Among the recent highlights from Chevron’s battle with Patton Boggs:
●Chevron says in court filings that Patton Boggs knew early on that a key report about environmental damage in Ecuador was false and that it had hired a U.S. consulting firm to, as one Patton Boggs lawyer put it in an e-mail, “cleanse” the report by providing a new study.
●Another U.S. consulting firm that worked for the Ecuadoran plaintiffs recently disavowed its own assessments and, in a settlement with Chevron, called the process of calculating damages “tainted.”
●A hedge fund that invests in complex litigation in return for a stake in any eventual settlement or damage awards, and which gave $4 million to cover the fees that Patton Boggs was charging the Ecuadorans, said in an April affidavit that “the representations that Patton Boggs made to us . . . during our diligence process were false and misleading.”
Patton Boggs denies all of these allegations, calling the hedge fund’s affidavit “a sham” and “apropos of nothing, other than spinning a seedy narrative.” It adds that the environmental consulting firm renounced its work under pressure from Chevron, which it says had been trying to destroy the consultants’ business by writing disparaging letters to its other clients. And it says that Chevron has deployed lawyers and public relations experts to distract attention from its liability for the waste in Ecuador.
“You would think it would be difficult for an oil company that contaminated a Rhode Island-size swath of the Amazon to portray its opponents as brigands and pirates,” Tyrrell said in an interview. “They’ve obviously spent untold millions of dollars to change the story.”
“It sounds like very ugly litigation,” said Geoffrey Hazard, a professor specializing in ethics at San Francisco’s Hastings College of Law. “Patton Boggs is a firm of recognized standing. This is accusing them of fraud, and that’s going to be bitterly fought.” (Hazard has advised the hedge fund on unrelated matters.)
How long could this struggle go on? Consider: Chevron has fought in court for two decades against the Ecuadorans’ New York lawyer Steven Donziger, a determined solo practitioner who turned their case into a cause celebre and whom Chevron is now accusing of racketeering.
The legal battle — waged in dozens of courts in six countries — could drag on for years.
That’s going to take money. Chevron’s pockets are deep; it has a market capitalization of $230 billion. It is now spending $250 million a year on the case, by Tyrrell’s estimates. Chevron would not disclose its legal costs. A Chevron exhibit filed in New York said that the company has used as many as 2,000 lawyers, legal aides and investigators from about 60 firms, including 114 from Gibson Dunn and 98 from Kroll.