Chevron can bring claims against Patton Boggs, federal judge rules


A multibillion-dollar judgment over environmental damage to the Ecuadoran Amazon is at the heart of the case. (Dominic Bracco II/Prime)

A New York federal judge ruled that Chevron can pursue claims against Patton Boggs for allegedly committing fraud while trying to enforce a multibillion-dollar judgment in a marathon case over environmental damage in the Ecuadoran Amazon.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said Chevron could sue Patton Boggs for fraud, malicious prosecution and making false statements to the New York court during the titanic legal battle between the U.S. oil giant and one of Washington’s most prestigious law and lobbying firms.

“We look forward to litigating Chevron’s counterclaim against Patton Boggs and holding that firm accountable for its role in trying to enforce this travesty of justice in Ecuador,” said Randy Mastro, Chevron’s outside counsel and a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Patton Boggs issued a statement saying the charges “are baseless and unlikely ever to proceed to litigation on the merits.” The statement added that the firm believes it “acted ethically and properly in assisting these communities” in Ecuador.

Mastro did not say what amount Chevron would claim in damages against Patton Boggs, but Kaplan said it could seek compensatory and punitive damages.

On March 18, in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations case it recently won, Chevron filed an application for $32.3 million in damages from Steven Donziger, the lawyer who has pursued the environmental case against the energy company for two decades. That amount would cover 36,837 hours billed by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and 139,747 hours billed by the Huron Consulting Group and Merrill Communications.

Chevron said the $32.3 million covered only a very “limited” amount of the time and effort it had expended on the case. It could also seek compensation for litigation in other states and countries.

The ruling, though expected, adds to challenges at Patton Boggs, which is in merger talks with the firm Squire Sanders.

Steven Mufson covers energy and other financial news.
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