The Court of Appeal for Ontario has granted an appeal brought by a group of Ecuadorian plaintiffs. The decision affords the plaintiffs no substantive relief and merely allows the action to go forward. The plaintiffs are seeking to have an Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron Corp. recognized and enforced in Ontario, Canada.
In May 2013, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice stayed all efforts to recognize that judgment in Ontario. In granting the appeal, the Court of Appeal did not address whether the Ecuadorian judgment was procured by fraud or whether the Ecuadorian judgment should be recognized or enforced at all against Chevron Corp. or its independent, indirect subsidiary, Chevron Canada Limited. Nor did the Court grant any relief or remedy whatsoever to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs. The Court limited its determination only to whether the Ontario court may entertain further proceedings in the action.
The court decision stated:
"In these circumstances, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs should have an opportunity to attempt to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in a court where Chevron will have to respond on the merits. That the plaintiffs in this case may ultimately not succeed on the merits of their recognition and enforcement action, or that they may not succeed in successfully collecting from the judgment debtors against whom they bring this action, are not relevant factors for a court to consider in determining whether to grant a discretionary stay before defendants have even attorned to the jurisdiction of the Ontario court."
In response, Chevron Corp. issued the following statement:
"Chevron Corp. is evaluating next steps, including a possible appeal of decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. If the Ecuadorian plaintiffs truly believed in the validity of the Ecuadorian judgment, they should seek enforcement in the United States, where Chevron Corp. resides, rather than targeting assets of the company's subsidiaries that are not parties to the Ecuadorian litigation. They are aware that in the U.S., however, they would be confronted by the fact that eight federal courts have already found the Ecuador trial to be tainted by fraud. Chevron Corp. remains committed to fighting enforcement of the fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment and we are confident that any jurisdiction that respects the rule of law will find it illegitimate and unenforceable."
Chevron Corp. recently presented overwhelming evidence that the Ecuadorian judgment is a product of fraud in a trial before a United States federal court as part of a civil lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against the trial lawyers and consultants leading the litigation against the company. That evidence further demonstrates that the judgment is illegitimate and should be unenforceable in any court that respects the rule of law. A decision in that case is expected in early 2014.
Evidence of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' and their agents' fraud includes:
-A former Ecuadorian judge has admitted his role in orchestrating the fraudulent judgment against Chevron and a half-million-dollar bribery scheme.
-Stratus Consulting, the lead environmental consultant to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' lawyers, provided sworn declarations, highlighting the lack of scientific merit to the plaintiffs' damage claims.
-Another of the plaintiffs' lawyers' environmental consultants, Dr. Charles Calmbacher, has testified that plaintiffs' evidence was being falsified from the very outset of the trial.
Litigation funder Burford Capital has provided sworn testimony outlining the firm's knowledge of the plaintiffs' lawyers' misconduct, testifying that the proceeding is irredeemably tainted by fraud.