Timeline of the Case
1964: Texaco (now Chevron), discovers oil in Ecuador's northeastern Amazon Basin, the "Oriente."
1967-1992: Texaco (Chevron) conducts drilling operations, ignores normal waste regulations, and dumps some 16 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and pits, polluting streams, groundwater, and farm land.
1992: When oil production ceases, Texaco (Chevron) abandons the fields, leaves behind over 900 carcinogenic waste pits, and leaves indigenous inhabitants with destroyed land, polluted water, and an epidemic of cancer and birth defects.
1993: Steven Donziger, a recent Harvard Law School graduate, accepts the victims' case, working with the plaintiffs' Ecuadorean lawyers and Ecuador's Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía (FDA),
1993: A 30,000-member class-action lawsuit is filed against Texaco in New York Federal court, to hold Texaco accountable; Chevron later bought Texaco, fought to shift the case to Ecuador, and promised to accept jurisdiction there.
1995: Texaco stages a sham "clean-up" of less than 1% of the damage, covering toxic pits with dirt.
1998: Texaco (Chevron) lobbyists convince Ecuador government officials to sign a "release" of liability, citing their fraudulent, sham "clean-up," which does not, however, apply to individual plaintiffs and devastated communities.
2000: Chevron buys Texaco.
2001: Chevron insists the class-action liability case be moved from the US to Ecuador.
2003: Trial process begins in Ecuador to claim damages from Chevron.
2008: Rep. Jim McGovern, co-chair of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, becomes the only Member of Congress to visit the cancer zone in Ecuador.
2009: Chevron hires notorious "corporate rescue" law firm Gibson-Dunn, previously censured by England's High Court of Justice for fabricating evidence. Judges in California, Montana, New York, and elsewhere had censured Gibson-Dun for witness tampering, obstruction, intimidation, and “legal thuggery” against adversaries and their lawyers.
2009: Donziger testifies before Congress on Ecuador case.
2009: Crude, film with Trudie Styler, released at Sundance, drawing widespread attention.
2010: Gibson-Dunn, on behalf of Chevron, launches an attack against the victims, their lawyers, and media, before corporate-friendly Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York. Kaplan forces filmmaker, Joseph Berlinger to turn over 600 hours of outtakes from his 2009 documentary, "Crude: The Real Price of
Oil." Kaplan ridicules the journalist’s request to protect confidential sources.
2010: Gibson-Dunn lawyer Randy Mastro uses Kaplan's court to insult the Ecuador judicial system, calling the Ecuador judgement “a sham.” Kaplan mocks the Ecuadorian court and refuses to allow their input. Kaplan referred to the 30,000 class-action victims as “so-called plaintiffs,” claiming that their “standing in this matter is debatable."
2011: In Ecuador, after eight years and overwhelming evidence of pollution and harm to individuals, communities, and Amazon ecosystems, the Ecuador court issues an $18-billion judgment against Chevron, on behalf of 30,000 victims. The decision is later confirmed by Ecuador’s Supreme Court (Court of Cessation).
2011: In response, Chevron sells its assets in Ecuador, flees the country, refuses to pay, and threatens the victims with a “lifetime of litigation.”
2011: Chevron reveals in a private memo that their “L-T [long-term] strategy” to undermine international enforcement efforts is to “demonize” Mr. Donziger. In New York, Chevron files a RICO (racketeering) case against two Ecuadorean plaintiffs — Secoya Indigenous leader Javier Piaguaje and farmer Hugo Camacho — and their American lawyer, Steven Donziger. Chevron's friendly Judge Kaplan accepts the case.
2012: Appeal court: Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbíos affirms the trial judgment, and in November 2013, Ecuador’s Court of Cassation (Supreme Court) upholds the Appellate Division’s judgment, reducing punitive damages to US$ 9.51 billion.
2012: The Ecuadorean plaintiffs file an enforcement action in Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Toronto, Canada to collect the judgement. Chevron challenges jurisdiction, and loses, affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada. Chevron has now claimed that Chevron Canada cannot be held liable for the US Chevron Corporation debt.
2012: investors with over one-half trillion dollars assets write to Chevron asking for full disclosure of risks to shareholders due to the Ecuador case. Chevron responds by serving subpoenas on dissident shareholders who had questioned management’s handling of the Ecuador case.
2012: Kaplan claims that Donziger, the victims’ US lawyer, had “waived” all attorney-client privilege, and insists he turn over to Chevron lawyers 17-years of confidential communications. Kaplan later insists Donziger turn over his computer and cell phone to Chevron's lawyers, in violation of common attorney-client confidentiality laws.
