Lago Agrio: Chevron Accuses DiNapoli

Pumpkins
Letters Blogatory wishes its readers a happy Thanksgiving Day!
I am posting tomorrow’s post today, so there will be no post tomorrow, or on Friday. We’ll be back on Monday!

I’m reporting on two developments in the Lago Agrio case today. First, according to La Nacion, Chevron is projecting that its subsidiaries in Argentina would have to cease operations by the end of the year on account of the attachment of assets in Argentina that I reported on November 8. The Amazon Defense Coalition, a group associated with the Donziger team, is characterizing Chevron’s statements as a kind of a stick-up, but it’s hard to see why they should expect a Chevron subsidiary to stay in business for their benefit.

Second, Chevron has filed a complaint with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics against New York comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The New York state pension fund owns shares of Chevron stock, and DiNapoli has been a critic of Chevron’s position in the case, as I noted on April 19. Chevron’s basic claim is that Donziger et al. paid DiNapoli off in a forbidden quid pro quo arrangement.

One thing that’s obvious to me is that Donziger never learned the line politicians use about never speaking when you can nod and never nodding when you can wink. His 2009 email is classic:

We are delivering a bunch of checks to DeNapoli today. This is what I need you to do:

1) Get checks from Fed Ex sent to my house from Barnes. Inside should be 2 or more checks in amount of 2,000 each.

2) Go to closet and get out that plastic box w all my checks in it. Find my personal check book (the little one) and write a check to DeNapoli 2010 and sign my name. However, call me before u do this—I am worried this might not be a great idea.

3) Take checks to his office and deliver them personally. Call me beforehand and I’ll tell u how to play it.

My favorite part of the brief is the claim that part of the quid pro quo was the offer of a meeting with Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler. While this is amusing, I don’t see that it gets anywhere, as Chevron itself says that it’s unclear whether a meeting took place and even if it did, I don’t think, with all due respect to Sting, that a meeting with him should qualify as a forbidden quid pro quo. But who knows—maybe DiNapoli is a huge fan.

My impression is that Chevron can hardly complain about a shareholder expressing a view about what it should do in the litigation, but we will have to wait and see whether there is anything to the quid pro quo allegation Chevron makes. The case should stand or fall with the claims of money changing hands. I don’t see the Sting allegations, or the allegations that the “lure of winning political points”, are very meaningful. For the record, DiNapoli’s spokeswoman says “the comptroller has never met Sting.”

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2012), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012.

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