* Chevron filed for arbitration in 2009, first ruling in
* Ecuador court found Chevron liable for $19 bln in damages
* Ecuadorean plaintiffs seek enforcement in Canada,
* Ecuadoreans sued over pollution of rain forest in 1993
By Braden Reddall
STANFORD, Calif., Feb 8 An international
tribunal weighing in on Chevron Corp's long-running
legal dispute over pollution in Ecuador has found the country in
violation of past orders to try to prevent enforcement of a
contested $19 billion judgment against the company.
Formed via The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration under
the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, the
panel is hearing a case brought by Chevron to determine whether
Ecuador violated a treaty with the United States requiring it to
ensure the company gets a fair trial.
The ruling - posted online by Chevron on Friday - comes a year after the tribunal reinforced its 2011
finding on enforcement suspension. The panel will consider all
the case's issues next year.
An Ecuadorean court first ruled against Chevron in February
2011. That was a decade after Chevron bought Texaco, and 18
years after Texaco was accused in a New York court of polluting
the Ecuadorean rain forest and sickening people there. After
Texaco argued for it, the case was moved to Ecuador.
Ecuador's attorney general contends the three-person
arbitration tribunal has no jurisdiction because the bilateral
trade agreement went into effect five years after Texaco ended
operations in Ecuador in 1992. The attorney general was not
available for comment on Friday.
In its Feb. 7 ruling, the tribunal cited the legal actions
of the rain forest plaintiffs in Argentina, Canada and Brazil to
collect on the $19 billion award made by the Lago Agrio court in
Ecuador, or the "Respondent." These actions were made because
Chevron - the "Claimants" - no longer has assets in the country.
"From its perspective under international law, this Tribunal
is the only tribunal with the power to restrain the Respondent
generally from aggravating the Parties' dispute and causing
irreparable harm to the Claimants in regard to the enforcement
and execution of the Lago Agrio Judgment," the panel said.
Chevron said in a statement that the tribunal would next
consider compensation and whether Ecuador should pay for any
enforcement-related damages that the company has incurred.
The case has many strands. Chevron says it uncovered through
U.S. courts evidence of fraud by lawyers for the Ecuadorean
plaintiffs, which the lawyers deny. The second-largest U.S. oil
company is pursuing racketeering and fraud charges against them,
in a case due to go to trial in New York in October.
But at a day-long symposium on the two decades of litigation
hosted by Stanford Law School, Graham Erion, who works for the
plaintiffs on the enforcement action, said the case had entered
a new and decisive phase. He cited an infamous Chevron statement
about fighting the case "until Hell freezes over."
"I'm from Canada. I know what ice looks like," he said.
"We're on the ice right now, and that's where this case is being
A court in Argentina last week upheld a freeze on Chevron
assets there related to the enforcement efforts.
In expectation of this global battle, Chevron filed for the
arbitration in September 2009. The panel includes a
Chevron-named member, Horacio Grigera Naon of the American
University law college, one named by Ecuador, Oxford Professor
Vaughan Lowe, and London lawyer V.V. Veeder, chosen by the other
The U.S. fraud and racketeering case is Chevron Corp v.
Steven Donziger et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York, No. 11-0691.