Chevron Wins A Round In U.S. Suit - Ecuador Case
Lawyer Steven Donziger is appealing a 500-page decision issued by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in March that barred him from collecting on a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in the United States.
Chevron filed a lawsuit against Donziger in New York, claiming he used bribery and fake evidence to win the historic damage award for a group of villagers who claimed the oil giant polluted an area of north eastern Ecuador.
An Ecuadorean judge had awarded the villagers $18 billion in 2011 but the country's high court later cut the judgment in half.
Kaplan ruled Donziger had bribed a former judge to ghost-write the Ecuadorean judgment and committed other improprieties, finding him liable for fraud and racketeering.
Donziger had asked Kaplan to put the decision on hold while a federal appeals court considers the merits of his challenge, a process that will likely take months to resolve.
But in Friday's order, Kaplan said Donziger's arguments for a stay were largely "without merit."
Donziger's "claims of irreparable injury rest on a pastiche of unsupported assertions, contradictions of undisputed evidence and fertile imagination," Kaplan's opinion said.
Kaplan did grant Donziger narrow relief on one point.
He allowed that the shares Donziger holds in a company called Amazonia, organized to collect and distribute any proceeds of Ecuadorean judgment, will be held by the court - not Chevron - pending the final outcome of the appeal.
Chevron spokesman Morgan Crinklaw called the attorney's motion to stay "yet another attempt to delay and distract from the unrebutted evidence against him" and said the company was confident it would win in the appeals court.
Donziger's attorney said he had no comment.
The long-running case centers on an oil field in the Amazon jungle, known as Lago Agrio, where Texaco operated from 1964 to 1992. Chevron later acquired Texaco.
Chevron asserts that Texaco cleaned up the site before handing it over to a state-controlled company but the villagers say they are still suffering from the legacy of environmental contamination.
Donziger has repeatedly accused Kaplan of bias and claimed the judge allowed personal animosity to cloud his decision. He denies the bribery and fraud allegations.
A Canadian court ruled in December that Ontario was a proper jurisdiction for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs to press Chevron to pay up and the country's Supreme Courtearlier this month agreed to hear the company's appeal of that ruling.
(Additional reporting by Nate Raymond and Joseph Ax; Editing by David Gregorio)