.

To read my coverage of the lawsuit against Chevron, click here.

"Three Days In August" Promotional PhotoBob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is coming soon was released May 2013.

Chevron Continues Fighting Fraudulent Ecuador Lawsuit

Nine months after I reported that the shakedown in the rain forest was nearing an end and more than a year after I scooped The New York Times with my report about Colorado-based Stratus Consulting‘s involvement in the fraudulent lawsuit being waged against Chevron Corporation in Ecuador, it appears the plaintiffs in the case have resorted to desperation in an effort to drag the case closer toward its 20th year of litigation.

Chevron issued the following statement Wednesday in response to media reports that the plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking to have an Ecuadoran court’s fraudulent $18 billion judgment against the company recognized and enforced in Canada:

“The Ecuador judgment is a product of bribery, fraud, and it is illegitimate.  The company does not believe that the Ecuador judgment is enforceable in any court that observes the rule of law.

“If the plaintiffs’ lawyers believed in the integrity of their judgment, they would be seeking enforcement in the United States – where Chevron Corporation resides.  In the U.S., however, the plaintiffs’ lawyers would be confronted by the fact that seven federal courts have already made findings under the crime/fraud doctrine about this scheme.

“Chevron will vigorously defend against any enforcement action.  Chevron will also continue to pursue relief against Ecuador in our pending arbitration and against the plaintiffs’ representatives in our RICO action pending in New York.”

The recently-released video below, from Chevron, offers a fair overview of the case.

If you’ve enjoyed the nearly six dozen posts I’ve published about the Chevron lawsuit in Ecuador since April 2009, you’ll want to pick up a copy of my first nonfiction book, “Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.” and get ready for my second book, “The CLAPPER MEMO,” due out this fall.

Video Sums Up ‘Fraudulent Case Against Chevron’

Almost one year ago, I published an exclusive post about how I had scooped The New York Times by 100 days with news about a Colorado company’s involvement in a mega-lawsuit related to Chevron Oil Company’s operations in Ecuador.  Though one of more than 50 posts I’ve written and published about the legal battle since April 2009, that post stands as one of only six pieces I’ve written during the past 12 months.

Now that my first book has been published and I have a bit more time available, I feel compelled to bring my readers up to speed about what has transpired in this case during the past six months.  The easiest way to do that is by sharing the video, The Fraudulent Case Against Chevron in Ecuador- An Introduction to Aguinda v. Chevron, above.

After watching this video, please share it with anyone you think might get a kick out of seeing trial lawyers apparently caught with their hands in the proverbial “cookie jar.”

Be sure to check out Bob McCarty’s new book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.

Do Residents Living Near Weldon Spring Site Deserve Compensation for Radiation Exposure?

Do residents living in neighborhoods near a former EPA Superfund site 30 miles west of St. Louis deserve compensation for being exposed to radioactive materials?  The answer to that question could very well be “Yes.”

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Located adjacent State Highway 94 in a once-rural section of St. Charles County, Mo., the Weldon Spring (Mo.) Site was contaminated during the production of 2, 4, 6 – trinitrotoluene (TNT) and 2, 4 and 2,6 Dinitrotoluene (DNT) by the U.S. Department of Army from 1941 to 1945.  It was the enrichment of uranium ore and thorium processing that took place from 1958 to 1966, however, that resulted in workers at the Atomic Energy Commission site being exposed to dangerously-high levels of radiation.  In 1987, the site made the list of the EPA’s most-hazardous properties.  NOTE:  More details about the site’s history, according to the DOE, can be found here.

The Weldon Spring Site has a lot in common with other trouble-filled sites under the purview of the federal government — in this case, the U.S. Department of Energy.  One is the Fernald Site 22 miles north of Cincinnati.

Though it operated on a smaller scale than its Show-Me State sister site, workers there are said to have performed largely the same tasks and, on occasion, handled overflow from Weldon Spring.

According to a report in The New York Times, those same workers were parties to a 1994 settlement with DOE that guarantees them lifetime benefits expected to cost the federal government at least $20 million.  Similarly, according to a news release April 4, workers at the Missouri site were parties to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor that has paid them more than $39 million in compensation to date.

