An American lawyer used "corrupt means" to secure a multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron Corp in Ecuador, a U.S. judge ruled on Tuesday, handing the oil company a major victory following a six-week trial last year.
In a nearly 500-page decision, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said he had found "clear and convincing evidence" that attorney Steven Donziger's legal team bribed an Ecuadorean judge to issue an $18 billion judgment in 2011 in favor of a group of villagers. They had claimed Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992.
Ecuador's high court cut the judgment to $9.5 billion last year.
Kaplan's decision bars Donziger and the villagers from enforcing the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States and freezes all proceeds from the judgment. Kaplan's decision bars Donziger and the villagers from enforcing the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States and freezes all proceeds from the judgment.
Chevron had accused Donziger of fraud and said Texaco cleaned up the site before handing it over to a state-controlled entity.
Donziger, who had leveled accusations of bias against Kaplan repeatedly and predicted he would lose the case, did not immediately comment on the decision. A Chevron spokesman also did not immediately comment.