2013: Renowned defense attorney, John Keker, castigates Judge Kaplan for his "implacable hostility toward Donziger," and states that “This case has degenerated into a Dickensian farce.”
2013: Roger Waters joins the cause.
2013: Judge Kaplan rules that the original plaintiffs, now defendants in the "racketeering" case, cannot enter evidence of Chevron's pollution in Ecuador or about Chevron and Gibson-Dunn's history of violations and court censure. However, Kaplan allows Chevron's anonymous and paid witnesses.
2013: On the eve of the trial, Chevron drops all financial claims, allowing Kaplan to dismiss the jury, and decide the outcome himself.
2013: Kaplan accepts evidence from Chevron paid witness Alberto Guerra, a disgraced Ecuadorian judge, dismissed for accepting bribes. Chevron lawyer Andres Rivero had paid Guerra $48,000 in cash and agreed to pay him $12,000 a month for three years. Chevron lawyers had helped Guerra’s family immigrate into the US, and paid Guerra over $2-million in cash and benefits. Guerra testifies that he had talked to Donziger about a "bribe," and that Donziger and the plaintiffs lawyers had written the court judgement and passed it to the Ecuadorian judge on a computer drive.
2013: Judge Kaplan accepts Guerra's testimony -- the only witness to the alleged "bribe" and rules in favor of Chevron, claiming that the Ecuador decision was based on "fraud."
2014: The Republic of Ecuador files an Amicus Brief, stating that “Judge Lewis Kaplan reached far beyond the issues presented to unfairly—and unnecessarily—impugn the integrity of the Republic of Ecuador.” They stated that Kaplan’s “unfounded commentary” against a “sovereign democracy” was based on “unreliable evidence.”
2014: Forensic research on the Ecuador Judges' computers proves that Guerra lied, that the Ecuadorian judge did not receive any decision from defense lawyers on the alleged computer drive, opened and closed his own file hundreds of times, and wrote the entire decision himself, as any judge would normally do. Chevron's "fraud" story was itself a fraud, based on their bribed and coached "witness."
2015: The Ecuadorean embassy in the US releases transcripts from a US-Ecuador Treaty arbitration, during which Guerra admitted that he had lied about his involvement in the alleged attempt to influence the Ecuadorian judgement. His entire story is proven false.
2016: In spite of Guerra's admission that he lied, and the forensic evidence proving that he lied, in spite of overwhelming evidence that Chevron was responsible for the pollution and health effects in Ecuador, and the unanimous decision by 17 judges in four levels of courts in Ecuador, Judge Kaplan
ruled that the Ecuador decision against Chevron was a "fraud" and that the victims' lawyer Steven Donziger had committed the alleged "fraud." Kaplan also presumed to determine that the plaintiffs cannot collect the $9.5-billion judgment in U.S. because of these alleged improprieties. Furthermore,
contrary to all international law, Judge Kaplan presumed to rule that the enforcement and collection could not proceed in any other international jurisdiction, a ruling that was illegal and which he could not enforce.
2016: Alec Baldwin joins the cause, hosts Steven Donziger on his podcast.
2017: Enforcement and collection cases proceed in Australia, Brazil, and Canada.
2017: Zevin Asset Management files a shareholder resolution with Chevron addressing management’s mishandling of the Ecuador case. They request that Chevron separate the position of CEO and Chair to prevent management misconduct. They receive 39% of the Shareholder vote.
2018: An unnamed New York Second Circuit judge — presumed by Donziger and his lawyers to be Kaplan — filed a complaint against Donziger with the New York Bar Grievance Committee, which then suspended Mr. Donziger’s law license without a hearing, denying him the due process right to answer the charges made against him. Meanwhile, Donziger works on the case in Canada, while fighting for a due process hearing before the New York bar.
2018: Roger Waters visits affected communities in Ecuador.
2019: Chevron and Gibson-Dunn continue to provoke legal actions against Donziger. Judge Kaplan, demands that Donziger surrender his computer, cell phone, and passwords to be searched on behalf of Chevron, a violation of basic attorney-client confidentiality. On legal and ethical grounds, Donziger refuses to comply with this demand.
June 27, 2019: Amnesty International demands a criminal investigation into Chevron and Gibson- Dunn's conduct, witness bribery, and fraud in the Ecuador pollution litigation
July 31, 2019: Judge Kaplan files criminal contempt charges against Donziger for refusing his order. When the U.S. District Attorney refuses to take the case for legal and ethical reasons, Kaplan deputizes a colleague, a private lawyer, to act as a prosecutor, who places Donziger in home detention, restricting him from even entering the hallway of his apartment building.
