Chevron: No scientific basis for $113-billion claim

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 28 -- Chevron Corp. said admissions during court-ordered depositions of the plaintiffs’ own consultants confirm there is no scientific basis for the $113-billion claim for damages in litigation pending in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

The firm said its attorneys questioned consultants credited with the latest damage assessment and, after filing deposition transcripts to the court, called for the damages assessment to be rejected in its entirety.

“Under direct questioning from Chevron attorneys, the five plaintiffs’ consultants conceded that their work is factually baseless and does not support the plaintiffs' absurd financial claims,” the firm said.

Chevron said there were a number of flaws with the damages assessment, but most obvious was the consultants’ reliance on the so-called Cabrera Report, which was allegedly written by Richard Stalin Cabrera, a mining engineer.

According to Chevron, Douglas Allen testified that the plaintiffs' representatives said that he should use the Cabrera Report as a "starting point."

Chevron, quoting Jonathan Shefftz, said his finding likewise depends upon “data and cost figures from the Cabrera Report.”

Shefftz admitted to Chevron’s lawyers that he “was not engaging in any exercise to verify [Cabrera's] data series or his cost figures. I was just using them in my report.”

Shefftz went on to acknowledge that he did not “know one way or the other whether they're [Cabrera’s data] correct or not," conceding that his "results depend, in part, on the accuracy of [Cabrera's] data series and [Cabrera's] cost figures."

Lawrence Barnthouse told Chevron’s lawyers that much of the information he used was "only available from the Cabrera Report" and that he did nothing to assess the validity of any of the assumptions made in the report.

Barnthouse told the lawyers that he simply "assume[d] that [Cabrera] was correctly characterizing" relevant environmental standards.

“It is now indisputable that the plaintiffs' lawyers' Sept. 16, 2010, filing with the Lago Agrio Court is an attempt to whitewash their prior, unlawful collusion with the court-appointed ‘independent’ expert,” Chevron said.

The firm said that the new, $113 billion "assessments" are “even more extreme and scientifically unreliable than the fraudulent $27.3 billion Cabrera Report from which they admittedly are derived.”

As a result, R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice-president and general counsel, said these “new assessments are an attempt to bring the plaintiffs' lawyers' false evidence back into the Lago Agrio Court under the cover of new names and indefensible numbers.”

Pate added, "At this point, the plaintiffs' lawyers have no legitimate evidence to advance their claims, so they've resorted to a shell game."

Meanwhile, Chevron noted that “by ignoring the role of Petroecuador…the new reports continue the joint efforts of the plaintiffs and the government of Ecuador to deflect attention from the state-owned oil company that bears sole responsibility for all remaining environmental impacts outside the scope of Texaco's remediation in the 1990’s.”

According to Chevron, the plaintiffs' consultants conceded under oath that Petroecuador's role in oil production should not have been overlooked and that, had it been considered, it would have affected their reports.

Chevron said recently that litigation against the firm in the Ecuadorian court should be terminated because a forensic specialist discovered many forged signatures on the document that initially authorized the legal action (OGJ Online, Dec. 27, 2010).

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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