When one compares how residents living near the two sites have fared, one finds Ohioans better off — at least financially — than their neighbors almost 400 miles to the west.

This sign greets visitors as they enter the complex surrounding the “rock pile” at the Weldon Spring Site.

In 1989, according to the same Times article, some 14,000 residents living near the Fernald Site reached a $78 million settlement with DOE.  Conversely, no lawsuits have been filed and no settlements have been reached on behalf of any of the tens of thousands of residents living near the Missouri site.

Though officials with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have, for more than three months, refused to answer questions about their controversial 2011 Weldon Spring Cancer Report and have done virtually nothing to inform the media or the public — not even the people living in five zip codes where leukemia and leukemia death rates were studied — about the findings of their report, I suspect personal-injury lawyers will find at least two statements in the report too tempting to pass up.

The first statement (below) echoes bureaucratic doublespeak:

Based on updated data from the 5-zip code area, the total number of leukemia deaths and the total number of leukemia deaths in those age 65 and older appears to be significantly higher than expected (Table 4 updated) but the actual leukemia death rates in the 5-zip code area were not significantly different from the statewide leukemia death rates (Table B).

The second statement (below) appears a short while later in the report and leaves one feeling perplexed:

Based on this analysis, we have concluded that there is no increased environmental risk of developing leukemia in the five ZIP-code area during 1996-2004 over that of the entire state.

Sadly, four out of five dentists who chew gum Missouri state legislators I contacted about the report seem inclined to ignore it completely, to discount it’s findings, to procrastinate about it and/or to simply shoot the messenger — me! — delivering questions about it.  Regardless of their predictable election-year reactions, the controversy is not likely to go away.

As I reported in an update following my attendance — as an observer, not a prospective client — at a litigant-recruitment meeting in St. Louis two months ago, the same group of New York City-based lawyers who represented first responders after 9/11 has already filed one lawsuit related to radiation exposure in the Coldwater Creek area of St. Louis.  In addition, they’ve dropped some super-sized hints about the possibility of even more lawsuits — perhaps involving residents living near the Weldon Spring Site!

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that those attorneys are holding their second Coldwater Creek “rainmaking session” Wednesday at 6 p.m. Central at the Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel.  The graphic at right holds the details.

CRASS COMMERCIAL MESSAGE:  Order a copy of my book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.

Coming Soon: Radiation Exposure-Related Lawsuits (UPDATE)

Radiation exposure-related lawsuits are likely to be filed soon, according to Marc J. Bern, senior partner at the New York City-based law firm, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik LLP., who spoke before a crowd of potential clients in St. Louis Thursday.

KMOV-TV Reporter Marc Cox interviews Edwardsville, Ill., attorney Christopher W. Byron following a meeting about radiation exposure-related lawsuits expected to be filed soon in the St. Louis area.

The venue was a 12th-floor meeting room at the Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel.  The time was 1 p.m. Central.  The event was billed as a “Town Hall Meeting” in the flyer circulated in advance on Facebook.  Everyone who attended received a folder containing information about nuclear contamination as well as a legal form via which they could become clients of Bern’s firm and/or Edwardsville, Ill.-based Byron Carlson Petri & Kalb, LLC, who co-hosted the meeting.

Based upon how Bern performed in front of a crowd of about six-dozen people (not including lawyers), the 60-ish attorney who said he’s been practicing law for more than three decades knows what buttons to push.

After being introduced by BCPK attorney Christopher W. Byron, Bern told the crowd he had brought with him a team of attorneys and noted that many of them had graduated from New York’s Pace Law School, an institution at which well-known environmental activist Bobby Kennedy Jr. serves as a professor of environmental law.  He wanted everyone in the room to know he thinks highly of their skills.

Next, Bern adeptly employed a full complement of persuasive words as he spoke about his firm’s broad-ranging knowledge and experience – much of it gained while representing 9-11 families and numerous others in high-profile lawsuits — and how his firm’s legal talents might be brought to bear against whomever was responsible for the human suffering in the Coldwater Creek area north of St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport.

