Chevron-Ecuador: The Jarndyce v. Jarndyce of the 21st Century

by Julian Ku

Here is an excerpt from my report on the Chevron-Ecuador Panel at this year’s ASIL meetings, published over at

In my view, the best way to understand Chevron v. Ecuador is as a marriage gone horribly wrong, where, as usual, the children are the biggest losers.  In this case, the “children” are theLago Agrio plaintiffs, most of whom are part of an Ecuadorian indigenous group and, as Prof. Judith Kimlinger of CUNY reminded the audience, the  real injured parties in this case.  These plaintiffs have borne the vast brunt of physical and environmental injuries resulting from the partnership between Chevron and Ecuador.   For most of the time that Texaco (which was acquired by Chevron after all of the key events had already occurred) operated in Ecuador, they did so in an effective partnership with the PetroEcuador, the state-owned enterprise formed by the Ecuadorian government.   This marriage/partnership lasted for decades, before it was terminated in 1990.  And although there was a “separation agreement” that included provisions to remediate areas that suffered pollution, both parties have accused the other of failing to fulfill its duties.  Things began to get out of hand in the late 1990s when a new law was passed in Ecuador making the domestic litigation against Chevron possible, and ultimately resulting in the massive (possibly fraud-laden) $18 billion judgment.

2 Responses

  1. Pontificating attorneys and legal bloggers who claim to know enough to speak and write about the Ecuadorians’ lawsuit against Chevron should think twice. Ms. Lowe’s presentation and Mr. Ku’s blog omitted much information. For example, Texaco, now owned by Chevron, was the operator, and the only operator, of the exploration and drilling in Ecuador from 1964 to 1990. Petroecuador did not design the system nor did it operate the system that led to the intentional — not accidental — contamination of the rainforest. For this reason, the lawsuit was first filed against Texaco and Texaco only. It was filed one year after Texaco left Ecuador in 1993. The case has lasted 19 years because Texaco and now Chevron has fought it every step of the way.
    Nine of those years were spent before an Ecuador court in a trial that, if you believe Chevron, was fixed. Why a “fixed” trial would take nine years to fix is a question Chevron and its legions of lawyers have not answered and none of the legal bloggers has asked, curiously.
    Chevron’s fraud allegations are only that — allegations. They are based largely on less than one tenth of one percent of 600 hours of outtakes from the documentary Crude. The clips that Chevron parsed and edited have been taken out of context, blown out of proportion and, in one important clip, the Spanish was not translated correctly. But, these are details that legal bloggers, such as Mr. Ku, can’t be bothered with.
    Years before Chevron launched its legal attack in the U.S, the Ecuadorians leveled numerous fraud charges against Chevron for manipulating evidence and covering up the phony remediation that led to the agreement between Texaco and Ecuador that legal bloggers love to write about. Only problem is during the trial tests showed contamination at the so-called “cleaned” sites as high or higher as the non-remediated sites. Plus, the agreement clearly stated only government claims had been released, not third-party claims such as ours. But, never mind that’s a detail that legal bloggers would rather ignore.
    This link — — provides responses to Chevron’s charges.
    This link — — summarizes some of the charges leveled against Chevron.
    If you’re interested in learning about the remediation, please go this web site:
    You also can watch this 15-minute video about the case at
    But just because you sat through a panel discussion and read a few of Chevron’s legal briefs and press releases, do not presume to think you know enough about this case to write conclusively about it — especially when you haven’t spoken to the attorneys or the people there and haven’t seen the contamination for yourself. Throwing around fraud charges without understanding the complexity of the case is dangerous and highly unprofessional.
    Karen Hinton
    U.S. Spokesperson for the Ecuadorians

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  1. […] Illustration From Bleak HouseJulian Ku of Opinio Juris participated in discussions about the Lago Agrio case at the recent ASIL meeting. Read the summary […]