SAN FRANCISCO A prominent U.S. law firm accused Chevron Corp of mounting a "smear campaign" aimed at keeping it out of a high stakes Ecuadorean environmental pollution case.
The accusation, contained in court documents filed on Monday by Patton Boggs of Washington, D.C., comes a day before a scheduled hearing in a new civil racketeering lawsuit brought by Chevron last week against Ecuadoreans seeking more than $27 billion in damages from the oil giant.
The latest two court moves are just the latest salvos in a long-running legal war with more than 15 court proceedings in various locations.
The Ecuadoreans started their litigation in 1993 against Texaco -- bought by Chevron in 2001. They accuse it of dumping oil-drilling waste in unlined pits, contaminating the forest and causing illnesses and deaths among local people.
A judge in Ecuador is expected to make a final ruling in the coming months.
In the court filings on Monday, Patton Boggs asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to allow it to bring tortious interference claims against Chevron and its outside counsel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Patton Boggs claims its opponents are trying to disrupt its relationship with the Ecuadoreans.
"Chevron and Gibson Dunn have repeated and embellished a fabricated storyline attempting to implicate Patton Boggs in a variety of fraudulent activities," Patton Boggs said in the filing.
Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson called the Patton Boggs filing "confused" because the law firm says in the same document that its relationship with the Ecuadoreans is "still going strong."
Gibson Dunn partner Theodore Boutrous Jr. said the filing is "frivolous," adding that Gibson Dunn's efforts have revealed overwhelming evidence of a scheme to defraud Chevron.
Chevron is attempting to disqualify Patton Boggs from a related proceeding, arguing that the law firm never obtained proper permission from the Ecuadoreans to enter the case.
The case in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is Patton Boggs LLP v. Chevron Corp., 10-cv-1975.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Gary Hill)