| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Oct 17 A U.S. lawyer used inflated
estimates to pursue what eventually became an $18 billion
pollution judgment against Chevron Corp in Ecuador,
despite warnings that the numbers were "wildly inaccurate," his
former consultant said on Thursday.
The consultant was called as a witness in federal court in
New York by Chevron, which claims that lawyer Steven Donziger
used fraud to obtain the judgment from an Ecuadorean court in
2011 on behalf of a group of villagers.
David Russell said Donziger asked him in 2003 to assess what
Donziger said was widespread pollution at an Ecuadorean oil
field that had been operated by Texaco. Texaco was acquired by
Chevron in 2001.
Russell said that his initial estimate of more than $6
billion was based in part on assumptions given to him by
Donziger about the extent of the damage and on Donziger's desire
for a figure that could be used to put pressure on Chevron.
By late 2005, however, he said he had become "thoroughly
disillusioned" with his estimate, after testing that showed
contamination was less severe. He claimed he repeatedly asked
Donziger to stop referring to it in press releases and other
statements, a request he said Donziger ignored.
The non-jury trial, which is being heard by U.S. District
Judge Lewis Kaplan, comes after years of litigation over
environmental contamination in Ecuador between 1964 and 1992.
Chevron, which asserts that Texaco cleaned up before ceding
control of the field to a state-owned oil company, is seeking to
prevent Donziger and the residents of the village of Lago Agrio
from using U.S. courts to enforce the $18 billion judgment.
Donziger has denied using fraud.
At one point, Russell said, Donziger and the other plaintiff
lawyers in the case decided to stop doing certain testing
because the results suggested that some contamination was due to
the state-owned company, not Texaco.
The relationship between Russell and Donziger deteriorated
to the point that Russell filed a lawsuit when he was not paid
for his work, he said.
During cross-examination from Donziger's lawyer, Zoe
Littlepage, Russell acknowledged sending an email to a Chevron
scientist with an early draft of his cost estimate after he
stopped working for Donziger.
When asked why he sent a draft of his work for Donziger's
team to a Chevron employee, Russell said he did so for
"informational purposes." He also said he had sent the same
scientist a report from a cleanup company suggesting that the
cost of remediation could be substantially lower.
The scientist, Sara McMillen, was scheduled to testify after
Chevron also planned to call a forensic linguist to testify
that the Ecuadorean judgment contained numerous instances of
language taken directly from Donziger's own legal documents that
were never filed with the court.
As he did on Wednesday, the judge scolded lawyers,
particularly on Donziger's team, when they asked questions he
felt were unnecessary. But there were still moments of levity.
At one point, Littlepage asked Russell what he meant by
using the acronym "CYA" in an email.
"CYA is a term of art that means Cover Your Ass," Russell
"Which is a high art form in our society," Kaplan said,
without missing a beat.
The case is Chevron Corp v. Steven Donziger et al, U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of New York, No.