A question-and-answer session of similar duration followed and, not surprisingly, Bern smoothly and easily answered a dozen or so questions that had been submitted during a short break by the potential clients in the room.

By the time the session ended, I knew lawsuits are on their way to St. Louis and will likely be focused on alleged victims of radiation exposure who live — or lived — in places like Florissant, Hazelwood and a half-dozen other communities.  Now, the St. Louis region needs to brace itself for what could turn into a protracted legal battle during which the words “radiation exposure” and “cancer” will likely be used often.

Also worth sharing is the report (above) filed by Marc Cox of KMOV-TV and broadcast this evening.

UPDATE 2/29/12 at 6:23 a.m. Central:  According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, the first lawsuit was filed Tuesday.

SEE ALSO:

Seventeen days ago, I shared my first report about how Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services officials refused to answer questions about a new Weldon Spring cancer report;

Fifteen days ago, radio talk show host Dana Loesch read that report and had me on The Dana Show to talk about it; and

Six days ago, I was contacted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s medical reporter, Blythe Bernhard, who said she had read my report and would be writing stories about the subject soon.

Click here to see all related stories.

Local News Outlets Interested in Weldon Spring

Eleven days after publishing an exclusive story about Missouri health agency officials refusing to answer questions or inform St. Charles County (Mo.) residents about a new Weldon Spring cancer report, it appears that story is beginning to attract attention from St. Louis-area news media outlets.

Click here to read related stories.

Yesterday, I received an email from Blythe Bernhard, medical reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  She wrote that she wanted to talk with me about the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ new report, known officially as the Analysis of Leukemia Incidence and Mortality Data for St. Charles County, Weldon Spring and Surrounding Areas December 2011 (Update to April 2005 Report) and unofficially as the “Weldon Spring Update” or “2011 Weldon Spring Cancer Inquiry Report.”

I called Bernhard at the phone number she had provided and, during the brief conversation that followed, she asked what concerned me most about the report.

Most importantly, I told her it wasn’t the report’s data as much as it was the ways in which MDHSS officials worded the report and failed to make its contents known to people living near the Weldon Spring Site, located in a once-rural area 30 miles west of St. Louis.

After admitting that I’m not a scientific expert, I pointed out the two seemingly-conflicting conclusions that appear in the report’s “Updated Analysis” section:

Based on updated data from the 5-zip code area, the total number of leukemia deaths and the total number of leukemia deaths in those age 65 and older appears to be significantly higher than expected (Table 4 updated) but the actual leukemia death rates in the 5-zip code area were not significantly different from the statewide leukemia death rates (Table B).

and

Based on this analysis, we have concluded that there is no increased environmental risk of developing leukemia in the five ZIP-code area during 1996-2004 over that of the entire state.

In addition, I told her agency officials’ refusal to answer simple questions about the report and their failure to make the report’s existence known to the public — especially to people living within the five zip codes targeted by the report — raised red flags in my mind and prompted me to want to learn more.

I also shared some of the feedback I had received from readers and made sure she knew that I could not confirm the accuracy of some of the tips I received without much more investigation.

Bernhard said she’s working on the story about which her report(s) should begin hitting as early as next week.

Worth noting is the fact that I was also contacted Jan. 26 by KMOV-TV‘s Brian Feldman.  Though he expressed interest in the story, I’ve found no evidence to date that the local CBS affiliate’s reporter has pursued it.

Also worth noting:  Near the end of my Jan. 23 story, I wrote that , “Though I could find no evidence of any mass tort lawsuits being filed by residents living near the Weldon Spring Site, the same source tells me a group of lawyers is studying that costly possibility.”  Today, however, I can report that another group of lawyers is holding two “Town Hall Meetings” Feb. 9, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., at the Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel.

The online flyer about the event — found on the Facebook page, Coldwater Creek – Just the facts Please — mentions Florissant, Hazelwood and a half-dozen other communities north of St. Louis, but makes no mention of any St. Charles County communities.  Still, I’m willing to bet those lawyers won’t turn anyone away from their “rainmaking” sessions.