September 16-18, 2019: Steven Donziger wins a hearing before the NY bar Grievance Committee regarding the suspension of his law license. During the three day hearing, fifteen witnesses testify to Mr. Donziger's unblemished law career, his advocacy for civil and human rights, and the overwhelming evidence that he brought before the Ecuadorian courts regarding Chevron's pollution
and the health impacts on farmer and indigenous communities in the Ecuadorean Amazon. November 25, 2019: In a hearing at the federal courthouse in New York, Kaplan's appointed Judge Loretta A. Preska refuses to release Donziger from home detention.
November 2019: Kaplan and Preska select Rita Glavin from private law firm, Seward & Kissel, to act as prosecutor in their case against Donziger. Lawyers for Donziger discover that Ms. Glavin's law partner was a former member of Chevron's Board of Directors and that Seward & Kissel, itself, hid the fact Chevron was a private client.
2020: Sting and Danny Glover get involved.
February 10, 2020: US human rights attorneys Martin Garbus and Charles Nesson form a support committee for Mr. Donziger with dozens of civil society leaders, including Clive Stafford-Smith, founder of the prisoner-rights group Reprieve in London; Atossa Soltani and Leila Salazar, the founder and executive director of Amazon Watch; Lynne Twist, co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance working in the Amazon; renowned author John Perkins; and famed musician Roger Waters.
February 27, 2020: Professor Ellen Yaroshefsky, Professor of Legal Ethics for 25 years, Director of the Monroe H. Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics at Hofstra University, New York, confirms the Seward & Kissel conflict of interest in prosecuting Donziger, allegedly on behalf of the US government, while they have financial and business ties to Chevron Corporation.
February, 2020: New York Bar referee John Horan recommends the return of Mr. Donziger's law license. “The extent of his pursuit by Chevron is so extravagant, and at this point so unnecessary and punitive,” Horan wrote, “he should be allowed to resume the practice of law.”
April 16, 2020: Twenty-nine international Nobel laureates call for the release of Steven Donziger from home detention and demand that Chevron compensate the victims as ordered by Ecuadorian courts. “[We] support Steven Donziger and the Indigenous peoples and local communities in Ecuador in their decades-long work to achieve environmental justice over pollution caused by Chevron," the
Nobel laureates write. “Chevron and a pro-corporate judicial ally, US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, manufactured ‘contempt’ charges against Donziger. [Chevron's] goal is to intimidate and disempower the victims of its pollution and a lawyer who has worked for decades on their behalf.”
May 18, 2020: Over 475 international lawyers, bar associations, and human rights advocates criticize Preska and Kaplan for persecuting Mr. Donziger "based on false witness testimony provided by Chevron, personal animus, and ... to protect Chevron from a valid foreign court judgment." The letter, from the US National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, urges an end to the pretrial house arrest of Donziger, noting that “such arbitrary detention sets a dangerous precedent for human rights attorneys in the United States and around the world.”
May 27, 2020: Newground investment firm in Seattle placed two proposals on Chevron’s 2020 proxy call, asking for governance reforms to bring its Ecuador issues to resolution, and prevent future human rights and pollution liabilities. The proposals were supported by actor Alec Baldwin, musician Roger Waters, and Nobel laureate Jody Williams.
June 4, 2020: Kaplan-appointed Judge Loretta A. Preska denies Donziger's request to leave his residence for daily obligations in his neighbourhood such as family shopping and escorting his son to appointments. The US Civil Liberties Defense Center, calls the detention an "arbitrary ... case of corporate and judicial retaliation," pointing out that "Mr. Donziger has now been in home detention ... without trial for 10 months, when the maximum sentence if convicted is six months, and the longest sentence ever imposed on a lawyer for the same charge is 3 months of home confinement. No other lawyer in U.S. history ever has been detained pre-trial on a criminal contempt charge. This ... violates due process and international law."
Currently, 2021: Chevron has spent $2-billion on lawyers, private investigators, and public relations consultants to harass their victims, and has not paid a single cent to help the victims of pollution, lost farms, toxic water, cancer, and birth defects in Ecuador. Steven Donziger remains in house detention. Meanwhile, International lawyers, Nobel laureates, human rights advocates, Amnesty International, Amazon Watch, Global Witness, Greenpeace, Canada's Assembly of First Nations, and the victims themselves continue to demand that Chevron pay the court-ordered judgement so the indigenous and farmer communities of Ecuador can heal their health crisis and restore their land and water.